Pancho Corujo, tenor, El Salinero Theatre, Arrecife, 26.12.2020

We managed to wave a two-finger goodbye to the covid ravaged year of 2020 that was much less a fond farewell than a sigh of good riddance to a year that has caused havoc across the world including to the economies and lives of the Canary Isles. It, and the decline in visiting tourists it has caused, has brought the arts to their knees, but over the last few weeks the arts have climbed back up on their feet, and so were able to close the year with a wonderful concert at Teatro de Victor Fernandez Gopar ´El Salinero´ in Arrecife.

We left Playa Blanca at 5.30 p.m. to rendezvous with our friends Iain and Margaret at Las Breñas and the scheduled 8.30 p.m. start for the Boxing Day concert meant we were able to take the sidetracks and detours across the island, rather than the direct route along the LZ2 into the capital. We found ourselves driving down the dual carriageway in Tias, its strange dual carriage way through the town centre strung with overhead fairly lights. We passed the lovely church, outside which there was a (pick your own collective noun here, but I have chosen sackful) of Santas cavorting in the churchyard. We never did find out what all that was about but Margaret suggested it would be ´something to do with charity´ as we parked the car and headed into the Arrayate Un Millo, next door to the town’s lovely little la ermita, which was beautifully lit and decorated on the outside, enhancing even what is a favourite restaurant of mine and Dee’s.

We love it because of its quirkiness, with wonderful paintings clinging flat on to the ceiling so a cricked neck is a price you pay for glorious art work. The interior is quite modern and usually full of local Spanish people, usually ´bright young things´ creating a great (and somewhat noisy) buzz about the place. The staff are young, happy smiley people but always polite and the food is excellent and inexpensive. So Margaret and I shared a starter of fried cheeses and blueberry jam or sauce whilst Dee has a salmon and toast dish and Iain had peppers. I pretentiously showed off to Iain by advising him that the broken egg described on the menu would be most likely actually scrambled egg: However, I (inadvertently) misled him.

When presented to us the dish turned out to be gloriously fried eggs (and I know that adjective might be a bit over-easy for such a humble food item, but they were deliciously done) laid over a bed of French fries and chirozo. Dee and Margaret each had the house casserole and between us we enjoyed a bottle of House red and a couple of beers. The food was great and the service was fast….. which was a good job because the rest of the journey to the theatre did not go as planned. Because of the darkness of the Rancho Texas area and everybody in the car talking I went three times round a roundabout before finally taking the wrong exit, which meant we had miles to go before we were able to join the LZ2 which we managed to do only just in time to leave the LZ2 and join the circumvalacion and drive up to junction 2. From there we took the road through the city to the football ground and parked in what used to be my season ticket parking spot in the days when football had live crowds ! We were just across the road from the theatre and joined a queue, much shorter than in the past.

We had expected that because when ordering our tickets on line as soon as tickets went on sale only four days before the concert the screened plan of the theatre that only 100 tickets were being made available for what is a 500 seater auditorium

In the UK a weekly country-wide round of applause for front line workers and NHS staff went on throughout the summer, and deservedly so. With that in mind I hope readers will join us in at least a nod of appreciation for theatre workers like those who welcomed us into the theatre. The ensured the queue was maintained at social distance levels, checked our IDs and track and trace details against the free tickets we had been only been able to reserve once the on-line service was opened four days before the event, and were made available to only two per household. This meant we had been on line at 9.00 am sharp to compete against Iain Margaret to compete for tickets for a concert we wanted to see together.

Nevertheless staff at El Salinero checked everything, including our temperatures and pointed us to hand sanitising stations before escorting each of us to our designated seats. The staff were gracious and polite as they undertook what must have been slightly un-nerving tasks that had never been mentioned in their job descriptions. So, El Salinero staff, the final encore of the night was for you, especially the usher who gently pointed out to one male audience ember that his mask was not covering his nose.

There are some benefits, though, in this new era because now, if we are lucky to secure tickets from the few available we do at least then enjoy uninterrupted views of the stage.

The star of this evening’s show was actually born in Lanzarote in 1980. Pancho Corujo is one of the most promising young Spanish tenors.

´Since being very young I was at ease with music, so in the end I made it my craft. I would define me as very Canarian: a feminist and atheist although practitioner, preacher and believer in good humour, good love and good art as pathways to the enjoyment of lasting life. Above all I am what you might call a geek of music and culture in general. The constant search for knowledge seems to me to be to some extent a form of resistance, for it is the only thing that cannot be bought. My love of art, my need for beauty, is selfless, and I know it makes me a better person.´ he says on his web site.

He was tonight taking advantage of his return to the island, by performing a concert which effectively proved to a Musical tour that traced the round trip undertaken by many Canary Islanders to Latin America with music as a common thread. There are melodies created in Latin America that today belong to the cultural collection of the Canary Islands. Recognizable boleros, milongas, Venezuelan waltzes, zambas or vidalas but also the melodies they carried from the islands, isas, folias, mazurcas and songs that today make up the cultural richness of the Canary Islands.

We heard pieces that drew a line from Mexico to Argentina and a selection of the most important pieces of Canarian music arranged for the first time for voice and piano and in addition, some Canarian Christmas songs were included.

The tenor gave an excellent performance of classical male singing voice from a vocal range that lies between the countertenor and baritone voice types. One of the highest of the male voice types, the tenor’s vocal range extends up to C 5. The low extreme for tenors is roughly A ♭2 (two A ♭ s below middle C).

Pablo took to the stage tonight accompanied by pianist Juan Francisco Perra, who began his musical studies at the Conservatorio Superior de Música de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. He completed his training at the Conservatory of Music and Theatre in Bern.

