A Night In On Lanzarote

At the neighbours

Before leaving Manchester in England eight years ago I had written over 500 articles for The Rochdale Observer as a weekly columnist. As a freelance arts-reporter for over twenty previous years I had placed hundreds of articles in arts publications across the country, I also co-hosted a radio jazz programme, on Crescent Radio Station owned by a Muslim company and aiming at the Muslim communities in the Rochdale area.

On arriving here on Lanzarote (in Playa Blanca) I knew already that the island had a thriving live music scene: In fact it has two massive local scenes. One is comprised of European musicians who have settled on the island and who make a massive contribution, and a pretty reasonable living it seems, from playing the tourists strips in the three major resorts of Playa Blanca, Puerto Del Carmen and Costa Teguise.

The other music scene is of Canarian Island musicians playing national folk lore music in concerts on instruments such as the timple and performing mainly for the local Spanish audience.

The musicianship in both camps is of excellent quality with the scene on the tourist´s strips giving us plenty of Fleetwood Mac, Springsteen, Elton John and The Eagles etc and the music for the locals being often chamber music, classical and folk lore.

Miguel here at Lanzarote Information responded to an e mail from me about five years ago now and graciously offered me a platform to publicise the arts scene and all this music in this weekly newsletter. With such a thriving arts scene and being a man of (too many) words I have filed a weekly report ever since, singing the praises of productions of the likes of Cats, Evita and Jesus Christ Superstar and other productions in the theatres of Tias, The Victor Gopa theatre in Arrecife and the beautifully situated theatre in San Bartolome and the teatro which Cesar Manrique somehow created as the jewel in the crown, in an underground cave in a lava bubble at Jameos Del Agua with its beautiful bars and even a swimming pool.

My wife Dee (Dutton The Button) and I have also attended the opera and the ballet to review in these columns. We have come to love venues such as CIC El Almecen (The Warehouse), another Manrique creation that serves as an arts gallery, a live theatre and musical stage and cinema as well as a beautiful restaurant serving delicious food.

Each year in January there is held here a ´leg´ of the Canary Islands International Classical Music Festival that sees symphony orchestras, chamber music ensembles and soloists
play here on Lanzarote over a six week period.

Lanzarote also has a beautiful venue with the underwhelming name of The Camel House which stages classical music concerts three or four times a year by visiting international artists. Its unlikely name belies the fact that the venue has been renovated into a glorious concert hall with views out to sea and beautiful surrounding gardens and courtyards in which to relax with a glass of wine during the interval.

We have never sought a press pass because it is a privilege to attend these events and enjoy not only the arts but also the integration with natives of the island. We have attended at least one concert per week over these years and often two or three. The reason we are not broke is that many of the concerts by Spanish musicians are free to the public, as they benefit from an excellent government funding scheme that supports the arts.

Many of our readers are well aware of the vibrancy of the arts scene of which we are speaking. If anyone reading has not actually visited a live event yet you can find listings here on Lanzarote Information and in free pamphlets issued by the government that are usually available on the service counters in local petrol stations.

The atmosphere at these island events is always friendly and welcoming, so why not give it a go?

Because I also write a Monday to Friday daily blog called Sidetracks And Detours that features arts related stories from around the world and a Sunday Supplement, PASS IT ON, that features contributions written by journalists from a number of different countries, I am always on the lookout for stories, and even here on the island too, for Lanzarote Information.

We have only twice failed to deliver story.

Until now, (as you might have guessed from the waffle above), but nevertheless, Have We Got News For You.?!

Not being big on technology we learned from some neighbouring friends last week how to enjoy a concert and meal on the patio. I’m sure this can be done in many other places around the world, such as at a Barbie in Australia, for instance, but on the night we were invited to the splendid home of Harald and Karin, a German couple, who also live here on the Shangila Park community. We all later agreed that from five in the evening under a bright yellow sun in an endless blue sky that changed colour all through the evening from purple to orange until the red sun kissed the sea. During those four or five hours we enjoyed an evening as Masterchef contestants, creating our own meals whilst listening to live concerts by Josh Groban and Michael Buble. These concerts were broadcast somehow from recordings on Karin’s mobile phone and there was a beautiful moment when Buble was just singing Fly Me To The Moon just as the moon rose from behind Montana Roja only a quarter of a mile away.

