Chamber Music In Caves

Los Jameos del Agua is the first Art, Culture and Tourism Center created on Lanzarote by the late artist,  César Manrique; a natural space created inside a volcanic tunnel.

Inaugurated in 1968, the artist, painter and sculptor transformed the space into a  unique work that represents the maximum expression of his ideology: artistic  creation in harmony with the environment and nature.

Like La Cueva de los Verdes, (only 300 metres away) Los Jameos del Agua originated after the eruption of the La Corona Volcano. The word “jameo” derives from Guanche origin, and  refers to the hole produced as a result of the collapse of the roof of a volcanic  tube, in this case, the volcanic tube of La Corona.

César Manrique was able to transform the environment and even enhance its beauty when creating an idyllic symbiosis between the cave’s potential and his  creative resources. His nimble hands, together with his creative mind, modelled  the basalt to give shape to a unique space in the world.

The work was completed in 1977, resulting in Manrique’s first major  intervention in the Lanzarote landscape and it being declared a Site of Scientific  Interest and an Asset of Cultural Interest in the category of Historic Garden. The space is formed by three jameos or openings. The Jameo Chico, where the  access to the interior is made and the restaurant is located, as well as a hidden  entrance to the famous Tunnel of La Atlántida; the Jameo Grande, where a  swimming pool is located, and the Jameo de la Cazuela, which is located behind  the stage of the auditorium.

This is a natural auditorium with a capacity for 550 people formed by basalt  stone that offers magnificent and extraordinary acoustics. The stage is located  inside a section of the volcanic tube, giving it an unprecedented beauty and sound, and the seats are positioned following the natural slope of the floor, which  goes from the access through the Jameo Grande to the opening of the next jameo.

The aquatic subway habitat of the Jameos del Agua is of great richness,  presenting a crystalline lagoon of about 7 meters deep. The origin is produced by  the filtration of seawater, being below sea level. This curious volcanic ecosystem  is home to some 77 endemic species of great scientific interest, among which  the Munidopsis Polymorpha stands out: it is the famous Blind Crab, protagonist  and symbol of the center.

Because The Blind Crab is in such danger of extinction, with metals being highly dangerous for  these small and beautiful animals. it is strictly forbidden to throw coins or other objects into the lagoon.

The above is a history of the location that has become one of the world´s most mind-blowing theatre of subdued lights hidden in the rock faces, a large raised stage and of incredible, natural acoustics.

I have been privileged to stand in the centre of that stage out into the rows of seats stretching high into the distance. I have seen the dressing rooms, sunk even further into the rock environment and have even seen where the pianos anre dismantled and stories between concerts. I have walked, bent at the waist down a low, narrow natural corridor in that rock between the La Ceuva de los Verfdes and on to the back stage entrance to Jameos del Agua, and experienced the same chill of excitement as when I strode the stage of the newly built Globe in London, with all its history. I have performed one of my own poems in an ancient amphitheatre in Turkey that has stood for two thousand years but, still, every time I visit Jameos del Agua and skip down the marvellous outside stair way to walk beside the poll and up a slight incline to the entrance to the theatre, (or, perhaps more correctly, mouth of the cave !) and as I step over the threshold into this natural phenomenon of a theatre I am always so overwhelmed by its grandeur that for a few moments I forget that in a couple of hours time I will be heading back up that outdoor stairway, a slow, tired and wary old man. Somehow, though, I think it would ungracious to lobby for the installation of an escalator in suich an incredible natural beauty.

On June 3rd 2023 my wife Dee and I wandered around the base of the leaning palm tree, and looked into the clear blue water of the Cesar Manrique made pool. We were making our way into the theatre that only he, surely could have ever envisaged. To avoid the steep interior staircase on departure on these evenings we now always reserve seats in the back row. We always used to sit in the back row when we were courting but these days our purchase of such tickets is dictated by wonky knees, bad backs and a let´s go home for a nice cup of cocoa frame of mind.

Nevertheless this was our sixth visit of the year, and we would point out that Edmond Hillary only climbed Everest in his entire life. Sir Edmond Hillary once reachied 8,300 metres on the West Ridge and twice reached the summit by the South Col route. When his son subsequently took on his first climb of Mount Everest in 1990, he and Sir Edmund became the first father and son to achieve the feat.

Whilst I and Dee would be delighted to become the first husband and wife time to climb the Jameos Del Agua staircase at every concert we ever visit, and then take a selfie at the top, we have learned now that its not the climb that matters: its being at the top and first back down And its only taken us a total of 140 years between us to learn that !

This time we were at Jameos Del Agua to hear a recital by The Chamber Orchestra Of The Canary Islands.

Now known affectionately as the OCC, The Chamber Orchestra of the Canary Islands was founded in 1935 under the auspices of the Provincial Conservatory of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, made its debut in November of the same year at the Guimerá Theater in the city. In 2019, the OCC was refounded thanks to the support of the City Council of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Dr. Pompeyo Pérez Díaz, and the director and concertmaster Patricio Gutiérrez. Enjoy live music from the prestigious ensemble at Jameos del Agua, an auditorium of stunning natural beauty that combines with classical music to offer an unforgettable experience.

EL Lago, a restaurant just on the north edge of Arrietta, only four miles from the underground theatre, had been a perfect stopping place. At this time of evening, around six pm with a calm sea, a sun just beginning to prepare for bed and a deserted shoreline only twenty yards from the tables, themselves populated by two seemingly local families. it was certainly cosier than base camp on Everest !

A happy. chatty staff member, waiter number one, took our drinks and food order, subsequently delivered to the table by waiter number two, presenting us with a couple of non-alcoholic beers for me and a glass of white wine for Dee, and waiter number three arriving a few minutes later to deliver to Dee a huge plate of grilled chicken breasts, and piled as high with French Fries and salad as Hilary´s Everest mentioned earlier.

I had a tapas selection of fried cheeses with the loveliest of jams to accompany them and a large plate full of salted and peppered Patatas Arrugadas.

I had to give myself a stern talking to because I thought I was too full for a dessert, and fortunately my better self won, because the glazed caramel custard, with its crispy top, was out of this world.

We were in our back row seats of the theatre, reading our Kindles (my goodness, how times change !) within five minutes of leaving the restaurant and about ten minutes before The Orchestra Of Canarian Chamber Music took to the stage.

Over the course of the next ninety minutes the fifteen members of OCC and a male guest artist performed a superb selection of chamber music: a form of classical music that is composed for a small group of instruments—traditionally a group that could fit in a palace chamber or a large room. Most broadly, it includes any art music that is performed by a small number of performers, with one performer to a part.  That pretty much summarises a recital that was always light and lively and was very obviously being enjoyed too by the performers themselves.. Many of the parts were familiar to us, and to the rest of the audience too.

Although the ´house´ was not full, the standing ovation and roars for encores at the end were well deserved, and indeed we who were calling were handsomely rewarded.

  • Agua Clara