In late fall of 2006, six members of the band Powerhouse, two additional musicians (to replace the band members who couldn’t make the trip), three lady singers, a Ray Charles tribute artist, a promoter, his wife and a tour manager, took a two-week musical tour through Portugal and the Azores Islands. For most of the members of Powerhouse, this fifteen-member show was a tour of a lifetime. The following pages are the best of over 500 pictures and the story of an extremely memorable tour, holiday and country.
The SingersSharon Musgrave, Heather Cadogan, Dawn Gibbs and Frank Rondell as Ray Charles.To the far right, the promoter, Carlos Santos and his wife Sandra.And in the picture below, in the middle between Pete and Sharon, our tour manager, Sebastiao Salgueiro -- or 'Sabby', as we came to know him.
The BandBack row: Michael Stevenson on piano, Paul Augustyn on tenor & alto sax, Don Berryman on trombone and synthesizer, John Willett on trumpet and Phil Kott on guitar.Front row: Pete Grimmer on percussion (don't let the trumpet fool you), Carlo DiBattista on trumpet, and Greg Smith on bass.
We left Pearson Airport in Toronto, Canada in the early evening, and with the time difference, we managed to arrive at our destination of Lisbon, Portugal just as the sun was coming up. Once we cleared customs, we met with Carlos, Sandra, Sabby and their three tour vans. We had two, 9-person, Mercedes passenger vans and a something-or-the-other tiny truck with a big enclosed box on the back for the equipment and luggage. These would be our travel homes for the next 2 weeks. We left Lisbon immediately on the first leg of the tour -- up the Portuguese coast to the city of Porto.
The band arrived in Porto, a northern Portuguese port town in the early afternoon. After checking into the hotel (pictured, below) and getting the rooms, everyone headed out the front door to go see the city before the sun set. Even after a 6-hour flight, 2 hours in Lisbon airport and a 3-hour drive up to Porto, energies were remarkably high as we headed out the front door and scattered to go see the city. Within about 8 or 10 blocks there was just Paul with me as we headed down the hill, toward the river. He'd read ahead that there was an artsy area down there that he wanted to see.
The Hotel Sao Jose
The first thing we noticed was that every road in the city was covered in interlocking stone and ceramic patterned tiles. Only old Quebec City in Canada has anything that even remotely, compares.
The ceramic murals that covered the surfaces of many of the buildings and roadways in the city were quite spectacular.
Santo Ildefonso ChurchThe setting of this church was gorgeous, overlooking a central square formed by the joining of 3 or 4 streets. We had to stop a moment at one of the local vendors in the square and have a bite to eat.
Paul and Don, down by the river, with the Ponte Dom Luís in the background.
Unfortunately, it was a long way back up the hill, to the hotel, some rest and the end to what had been a very long and eventful day. The next day, we saw a bit more of the city, but today was mostly about our first show.
To the left: Porto Coliseum (viewed from stage), to the right: The stage during soundcheckOnce it was showtime, there was little opportunity for picture-taking. As you can see, the venue was breathtaking -- old world charm, a huge coliseum/theatre-like hall full of ornate wood carvings, with an elevated balcony that circled the room. Even the ceiling was covered in hardwood boards. The sound, production and stage equipment were all top-of-the-line and the stage wings were full of TV production equipment as the event was filmed for the local media. It was, indeed, a memorable first show in Portugal that night.
Our third day was a travel day, as we made our way back to the south, through Lisbon, to the ocean resort town of Estoril. Our tour manager, Sabby, who was quickly becoming a good friend, decided to take us south on a secondary highway where the scenery was a little nicer. We followed the river to the ocean, then headed south with the coastal mountains on our right. Sandra, Carlo and the equipment van led the way, today.
Such a beautiful country, really -- white stuccoed homes (many closer to small castles, actually) and red-tiled roofs nestled throughout gently rolling hills. Sometimes the coastal mountains would be far off in the distance, sometimes our morning drive took us right through the middle of them.
We arrived in Estoril, the Atlantic shore resort town, with still the whole late afternoon and evening left in the day. As seemed to be the way of things, we went straight to the hotel (another 'beaut'), unloaded the trucks, checked into our rooms, met for our time schedules, then headed out the front door and scattered. This looked like quite an amazing place to explore. The Atlantic Ocean was about 200 metres (yards) away. I met Pete, Sharon and Dawn on the way out the door, so it was with them, I headed toward the water. The casino was right next door (the largest one in Europe, by the way). so we checked out the grounds before we headed to the beach area. Oddly, I managed to snap a picture that looks remarkably similar to a Beatles album cover.
