Teatro El Salinero, Arrecife, Lanzarote July 7, at 8.00
We noticed in Miguel’s What’s on Lanzarote news that The Coral Polifonica San Gines would be delivering a concert on Friday evening, 7th July, as part of their 50th Anniversary celebrations. Along with the choir, the band is made up of prominent musicians from Lanzarote who would take to the stage to perform versions of some of the most popular rock songs in history.
It was to take place at the Víctor Fernández Gopar Theater in Arrecife, which is the alternative name for Teatro El Salinero and we managed to purchase a couple of the very few tickets not already snapped up. It was easily done as we bought the tickets at €12 each online at: https://culturalanzarote.com/eventos/coral-polifonica-san-gines/
The San Ginés Polyphonic Choir was founded in 1973 by Braulio de León, who was its director until 1986. After a period of inactivity due to the death of its director, its members decided to form an association and elect María Piedad del Río Sendino as the new director. Since then, the choir has actively participated in the musical life of Lanzarote and has received awards such as the Pancho Lasso Medal from the Cabildo de Lanzarote and the award given by the Capital City Council for the Bicentennial of the City of Arrecife. Over the years, the choir has had different directors, including Alicia García Uña, José Antonio Elías Roldán Javier Díaz González. Currently, the management is once again in the hands of Elías Roldán.
On the date of the concert we realised that It had been a while since we had been to the Teatro El Salinero, which is situated across the road from the UD Lanzarote (another theatre of dreams!) in the heart of the sporting arenas for basketball, netball and the like. That means parking spaces can sometimes be at a premium and restaurants are situated a bit too far away in other areas of the capital.
So we set off from home at 4.15 pm having fed the six cats and given them their ´treats´, because they form a line outside our door and won’t let us go out until they feel well fed.
As we were driving up LZ2 we decided we would stop at Tias for a meal, secure in the knowledge that Arrecife would then only be another twenty minute drive. Arrayati un Mila is a beautiful arts dominated restaurant, with huge landscape paintings on the walls and even chained down from the ceilings so that the landscape (all are of Lanzarote) lies flat above your head. That offers some interesting perspectives, that´s for sure. There are black and white photographs everywhere in the dining area, of Tias and Lanzarote as they were before the coming of the planes.´
The restaurant is perhaps more used to serving those who attend the Teatro del Tias around the corner, rather than Arrecife theatre-goers, and we have certainly been on several occasions when there has been a real buzz about the place at an after show supper. Tonight, though, pre-performance, the venue was quiet with a pop-music radio playing softly from somewhere and our favourite waiter was singing along, pretty tunefully. There was no one else in the dining area, so he finished his chorus before he took our order for tuna salads, a white wine and a beer.
The salads were delicious and freshly made but nothing could compare to my dessert. a moose-like creation, drowned in chocolate source that tasted light and creamy. It should have been served with a health warning !
Thirty minutes later we were in our theatre seats, and ten minutes after that the announcement was made in Spanish that
´Coral Polifonica San Gines bring KCor and Rock to the Teatro EL Salinero.´
There came to the stage a rock band of the likes I have never seen before. Guitarists, percussion and keyboards and back line choral ensemble. The Line up was of men and women, young and older, and there were two or three solo vocalists and a musical director on stage, too.
The show opened with a heartfelt version of John Lennon’s Imagine and somehow the song being ´sung´ by a ´hand-signer, Carida Perez Euginie, added to both the simplicity and the profundity of the song’s lyrics.
Bienvenidos (Welcome) was the second number, before an intricate vocal-instrumental, cleverly arranged, of Every Breath You Take, made famous by The Police a few decades ago now.
Then came our first hearing of the soloist, Lorena Torres Caceres. She took Lennon and McCartney’s All You Need Is Love and somehow made it her own, with an interpretation that invested her passion and belief in the lyrics of a song with which the musicians also had lot of fun. All the joy and ´brass necked´ humour of the tune was captured by soloist, choir and musicians. I am still trying to think now, on the morning after, whether I have ever previously heard a cover of this song, which is far more complex than we first realise. Coldplay, who recently played a series of concerts across on mainland Spain, (at terrifying prices), were represented next with a lovely song, Clocks, with which I wasn’t familiar.
