El Salinero – Theatre Of Dreams

Hijos De Tacanda June 2019
Silvia Perez Cruz and Marco Mezquida June 2019

We recently enjoyed two stylistically diverse, but equally excellent, performances in a single week at The Theatre of El Salinero.

The first offering was a premiere of a scenic work about an arid and rock-hard landscape, offering no soft place to fall. The production also included a soundscape that at times purposely delivered the stillness of hollow and empty and somehow lifeless earth and at others offered us a musical score and libretto that magnificently offered hope and told of triumph over adversity in a narrative that was inspired by the histories, legends and cultures of The Canary Islands.

The work was performed by students of the theatre of Lanzarote Dance along with the musicians of the I.C.E.S. and students of I.E.S. Las Salinas. They explored different disciplines and techniques acquired in their studies and Hijos De Tacande was presented with an attractive and original staging.

All these students deserved to see their names in the glossy four page programme that also carried the information that the original idea for the musical play came from Ivan Curbelo and Ilona Yavorskaya, who were also, respectively the musical and artistic directors.

Musical arrangements were by Ivanov Rodriguez Perez, Chema Hernandez Alfario with Pepe Artiles San Gines.

The graphic projections provided the constantly changing backdrop of apparently unyielding land surfaces. These were by directed by Sara Arroyd and perfectly contextualised the story.

The lighting, which reflected the pitch darkness of island nights and the eye watering brightness of sunny island days, was directed by Shelma.

There were three lead vocalists and two dozen dancers and an orchestra of almost thirty and together they all, whether staff or student, delivered an unforgettable piece of theatre that somehow made me feel an integral part of a land on which I now live.

The performance will forever rest in my mind beside a London production, seen many years ago, of Dylan Thomas´ Under Milk Wood, another semi-autobiographical story of a similar quasi-fictional place.

This story tonight seemed to tell of a race of people living a quiet island life that is then altered by the rumbling and eruption of a volcano, rendering Mother Earth confusing and unsafe for them.

The narrative is carried by a group of children, seemingly lost and orphaned, who remain full of curiosity and optimism. They meet an old grandmother figure, perhaps an allegorical representation of Mother Earth herself, (or the type I would have called when living in the UK, an ´earth mother.´) who explains to them that the eruption was an expression of the land’s anger at being neglected. She tells them the legend of the souls of the cliffs that are believed to be the guardians of this mythical land of San Borodon, and reminds them that the four elements of fire, earth, water and air will now have to be infused with iron to bring about the revival and recalibration necessary to breathe life back into the land. As she is actually physically enacting this on stage, she is also metaphorically ´sowing the seeds´ of a re-generation. My wife Dee, with a grasp of Spanish that stretches beyond my vocabulary of Barcelona FC, Real Madrid, Gerard Pique and David De Gea, whispered to me that the grandmother was regularly employing words that translated as hope, joy and happiness.

There was similarly a wandering, prophet-like male figure meandering through this tale, all of profound proclamation and beseeching of the gods. However my lack of linguistics in Spanish left me unsure as to who he might have been.

Perhaps a translation of the title of the play as Sons of Tacande refers to him as a bereaved father or as a leader of a lost people.

The music and dance, backdrop photography and lighting certainly captured all those emotions. There were sad scenes of women trying to wash and clean clothes and bedding of the ravages of sand and ash, whilst children danced and skipped over a barren land. The music drifted in and out of soundscape, sometimes echoing the slow, faint drip of much needed water and sometimes rumbling the constantly threatening sound of volcanoes. Images projected on to the backdrop, though, showed tiny plants, somehow, forcing their way through cracks in the rock, seeking the sun like a rose in Spanish Harlem.

Several theatrical devices and pieces of distraction lent further atmosphere. A candle lit procession of the cast down the aisles of the theatre made a packed audience feel as if we were walking with them, following them up the cliffs and down to the shore. The draping of a huge black net over some of the cast on stage reflected what I thought was billowing smoke from the volcano, but that Dee thought was more an enactment of struggles with the sea.

