Minsk, March and Manrique

Minsk, March And Manrique


February 2019

Almost three years ago, various individual members of their region’s two most important orchestras, The Bolshoi and The Philharmonic, decided to join forces to create Orquestra Filarmonica De Camara De Minsk. They would focus on providing chamber music and their publicity photographs now show them to be a fifteen piece ensemble. Even from the beginning their performances drew large audience figures and in such a short period they have already worked under the baton of respected conductors like Vladimar Spivolov, Gerard Korsten and James Galves, whilst performing in concert halls and at festivals all over Europe.

Having already heard Cuarteto De Cuerda Quiroga and The London Concord Ensemble and Orquesta Baroque De Tenerife play at earlier concerts on Lanzarote as part of this year’s 35th Festival Internacional De Musica De Canarias we were certainly looking forward to our fourth concert of the Festival from an outfit that was promising us some interesting selections.

Imagine the torture, then, of a dilemma that saw us torn between this and another important and attractive event on the same evening. This Classical Music Festival event would have an added benefit of introducing us to the venue of El Salinero in Arrecife for the first time. Fortunately, we learned from our friends Iain and Margaret that they had already booked tickets to hear Orquestra Filarmonica De Camara De Minsk and so would be able to hang some first-hand comments of clothing on to the bare article I had already started.

The short list of likely offerings, by this Minsk ensemble, included pieces by composers new to us, such as Anton Arensky. The brief biography found on ´wiki´ suggested many feel he was greatly influenced by Tchaikovsky.

Classical guitarist and composer Carlos Enrique Gonzalez, another new name to us, is a contemporary composer, born in San Juan in Puerto Rico. At the age of fifteen he began learning to play guitar and immediately showed a flair for composition, too, and has created Puerto Rican dances for classical guitar, also included on the programme by the Minsk musicians.

The world is more widely aware of the energy of the work of Shostakovich, of course and the Russian pianist is now regarded as one of the major composers of the twentieth century. He, too, was listed in the provisional playlist as being among the composers the orchestra would cover.

For our friends, though, these promised parts, sadly, did not quite add up to a satisfying whole, as they explained in an e mail to us.

´We attended the concert by Orquesta de Camara Filarmonica de Minsk in Arrecife last night. Not our favourite of the season, I must say, being a bit too modern for my taste.´

´There were fifteen men and women in the orchestra, playing 3 violas, 2 cellos, 1 double base and an assortment of violins. The theatre was less than half full which is always a shame for the artists but maybe a reflection of the price per ticket of 35 euros. The largely ‘modern’ programme might have deterred some who prefer their classical music in a traditional manner. The ‘Cuatro estados de lo mismo’, for example, was a contemporary piece, by the 27 year old C Gonzalez Bolanos who was in the audience and who took a bow at the end.´

Those insightful observations from Iain left me wondering if the music of Grieg, later in the programme, might have proved more palatable. Most often classified as a leading example of the Romantic era, Grieg’s music has become a fixture on the global classical music playlist.

The inclusion of his music in this programme, however, went only some way to appeasing Iain and Margaret, who said almost as much in their e mail.

´However, Grieg’s Holberg suite at the end made up for it a bit. One encore whose title I should recall, but cannot, was ‘light’ classical and, again enjoyable. Overall, though, this performance did not, alas, generate the same impact or enjoyment as previous offerings in this year’s festival.´

I am reminded, in all of this, of something American songwriter John Stewart once said to me in an interview when we were discussing the artist’s difficulty in satisfying the tastes of his audience whilst at the same time satisfying his own need for creative development.

´The trouble´ observed John, ´is that people like what they know but don’t know what they like.´

Knowing Iain and Margaret as we do, we are sure that whilst on this occasion the end results weren’t for them, they nevertheless support the artist’s right to experiment and diversify.

When the Classical Music Festival had moved on to other islands, though, a special press conference was convened at the wonderfully scenic Mirador del Rio to announce details of a Canary Islands initiative of a programme compiling musical compositions and performances to commemorate the centenary of the birth of Cesar Manrique. The artist, of course, created this unique building in which organisers and some of the artists involved met with members of the digital and print media to explain how ´stage Manrique´ will soon host more than twenty concerts in eleven days.

Tourists and visitors to the Mirador, looking at its loveliest on a glorious morning and offering remarkable views out over La Graciosa, wandered around and listened in as Pedro San Gines, President of The Cabildo, gave his opening remarks, saying that it is intended the celebrations will include various musical genres to interest all age groups.