In 1992 he entered the Pedro Espinosa piano competition, obtaining the first prize. He has been a repertorist pianist in master classes by Mirella Freni, Cristina Gallardo-Domâs, Suso Mariátegui, Tom Krause and María Orán.

He has accompanied recitals in venues such as Wigmore Hall in London, Opera City Concert Hall in Tokyo, Yokosuka Arts Theater, Teatro de la Zarzuela in Madrid, Teatro Filarmónico de Oviedo, Auditorium Príncipe Felipe de Oviedo, Teatro Pérez Galdós, Auditorium Alfredo Kraus de Las Palmas, Villamarta de Jerez Theater, Ferrol Auditorium, etc. He has accompanied Leo Nucci, Celso Albelo, Cristina Gallardo-Domâs, Ana María Sánchez, Jorge de León, Desirée Rancatore, Pancho Corujo, Roberto de Candia, Simón Orfila and Mariola Cantarero.

Actually another important contributor to the concert stepped forward with the two men. The female music-page turner played a vital role in the precision and the rapport the musician and vocalist established.
The pianist provided a wonderfully solid platform for the tenor vocals as they soared out into the theatre, and yet still delivered some lovely ephemeral riffs and frills that sounded familiar to us even as they disappeared into the ether. Pablo was charismatic and personable and his powerful voice was beautifully controlled so that it retained sweetness and never became strident.

He proved generous to his colleague, too, by offering him a solo number that was exquisitely and gently played.

After following that one or two more songs Juan vacated the stage to allow the entrance of timple player, known as El Colareo. He is  not only  a concertist of timple, but also a creator of the first method of timple in solfeistic writing with scales, studies, exercises and simple works.

Born in 1964 in the Vega de Tetir, majorero municipality of Puerto del Rosario, Canary Islands, he began his guitar studies in 1985 in Paris with the hand of the teacher Sánchez, continuing them in Madrid with Jorge Cardoso. During this time, he also trained in intensive courses taught by guitarists such as Abel Carlevaro, Manuel Barrueco or Roland Dyens.

After his return to Fuerteventura in 1990,he began teaching folklore and guitar, starting as a performer in 1992.

Since then Domingo has performed across almost the entire archipelago, in different places of the peninsula and the rest of the world, including Madrid, Barcelona, Andalusia, Galicia, Cantabria, Vallodolid, Germany, Cape Verde, Cuba, USA, France, Itally, Mexico, Uruguay and Venezueala. Currently, in addition to continuing to give concerts, he is professor of timple at the Insular School of Music of the Cabildo Insular de Fuerteventura and teaches courses throughout the Canary Islands. His methods are today used by several musical academies of the islands.

As Domingo entered stage right, so Antonio Carujo, a much loved poet and story teller, was invited from the audience up to join the musicians on stage.

He was recently awarded the ´Ajey Recognition to folk labour´ in the presence, of relatives, neighbours and Municipal Corporation, he was described as a true artist and character well known on and off this island, as folklorist and reciter.´ many islanders know him also doesn’t also know him for his everyday profession, as a barber and hairdresser. Completely self-taught as a raconteur through close observation of everyday life, and its events, and through those talks with adults and young people he met through his business. Whether in a bar or on a seated bench, everything was recorded in his memory and was embossed through folklore. He comes from a family of fokloristas, Los Corujo, and their children have also continued the tradition, which makes the music transmitted by authentic sagas told by grandparents, uncles, parents. Being an attentive spectator, Antonio Corujo has managed to become an actor in Canarian music. As a copyist he has maintained public awareness of the couplets of Víctor Fernández Gopar “El Salinero”, (after whom this venue is named) as well as romances and verses accompanied by his lapas, learned in the barbershop or canteen. Raising awareness of social issues of this vocals tradition, is one of the flags of Antonio Corujo. who sung and recited with the greats of Canarian music.

Antonio left the stage to huge clapping and cheering and Domingo remained to then accompany Pancho´s tenor singing voice in a similar manner. This made for beautiful songs, but again Pancho was generous enough to allow a solo spot too for Domingo, who gave us a gloriously tremulous tune from his timple instrument.

This then brought about the return to the stage of pianist Juan Francisco Perra and there was lengthy combination of tenor, timple and piano to bring the concert to its first close, but so long and loud was the applause that an encore of Granada was delivered.

This was the first song I could have immediately identified as my dad and my step-grandfather, ´uncle Sid´ used to include this in their ac appella act around the pubs of Yorkshire and Lancashire at weekends. Good as they were and much as I enjoyed listening to them as a kid, Dad and Unc were never in this league and Pancho brought the place down with his rendition.

Again the applause rang out, louder and longer even, and so a local vocalist was introduced from the audience and this man, obviously well known to this audience performed a dynamic and seemingly off the cuff duet with Pancho, whilst Juan and Domingo ´jammed´ beautifully behind them.

And then it was over, and again the theatre staff rose to the occasion, guiding us out row by row, in single file, into the night. As we drove home, though, we realised that none of the four of us had actually caught the name of that final guest invited out of the audience, so if anybody there that night is reading this I´d be grateful if you could let me know his name at normanwarwick55@gmail.com so that I can fully attribute him later on these pages.

By the way, if there are any readers who have a love football as played on black and white TV you might want to seek out a Lendanear piece Colin and I wrote more than forty years ago, at
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCnlHgZQwSOP-A3UUAr6e30Q/

This concert had given hope that 2021, post-vaccines, and with tourists returning might prove a better year for the arts than has been this one so we wish all our arts-loving reader a happy, hopeful and healthy New Year.