Of A Circus And A Concert


The adverts Miguel carried on his newsletter, promised a wonderful circus festival, with four days of public events all over Haria for from 2nd January. Various circus activities would be performed free for the public in the town´s streets and squares throughout daylight hours and then each day would culminate with an evening gala performance at 8.30 pm in a venue not precisely identified on the posters Miguel had re-printed on his pages. These were the same posters as could be seen around the island and in various other local Spanish language print media on the island, so there was no more Miguel could have done.

This was all to be part of 13th annual performance of MalabHaria, a circus gathering attracting circus groups and performers from all over Europe. It is always held the area at this time each year, and yet somehow we have never managed to attend previous shows. Despite the fact that Dee and I worked closely with a circus in our former lives in Rochdale in the UK, and that we were good friends with the management and performers of that town’s Skylight Circus, we have found a reason over the previous four years here to miss the annual shows. The journey up to Haria to watch an event that would then see us driving down those tortuous, unlit hairpin-bend mountain passes that would lead us back to the South Of The Island.

This year, though, our 2020 resolution is to be even braver for our readers than we have been in the past, and so the Saturday evening gala performance of 4th January was scribbled in bright red ink on our big Lidl calendar. Having girded our loins and taken a stiff drink, (no, no that was a joke, officer) we set off to Haria at 5.00 pm with the intention to be early enough to buy a ticket, as we were sure that despite any mentions thereof on the posters, tonight’s would be a ticketed event. There was, too, the fact that we didn’t know precisely where in Haria the gala would take place and what parking might be available in the proximity.

We, were, though, determined to deliver a report for you all and so stopped at our local petrol station and requested the attendant to ´Completo noventa y cinco´ to ensure we had enough fuel to set off, get lost, finally arrive in Haria, then set off back home, (having watched the gala) and get lost all over again in the dark on the hills with Dee shouting at me to just follow that star, as if we were wise men on a camel.

However, when Dee went in to pay she picked up a January edition of a gratis magazine called Guia and as I drove up past the Salinas de Janubio, pink-tinged by a setting sun, she flicked through the magazine that had been published only this week, and found an advert for said circus.

In the fading light she began muttering as she read. ´Oh, its on at the football ground, or at least it says deportivo !¨

I mumbled that it all sounded ok, then, as I know where the football ground is, but I kept to myself that I know it to be at the end of a narrow, snake-like one way system that slithers around Cesar Manrique’s house and that, when everyone later departs at the same time, reduces progress to less a snake-speed slither than a snail like crawl.

´Oh, there is an admission charge, but its only five euros,´ Dee informed me in her best Fiona Bruce voice as she continued reading the news.

So, now we were on our way armed with all the information. What could possibly go wrong?

Miraculously, nothing did go wrong on the way there, and we wound our way into the car park at the football ground dead on six pm, (for an eight thirty start, remember !) .

We had approached up the hill from the windmill roundabout at Arrieta rather than by over the tops from Teguise and because I didn’t have wifely dispensation neither had we taken the terrific adventure trail that is the Tabeyesco road.

The gates to the ground were open, and pretty much unguarded, and with hindsight we should have sneaked in whilst we had the chance. The only people around were a family of three with a distinct ´circus look´ about them, in so much as the father figure was wearing a silky groomed, long-hair wig and a bowler hat.

´Entradas completo,´ the jolly looking clown informed us whilst two people who might have been his wife and teenage daughter pulled sad faces and wiped away mock tears. This was all good fun, and they were very friendly but the bottom line was that the hire wire circus event was sold out ! We wondered how this could be when no tickets had been advertised but the family informed us that, in fact, tickets had been on sale since the 10th December in Haria town hall, but now they were ´all gone´. How could anyone have known that, we asked. Well, apparently the web site had been mentioned on the fliers. What fliers, we enquired? There had been no mention on any of the fliers we had seen. No, they only came out this week, it seems.

Curiouser and curiouser.

Trying to be helpful, and seeking to console us, the circus family explained that, even as we spoke there were live events taking place in the square in the centre of town, so we set off to catch some of that.

It was then that the enormity of this event hit home to us. There was no car parking space for about five square miles, and the streets and squares, all beautifully lit, were thronged with people jostling for good viewing sites of what seemed to be jugglers and mime artists etc demonstrating their skills.

However, the few cars trying to navigate their way through were being hurriedly waved on by harassed looking policemen and though it all looked to be a buzz we had no choice but to make a bee-line for home, disappointed and dejected.