A piece in which two adult figures showed children how to make rhythmic, musical noise by clicking stones together was absolutely delightful and there were many enjoyable and melodious passages from the orchestra.

Finally, that earlier quiet settled once more over the land, with balance and harmony restored, and whilst perhaps none of us would say we know how to keep Mother Earth entirely happy, we do know that there are places, like Lanzarote, where balance and harmony have been restored following natural, and unnatural, destruction.

The performance therefore also reminded us of The Visions of Ceasar that was presented as part of the series of concerts at El Reducto in Arrecife earlier this year, to commemorate the centenary of Manrique’s birth.

It seemed to us that the group of people shown in Hijos De Tacande represented an ´Everyman´ world ethos that artists like Manrique are able to articulate and demonstrate on their behalf.

The following afternoon, students of music and movement and members of two bands, Beginners and the Aula de Música Moderna, offered the end of course concert by younger students with an attractive repertoire of music from all periods.

Silvia Perez Cruz and Marco Mezquida June 2019

By the time the weekend came around, though, the theatre was presenting modern, contemporary music instead of age-old stories.

Songwriter and singer, Silvia Perez Cruz, has twice won the Goya Award for Best Original Song (in 2012 and 2017). Also being a winner of winner of the Max award for independent music, she is considered by critics to have one of the best voices on the Spanish music scene.

Her first solo album was nominated for album of the year in both Spain and France and one of her compositions, No Te Puedo Encontrar, received a Goya Award for best original song. Silvia has made most of her studio recordings in collaboration with Raül Fernández Miró.

The author of “Ai, ai, ai,” Silvia lived on Lanzarote for more than two years, and now returned to live performance here in the theatre Victor Fernandez Gopar El Salinero on Saturday 15th June with a different approach: Silvia these days performs as part of a duo with the jazz pianist Marco Mezquida, in which the two perform their own songs, as well as covers of favourite songs by other composers.

Marco Mezquida was born on the island of Menorca in 1987, beginning his studies at the age of eight, and graduating in 2009 from the School of Music of Catalonia (ESMUC), where he studied jazz improvisation, classical and modern music.

Among his contemporaries were Albert Bover, Lluís Vidal, Agustí Fernández, Coll and Juan Ramon de la Rubia.

Appreciation for Mezquida’s work has seen him being recognised, for two years in a row, as ‘Musician of the Year’ (2011 and 2012) by the Association of Musicians Jazz and Modern Catalonia.

After settling in Barcelona, at the age of 25, Mezquida is one of the most active pianists in the Catalan jazz scene. He has recorded on nearly twenty albums as a studio musician and has recorded four cds as 4 as leader or co-leader of his own group.

He has performed in over twenty countries on four continents, being a member of several active and influential national groups, for example Marc Miralta Quartet, Giulia Valle Group, Raynald Colom Quartet, Albert Cirera Quartet, and many others.

He has played at several European International Jazz Festivals and has performed in such renowned jazz clubs as the A Trane Berlin, Porgy and Bess in Vienna, and performs regularly at the Jamboree in Barcelona. He has also played with various orchestras/Big Bands conducted by Salvador Brotons, Joan Albert Amargós or David Mengual and has recorded several music programs for the Catalan television.

The collaboration between Silvia Pérez Cruz and Marco Mezquida arises from each artist’s desire to bring together their individual musical searches. As they started working together they were delighted to find that new work then emerged, ´completely organically and without pretensions.´

Each artist leads several projects and travels multi-disciplinary creative paths that go beyond music, but in this joint project, they and their works are able to ´talk.´ Songs are a platform from which they can travel together and enjoy the landscape of the here and the now, without being too concerned about how it all began or where it might end.

There seemed an amount of art-speak in their publicity press that will have attracted many who love the experimental but might have left cold those like my wife Dee, who sees Cliff Richard without The Shadows as being a step beyond the comfort zone.

