Her name is Giuditta Scorcelletti. Her singing voice, even in an alien tongue, was as serene as smooth old hands that stroked my head when I was sleepy, as sweet as memories of conch-shells and woodsmoke at twilight.
I came upon her just before twilight, walking over cobblestones into the setting sun as it mellowed in the horizon's haze. In an alleyway that led from one church to another, in a strange beautiful dreaming town atop a hill in Tuscany, I heard music. Like "cathedral bells / tripping down the alley-ways / as I walked on".
Was somebody playing a recording in the church, at evensong?
I peeped into first one doorway, then another and another.
Till there she was, sitting by the wall with her guitar and her music, "strumming my pain with her fingers", but I did not know the lives she sang with her song.
I stepped through the arched doorway, from the pouring gold of the sunset into the quiet shades of an art gallery.
I stood there, unsure of myself, embarrassed that I may be gawking, yet loth to leave that cave of music within a larger beauty. She sang on, unperturbed, until she sensed my awkwardness. And nodded gravely to set me at my ease, with a smile that lay more in her guile-less open face than any perceptible change in expression.
I leaned against the wall and looked around. In a corner lay a basket with a few CDs and some paper money. I wandered over and realised it was her recording. As I knelt down to pick up a CD, I looked back at her and caught a flicker of a smile and a little shrug, as if she spoke to me. Of our need for money to live and to sing, of a search for dignity that led to recorded CDs rather than a hatful of coins, of a love for the songs of childhood, of joy in finding a voice to sing with.
That was a year ago, when she had just recorded her first collection of Tuscan folk songs (playing here even as I type this). What prompted me to pull up her picture again today, after so many months? Strange, because apparently she will play in Vallombrosa tomorrow. I hope the learned members of the Browning Society will hearken to her music, the songs of a Tuscan girl, rather than the research material of “an anthropologist and folklorist” (which she is).
And I hope her music will bring to them the shades of twilight in San Gimignano, a town of sun-gilded stone upon a hilltop in Tuscany with van Gogh vineyards clustered in the plains below.