12.18.06 Sting & Edin perform in Milan at Santa Maria delle Grazie


You can watch the Sting & Edin Karamazov concert in Milan online from December 20 here.

Here is a first hand account of the event from Sting.com member Roger Puplett...

My latest leg of this year's Sting related travels, took me to the city of Milan, situated on the plains of the Lombardy region in Northern Italy. A thriving and bustling industrial region, home to Italy's major commercial and financial quarters.

It is also a location full of contrasts. On one level, some of the industrial region has more in common with Berlin, including an ancient tram system and the odd canal dotted about the place. But it is the area around the "Duomo" (Milan's impressive Cathedral) that is the focal point of most tourists' travels to the city.

Milan's historical district was of particular interest to me as it contains some of the most esteemed buildings and attractions in the whole of the city.

Of course, this close to Christmas you cannot go to Milan and not be over whelmed by the amount of shops and world-renowned fashions on display in the region. A place where shopping takes on a whole new meaning, both in money terms and in the shear elegance stakes!

It always amazes me that wherever I travel I am always asked by complete strangers' directions to various places? Milan was no exception, whether I was looking particularly trendy is a matter of some debate? The fact people were asking for directions in Italian meant they either thought I was Italian, or more convincingly, I knew where I was going? Geographically speaking, I found the church much easier to locate than finding the nightclub in Berlin.

I had an inkling even before I reached the venue that this concert was going to be a very special one, given the location and the style of music we were about to enjoy.

Santa Maria delle Grazie is on of Milan's must see attractions, a world heritage site and is famous for housing the mural of Leonardo da Vinci's "Last Supper". The church is a testament to sensational Italian architecture and cultural influences, put in this context you could not be in a better location to hear Sting and Edin play music from "Songs from the Labyrinth", which has now achieved Gold status in Italy.

After arriving at the church (after a swiftly consuming a glass of lovely chilled Pinot Grigo and a Panini in a bar across the road) we were shown to our seats (By some of the prettiest ushers I have ever met!)

I felt tempted to go and sit in the wrong place just so I could be shown to my seat again? I really thought this level of beauty and glamour was only reserved for places like Le Sporting Club in Monaco?

"Bellissimo", (One of the few words of Italian I know) summed up the proceedings, there was so much beauty around (On all Levels!) that you felt immediately drawn towards admiring the church architecture and how exquisitely the church had been decorated for the occasion.

The stage was set in front of the main altar, behind which many candles were gently flickering away, adding to the picturesque ambience of the occasion and giving us a sense that Christmas day was not far away.

What a beautiful site, using the church for this event was also putting Dowland's music firmly into a historical context and timeframe. Although staging a concert like this in the grounds of a medieval castle would also have produced the same sumptuous desired effect.

Curiously, my mind drifts for a moment, thinking that John Dowland was not the only Englishman during the Renaissance period to use the Lute to convey his emotions.

Sir Thomas Wyatt the Renaissance poet, before Dowland's time (1503-1542) is often cited as being the first person to introduce the sonnet into the English language from its natural Italian beginnings.

The sonnet with its characteristic final rhyming couplets, in many ways can be seen as the first chapter in the evolution of the song writing process, which has transpired into the modern pop song format that we recognise it today?

He even wrote several Odes specifically mentioning the Lute, "Blame not my Lute!" and "My lute awake!" being the most famous ones. Whether Sir Thomas Wyatt was as melancholy as Dowland is up for debate, but he was definitely a bitter lyricist.

These Odes were written to help him bid farewell to a lady who had spurned his advances. Sound familiar?

Even today, this theme is alive and well in popular music all around the globe. I do not know if John Dowland was familiar with Sir Thomas Wyatt's work or whether this had a bearing or influence on Dowland's music? No doubt, academics specialising in the Renaissance period know the full story?

It was hard to gauge the capacity of the church but there were probably 300 people seated with another 300 people standing on either side of the main aisle.