Oscar Perez, Minister Of Arts And Culture and a leading advisor on the project, then stressed that the Cabildo of Lanzarote had been keen to engage ´the extended Manrique family´ in the planning of the programme to ensure it would reflect some of Manrique’s own love of music and artistic creativity. Further, more precise, details will be released to the media prior to the Festival and it was interesting to learn how the Cabildo are also ensuring, by including a wide range of events already on the calendar for 2019, as well as bespoke events described in this article, will ensure that Manrique’s centenary is celebrated as diversely as possible by as many people as possible. Meanwhile, the programme as it currently stands as listed below, with all events set to take place on a specially built Manrique-scenario stage on the Playa Reducto in Arrecife

  • 24 de abril: Espectáculo ‘La ilusión de César’ creado ex profeso para la ocasión por la compañía Pieles.
  • 25 de abril: Conciertos de Iván Ferreiro y Mucho.
  • 26 de abril: Taller Canario de Canción, Taburiente y Maru Cabrera.
  • 27 de abril: Ataúd Vacante e Inadaptados.
  • 28 de abril: Toñín Corujo, Benito Cabrera, Alexis Lemes, José Vicente y ‘El Colorao’.
  • 30 de abril: Brooklyn Funk Essentials y J.P. Bimeni and The Blackbelts.
  • 1 de mayo: Olga Cerpa y Mestisay, y Beni Ferrer.
  • 2 de mayo: Diego Barber y Simbeque.
  • 3 de mayo: Goran Bregovic.
  • 4 de mayo: Grupo Instrumental y Coros de la Orquesta Sinfónica de Las Palmas protagonizando el concierto titulado ‘Carmina Burana’.
  • 5 de mayo: Los Sabandeños, Los Gofiones y Acatife.

La entrada a todos los conciertos es gratuita. (Entry to all the concerts is free.)

Oscar Perez then spoke of Manrique’s importance to the development of modern Lanzarote and said that the festival will  provide a diversity of music appropriate mot only for those generations who lived in Manrique’s era but also to younger generations who have grown up since the artist’s death.

When Oscar introduced a few of the artists to be involved in this lavish celebration, each then spoke of their pride in being invited to participate and all seemed excited at the opportunity to create or perform work that would communicate to a wide audience. One also spoke of feeling humbled to be associated as an artist in the same conversation as Cesar Manrique.

We spoke afterwards with Oscar and asked him if this celebratory event was in any way aimed at the new residents.

´The Cabildo particularly welcome interest in the project from new residents,´ Oscar replied. ´I think Cesar, even twenty and more years after his death, is still a hugely effective ambassador for the islands. Venues like this, for instance, with its unique vistas and atmosphere are a great part of the attraction that makes Lanzarote a desirable home. This festival offers those newly arrived here to join the people of Lanzarote in learning so much more about Cesar and what shaped his vision.´

To augment this celebration of Manrique and his impact on the island, The Cabildo of Lanzarote has also selected fourteen proposals, about to commemorate the centenary of Cesar Manrique’s birth, from almost a hundred submitted by the general public. President, Pedro San Gines has publicly thanked the judges who led the selection process, saying it is still ´very possible´ to include some of these ideas in the planned celebrations, ´pending documentation for final approval.´ The President highlighted the educational value of all the suggestions, and also thanked a secondary committee who have looked at the conceptual, creative content as well how it might contribute to the commemoration of Cesar Manrique.

The fourteen submissions approved include arts interventions in almost every conceivable format, at places such as Arrecife, and ideas for pop-up family friendly books, educational digital pieces and illustrated children’s books on Manrique’s life and influence.

From a ´toy in the wind´ protagonist in a children’s work, artists have submitted a proposal, too, for a digital kit teaching aid and arts project looking at Manrique’s social politics and important attitudes to citizenship. Some proposals seek to generate reflection, and new debate, about the values driven by the artist. Some projects involve cartoon characters and even a stage play has been proposed, looking at the dreams and vision of the artist. The idea of a family-friendly guide figure has been mooted, to take inform and guide walking parties around the Manrique tourist trail. A sculptured work will look at the artist’s interest in that aspect of the arts and a new family friendly story will look at Cesar’s relationship with the landscape he grew up on. There will even be work undertaken with residents of the penitentiary in Arrecife and a theatrical performance based on the speeches of Manrique and his ability to make his artistic visions transcend the boundaries of genre.     

San Ginés then ran through a draft timetable for work on these projects to be commenced from 4th of March and concluded by the end of this year, with exhibitions and highlights including Alejandro Krawietz´ Almacen 1974 and musical activities such as at The Jameos Festival on March 23 and the presentation of the poster of the Visual Music Festival sometime in October.

He also mentioned editorial projects such as a botanical volumes like Pascal Garbe’s on The Cactus Garden and other works by Alejandro Krawietz and Alejandro Scarpa and a volume on the 25 years of the world biosphere reserve.

In conclusion, The President emphasised the high educational component of all the acts provided for the centenary. Specifically in the school children and youth section, there is, planned for the May 10 visit by Dean Mac Cannell, (father of the anthropology of tourism, Professor at the University of California), a series of educational activities for children aged 3 to 16 revealing the Le Gado de Manrique.

“Every tourist who comes to Lanzarote should know that we are celebrating the centenary of Manrique and be informed of our events agenda,” said San Ginés, in closing.

