Seaside music at the Valamar Jazz Festival

A live concert is usually fun. Outdoor concerts are even better. A great outdoor concert, on a warm evening by the sea, is best of all. The 2nd Valamar Jazz Festival in Porec at the beginning of July was four nights of exactly that – relaxed, musical, outdoor fun. Not surprisingly, it was a hugely popular with acts performing to large crowds. We were some of the lucky ones who got tickets to this sold-out event.

Putting on the show


street-for-webLast year’s Jazz festival (the first) took place on Sveti Nikola, a pretty island nestled in Porec harbour. This year, the four-day event spread out into historic locations in the heart of old Porec. As well as two nights on Sveti Nikola, there were also concerts at a local museum and the Euphrasian Basilica. Keeping the festival atmosphere going were Jazz ‘guerrillas’, who popped up throughout the old town, playing in cafes and bars, and on the harbour side.

Things kicked off on Wednesday 6th July, in the Lapidarium museum garden, with Istria’s own Massimo Savic. The concert was a collaboration between the Valamar Jazz Festival and Jazz in the Lapidarium, a regular summer concert programme.

 Tamara-edited-for-webIt moved up a gear on Thursday with two performances in the Euphrasian Basilica. A magnificent location for a fantastic concert, the 12th Century Basilica was packed, with people standing wherever they could and some even watching from the courtyard outside. First up was Tamara Obravac  with the Transhistria Ensemble and Epoque Quartet. Promoting their new album, Tamara’s subtle arrangements were perfectly in-tune with the basilica’s ambience. Richard Galliano and Piazolla Forever Septet Tango Project (where do they get these names?!), followed. “It was wonderful,” said Richard, afterwards. “It was a great concert, with a warm audience in an amazing location.”

On Friday we crossed the water to Sveti Nikola. Travelling by boat to a show certainly makes things more exciting. Warm, lapping water and a balmy night sky – we were in for a South American evening. Saxophonist, Miguel Zenón and his Quartet from Costa Rica opened the show, followed by Tania Maria and the Viva Brazil Quartet. Walking back to the boat afterwards, looking at the lights twinkling across the water, I found my feet just kept dancing.


Funk-Unit-Jazz-band-1-for-wWe were back on the island on Saturday for the last night of the festival. Tom Harrel, with his trumpet and Quintet, opened the show. Then to close the festival, The Nils Landgren Funk Unit had us all dancing in front of the stage and singing along.

I got a few words with festival organiser, Tamara Obravac, before we left the island. Obviously delighted with how well everything had gone, she was in an expansive mood, “Great music, the sound of crickets and the moon diving into the sea – what else is there to wish for? It’s been a fantatsic festival. We had great, happy audiences who will take the memory of this home with them. Life’s good!” she concluded with a huge grin.

After the concerts on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, the party ran on long into the night at the ‘After Parties’ in the garden of the beautiful Villa Pollesini. Concert-goers mingled with performers and the music played on. On the final night, inspired by Porec’s hospitality and a great evening, Nils Landgren took to the stage and gave us an extra, impromptu show.

“It was great,” Nils said afterwards. “Porec is an incredible place. I just wish we could have something like this back in Sweden. We all enjoyed it enormously. We’d love to come back – if we’re allowed.”

I too had a great time and I’m ready looking forward to next year’s festival and hope it’ll be as good as this year’s. As I sat under the stars enjoying the music, I wondered what it takes to put on such a show (see below).

For more on the see the Valamar Jazz Festival site.

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Putting on the show

Putting on an event like the Valamar Jazz Festival is a huge undertaking. What was involved I wondered as I sat under the stars, enjoying the music?

Why is Valamar holding a Jazz festival?

The Valamar Jazz Festival isn’t just a marketing tool to fill beds in Valamar hotels. It’s also:

  • a great way to help promote Istria and Porec – one of the reasons the event was spread across the old town and one of the concerts was held in the Basilica
  • about putting something back into the community – a large proportion of the audience was from Porec.
  • (OK, it’s also a good promotional tool for Valamar and they offer a Jazz Festival package)

Who’s involved?

  • Festival director, Tamara Obravac, selects and sets up the acts. Her role is on-going and she’s already talking with possible acts for next year.
  • Valamar’s team of 16, led by hotel director, Dalibor Matovina, ensure they have somewhere to perform – and an audience. Work starts in February, builds up in April and ramps-up to fever–pitch just before the festival.

What does it take?

Basically, a huge spreadsheet and LOTS of …

  • … organisation – concerts in four different locations, one a UNESCO world heritage site.
  • … logistics – everything people saw, sat on or touched had to be arranged and, for the concerts on Sveti Nikola, shipped to the island on a tiny boat.
  • … people – over 70 Valamar employees and innumerable volunteers.
  • … food –  at the After Party alone 120 kg of pasta, 57 kg of pršut (istrian smoked ham), 175 kg of cheese, 1440 bottles of Becks beer, 680 bottles of wine, over 3000 bottles of water were consumed.
  • … good luck – the weather was beautiful, the acts were great, tickets were sold out and the audience had a great time.

How did it go?

After months hard work, everything passed off without a hitch or drop of rain. The whole team was jubilant and justifiably proud, and celebrated in style – their own After-After Party ran until 6:00 in the morning!

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