Grappelli prefers to let his music do the talking
“I got fed up being asked about my age and what I did in my life,” protested jazz violinist Step ha ne GrappelIi as he relaxed in his luxury suite at Cork’s Imperial Hotel yesterday.
This is Grappelli’s first visit to the Guinness Jazz Festival and he wanted to talk about anything but his music.
“The Guinness people have asked me to play at the festival several times before, but I have never been able to do it. Now I am here and I am going to enjoy it very much.”
Stephane is no stranger to Cork. He played in the city twice in the early 1980 s, first in the Savoy Theatre and then at the Opera House.
Now freshly arrived from the Prague Festival of Jazz, the octogenarian is pleased to be associated with the Guinness celebrations.
“This festival is a very prestigious one. It has an international reputation and everyone of the artistes who play here is a good musician, a genuine musician. It is a great honour to be invited.”
Many of Grappelli’s friends and contemporaries are in Cork for the festival.
“Humphrey Lyttleton, whom I would call the greatest jazz journalist on earth, is here to report and to play!”
Any hopes fans might have of a musical fusion with Louis Stewart over the weekend were dashed as Stephane explained he will be flying to the Isle of Man this morning.
“I have always admired Louis as a great artist. He is what you would call a natural musician, a natural man. I will never forget my all-too-few appearances with him.”
What he wants to talk about now, however, is Ireland or rather, his love affair with Ireland.
“I can understand why de Gaulle came to visit this country, it is so beautiful.
During his last visit here in June he managed to get to Galway, where he visited the house of a very dear friend, Jean Barclay.
“I had promised Jean that I would go to see her house.
“I had been promising her for 30 years that one day I would visit Galway, and this year I finally made it. Galway is such a beautiful place, so very wild and yet so fascinating. I really love the west coast and I think Jean would have been very glad to know I got there after so long.”
But his attachment to Ireland does not stop at the scenery .“I love Irish music. It is so very lively”
His favourite instruments are the bodhrán and flute, and though he confesses, with a twinkle to some difficulty in learning Irish tunes, he as mastered‘ Farewell to Erin’, which he played in Dublin during his June visit. “Of this I am very proud!” he laughs.
Stephane Grappelli at the Imperial Hotel in Cork in 1988.