Gondolas go together perfectly with music,
and while there are some gondoliers who choose not to sing,
very few will argue that having some kind of music can definitely improve the experience for the passengers
(and I would add - for the gondolier too).
Many gondola operations have singing or recorded music on board,
in Boston though, they go one step further - but then they've always gone above and beyond in that servizio.
For years they've made accordionists available to their clients and recently I'm seeing a violinist as well.
Speaking with Joe Gibbons of Gondola di Venezia recently, he said:
"There's nothing quite like live music. Sure, a CD player is nice,
but nothing compares to having the real thing".
His clients seem to agree, because there are a lot of cruises going out each season with one of these talented individuals on board.
In "Happy Birthday Megan"
we see Megan Sliger (former accordionist turned gondolier and at the time - company owner) rowing, with expert accordionist Bronwyn playing. Bronwyn also has a remarkably unique qualification as one of the only masters of the instrument known as the nyckelharpa
These are some remarkable musicians.
So how does Gondola di Venezia do it?
Well, the operation is a great one, and certainly a company that a serious musician would find appealing to work for, but there is also the issue of location. You see the renowned Berklee college of music is only about a mile away from the gondola dock on the Charles River (and yes, I'm jealous of that).
Gondolas have been gracing the waters of Boston's Charles River for some twelve years now. Megan and Bronwyn have moved on to other adventures, and Gondola di Venezia is on their next generation of musicians. Here are a couple of them:
Aside from being an expert accordionist,
Peter Bufano is a member of several bands and has worked with the Ringling Bros. circus.
As I said, one of the reasons Gondola di Venezia has been able to find great
musicians is that they are close to the Berklee College of Music - a
perfect place to find the kind of talent needed.
But keeping them is another thing.
Joe Gibbons tells me that his business partner Steve Bruno takes good care of the musicians.
There are little stools for them – each with the first
initial of the player.
If Peter Bufano is on board with his accordion, there’ll be
a stool with a “B” on it.
It seems that this whole accordion thing started with Joe Gibbons' own father-in-law. "Pellegrino" played accordion in high school, then joined the Marines and left his accordion in storage. That accordion sat gathering dust in his mother's attic for forty years. Then when his daughter and her husband (Joe Gibbons) started the gondola operation, he dusted it off and started playing again.
Pellegrino playing accordion with Joe rowing.
Pellegrino played thousands of cruises, sometimes working as many as eight cruises in a row. He has now retired and let some of Berklee's finest step in to fill his shoes - no small task, I'm sure.