High at five o’clock, the sun was bright in a wide blue sky, casting in a glowing hue the bell tower of Iglesias de San Gines that seemed to be reaching to the sun as if to whisper secrets. A hundred boats were moored in the man-made bay, they and their reflections bobbing in a slow shadow dance on the gentle waters. My lady wife and I were sitting on a wall holding hands as crowds of couples and flocks of families strolled by, heading for the source of the playing, for their was ´magic abroad in the air´. There were three ´Big Bands Of The Canary Islands´ due to deliver a concert at six pm until eight pm and the gods of The Cabildo had deemed that this would be yet another of a generously long list of free musical recitals we have already heard this year. At this time of the evening the bands were still undertaking their sound checks, and yet the sounds were of a melodious cacophony. Trumpets tooted out of time, and saxophones screamed as drums rolled their eyes in protest and yet there were sounds that augured well for the performances.
This was all good news for the many wonderful restaurants that line the perimeter of the harbour, (and all were in range of the sounds that carried perfectly on this still night) with most of the tables of each of them already full and those tables not yet occupied, reserved. People not already at a table were, like us, thronging the seat-high stone wall that surrounds the area and by the time the first band struck up there were thousands of people waiting patiently and politely to hear what the band would begin to play.
My lady wife by now had her head on my shoulder, her eyes dreamily closed as she whispered how much she was looking forward to the concert in this lovely atmosphere and as the first notes from the male vocalist of The Lanzarote Big Band broke out it was,…why, It Was Almost Like Being In Love !
At this time of the fifty year anniversary of Neil Armstrong walking on the satellite of the earth that is most like the landscape of Lanzarote, it was appropriate to hear Fly Me To The Moon. This was followed by a version of Sway that reminded us of the Dean Martin version, with its sway and slur of the gently inebriated pretend-drunk, but that after a false ending came back with a more urgent reprise that reminded us instead of the more recent recording by Michael Buble. A couple of instrumental pieces followed, full of tinkling piano, before the vocalist returned, urging us to Let The Good Times Roll. He then stepped aside to give way to guest vocalist Roberta Marcella (if we heard her name correctly) who carried the kind of contagious Fever that so bothered Peggy Lee. When the male vocalist returned we wondered where he was going with a highly entertaining rap delivery that eventually took us into a wonderful version of Kiss, the Prince song that re-built the career of Tom Jones. A version of the Al Jarraue track Boogie On Down encouraged us to do just that and Stevie Wonder’s Sir Duke paid homage both to the former Little Stevie that Wonder once was and to Duke Ellington, before the vocalist announced they were coming to the end of their set, and gave a musical name check to every musician.
I would have been happy to have stayed to listen to the other orchestras, too, but my lady wife, in perfect timing with the vocalist announced that ´she gets too hungry for dinner at eight´ and she was ready to eat, and besides which she wanted to get back to Teguise in time for the Noche Blanche celebrations. Letting go of the hand she had been holding so tenderly, she instead grabbed me by the wrist and dragged me, kicking and screaming, back to where we had parked the car. As we arrived at our vehicle, just round the corner, I could hear the vocalist triumphantly declaring, ´I Did It My Way!´ as I, meanwhile, did my it my wife’s way and set off to Teguise.
As the singer had sung in his penultimate number, ´That’s why the lady is´ ,…… well, I guess you know the rest !
So, by now, you are probably expecting to read my review of the White Night in Teguise, but there is a twist in the tale. As we drove through Tahiche and out towards St. Bartolome and eventually Teguise, clouds rolled in and the temperature plummeted and as we drove into the car park at Teguise it felt like it could rain at any moment. My lady wife and I were, by now, following that vow of Tibetan monks that we employ whenever rain or a row is on the horizon. My lady wife was dressed in gauzy, flimsy all white clothing that is de rigeur for this event so her demeanour was positively gloomy as she stared, away from me, out of her rolled up passenger window up at the portentous cloud formations. We drove, in a stream of crawling traffic, from full car park to full car park. We drove down cluttered side street after cluttered side street and, somehow, we drove each other absolutely mad. We had got absolutely nowhere before an unspoken agreement set us off on the road home, where my lady wife, who ´gets too hungry for dinner at eight´ eventually had cheese on toast, grilled by her own fair, wrist-gripping hand, at nine fifteen pm.
Who says God doesn’t have a sense of humour?
Joking apart, though, we have always enjoyed White Night in the past and had been especially looking forward to hearing the scheduled musical performances by Maru and / or Alexis Lemis, although their performance times seemed to overlap somewhat. If any of our readers did see either of them and would like to drop us a few lines to [email protected] please do so, and we will try to publish them on these pages soon, with all due accreditation.
Meanwhile, on with the tale of our weekend. By the Saturday afternoon we had, if not kissed and made up, at least called an uneasy truce. We left home in Playa Blanca at around 4.15 pm to arrive in Arrecife in time for a scheduled performance called Algo mas que Opera, which, promisingly, means ´more than Opera.´
I’m aware that allowing four and a quarter hours for a forty five minute journey might seem to be a bit more than erring on the side of caution, but in fact there was much to do. We had arranged to call in at the Ermita gallery in Tias to collect the art work we had reserved on a previous visit to a wonderful exhibition by artist and illustrator Evelin Toledano Aparicio. She and her boyfriend and her mum were in the throes of taking the exhibits off the walls and loading them into the car to take back to her studio. We also noticed how many of them were wrapped, as if awaiting collection, and Evelin told us that she had been delighted at the public interest in the exhibition and was thrilled, at the previous day’s official closure, to see ´how many dots were on the wall.´ Artist-speak for sold !!