Speaking of arts events already on the calendar, The Cabildo, has recently released details of The Cultural And Arts Agenda for March, and as always, it is a programme that has something for everyone. Keep your eye on Miguel’s weekly what’s on offerings and always try to verify times and ticket prices, although many are free.

Exhibitions of visual arts feature strongly, including that showing currently at Cic El Almacen, by Raquel Plans. On March 14th Raquel herself will be there at 7.00 pm to give a talk about her work and her exhibition at this bright and welcoming venue then runs until 23rd March. Another collection opens by Arminda Arteta Viotti on 19th March at 8.00pm. This is, in fact, now listed as part of the Manrique celebrations and takes a look at the work of the artist Pancho Lasso as well as at the geographical, social and political landscape that inspired young Cesar and his early works. Almacen 1974 is the title of yet another event in the Cic El Almacen venue, this time on 29th March at 8.30 pm. This looks at a ground-breaking and life-changing Manrique initiative of that era and is curated by artists Alejandro Krawietz, Mario Ferrer and Pepe Betancort. In The Cabildo building, on 19th March, an exhibition called Recorded On-Line offers a rare opportunity to see special pieces in the stewardship of The Cabildo,   

We have enjoyed a number of poetry reading events on the island in the last six months or so and are delighted to note that several poets will be reading work themed under a title that roughly translates, I think, as Mirrors And Glances, also at Cic El Almacen on Saturday 9th March.

The March calendar also features a concert by Sara Correia, again at Cic El Almacen, scheduled for 15th March at 9.00 pm. The admission to this concert of approximately seventy minutes is only ten euros to hear Sara sing with her renowned strength and power.

Versos De Sal is a concert we are particularly looking forward to as we love the sounds of Canarian folk lore music. Two wonderful ensembles representing that genre combine  to deliver Salt Verses at a concert in memory of the poet Victor Fernandez Gopar who was known as El Salinero. At this theatre in Arrecife, that was named in the poet’s honour, Los Sabandenos with Antonio Corujo and the collaboration of Los Campesinos will deliver a remembrance and celebration of the writer born in Las Brenas in 1844. The singers, musicians and ´peasant dancers´ in this eighty minute performance will aim to remind us of the relevance of the poet’s work even almost one hundred years after his death. Admission is only ten euros.

Drama is included on the March calendar in the shape of The Room To Be, a play to be shown at the El Salinero theatre on 28th March at 8.30 pm. The story interprets, through dance and dialogue, the meeting of four people in a room, none of whom can remember how they arrived there.

Having looked ahead, let’s pause to look back to artists we have previously reviewed on these pages, and get up to speed with their new adventures.

Lanzarote Ensemble, last heard, distantly, by us in Haria, will play, on 14th March, at St. Paul’s, Covent Garden in London. At the heart of their performance, under the musical direction of James Blair, they will place Mozart’s Serenade Number 10, ¨Gran Partita´ and, departing slightly from the typical sound of The Renaissance and Baroque period, a more contemporary piece, Folias Of Spain, an original composition by the orchestra’s resident director, Ayoze Rodriguez. This sounds like a prestigious place to play and it is great to hear of this success for musicians who are sure to prove fine ambassadors of the island they carry in their name.

Another name familiar to readers of these pages will also deliver a gig at a prestigious London venue in March.


Having recently launched his dual language book, The British Connection to Lanzarote And The Canaries, at Hotel Natura Palace in Playa Blanca, writer Larry Yaskiel, who has lived here on the island for thirty years and more, returns to London to present his work at The Cervantes Institute in England´s capital city.

The Institute Cervantes was created in Spain in 1991 to promote Spanish language and culture and has its head office in Madrid, the birthplace of writer Miguel De Cervantes after whom the organisation was named. There are now more than seventy centres in four continents delivering courses in Spanish language, for instance, and Spanish teacher-training. With a staff including representatives from the worlds of academia, culture and literature the organisation works closely with museums, theatres, galleries, publishers and universities to support Hispanics working abroad. 

This would seem, then, the perfect setting for a talk on such a book as Larry’s fascinating chain of inextricable links between Lanzarote and the UK over more than six hundred years of history. That the institute at which he will speak is named after Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the Spanish language, is also particularly appropriate for an author like Larry Yaskiel.

Second only to the Bible as the world’s most translated book, Don Quixote, for which Cervantes is most famous, has as its central character a man who ´tilts at windmills´, an attitude derided by some but much admired by many. Larry Yaskiel, former pop music entrepreneur, who set all that glitz and glamour of the sixties on one side to come and settle here on Lanzarote, has tilted at a few windmills in his time and turned them into established magazines and new books. And, of course, to bring all things full circle, by launching his English / Spanish history book on Lanzarote and reprising that talk over in the UK he  has succeeded in adding an appendage to his own documented list of The British Connection To Lanzarote And The Canaries.

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