Silvia and Marco entered the stage in complete darkness and only subdued lighting on their instruments enabled us to pick out the silhouettes of a blue bodied acoustic guitar and strange kind of upright honky-tonk piano that for some reason, even in appearance, reminded me of Fats Waller and his music. There was also another grand piano at the other side of the stage. We saw shadows then take their place at the honky-tonk instrument and it took us a few seconds to adjust our eye sight and see that actually it was Marco sitting at, and playing it, with his back to us, and Silvia was squatting curled up at his feet, like a little girl listening to a bed time story.

Somehow I felt she was a figure listening to a story she was familiar with but that was being told in extemporised fashion by someone who knew the stages of the plot but was joining the dots as he played. The notes produced by the instrument had that lovely tone some of us know well from Leonard Cohen recitals and recordings, and I also kept thinking of the Tom Waits insistence that ´this piano has been drinking.´

Even as the last note of this first song was echoing through the theatre and in that split second before the applause rang out, we realised how ephemeral and beautiful it all was. This had all the serenity of a walk on the beach but its beauty had disappeared as quickly as it had been created.

Together the artists moved to the grand piano and the lights came on over the stage. Silvia was resplendent in a front button-up red dress and Marco was similarly casual but sartorial, which now I come to think of it might also be a perfect description of the music they went on to create tonight. It all had a casually throw away-style but was actually being hand stitched and produced before our eyes and ears,

This wasn’t music being simply replicated from rehearsal but was music being examined, tasted, amended, edited, and constantly enhanced as it was being played.

For the opening minutes we struggled to identify single words, let alone cohesive lyrics as, at first, Marco followed on the piano in the wake of Sylvia’s sound-scape singing. As she explored her feelings and allowed notes to soar and dip at appropriate emotional points, Marco would listen closely and follow her whims. Sometimes, though, as partners do, he would try to lift her mood or quench her curiosity or calm her excitement by ensuring that his music led her vocals down new paths.

The duo were obviously playing to an established fan base audience, familiar with them as individual artists, and as excited as the singer and musician by the endless trails there were to be explored by Marco’s slightly jazzy, classical playing style and by Silvia’s willingness to follow her heart through her singing even at the risk of being hurt. The trust between them as they explored side-tracks and detours all across the arts was transparent.

And I borrow my organisation’s title of all across the arts quite deliberately. This was all suggestive of so much more than simply singing and playing on guitar or on piano.

With delicately underplayed signals we were shown acting, dancing, story-telling and genuine artistic curiosity and honesty. Excitement was picked up so easily by Silvia’s clever occasional use of her blue guitar as a percussive instrument and Marco’s constant ´surgery´ in the belly of his grand piano gave us tinkles and trills that sounded orchestral in an almost full theatre.

This all suited me perfectly. I love experimentation and re-interpretation, and the rousing ovation at the end and the demands for two encores and the queues for the albums on sale, including some by a number of other artists exploring similar fields, showed that this audience were receptive to such musical renovation.

There were no albums on sale by these two artists in a duo format, however, as none have been recorded as yet. Instead we purchased Domus, a double cd by Silvia including vocal and instrumental recordings, and a three piece suite by Marco, misleadingly entitled Amateur.

The absence of a collaborative album will surely be rectified, even though this is not a partnership born of a thirst for commercial success. Instead it is a Livingstone and Stanley expedition in which the artists seem to be looking for destinations that may prove suitable for either one, or both, of them. Any eventual recording, though, must surely include two particularly incredible cover versions they performed here.

Although it became part of the staple diet of British folk clubs in the late sixties and early seventies, an early recording by Simon And Garfunkel was turned into a cacophony by the studio addition of percussion without the composer’s knowledge or permission (so much for musical experimentation!). Its lyric, however, identified social unrest at a time before Dylan made such comment in song so familiar.