Knocking On Heaven’s Door was highlighted by the harmony between male and female vocals.
Like many readers, I’m sure, Dee and I have heard so many live and recorded re-interpretations of Lenoard Cohen’s Hallelujah, (including a live delivery by Lanzarote Gospel Choir): We saw Cohen perform it live at The Manchester Arena before we came to live here on Lanzarote, and I even have books on my shelf over here philosophising on what the song ´means´. The presentation we had tonight from Coral Polifonica San Gines brought the piece back to beautiful basics: Glorious harmonsed choruses, and a heartfelt and reverential exploration of the lyrics.
Perhaps it is here I should mention the fact that, as if as a special treat for us, all the lyrics tonight were delivered in a precise English. We might even have been the only English people in the theatre, and although we love listening to Spanish Language concerts, it was great to hear and understand what was being sung!
So, what a treat it was to hear Another Brick In The Wall solidly-cemented. We hear that debate rages in the UK about wokery and content warning being applied to books on the education curriculum, and some are saying that teachers are exceeding their sphere of influence. The line of Hey, Teachers, Leave Those Kids Alone took on even deeper meanings here with a powerful vocal delivery and perfect instrumental arrangement.
In fact, there then followed an instrumental medley that particularly show-cased the playing of Miguel Calzadilla and Frco Javier Redondo as well as Javier Diaz and Maurizio Botti. This section of the show also featured the excellent Fabrizio Boscaini and the banjo of Jose Luiz Gonzalez.
Those of us familiar with the Robert Plant-Jimmy Page, Led Zep version of Stairway To Heaven might have worried that our solo female vocalist, Lorena Torres Caceras, would not have been able to handle a song that is still often tagged as heavy metal. Oh we of little faith ! She spun the gold around her fingers, and with diminuendo and crescendo, she created magic.
A powerful, enjoyable ensemble piece followed in the shape of Bon Jovi and Living On A Prayer. Audience sing-along was irresistible.
There then followed a little bit of lyrical intrigue. Coral Polifonica San Gines delivered a glorious version of California Dreaming and (perhaps merely because of the way they had learned the song) they adhered to its original wording of ´I pretend to pray´, which are the words Papa John Phillips actually wrote.. So many cover versions, though, change the line to I began to pray, or I asked if I could pray. Tonight´s delivery had me pondering what Papa John had actually meant !
Our second solo female vocalist, Anne Lloret Diaz, brought us a triumphant, fist-bumping What A Feeling from Fame, recorded many years ago by Irene Cara.
I was thrown when the concluding song was announced as Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen. I have always found the original Queen version somewhat overblown and theatrical. Another truth, though, is that no one can ever deliver it as well as Freddie Mercury and the guys in Queen,
Again we should have had more faith in female soloist Lorean Torres Cacenes. She somehow made the song seem introspective rather than bombastic and there was an incredible poignancy that led to a fully deserved call for an encore.
Director Elias Roldan first watched floral bouquets being presented to the two female vocalists and to the signer of the opening number. before counting in his musicians to a rendition of We Are The World, written by the collaboration of Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie.
The applause was still ringing out minutes after the ensemble had left the stage for the final time. As we began to file out though, there was no doubt of how powerful and impressive this concert had been. It had been delivered as a thanks to fans who have supported the band though the first fifty years of its career and as a welcome to the fans who will support it throughout the second fifty years !
This audience filed out chattering about the great selection of songs and of the performance itself.
We managed a quick word with our friend, my wife’s yoga instructor, Mercedes and she was as excited as we were about the show. Just ahead of us in the egressing crowd we could also see Marianne, a chorister and music director herself, who was also obviously enthusing to her friends, too.
In English cricketing terms Coral Polifonica San Gines were celebrating fifty not out,…build that into a century, guys !