Before Sting came on, a Presenter introduced the evening's proceedings in Italian. I believe he was giving an explanation about the works of John Dowland and context of the music we were about to hear.

Sorry my Italian is not up to much, but I seem to remember the presenter mentioning something about his wife being in the audience but what this had to do with what he was explaining is anybody's guess? I am sure the Italian fan club members present will be able to help me out here?

In fact the only foreign language I can manage is French, although I joke that Sting singing "Hungary for you" was a turning point in my linguistic education and was partly responsible for me being able to pronounce any French at all!

The introductions now over, Sting and Edin Karamazov are enthusiastically welcomed to the stage by the audience.

Sting is looking incredibly smart and dapper (Why can't I look that smart, I wondered?) and after a short pause Sting begins to recite the first letter extract to Sir Robert Cecil before starting the first musical number," Flow my tears."

The delivery was immaculate; the intensity was of jaw dropping proportions. I think everybody was so stunned by the quality of the performance that nobody clapped after it, total silence. So riveting was this moment that I was almost in tears myself, the shear beauty and intensity of emotion I felt during the performance was so incredible I find it hard to translate the emotion into words.

If any of the video cameras were concentrating on doing cutaway shots of the crowd at this particular moment, a look of amazement would surely be clearly evident on my face. What I call the "wow factor", how did they manage to do that?

The way the lighting design had been arranged could not have been more perfect. Colours ranged from Green, blue, purple, red backlighting the rear of the church emphasizing the stunning architecture and domed roof. A lighting change after each song was both subtle and in total sympathy with the music.

For visual atmosphere and impact the concert was comparable to watching a Son et lumière with Sting and Edin providing the soundtrack.

Given the location and design of the Santa Maria delle Grazie, the sound was the most challenging and technically difficult out of all the venues played so far, to set up for the sound crew. (Because of the nature of the roof, the sound quickly travelled quite literally upwards to the gods in the doomed roof.)

This posed its own unique set of sound design problems when you want to project sounds in this environment outwards to an audience rather than upwards.

The space has what is known in technical terms as a high Reverberation time (the amount of time required for a sound field in a space to decay 60dB). One way to compensate for this is to play at a slightly faster tempo.

Needless to say the sound crew did an amazing job in this respect, optimising the acoustical design of the church and the sound system in order to preserve the musical acoustics for both the sound of the lutes and Sting's vocals.

It is also worth noting that during the quieter moments of the concert you could also hear and feel the movement of the trams travelling past the outside of the church. (Which you may not be aware of in any future web broadcast of part of this concert.)

Ask anybody involved with the sound and everybody is in total agreement that the sound design was the best of all the concerts performed so far.

"Stile Antico" (the classical singers from England) seemed to have a bigger role to play in the concert on the songs they were doing harmonies on.

This was highlighted in an invigorating and rousing version of "Can She Excuse My Wrongs". The vocalists' voices were faultless and when at full volume, the empathy between their harmonies and Sting's were in total unison (These harmonies also became louder throughout the song) which gloriously filled the whole of the church.

By the end of the song the audience were quick to show their appreciation, one of many highlights in the concert.

The musical partnership between Sting and Edin when they are both playing the lute on duets like "La Rossignol" is both intensely serious, but also playful to keep Sting on his toes?

I think Edin likes playing little musical jokes with Sting, especially when he plays the lute fast, and then goes off in a slightly different direction. Only for Sting to appear to play catch up, with Edin waiting to hold claim to the glory of playing the last note with the timing of a master.

Playing the Lute for Sting is labour of love that requires all his concentration, he looks much more relaxed once he finishes playing, relieved in the knowledge that he has not made any mistakes.

I am convinced that playing the lute uses a different part of the brain than say the bass and with all those strings, is incredibly hard to master. Again, how does Sting do it? Again, I am truly amazed.

