Ah, what does one do on a Sunday afternoon? Read the paper perhaps? Follow the Bears (mind, I find it difficult to do over here. American Football is only available via SKY Television - and I won't pay their enormous fees). Take a walk? (Beautiful, of course, and incredible walking is available only minutes from my front door).
You could, perhaps, go to see a Concert Pianist. But in the Beara? 250 miles from Dublin? Another 150 miles or so from London? Thousands of miles from Carnegie Hall? Not likely, you'd think. Not on the Beara Peninsula. But you'd be wrong.
Meet David Syme: neighbour (he lives less than 10 miles from me); a fellow that hails originally from Detroit but who also lives part-time in Houston; and an incredibly talented concert pianist. Like this guy is gifted! David has had the good fortune to play all over the world: Japan, Mexico (for the President, naturally!), the Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center in Washington DC, the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion... and with some of the best (including the Royal Philharmonic, the London Philharmonia, and the Vienna Symphony, to name a few).
So what do you do on a Sunday afternoon in the Beara? Why you go see David play, of course.
Hospitality, Houston Style (and all in the Beara)
I'd learned about David from a wonderful masseuse, Heaugott (a Dutch native who's lived here for over 10 years) just a few days ago. She told me to go along...it would be an experience that I'd never forget. She was right!
Arriving at an incredibly beautiful home with stunning views of Bantry Bay, guests are greeted by David's wife Suzanne. Entry at the door was 20 euro - the price of a couple of pints. But for that small sum you receive an afternoon of entertainment that beats even Carnegie Hall.
First, and having paid your entry fee, Suzanne invites you to select one of David's CDs - on the house of course: "With our compliments. We're just glad you're here," she says, her wonderful eyes full of down-home Houston warmth. I select a CD entitled Missing You. I should explain that David has an eclectic range of musical interests. This incredible CD was filled with a wide range of wonderful love songs that we'd all recognize: From You Are So Beautiful, to When I Fall in Love, to (and a personal favorite) When Sunny Gets Blue. What a CD! I bought another one, of course, just to demonstrate some Yankee support. Then - along with 35 or so other Guests - sat in Suzanne's beautiful house awaiting the star attraction.
And is he ever! On first sight, David doesn't look like a Concert Pianist, at least not my vision of same. He's a rather big man (he jokes about it); he's Jewish (he tells incredibly funny Jewish jokes); his hands look big enough to lay bricks (not that he's a brick layer).
And then he sits. And his fingers reach out. And he plays. And the notes that emanated from his Yamaha Baby Grand were absolutely magic.
For an hour he treated us to a feast of amazing classical music: from Ravel to Liszt to Beethoven. After the first hour he took a needed break (David puts his heart and soul into his concerts, and the energy that requires is astonishing). For the next half hour, we're invited into the Syme's kitchen to sample a scrum-de-la-licious assortment of Suzanne's baking. Personally, I liked the oatmeal cookies the best! Add a glass of wine, a cup of coffee, and Guests are more than ready for more captivating music from David Syme.
The next half hour is also pure heaven...David flexes his repertoire by playing a wide variety of artists and composers: Gershwin (David's interpretations of that Great Composer have received accolades from all over the world), traditional Irish Music (his rendition of Danny Boy had tears coming to our eyes), and contemporary artists that all of us recognize immediately (such as David's wonderful interpretation of Elton John hits). He even had time to play When Sunny Gets Blue, just for me!
The concert ended with a standing ovation. And shouldn't it? Amazing music, great food, wonderful company...and all available 4 miles east of Castletownbere, 8 miles from my front door, and with the breathtaking vista of the Beara Peninsula surrounding this place of musical magic. Who needs to go to Carnegie Hall?
If you're in the Beara Peninsula, why not stop by for a visit with David and Suzanne? It's a musical jewel that you'll never forget.
Oh, and by the way: if you'd like more information on David, his upcoming global concert tours, and the opportunity to purchase any of his many CDs and DVDs, why not visit his website: http://www.sympepiano.com/. I'm sure that he and Suzanne would appreciate it!
For more information on living and surviving in Ireland, why not purchase Tom's book, A Survivor's Guide to Living in Ireland. You'll love it!