I’m pretty sure Karin would indeed fly to the moon with Michael Buble. She and Harald have already travelled half way around the world to see Josh Groban’s tour of South Africa some years ago. The couple regaled us with stories of that tour and of conversations they have had not only with Josh Groban but also with Michael Buble.

Karin was a chef and restaurateur in a former life but is now retired and although she keeps herself busy and is a big help to our committee here on Shangrila Park, she has also perfected the art of relaxing.

This was a gentle slow-moving evening with the music at a low sound level that wouldn’t spoil the night of any neighbours. The concerts didn’t begin until Harald, a former pilot, who has probably dined all over the world surely with no more perfect views, gave us the instructions for this Masterchef task, in which we were going to create our own pizzas. Yes we knew there are about twenty pizza parlours in the town a couple of miles away. Still, he carefully explained the task to us a couple of times, and then said ´I am sure Dee will do this very well but I have little hope for you Norman.´ I then listened to his final delivery of the instructions and clapped my hands together thinking I could definitely manage this.

I couldn’t!

Because we had been asked to bring any favourite ingredients we would like on a pizza I had a bag of apples, pears and bananas (which I usually enjoy on a huge plate at a restaurant in Arrecife). Now here I was, slicing the fruit, and my fingers, rolling out the homemade dough Karin had prepared earlier, sprinkling it in tomato salsa, and laying the fruit and tomato grated local cheese, various meats such as ham salami and fish like tuna, mushrooms, onions and fruit like pineapple. All on top of my apples, pears and bananas base !

This I did only after oiling my ´pizza paddle´ so that it would be ready to lift and drop my creation into my own personal oven. We each had one of these mini pizza ovens in front of us. Once it had been in the oven for about 15 minutes I had to lift it out, drop the pizza onto my chopping board and replace the paddle onto a coaster to preserve the beautiful table.

We each had a different and unique topping, which we could select from but I think I was the only one who laid my choices from the carousal on top of a bed of fruit.

My first, and my subsequent five more hand-sized meals, came out, mostly, beautifully crisp and colourful, and tasted delicious. I was quite impressed by my own competence but I noticed that Dee and Karin and Harald did not share my opinion.

To be fair, I should say here that my station at the table was by far the messiest and that, although I had fully followed Harald´s instructions to the letter, I seemed to have done it in anagram form, so not in the right order !

Cold cans of non-alcoholic beer or a glass of wine accompanied each pizza, and the fifteen minutes preparatory time for each one allowed us all to get to know each other better.

Like us, Harald and Karin travel around the island and have found some favourite places, so we all commented on little known locations and swapped recommendations. They have also many friends on the island, as had been evident when we had visited the Casa Marcos restaurant in Las Breñas the previous week. The Spanish owners greeted them like old friends and they all stay in regular touch.

Harald is very humorous in describing airports he had come to love and / or hate during his time as a pilot so on this night under his new self-made pergola he led the pre-concert entertainment, and then when the music started Karin would dance around her patio miming to the words of The Great American Songbook.

Was all this a taste of authentic Lanzarote, Two Germans, two English and Italian food and Spanish beer? That is pretty authentic to Lanzarote as it is today, but what made it unique was the setting: the long front view down an avenue of tall palm trees to the front with sun setting at the end of that avenue, and Montana Roja, to the left, backlit in gold by a rising moon. The patio and pergola was tastefully adorned by diamond-twinkling fairy lights and all this was reflected upon by a surprising and perfectly placed mirror masquerading as a window.

It was a beautiful evening of great food, good conversation and wonderful music to which Karin danced in a blissful dream on several occasions.

Lanzarote gave us another fabulous night out of friendship, chat, music and laughter, all in a beautiful temperature,…and all just by nipping round to the neighbours !

Salud, Prost, Saluti, Cheers.