Manrique Musical and Minimalist Music

César Manrique; Rojo, Negro, Blanco. Teatro Tias, March 2020

We last week previewed several performances in a short list of ´Treats In Tias´ that are to be delivered over the coming month but the first two events on that list have suddenly been and gone. We learned quite a few things from them, though, including the fact that we were absolutely right to call them treats.

We have also learned that although several other good restaurants are available in Tias, there is one that particularly lends itself to a pre-show meal and another that is more suited to a boisterous all chatty review of a show, and so is more appropriate for a later supper, swapping thoughts with other theatre goers.

According to the advertising poster for César Manrique; Rojo, Negro, Blanco, the show was scheduled to start at 8.00 pm and might run until around 10.00. We opted, then, for the modern design of The Kitchen, British owned and much catering to British tastes, for a meal before the show. The goats´ cheese with honey salad was a special starter for the day and was fantastic in its presentation and was amazingly moist and tasteful,… and filling. How I managed my Texas pizza, with its beautiful thin crust base overlapping the sides of my huge plate I’m not sure and it took some effort to force down what was not so much a portion as a week’s supply of fluffy bread and butter pudding and custard.

My wife Dee caught the cod and chips and, (there can be no greater praise) opined that these were even better than the fish and chips for which we used to make a weekly eighty mile round trip in the UK from Rochdale to Skipton. We would buy one of each twice at Bizzie Lizzie’s chippie by the canal, where I would devour mine, from the paper, beside the thrilling statue of Freddie Truman.

The guys and girls here at The Kitchen are a friendly bunch and the décor is as tasteful as the food. It’s on the right hand side of the main double drag as you drive down through the town towards Arrecife.

Tickets were free on the theatre door for the production we then saw at Teatro Tias ..

Over a hundred people, mostly town residents it seemed, took advantage of the offer to see a performance that had already been delivered as two creative arts workshops earlier in the week.

César Manrique, Rojo, Negro, Blanco, featured Cristina Temprano and Ayoze Rodriguez in a biographical performance adaptation of the artist’s life. Nothing could have prepared us for such a delightful, informative and thought-provoking presentation. This was a family audience in which adults chuckled at some wry artistic observations and even young children giggled out loud at the strange chemistry between the wonder-struck, optimistic and joyous girl and the somewhat more reserved and world-weary guy she falls into conversation with when she finds an object on the ground.

Triumphantly, she demonstrates all the things she could do with the bit of old wood she has picked up. In her imagination, and in her hands, it becomes a golf club, a loofah, a tennis racket, an eating implement, a paint brush, and of course, a guitar, amongst a dozen or so other uses that she mimes with great glee.

Given that I don’t understand the Spanish Language if anybody strings together sentences of more than two words, it speaks much of the skill of the two actors that I was nevertheless able to make some semblance of sense of the narrative that followed. The play is a vehicle for telling something of the biography of Cesar Manrique and celebrating his gifts to the island (and the gifts the island gave him!).

A sports journalist once wrote of footballer Wayne Rooney that ´he turned and shot with rehearsed spontaneity.´ That seemed so true of these two actors here, as well. They were word perfect in their delivery of what sounded more like every day shared conversation than the script of a play. Using another objet trouve (that could have been a traffic cone) as a megaphone, Cristina jumped over rows of seats in the stalls to enthuse the audience to roar their support for the arts, and for the next forty five minutes these two musicians (he on the keyboards and she on piano accordion) used every trick in the artists´ skills set to deliver an oft told story in a new and exciting way.

There was shadow poetry to describe the relationship between Cesar Manrique and his father when the young artist decided to follow the arts as a career and to move to New York to become part of that city’s burgeoning arts scene. Cristina even delivered a little dance in her ´vagabond shoes´ to remind us how much Manrique wanted to be a part of it; of New York, New York. She had become, or turned herself into, or had adopted the ethos of, Manrique so much that Ayoze was calling her Cesar.

There were sophisticated back-lit sandboxes that enabled her to illustrate how Manrique arranged his deceptively simple artistic logos of Lanzarote when he returned to the island, and we even learned how it was the very enormity of New York with its grey skyscraper shadows that made him so determined to create the sun-lit whiteness of the low buildings we now associate with the island.

We have witnessed many marvellous arts events in the five years we have lived on Lanzarote but rarely have we seen two actors take their subject and their script by the scruff of the neck and wring from it every drop of humour and emotion. Ayoze and Cristina demonstrated their mastery of a number of arts techniques in a way that drew a standing ovation that seemed to somewhat surprise them.

If these are artists, as I think they are, who deliver workshops to the next generation, then the arts offer on Lanzarote, and the positive attitudes to life it engenders is safe for a few more decades yet.

We spoke briefly with Cristina after the show and we are trying to arrange yet another exclusive all across the arts interview for Lanzarote Information and our Sidetracks and Detours blog, with an artist we are sure will have a fascinating life story to tell.