Here Sylvia dissected Paul Simon’s words and we all held our breath in The Sound Of Silence as she allowed its lines to chill her and thrill her as she somehow turned it once again, and fifty years later, into a theme for today. As she sang and played it on her guitar, tasting and savouring the multiplicity of every phrase, Marco gently strummed strings on the inside of his grand piano. We were witnessing, if not the miracle of birth, then at least the genius of re-generation.

As for that final encore, it took us a few or several bars to realise we were listening to My Funny Valentine, a song previously made familiar to us by the likes of Chet Baker, Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra on his Songs For Young Lovers album in 1954. Gradually, the refrain became more familiar and recognisable as the song written by Rodgers and Hart.
It was delivered here, though, with an introspection not obvious in any of the previous versions I have heard and suddenly we no longer seemed to be listening to a lady singing a song, but instead to be eaves-dropping on a girl alone with her thoughts.

In some ways, though, the titles of songs performed here, like Siga El Baile and Estrela, Estrela are not what matters, for those titles tell us only where those songs come from. Here tonight, these songs were brought to a diversion sign that tells these intuitive musicians that the more scenic route might be the road less travelled by. They almost certainly will choose that route, and may get lost along the way to a destination they do not know. But the views from the mountain highs will be spectacular, the lands beyond the blue horizons will be full of new culture and adventure and the endless skies above them may bring rain or shine, but these artists will deal with the weather, whatever the weather. They will search their unconscious memories for the tools to help them cope, and remember their dreams and aspirations to help them sculpt totems and sign posts. In fact, I mentioned how these artists took us on a journey all across the arts tonight, and it is true that they ´sculpted´ words and music old and new into something exquisite, eye-catching and enchanting. At one and the same time what we heard tonight was both ephemeral and eternal ! For more information visit www.silviaperezcruz.com

Still to be found as you explore all across the arts in July 2019

Meanwhile, there is another great agenda of arts and culture to look forward to in July with the currently showing visual arts exhibition Entre Islas running at Cic El Almacen until 13th July and the two collections at the Cabildo, of Insularia and Grabada En Linea remaining open to the public until the end of the year.

A number of exhibitions will then open on 19th July at Cic EL Almacen in Arrecife and during their run will generate round table discussions between artists and curators that will be open to the public.

The artists responsible for these works included Luna Bengoechea, Daniel Jordan, and Damien Rodriguez and there will be free guided walks round the gallery rooms being led by Estefania Camejo, an expert enthusiast and a friend of these pages.

All the above exhibitions have previously been previewed, and some even reviewed. on our all across the arts pages. However, we advise you to check other sources to confirm times and venues as they are sometimes subject to alteration. Tourist Information, The Cabildo box office (on site and on line) and the venues themselves should be consulted if you remain in any doubt after checking our pages and the what’s on listings of the Lanzarote Information web site.

Of course, we have had an incredible array of musical concerts already this year, but the hits just keep on coming, as they say.

In recent weeks we have already drawn attention to very special, historic, even, in its way, forthcoming performance of The Marriage Of Figaro. The opera will be staged in El Salinero in Arrecife by graduating ICES students on Friday 5th July. We have heard as yet unconfirmed rumours that Acatif will be playing at Convento Santa Domingo in Teguise on Friday 12th July, and that is well worth checking out. On the following evening of Saturday 13th July there will be a free performance by our classical orchestra, Lanzarote Ensemble in Casa de la Cultura San Augustin (near the bandstand on the front at Arrecife). We heard the power of their sound in the Jameos del Agua recently and they are not to be missed. The very next weekend, on Saturday 19th July, the 28th Festival Canarias Jazz & Mas Heineken visits these shores. A line up including Maceo Parker and Judith Hill will see an already long-established musical legend perform with one who will surely follow in his footsteps. Taking place on the grounds surrounding Cic El Almacen the promised combinations of jazz, soul and funk is bound to get the joint jumping.

Read Norman’s weekly column here: Norman.

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