Sharon and Pete decided not to go out farther on the pier once they saw the local fisherman get swamped with a wave.
Up one side of the coast and down the other. The far shore in the picture below is Cascais, where we would walk to and spend most of the next day.
To the left: A spectacular scene of the sun setting over what will be, tomorrow's destination -- the city of Cascais.Again, cameras were a 'no-no' inside the casino, so all we have is the front entrance on the way in.
Today, I headed out on my own from the hotel, along the beach toward Cascais. I ran into John halfway there and we continued on together, as far as the Citadel, then around the edge of the marina following the shore, through the central park, back through town and finally back along the shore to Estoril. We had a show to play that night, so we needed to be back by early evening.
Mont Estoril was more like a large hill, but it gave some great pics back along the shore toward Estoril.
I ran into John along the way who, like me, was giving his camera a good workout.
Once we reached Cascais, the fully-sculpted stone walkway along the water ended, replaced by the more natural seashore of sand and rock outcroppings. Some of the buildings and scenery along this shore of Portugal were amazing, with every bit of land accounted for -- no vast, open spaces like I'm used to as a Canadian.
Every bit of sidewalk and roadway was covered in ornate patterns of stone and tile. I'll admit, I've never really seen anything like it before.
The Citadel -- I found dates, embedded in the rock, going back 1000 years. It made our North American two to three hundred-year history seem rather small.
We turned the corner, through a stone gate, and walked into the middle of a huge, gorgeous park in the middle of town.
All the streets were narrow (some, ridiculously so) and covered in ornate tile and colourful cobblestones. I saw cars driving here, so I know it is possible, but as I look back on it now, I wonder how they did it.
A close-up of the stonework on the side of someone's home. These tiled murals were everywhere in Portugal (from what we'd seen so far).
All that remained was the long walk back along the beach, back to Estoril, and to get ready for tonight's show in the Casino. Shoes in hand, the lukewarm ocean felt good on my tired feet. There was a pretty good chance that I could be a little tired at tonight's show.
Above: some of the stone work on the buildings in this area and, to the left, a building (home?, castle?) by the beach where we first saw the Atlantic.
Today, our sixth I believe, started as another travel day. We left Estoril on the coast and headed inland along the Rio Tejo to Lisbon. From there, we crossed a rather large bridge, the Pont d'Abril, and headed south to our destination of Portimao in the scenic southern Algarve region of Portugal.
The equipment van and the other passenger van, in front of that.
Lisbon, Portugal -- so much different than large North American cities. There were no steel and glass skyscrapers in this city that I could see.
The Rio Tejo was rather wide as we headed inland to Lisbon, which made for huge bridge to cross. According to Sabby (our tour director), this statue is the original of the same one that sits high on the hill in Rio de Janeiro.
We turned to the south and noticed the countryside changing. There was much more sand in the soil, Sabby reminded us that the African continent was just across the straight from southern Portugal.
The outskirts of Portimao, and wouldn't you just know it, a Ray Charles Show poster on the first billboard we passed.As had been the case throughout the tour so far, we headed straight to the hotel (right), checked into the rooms (below right, a view of Portimao from the hotel room), met for our time schedules and headed out the front door and scattered. It was late afternoon, we were playing that evening, and leaving for our next stop tomorrow afternoon. Much to see. Not a lot of time.
I'd read ahead that this area of the Portuguese Riviera was noted for it's topless beaches, so I headed immediately, a few hundred yards (metres) down the road to the walkway down to the beach.
There is, of course, one minor problem with visiting the country during the off-season.
The beach area in this part of the country was much different than that in the Estoril area. Carefully sculpted rock, stone and tile retaining walls were replaced with large expanses of sand, dotted with yellow ochre-coloured rock outcroppings, with the brilliance of the white stucco buildings lining the edge of the hill that bordered the beach. This place was gorgeous and definitely a contrast in colour.
The original venue was changed, replaced by a rather unique coliseum, closer to the waterfront. This building (shown from the street and on-stage during sound check) was semi-covered, with some rather unique wooden architecture forming a stage area.
Once sound check was over, I took the opportunity to walk down to the waterfront.
The Ladies: Sharon, Heather and Dawn
All that remained for this day in Portimao was ...