Sting looks at his most relaxed and his voice shone on the fastest version of "Come Again" I have heard to date and on "Fine Knacks for Ladies" which was sung with so much ease and conviction that Sting was clearly enjoying the moment and lapping up the atmosphere of the occasion.

Edin played a seamless set, no problems with any strings breaking like during "Fields of Gold" in Berlin. There was a lovely comic moment when Edin was tuning his lute, when Sting clearly wanted to start the next song.

I forget which song (That will teach me to write this section after the office Christmas party!) It was near the end of the set. I am sure tuning a lute is a long hard and essentially difficult process, but it was the only time I remember Edin tuning his Lute during the whole performance.

In fact, I believe the majority of the audience were not expecting Sting to perform any of his own compositions on the Lute. It was the privileged fan club members who knew what was coming next?

If people seemed too reserved at the start of the concert, by the time Sting played "Fields of Gold" the cheers and the clapping started to flow and reverberate around this idyllic setting in full force.

The rendition here of this song, is even more poignant than the version on the special edition of the album, a real treat. A track worthy of a full commercial (Single/DVD) release date, sometime soon?

During Robert Johnson's "Hellhound on my Trail", Edin seemed to extend his sense of playing with humour by holding the lute in an almost "air guitar" pose which I thought was most amusing.

Whether many people in the audience understood Sting's pun on Robert Johnson was hard to tell? I am sure some people were a bit bemused at why this blues song was even in the set list?

But Sting's rendition keeps everybody happy, although the "a-w-u-l..s"(I'm trying to be phonetic here and failing miserably! ) at the end of the song seemed strangely odd in this church setting? Just imagine Sting singing at the end of "Moon over Bourbon Street." to get the picture.

If that wasn't enough, the newly stripped down (Lute) version of "Message in a Bottle" that was to follow was truly inspirational.

I was first to my feet in praise for this rendition at the end of the song. Sting must have noticed my beaming face like a cat that had just eaten a saucer of cream or in my case, the whole bowl!

Like with previous concerts, Sting finished with an encore and a rousing version of "Fine Knacks for Ladies" and sadly for us this marked the end of the night's musical entertainment.

To put the concert in a historical context, a quote from one of Sir Thomas Wyatt's Ode's sums up some of my feelings very well. The "Lute is bound to give such tunes as pleaseth me." (From "Blame not my lute!" by Sir Thomas Wyatt)

Such pleasure was had by all, and already the start of 2007 is already shaping up to be another incredible year for Sting, with more concerts announced. Dowland's music will be heard in many more beautiful venues around Europe.

Thank you to Sting, Edin and Stile Antico for the exceptional evening of music.

A big thank you to Dave, Wendy and Tina for all their help and hard work, as well as to all of Sting's management, crew and to Deutsche Grammophon for making this event possible in such a perfect setting.

I look forward to being able to go to more concerts in the New Year; it also wraps up an incredible Sting related year for me, which would not have been possible without the Fan club. I thank you all!

© Roger Puplett for Sting.com

And here are some reviews of the performance from the Italian press...

La rockstar col liuto riscopre in chiesa le musiche del '600

Noblesse oblige. Per trasportare in concerto il suo 'Songs From the Labyrinth', cd dedicato alla musica rinascimentale di John Dowland, Sting ha voluto la Basilica di Santa Maria delle Grazie a Milano, dove ha ricevuto in dono il "sigillo" della città. Spazi piccoli insomma, gli stessi che il cantautore ha scelto a Londra e a Berlino. Non è certo roba per i centomila che nel luglio scorso lo hanno accolto in Piazza Duomo nel suo numero più riuscito: quello della rockstar. Infatti, vuoi per le polemiche vuoi per il repertorio, la basilica non è stata presa d'assalto da fan senza biglietto.

