“Flamin’ Amy” Coleman has lived the wild life of a singer/songwriter/bandleader in New York City for 30 years. (See her story in today’s post, “Days of Their Lives.”) She’s had bad days—breakups with bandmates, gigs in way-too-raucous blues bars, traveling to flea-bitten motels in broken-down vans, doing odd jobs to keep on eating. And she’s had good days too. December 28, 2011, was a good day.
December 28, 2011, at the Foresta Sottana, a 100-acre property with farmhouse in Calabria, Italy
11 a.m. So here I am, on a 20-gig tour through the churches of Cosenza, helping to raise funds for Wells in Kenya—a campaign the Cosentine government initiated. On this tour I’ve had police escorts, a full choir backing me, a band of beautiful, talented young Italian musicians, politicians, fancy people, television crews milling around, the whole works. I love it!
Just woke up with a sore throat, and I still have five gigs to go. Every church we’ve played in has been freezing. I guess they haven’t upgraded the heating system since the 14th century or so. I’m staying with my dear friend Adriana, producer of the tour. Her six dogs spent the night howling at the moon outside my window. It didn’t bother me. Actually, it was kind of like an all-night atonal lullaby sung just for me.
Well, I guess its time to get up and start moving.
Noon. Just made espresso. After 20-odd years I’m finally getting a hang of how to do coffee the Italian way. Adriana is talking on the phone to the press. They all seem to love that I played Mary Magdalene in Jesus Christ Superstar; they don’t seem to care that it was at a small regional theater in Bridgeport, Connecticut, a hundred years ago.
2 p.m. It is sooooo nice being fed and primped before a gig. So different from back home, where I have to juggle a hundred things before doing four hours of singing. Here I am treated like a queen. Generally in Europe, an artist doesn’t have to be a superstar to warrant respect.
2:30 p.m. Just finished lunch; now I’m resting before getting my hair done. Adriana is going to do errands so I am going to have to try to communicate with Michele, the hairdresser, in my pidgin Italian.
10 p.m. Just finished the best gig so far. I felt so good up there singing in a thousand-year cathedral, La Cattedrale di San Marco Argentano, just telling song stories, allowing muses to have their way. The polyphonic choir of Cosenza that sang behind me was fantastic. The band played great, funky and sultry. Old ladies and children clapped and sang along “Mama Mama Mama Mama Africa.”
The dignitaries (mayor, governors, commissioners) in the audience were smiling, looking as if they had cautiously allowed their guards to come down. Before the finale Adriana asked the archbishop to come up and say a few words. He made an inspiring speech, from what I could decipher. It really was all very lovely, somber, joyous and surreal.
December 29, 2011, 1 a.m.
Ohmigod, I just finished having dinner with the archbishop in his quarters. Eleven nuns cooking, cleaning, serving his every need. The band, Adriana, and I were fed ten different pizzas, all homemade; a platter of gourmet cheese, pastas, and meats, delicious wines, topped off with liqueur from all over the world. Then we were given a tour of the archbishop’s living quarters. The place seemed to span a few city blocks. Very Francis Ford Coppola, Godfather 3. Before we left, the archbishop gave us little gifts. I received rosary beads and a devotional book about Jesus. My husband is going to love that!
I just can’t help thinking, “What’s a nice Jewish girl like me doing in a place like this?”