Alexis Lemes y Javier Infante
Saturday 17th November at Casa Museo Del Timple, Teguise

Having heard these guys play before it would have taken more than the spot of rainy weather and an early evening trip across the heart of darkness that is La Geria at this time of year, to keep us away from another chance to see them. Alexis Lemes seems to enjoy lending his amazing array of playing styles to those of other string players, and we have seen him participate with ensembles and duos, and play solo, on a number of occasions now. Among the most enjoyable of those previous gigs, for us, was one we saw with tonight’s partner Javier Infante. If these names are unfamiliar to you, you can find them on facebook with some videos of typically polished instrumental work.

Tonight’s performance reinforced our initial impressions. The concert opened with a piece led by Javier’s acoustic guitar beautifully supported by the clean sound of the amplified Timple, played by Alexis. From this very offering we noted what would be apparent on many other occasions throughout the concert. Even in what was often a blur of hands we would see the picking and strumming being made in an upward motion, sometimes creating soft, fragile sounds and at others crescendos of great volume and strength.

After this work Alexis spoke of the honour of playing in this venue and the atmosphere created by such a historic building that, when not ´ín concert,´ also serves as what might be the only Timple Museum in the world. A walk through the Museum area leads you through the history of the creation and development of these brave instruments, beside a collection of blueprints, works in progress and old instruments from the past.

The next number opened with a gorgeous, slow solo by the Timple before being joined by the Spanish guitar, beautifully picked in open tuning, as it seemed to be all night.

If I guessed correctly in my interpretation of the introduction of the third selection, it was their own composition though whether by Javier alone or in collaboration with Alexis I cannot be sure. At times, on this, the Timple matched the thunderous tones of a strummed guitar before the music subsided to a gentle, if almost contrapuntal, duet.

The musicians managed to create a vast orchestra of sound from only two instruments and the picked Timple opening of the next music was accompanied by Alexis somehow also employing the body of his instrument in percussive support as he tapped it with his hand. Each artist created a shimmering musical vibration with a clutch hold half way up the necks.

The fifth musical work delivered on the night also boasted an incredible strength and percussive rhythm, and the sixth was a haunting melody that also included a similar ´wringing´ of the neck of the Timple to create a ringing of note.

I urge you to remember that this type of music, much as I have grown to love it since coming here, remains all Greek to me but on this occasion that might have been a help rather than a hindrance. The following two selections to me each seemed to have a Greek echo, like slowed down versions of the ´smashing plates music´. The opener of the two works seemed to me to have some of that acceleration of pace and heavy rhythm and even the gentler, and romantic, second piece, beautifully finger-picked on both instruments, had a similar feel. They were probably Canarian in their creation and in their flowering, but somewhere I’m sure,…. but what do I know?

It might have been with nothing more than what seemed like a piece of tissue paper, but Alexis definitely covered the bridge of his Timple with some sort of protection before playing the final piece of the concert. Somehow that seemed to make the strings sound ´looser´ as he strummed them.
The Timple and ukelele are often noted for their similar appearance, but on this closing piece they could fairly be compared in sound too, and this slight distortion of Timple string sound certainly reminded me of some of the George Formby songs I so love.

A small presentation took place after the show, with a female representative of the Casa Museo Del Timple giving the duo each an enlarged and framed reproduction of the entrance tickets for the concert, as a memento of the event. This show of appreciation and respect occurs quite often at similar concerts over here and is something Lanzarote does so well, and the two artists seemed genuinely impressed with their souvenirs.

The audience had been thrilled and demanded an encore and the two gentlemen gave us one more serving of musical dexterity.

However, perhaps because there seemed to have been an error in the printing of early announcements of the event, this wasn’t the full house we might have expected. The concert was showing to be scheduled, on many early advertisements, for the previous night, the 16th, not the 17th. Indeed we had intended to attend on the Friday but in the morning we had received the Lanzarote Information weekly newsletter from Miguel and noticed that in his what’s on section, the performance was scheduled for Saturday 17th. We trusted that advice, and so turned up on the right evening.

Although these mistakes occur only once in a blue moon it is always worth double checking the Lanzarote Information web site. At least then, if I’ve got something wrong you can shout at me, by e mail only please, in English.

This is a quite incredible venue for such concerts and tonight looked particularly splendid with a huge emblem serving as the stage backdrop proudly proclaiming 600 Years of History of Teguise.

The quality of musicianship was, and always seems to be, quite extraordinary, matching the level we were used hearing from artists appearing in front of an 800 strong audience at The Royal Northern College Of Music in Manchester or in the city’s Bridgewater Hall where The Halle Orchestra play. Tickets for major events there can cost between thirty and fifty pounds.

With acts like Joshua Nelson And The New Yorkers Gospel Project (playing at Teatro El Salinero, Arrecife, on Saturday 1st December at 8.30 pm for 20 euros) and a stage presentation of the musical Evita at Teatro de Tias on 30th November at 8.30 for 20 euros, there are still some great nights out to be had before Christmas.

What a bargain we are being offered over here, then, to hear top musicians playing for affordable prices, as was the case tonight, or sometimes even for free because the event is funded. The efforts of the island authorities to provide entertainment and cultural events, for not only the indigenous population but also for visitors to Lanzarote, deserves the support of those of who love music and song,…..and dance,….and theatre,….and poetry,… just to name a few of the art forms we have seen delivered live in 2018.

More reading: Batucada, Lanzarote Drum Bands.