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MUSINGS OF A MEANDERING MIND # 27 (article first published : 2006-12-24)

I’ve just discovered that Cliff the Cantor has also fairly recently embarked on an adventurous vinous venture: yup, after more than five decades as one of the most successful singers of all time, Sir Cliff, who has long enjoyed a love affair with the country of Portugal, has had a huge amount of praise heaped on him since establishing a name as a viticulturist with the release of his delectable sounding red wine grown at his own vineyard in the beautiful Algarve region which, in deference to said country, he’s named Vida Nova (Portuguese for new life). Although he loves his home in Surrey, England, and the one in Barbados, he now counts his quinta, or farm, near the resort of Albufeira as his true inner sanctum – a place where he can withdraw and just be ordinary, gazing out over the vines and watching them grow, which he cites as total peace and tranquillity. With the vineyard has come a start-of-the-art winery, appropriately named Adega do Cantor or The Singer’s Winery, with Sir Cliff sharing 50 per cent of the business with the owners of the neighbouring estate – the Birch family owning a 16-hectare vineyard which now also processes grapes from Cliff Richard’s own 8.5 hectares.

Cliff’s current dwelling is named Quinta do Moinho or Windmill Farm, taking its name from a picturesque windmill overlooking the garden, at the time of purchase being a slightly run-down farm with an avenue of ancient olive trees and a rather neglected house, which he set about restoring with extensions that take advantage of the rising terrain and provide him with wonderful views from his terracotta and dusky pink terraces, the house incorporating a rooftop tower housing an iron bell which the singer discovered in a disused church in Scotland.

The impressive gated entrance to his property sports his coat of arms, which was approved by heraldic authorities, which depicts a little bird right on the top, (being the singer, of course) pictured on a rock – which Cliff says denotes rock ’n roll - and which is surrounded (most appropriately) by gold discs: then there are four flames (which represent The Shadows), and a netting design which represents his love of the game of tennis. Religious elements include the Cross of Christ, the helmet of salvation and a quote from the Bible, Sing a New Song. Beneath the crest hangs his OBE.

A street near the beach in Albufeira is named after him, with a most attractive and artistic road sign, the words Rua Sir Cliff Richard on the top line, and underneath, in smaller print, simply the word Cantor, the signage surrounded by a beautiful gold frame with floral insets and green leaves.

Of course, Cliff can never live far from a tennis court, so he had one installed at this new home, since he credits his regular games as a cure for his chronic back pain – something I can identify with, though in my case my medicine is a long daily workout in water!

A great number of Cliff Richard’s fans are probably surprised to learn of his passion for the grape, possibly viewing him as an abstemious health fanatic and maybe even a vegetarian. But far from it, since he admits he could not envisage a future without a great steak in it – and a glass of his own red wine, these days, too! He credits his discovery of wine as occurring during the filming of Summer Holiday in Greece, where a lot of downing of the local retsina took place in the harbour of Piraeus! Back home after that venture he went on to Liebfraumilch and later Mateus Rosé (aha, something else we have in common – or HAD, since the onset of migraines in my early twenties put paid to THAT little pleasure!) and admits that very occasionally he still opts for that particular tipple over there but, when it comes to red, he’s pretty much stopped drinking other people’s and it HAS to be Vida Nova these days!

Well, reading about Cliff’s Vida Nova rang some sort of musical bell for me and had me sorting through my CD collection this past week – and, yes, there it was: a superb rendering of the beautiful song Vita Mia (or My Life), sung as a duet with tenor, Vincenzo La Scola, and what a superb blending of voices on this number (which I first heard performed by Amici Forever – which THEY refer to as a contemporary song but one which has all the ingredients of becoming a timeless classic).

The English part sung by Sir Cliff in this version (with Vincenzo providing the Italian part) are most moving, the lyrics having been written by Michelle Wolf and Zucchero Fornaciari to accompany Peter Wolf’s wonderful music…

There’ve been times in my life: I couldn’t see a difference; / In pain, or in joy, or in sun, or in rain – / It just seemed the same./ But I’m only human, branded by ambition – / But I’m going to make it count. / VITA MIA, VITA MIA. / So many intentions in life I could have followed / Here and now is how I will live every moment – / Unafraid of what life gives, / Respect things I don’t understand. / VITA MIA, VITA MIA.

Well, all I can say to that is… Cliff, YOU have most CERTAINLY made a difference – humanity and ambition notwithstanding. WHAT an exemplary life, WHAT an example to more than one generation of how life SHOULD be lived, regardless of how much money you’ve made. You’ve certainly been one of MY favourite singers – and celebs – since I first saw you perform in a cinema in Johannesburg when I was a young teen.

Yes, Cliff has certainly given back, in his own inimitable way, to the folk who people the region which houses his latest venture by choosing a Portuguese name for his latest release which, even though not a musical one, would appear to have won hearts – and palates – nevertheless. After an illustrious career which was supported by 47 years of hard work, I say: Long may he sit happily on that quinta’sbalcony, watching those grapes maturing towards another vintage year!

Oh, one last word: if you too are a Cliff fan, he has a new album out called Two’s Company, comprised of duets with other superb singers – some of them pairings we already know of (e.g. Olivia Newton-John and Sarah Brightman) - but there are also some other pleasant surprises. Duetting seems to be the in thing in music these days, with Tony Bennett’s new album also recently hitting the shelves – this one titled Duets: An American Classic. So, go on, spoil yourself this Festive Season! – Bev Pulè




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