E in veste di trovatore Sting come se la cava? Bene, perché è un marpione ricco di comunicativa, e sa trasformare le asperità del percorso (qualche incertezza nel fraseggio o qualche passaggio un po'freddino) in piccole sorprese per chi l'ascolta. Eccolo lì ad accarezzare in solitudine il liuto nell'introduttiva 'Walsingham', eccolo in duo con il virtuoso liutista di Sarajevo Edin Karamazov, istigatore di questo progetto, in 'The Battle Galliard' o in 'La Rossignol', inedita sul cd. E qui, dal vivo, ti accorgi quanto valga l'operazione. Lui l'aveva detto all'inizio. "Dowland è il padre di tutti i cantautori inglesi; con le sue ballate è stato il re del pop del 1600". Musica nobile dalle radici popolari, non a caso Walsingham è l'elaborazione di un antico tema folk; e Sting riprende proprio questo spirito. Attenzione, non è una scialba rilettura moderna di pagine antiche; è riportare un repertorio - chiuso per troppi anni in una torre d'avorio - in mezzo alla gente.

Guardata con disincanto la poetica dei testi qui presentati - da 'Flow My Tears' a 'Weep You No More Sad Fountains' fino a 'In Darkness Let Me Dwell' - potrebbe essere quella di uno dei più colti ed acclamati cantautori dei nostri tempi.

? così che Sting li interpreta, con quella voce all'apparenza esile che oscilla tra una tonalità e l'altra e viaggia su ritmi liberi - sostenuta dalla profondità del coro - mettendoci del suo ma rimanendo il più possibile fedele all'originale. ? l'arte che supera i generi e gli stili, dove anche esecuzioni complesse come 'Flow My Tears' diventano preziose non tanto per la pulizia d'esecuzione ma per il pathos. "Non ho una voce da Pavarotti ma punto sull'autenticità del canto", ha detto Sting alla presentazione dell'album. Non è un alibi, è il suo modo di vivere la musica a cavallo tra estetismo e sensualità, tra colto e popolare, tra spontaneità ed artificio, tra snobismo e semplicità. Sting racconta Dowland - soprattutto l'artista cattolico ed esiliato dai sovrani inglesi - nel suo peregrinare presso le corti di mezza Europa compresa quella dei Medici -; lo fa alternando ai suoni la lettura delle sue vibranti lettere, tratteggiandone la storia. Prima della sognante e melanconica 'Have You Seen the Bright Lily Grow' si parla dell'autore Robert Johnson, prestigioso suonatore di liuto e figlio di quel John Johnson che Dowland sperò di poter sostituire alla corte di Elisabetta Prima nel 1595.

? un racconto che si dipana lentamente, sul confine tra il reading e il concerto, dove alle suggestioni sonore della delicata 'Come Heavy Sleep' fa eco la lettera a Sir Robert Cecil che esprime il suo desiderio di visitare Firenze e Venezia.

Un percorso storico e musicale che trasforma in presente le antiche atmosfere shakespeariane. La trasfigurazione di Sting insomma, che mai si era spinto così in là nei suoi vagabondaggi verso lidi lontani dal rock. Niente più barriere sonore, è il messaggio di Sting che, per cacciarlo bene in testa al pubblico, esegue con il liuto classici come 'Message In a Bottle' e 'Fields of Gold' e il drammatico blues 'Hellhound On My Trail' di Robert Johnson, re del blues maledetto (omonimo di quello citato prima), per dare un tocco di mistero ad una serata idilliaca.

© Il Giornale by Antonio Lodetti

Con Sting il blues di Robert Johnson entra a Santa Maria delle Grazie

D'accordo, il concerto di Sting con il liutista Karamazov ieri sera a Santa Maria delle Grazie a Milano riguardava le sue 'Songs from the labyrinth', musiche in forma di canzone scritte fra il '500 e il '600 da John Dowland : un compositore liutista che girava per le corti europee sognando invano di essere assunto dalla regina Elisabetta I d'Inghilterra, la quale invece non lo assunse mai. Sting stesso ha spiegato che Dowland era l'antenato del cantautore frustrato; ed è comunque singolare che le sue canzoni funzionino ancora oggi, come l'ex Police ha dimostrato, armeggiando anche lui con un liuto e con brani solo in apparenza semplici da interpretare.