So, look out for that interview, too.

Meanwhile, we turned up the following evening to pick up our reserved tickets at the desk in in Salon Indieras in Tias to a Fundacion Nino Diaz presentation of Maximum Ensemble, who carry the somewhat grand sobriquet of ´maestros del minimalismo.´ The advertising posters had been showing four young people, carrying their musical instruments on a clouded but sunset-lit beach that might have been that at Orzola or Famara.

We had enjoyed a pre-show evening meal, this time at the wonderfully Spanish L´Hermit where the whole meal was fantastic and served by a friendly young staff, and included a milk cake (who knew? Certainly not me) that was an explosion of the most amazing flavours. Meal and dessert for all four of us including a bottle of wine and two beers and two coffees was only sixty euros and with concert tickets at only 15 euros each our total spend for the evening would be 120 euros which, when broken down into paying for a meal and a concert, was for only 30e per person, seemed pretty damned good. So long as the concert was ok, of course, and whilst we have learned to trust the concerts that are delivered on the island, we weren’t too sure what ´minimalist´ might mean in terms of classical music.

¨Might be a bit modern,´ said Iain whilst his wife, Maigret Marguerita, murmured that she was sure it would be lovely. My wife gave her best Mavis ´I don’t really know´´ Reilly impression. I kept my mouth firmly shut, hoping my friends might think I maybe did have an understanding of what minimalist means, whereas opening my mouth would have only confirmed that I didn’t !

Still nothing is too much trouble for my reader, so I looked it up as soon as I got home and am happy to share what I read on

´Minimal music (also called minimalism) is a form of art music or other compositional practice that employs limited or minimal musical materials. Prominent features of minimalist music include repetitive patterns or pulses, steady drones, consonant harmony, and reiteration of musical phrases or smaller units. It may include features such as phase shifting, resulting in what is termed phase music, or process techniques that follow strict rules, usually described as process music. The approach is marked by a non-narrative, non-teleological, and non-representational approach, and calls attention to the activity of listening by focusing on the internal processes of the music.´

I´m sure that clears up everything for you. It clarified things for me, but I had already heard the concert by the time I read it.

Ostensibly led by Ernesto Mateo at the piano, Maximum Ensemble also included Elise Bartolome on flute, Laura Diaz on first violin and Melina Tubaro on second.

Whilst they occasionally played as a quartet, they actually performed in various configurations but, in whatever form they adopted, the instrumentalists would play with great empathy with their performing partner(s) to create gentle, searching and often seemingly introspective sounds of the kind that Ernesto explained as being regular film accompaniments.

The opening selection of Ode y Hammer by Nils Frahm even seemed to have the instruments playing mind games with each other. The music was, if not soothing, at least an aid to clarity of thought for an audience that at once seemed to engage with these young musicians.

Max Richter’s exploration of ´the nature of daylight´ had been employed in parts in films such as Arrival and The Queen Of Scotland, and the violins and flute ceded here to an eventual piano medley.

Philip Glass is a name many of us would have perhaps associated with minimalist music if only because nothing is much more minimal than the period of silence he once famously recorded. In fact, his Facades, played here, was a piece that sounded very familiar and was one of the highlights of the evening

There was a moody and spiritual delivery of Lalai, a composition by Barbara Heller, played here by violin with piano, and a gorgeous illustration of how tricks of serendipity occur and disappear whilst time passes on, oblivious to the adventure. With the piano representing the passing time and an emerging melody between the other instruments being such a serendipitous act this was perhaps one of the more accessible pieces in the recital.

The intriguingly titled Struggle For Pleasure by Wim Martens seemed at first to show each instrument struggling to reach for its own pleasure until, eventually, the musicians plainly achieved pleasure in ensemble music.

I was not familiar with the name of composer Yann Tierson but Sur le fil / Naomi / La Noyée on piano, flute and the two violins was seductive, moving from a tormented opening to a distressed drama and emerging at the other side with a beautifully languid close.

Neither had I heard the name of Arvo Part but the music of Spiegel im Speigel was instantly familiar, with the jaunty piano opening, followed by fine violin passages and then being joined by the flute. Ernesto informed us that Arvo Part is in fact ´the world’s most widely played living composer !´

So, the one composer involved in the playlist that I haven’t yet mentioned is Ernesto Mateo himself. His piece, created to be played by four hands at the piano, saw him invite first violinist Laura Diaz to join him. Together they delivered a mind-boggling high speed ride across the entire keyboard as the two players appeared as if in competition at times and at others in complete synchronicity.

This was a passionate feature in a concert that, although delivered to a relatively small audience, drew a standing ovation that seemed to delight the players, who delivered an ensemble encore.

Excellent programme notes had been produced in Spanish, and I hope to put them into English translation and conduct an e-mail interview with Ernesto to bring you further information about the four highly skilled and passionate musicians who had brought us constantly changing moods in a ninety minute concert.

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