We chatted about upcoming exhibitions that we have previewed here on these all across the arts pages on Lanzarote Information and Evelin also gave me permission to upload the audio file, on the launch day of my blog, of the interview we had previously conducted and that will then remain in our archives for visitors to hear.
We arrived and parked up in the underground car park, however, still with plenty of time to undertake essential tasks before the Opera offerings. First, we had to walk the hundred yards to our favourite little walkway bar behind The Gran Hotel for a couple of mojitos sin alcohol for me and a long, lazy g & t for my lady wife. We sat there in the sun, me gazing out to sea and her gazing at the hunk behind the bar, for an hour or more and then retreated fifty yards back round the corner to The Tabla Restaurant.
Its few tables on the pavement give it a real air of café society but the interior is expansive and incredible, full of weird, sixties centred art work and memorabilia. I ordered the goat´s cheese with caramelised onions and steak and fries whilst Dee had Tabla Bowl, which consisted of Kimchi, red rice, mushrooms, rocket and carrot accompanied by a Korean mayo and sauce.
Whilst I struggled with my knife and fork, that actually were very like the English knives and forks I have become used to, my lady wife was poking and prodding at her food, attacking it with chop sticks by making rapier thrusts, as if one of the Three Musketeers. Nevertheless, this was a photo opportunity, and within seconds we were alerted by a ping telling us that the photo of grandma with chopsticks in Lanzarote was now on the mobile phone of our eight year old granddaughter, who lives in Souel, with our son and his South Korean wife.
The food was so delicious and so plentiful that we realised we would have to defer dessert until after the show. We headed back fifty yards, passed our mojitos bar, and quick-strolled another fifty yards to the Casa de la Culture. There was already a queue for the free tickets, but we all gained admission and when the concert started promptly at its advertised time, all the 150 or so seats were full.
This was the final concert, number 8, in this year’s series of Conciertos Clasicos. We had attended all of last year’s series but other arts events had meant this would be only our third of this year’s presentations. In 2018 the Opera related concert had been a light hearted, flirtatious and romantic affair, delivered by five or six protagonists. This year the total number of performers was three, being a Baritone, a Soprano and a female pianist. The programme looked to hold somewhat more gravitas too, and we noticed composers such as Mozart, Puccini, Gounod and Bellini in what was listed the ´Opera´ section. The second section was named Zarzuela, which translates as Spanish Musical Theatre, and therefore sounded slightly lighter.
Baritone Borja Molino, all bearded and brooding, is a native of Lanzarote and has taken part in many notable productions including The Marriage Of Figaro. His delivery of ´Deh vieni all Finestra´ was performed over a playful piano accompaniment. The power, and the carry, of his voice were even better demonstrated on Gounod’s ´Avant de quitter ces lieux´ but even when singing at such strength he never lost his musicality.
There were lovely piano trills too as he gave us ´Ah per sempro lo ti perdei´ by Vicenza Bellini, to which he contributed a real sense of yearning.
Taking alternate lead roles through this six-piece Opera half of the show Soprano, Tairuma Mendez, proved an absolute delight. She has performed in many excellent Opera productions but has also played lead roles, such as Evita, in musical theatre.
Tairuma maximised the opportunities here to provide the light and shade that were to be found in Puccini´s ´Donde liete usci´ and exquisitely conveyed her desolation in his ´Sola perduta abbandonata.´ She also beautifully delivered another Puccini piece, ´O mio baboino caro´ with perfect control at notes at both ends of the register. Her long, sustained soaring fashions were incredible.
Suddenly, after a brief interval, these two performers stepped outside their various characters of that first half and, as their real selves, enjoyed some witty and pointed banter between each other, and with the audience, before they moved into the Zarzuela section. They duetted on ´Duo somos dos barcos´ and ´hace tiempoque vengo al taller´ and ¨Que esta esta muy bajo´ even saw them partake in some quick and witty call and response pieces.
As a soloist in this section our male vocalist gave us a pensive performance of ´Luche la fe por el triunto´ and a sombre ´Calor de Nido´ and his delivery of ´Amor vida de mi vida´ brought rapturous applause.
In her solo pieces in this section Tairuma Mendez also gave full range to her wonderful voice and, too, displayed excellent acting and interpretive skills, most dramatically perhaps in ´La Pretenera.´
All of this and more was accompanied unobtrusively by pianist Conchi Reyes. She moved effortlessly from playful to portentous, as required, and was not only sympathetic in her playing for her vocalists but also was empathetic in her playing for their characters.
The standing ovation and demands for an encore had been well earned by ALL three musicians and the subsequent closing work of the evening was a tour de force that saw baritone and soprano battle, for the sake of the song, with each contriving almost impossible vocal leaps to complement the music from the piano.
We talk a lot on these pages about standing ovations and encores but the frequency of them should not diminish their status. Artists on Lanzarote do not receive applause for reputation, for rarely do is there a sufficient public awareness that would make that happen. The ovations are given instead for their abilities, professionalism and entertainment value.
Dee and I haven’t yet stayed seated because we have felt the standing ovation around us was unwarranted, but neither do we rise to our feet simply because others do. We stand for a performance that has genuinely rated an 11 out of 10 mark on our imaginary scorecards, and this was and this was another of many that have done so, this year..
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