Quel che è invece curioso è che John Dowland avrebbe voluto sostituire a corte l'appena scomparso John Johson, il quale aveva un figlio che si chiamava Robert e faceva il compositore: fu, anzi, il solo compositore conosciuto ad aver scritto musica per Shakespeare (due canzoni per "La Tempesta").

Dunque, questo compositore si chiamava Robert Johnson, proprio come il padre del blues che sarebbe arrivato 5 secoli dopo. Del Robert Johnson cinquecentesco, Sting ha pure affrontato un brano; ma alla fine, nei bis, si è concesso fra 'Fields of Gold' e 'Message in a bottle' anche un omaggio al bluesman nero, interpretando con il liuto 'Hell Hound of My Trail'. E quel bluesino denso e carico, elegantemente rozzo, si è alzato verso le volte della bellissima chiesa con grande dignità: quasi a ringraziare che per la prima volta (e forse l'ultima) il blues, da sempre definito impropriamente musica del diavolo, fosse riuscito ad entrare in una chiesa. E con che officiante...

© La Stampa by Marinella Venegoni

MUSICA/STANDING OVATION PER STING CHE SUONA IL POP DEL '600
Il concerto per pochi fortunati sarà ritrasmesso su Rosso Alice

Sting ha conquistato Milano già tante volte con maxi concerti e performance da stadio, ma questa volta il rock e il jazz non centrano. L'ex cantante dei Police si è esibito nella chiesa di Santa Maria delle Grazie accompagnato dal suono del liuto con un repertorio di musica classica. Le canzoni sono quelle di John Dowland, celebre compositore elisabettiano (1536 - 1626). Si tratta di un evento per celebrare l'ultima fatica di Sting 'Songs From The Labyrinth', che ieri ha ricevuto sempre a Milano il disco d'oro e che anticipa il tour mondiale che partirà a febbraio. Al concerto gratuito hanno partecipato pochi fortunati che si sono riusciti ad aggiudicare i biglietti, andati a ruba in pochi minuti. Gordon Matthew Sumner è salito sul palco con una giacca nera, insieme all'amico musicista Edin Karamazov che lo ha avvicinato al suono del liuto e che lo ha accompagnato per tutto il concerto. Prima di iniziare a suonare, Sting ha raccontato brevemente la biografia di John Lowland spiegando che il compositore era una sorta di Jimmy Hendrix dell'epoca elisabettiana e che per tutta la vita desiderò suonare alla corte di Inghilterra senza mai riuscirci. Nonostante all'inizio del concerto fosse stato chiesto di non applaudire tra un brano e l'altro per permettere di ascoltare la musica fino all'ultima nota, il pubblico ha provato a resistere, ma dopo due canzoni non ha resistito ed è partito un caldo applauso. Le atmosfere rarefatte, a tratti malinconiche, ispirate dalle melodie melodie del '600, si sono alternate alla lettura di alcuni passi di alcune lettere scritte dal compositore John Dowland e recitate da Sting. Al termine dell'esecuzione, dopo una standing ovation, ha concesso ben 4 bis, tra i brani scelti anche 2 sue notissime canzoni rilette in chiave rinascimentale: 'Fields of gold' e 'Message in a bottle'. Il concerto verrà trasmesso dal 20 dicembre in differita, su Rosso Alice per 60 giorni per permettere a tutti quelli che non hanno potuto assistere alla performance acustica dal vivo di gustare - come aveva spiegato in conferenza stampa Sting - "straordinari brani pop del 1600, che ho rieseguito con passione e stupore".

