The late Canadian fiddler Oliver Schroer didn’t pack light for his trip along the Camino de Santiago in 2004. In his backpack, among a minimum of clothes and other essentials, he carried his fiddle—”… like a wooden chalice, like my own precious relic…,” as he describes it in the liner notes to his resulting album—and a portable recording studio.
He recorded himself fiddling in churches and cathedrals as he and three others walked 1,000 kilometres along part of the Chemin du Puy and all of the Camino Frances. Sometimes he was thrown out of a church after a few seconds of playing. Sometimes he stayed for hours.
His beautiful album, Camino, is the result of that playing. It mixes Schroer’s original compositions—some of them improvised on the spot—with Camino sounds like cowbells and pilgrims walking.
An Introduction to the Journey
In the following mini-documentary, Oliver Schroer gives his own introduction to his Camino experience and the album. The video also features one of his pieces from the album, and shows some of Peter Coffman’s photos, which also fill Camino‘s CD booklet.
The music is magical. Haunting. Gorgeous.
The CD Booklet
You can buy the songs from Camino individually on iTunes. Don’t do it. The CD booklet alone is worth the price of the full album.
It has Peter Coffman’s beautiful photos, for one thing.
The writing, by Coffman and Schroer, is also gorgeous. It’s like a poem, changing from English to French to Spanish and back to English in the same sentence. There are also smatterings of German and Dutch.
Schroer’s part of the liner notes tell the story of his Camino and the music he made while walking it. Coffman writes about the Camino’s historical background, the experience of walking, and the music he heard Schroer play.
Oliver Schroer died of leukemia in July 2008, some 18 months after he found out he had cancer. Even after his diagnosis, he continued to record and perform. His final concert, aptly named Oliver’s Last Concert on His Tour of the Planet, took place a month before his death.
I read about his dying about a month before I set off on my own Camino. It’s a hard thing to forget—not because it was terrible but because, like Schroer’s music, it had a haunting beauty.