Original Post Date: January 5, 2017
The idea of the Supra Feast first came to me last winter, on a music study trip that took me through the Balkans, Turkey, and finally the Republic of Georgia. Georgia, nestled in the Caucus mountains south of Russia, is home to rich traditions of singing, food, wine, and the "supra," or feast, that lets you enjoy all three at once. As a frequent guest of Georgian friends, I've been lucky enough to attend many supras. I'll set the scene: guests are seated at a long table covered with food, stacked three or four dishes deep. Wine flows freely from glasses, clay bowls, and drinking horns, testing the drinking stamina of hosts and guests alike. Song, dance, and poetry erupt spontaneously, with plenty of intercultural song-swapping and straight-up jamming. A tamada, or "toast-master," presides at the head of the table, leading the guests in effusive toasts to the homeland, traditions, friends, family, and one another.
Some of my fellow travelers were skeptical when I suggested bringing the supra to Palaver: "I mean, has anyone else in Palaver even been to Georgia?" To me, the supra is just the kind of musical context that we in Palaver crave: it creates a community, if only for a night, where "audiences" and "performers" sit elbow to elbow, fill up each other's wine glasses, and experience something together. It provides an opportunity for structured sharing and reflecting on what's important. The wine is pretty good, too.
I'll admit I was nervous. But the Palaver crew came through, cooking more than I thought was possible and whipping up an ambitious array of musical delights, from the earthy and uproarious to the transcendent and spiritual. With the help of guest singers Justine Calnan Cavacas and Conor Weiss, we presented traditional Georgian song, and tamada Evan Eckstrom led us in thoughtful, heartfelt toasts. Everyone who came experienced something new, whether that was chamber music, a new eggplant dish, or Georgian harmonies. And all these new things tasted better together: to quote one of my favorite Georgian songs, "Good wine is worth nothing without good music, and a young man is worth nothing if he cannot drink."