© Alice News

Sting porta la musica di John Dowland (e il blues) a S.Maria Delle Grazie

Poteva essere uno degli eventi dell'anno: il Comune di Milano ha portato, nella sua rassegna musicale pre-natalizia, Sting in uno dei luoghi più suggestivi della città: la chiesa di Santa Maria delle Grazie, quella del cenacolo vinciano. Non si tratta di un concerto rock, ma di una delle rare anteprime del tour di 'Songs From The Labyrinth', lavoro per voce e liuto pubblicato dalla Deutsche Grammophone e dedicato al compositore inglese del 1500 John Dowland.

Annunciato qualche settimana fa, il concerto di ieri, 13 dicembre, si è trasformato subito in un evento: caccia al biglietto (poche centinaia di posti a disposizione, la maggiore parte inviti e poco meno di 200 distribuiti gratuitamente) e conseguente "parterre de roi" fatto di sedicenti "vip".

Una volta entrati nella chiesa il colpo d'occhio è impressionante: la cupola è illuminata con luci colorate e il palco, collocato davanti all'altare, è tutto è rivestito di telo bianco, anche le casse, per non disturbare l'occhio nell'ammirare il capolavoro del Brunelleschi. La gente si accalca per trovare il posto a sedere riservato, molti sono in piedi dietro le colonne. Il presentatore della serata chiede, su richiesta di Sting, di non applaudire ad esibizione in corso, oltre alla consueta raccomandazione di spegnere i cellulari. Lo stesso Sting appare intimidito dal luogo: inizia raccontando la storia di Dowland, delle sue frustrazioni per il mancato riconoscimento in vita. Alterna letture a "canzoni" di Dowland e del contemporaneo Robert Johnson ("non il bluesman", scherza). Fa chiaramente fatica a scaldare la voce, che in alcuni passaggi tentenna, e dopo tre brani è lui a chiamare l'applauso, quasi a cercare un po' di calore. Si fa accompagnare dal liutista bosniaco Edin Karamazov, ogni tanto lui stesso imbraccia il liuto, e in un paio di occasioni sale sul palco il complesso vocale inglese Stile Antico a completare l'esecuzione.

Dopo neanche un'ora il concerto principale, quello dedicato a 'Songs From The Labyrinth', è finito. Sting torna e, sorpresa, inizia i bis con rielaborazioni per voce e liuto del repertorio moderno: 'Fields Of Gold' e 'Message In A Bottle', cantate con lo stesso tono vocale della musica di Dowland. In mezzo c'è anche una cover, 'Hell Hound On My Trail' di Robert Johnson, questa volta proprio il bluesman. Il tentativo è far vedere le radici antiche della musica moderna, il risultato non è all'altezza delle intenzioni, ma riesce solo a portare in una chiesa la musica di un bluesman che, si favoleggia, vendette l'anima al diavolo.

C'è ancora tempo per un bis, uno vero, di Dowland, e la serata finisce, con i vip che escono e commentano, qualcuno addirittura si fa scortare dalle guardie del corpo. Poteva essere uno degli eventi dell'anno, una rockstar che suona in un posto così carico di storia. Invece è stato solo un evento mondano come un altro e, musicalmente, una serata che non ha suggestionato come ci si poteva immaginare.

Per la cronaca, Sting tornerà con il tour vero e proprio di 'Songs From The Labyrinth' per tre date, a inizio 2007: una, ancora da confermare, all'Auditorium Parco Della Musica di Roma, e due a Firenze (Teatro Del Maggio) e Milano (Teatro degli Arcimboldi), rispettivamente il 22 e 23 febbraio.

© Rockol
Enjoy three new live tracks from Sting and Edin Karamazov's performance - 'Message In A Bottle', 'Fields Of Gold' and Blues Legend Robert Johnson's 'Hellhound On My Trail' available exclusively on iTunes. This exciting release showcases both the magic and intimacy of the performance and members can preview the tracks here...
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