After our exciting entrance to the Balkans we gave our first concert in a small church in the center of Skopje. The program opened with a women’s choir singing a variety of liturgical music from the Orthodox tradition. We then took the stage and gave a great performance. The eerie Australian “Kondallila” was well received, but nothing came close to the audience’s enthusiastic enjoyment of “Shto mi e milo,” a Macedonian folk song. The piece repeats a series of verses and choruses and the audience burst into applause after a single go around. Their strong emotional reaction certainly moved us all—there’s nothing so magical as joining in with a native audience for a folk song sing-along in a country far from home.
Bidding Skopje and Macedonia a fond farewell, we headed next for Prishtina. We weren’t quite sure what to expect from this fledgling capital city, but we were definitely pleasantly surprised. Apart from the difficulty of the Albanian language (Let me tell you, ‘thank you’ is tricky), the city had the small town atmosphere and general friendliness that makes one feel right at home. The food was exceptional—from the menu-less family style Tiffany’s to the traditional dishes served at Fast Food Five Plus. It was also a city filled with history, though it differed significantly from Skopje. Here, the centuries-old mosques contrasted with the burned out shell of an Orthodox cathedral, the parliamentary building glistened with brand-new glass, and the Catholic cathedral in which we would give our concert was definitely still under construction.
And, of course, the peculiarities and complexities of western Balkan geopolitics couldn’t be missed—the Albanian flag flew perhaps even more often than the flag of Kosovo! And we all felt a little bit of home walking to the intersection of George W. Bush Avenue and Bill Clinton Street.