A SHORT HISTORY of the Associação de Amigos de Música de São Lourenço

1988 – 2018 by Helga Hampton


AAMSL was conceived by Christine Lady Vavasour in the early days of Centro Cultural de Sao Lourenco CCSL. This very first temple to culture in this isolated corner of Europe was inaugurated in March 1981. Marie and Volker Huber converted 5 derelict houses on the road to the Church of São Lourenço near Almancil into a gallery for contemporary art. A unique and pioneering endeavour in the new republican Portugal just 6 years after the 1974 Revolution, and with the neglected Algarve slowly beginning to come into continental European consciousness as a holiday destination.

Christine Lady Vavasour, an early resident, charismatic and idealistic friend and ardent supporter, saw an opportunity in 1988 to combine cultural needs with practical support by inviting like-minded Algarve residents to form a circle of friends of music whose patronage would assist in the music-making at CCSL.

Out of this informal but dedicated group, ten volunteers in 1991 went to Dr. Batalha, the Notary Public in Albufeira to legally set up the statutes for a non-profit organisation to be called “Amigos de Musica de São Lourenço” AAMSL.Among these founding members were Clive and Cilla Dunn, Mark Weinberger, John and Pru Levitt, Christine Lady Vavasour and Dale Sumner and Pedro Leitão.

In 1995 Helga Hampton took over the presidency of AAMSl and the statutes were revised to add the charitable angle of sponsorship of Young Portuguese Musicians.


The always friendly and fruitful collaboration of CCSL and AAMSL went from strength to strength. Over the years world-class artists, like the Lyric Quartet, cellists Maurice Gendron and Tim Hugh, the pianists Piers Lane, Kathryn Stott, Eric Le Sage, Sa Chen, Paul Crossley, Yevgeny Sudbin and Artur Pizarro, Constantin Sandu, violinists Jeroen de Groot and Jack Liebeck, flautists Michala Petrie and Michael Collins, clarinettist Sarah Williamson, the guitarist Craig Ogden and viola player Paul Silverthorne have performed, to mention just a very few. And as more and more international residents settled in the Algarve, AAMSL’s membership soon reached the magic number of 100, enabling us to fully cover all expenses generated by the “Hausmusik”-making at CCSL, including catering and bar.


At the regular vernissages, integral part of the special CCSL ambience, the Amigos were privileged to come face to face with many an eminent artist of the Gallery. Let me single out just a few: the sculptors João Cutilheiro, Shintaro Nakaoka; the painters Antoni Tapies, A.R. Penck, Jose de Guimerães, Manuel Batista, Susan Norrie, Glyn Uzzell and the writer/artist Gunter Grass.


In 2004 I announced the end of my 10-year stint as president after deciding to pursue graduate studies of my own in England, and we were able to find Barry Shaw agreeable to take over the leadership.


Barry was a very knowledgeable President between 2005 and 2011 when he totally unexpectedly died. He brought his great love for music and connection in the music world to bear on The Amigos and he will be sorely missed as a true friend and elegant figurehead. He became incapacitated in November 2011 when I was asked to step in and I have been acting president again since then.


The pugnacious global economic crisis made a victim of this cultural oasis in São Lourenço, and Marie Huber (her husband, Volker, had died in 2005) decided to end a glorious career by closing the doors to her gallery in 2013. The Amigos owe her and her team great gratitude for hosting and assisting the many musical and social events we were able to enjoy, in a style and an ambience that will remain unique and unforgettable. The Amigos, true lovers of great music, are looking back now on 27 years of cultured conviviality and bonding friendships.

An era came to an end in 2013 when the Amigos lost their CCSL home.


We had to suspend Amigo membership for a year from June 2013 while we were looking for a new venue, which proved to be a time-consuming and arduous process. Finally in September 2014 the Amigos de Musica were able to inaugurate their new venue with the first two concerts at Os Agostos. This new auditorium with great reception area in a rustic ambience is becoming a popular place with members as well as with artists, thus ensuring the continuation of our activities. The seasons habitually bring different artists, i.e. 18 concert evenings annually, and the present membership year 2018/19 begins with aplomb in September with an exciting programme of international artists and great mucic. Planning for 2019/2020 is well on the way and the future looks bright.