There was some consolation in stopping on our return journey, for a meal at The MargeRita in Puerto Callero, before we arrived back home to find Clinger, one of the several cats belonging to our neighbour Pepe, waiting for us on our patio. She looked up at us, shaking her head sadly, as if to ask ´another wasted journey, eh?´

Well, almost, but not quite wasted, because I was so exhausted I tumbled straight into bed and enjoyed a full night of deep sleep. Circus-dreaming, I watched marvellous performances by GropCirco Myers, Xampetito ´XO´, Gala de Circo and the clown antics by Kicirke Kicerke, the arial dexterity of Fredito ´Oyun´ and the jumping through hoops of Gala Cierre. There were daring young men on the flying trapeze and armies of acrobats performing somersaults in my head.

Come Sunday morning, we awoke determined more than ever to visit Cirque de Soliel on Gran Canaria later this year, and to more fully investigate the mystery of tickets on Lanzarote that never seem to go on sale. We are sure it is our fault for not being sufficiently pro-active, though, and so we have made resolution number two of the new year to serve you better.

Firstly we repeat our constant advice to always seek to verify what you see on the What’s On pages here on Lanzarote Information and the weekly newsletter. Also, take with a pinch of the salt from Salinas de Janubio, whatever you might read on posters and fliers, as they are likely to be updated with new information closer to the time of the event. Miguel’s site can only publish, of course, what is made available to him. The same applies to my own twice weekly blog, as well.

However, our friend Margaret is on the island for the next few weeks. There is something of an interrogative detective about her, and she is unafraid to question across language barriers anyone she feels might be able to direct her to sites and events of authentic culture. It might be time for us to set Maigrait Margaret to work !

At the first concert of the 36th Festival Internacional de Musica de Canarias, our new super-sleuth went to work.

Inglesia de San Roque, Tinajo, January 11th 2020

As genuine lovers of chamber music and as a String Quartet, Cuarteto de Cuerda Ornati find themselves in the best space to express that love and to share that music with new and traditional audiences of the genre.

It is perhaps not surprising, then, that in addition to delving into the works of the great masters of history, they constantly build and re-shape a repertoire that takes sidetracks and detours even into contemporary music. They have done so with sufficient aplomb to have enough recorded numerous works that will surely become great classics in the future.

The quartet members have studied in various places with renowned teachers and have had the opportunity to perform in all kinds of concert halls.

Their story, though, is simple. Four orchestral partners gathered back in 2003 to make music and have continued to share good moments both on stage and in the rehearsal room. The passage of time has widened their understanding of, and facility with, chamber music and increased their desire to share it with as many people as possible.

Sharing is a word that appears frequently in the quartet’s vocabulary and they do mean sharing in the fullest sense of the word; not only with their own audiences but also with the numerous collaborations of musicians and friends that enrich the quartet, in classical and not so classic style; such as mezzo Nancy Fabiola Herrera, Michael Gieler (viola), Klaidi Sahatci (violin), José Luis Castillo (piano) or bandoneonists Santiago Cimadevilla and Rodolfo Mederos.

Cuarteto de Cuerda Ornati are all members of the Philharmonic Orchestra of Gran Canaria (OFGC). They each of them love to teach and do so in the academy of OFGC, being teachers both on their own instruments and of chamber music in general. They are also regular collaborators of the International Bach Festival, of which CCO violist, Adriana Ilieva, is a founding member.

With such credentials we had a feeling that the CCO might prove to be a big draw, given that this concert was, incredibly, to be another free until full event, held in the beautiful church in Tinajo. So, although the venue is pretty huge, with plenty of seating, we figured that if we wanted any kind of a preferred view rather than one from a pew behind a pillar we should try to get there early. That the commencement of the concert was scheduled for 8.30pm meant we needed to be ready to form an orderly queue outside the church by around 7.45pm, and that in itself meant a little bit of logistical planning, as we would be travelling from Playa Blanca, around a thirty minute drive, and would want, in fact need, to eat before the concert. This would be slightly problematic as there are not too many restaurants in the town, so we would need to drive to dine in La Santa a few miles away.

The Mezza Luna is a lovely restaurant on the side of the road on the downhill road from Tinajo . It looked inviting in the dark, was lovely and cosy inside and benefitted further from the happy, smiley people who form its young staff. We all (Dee and I had friends Margaret and Iain with us) each ordered a different dish off an interesting menu.

My four cheeses and pear on a bed of rice was absolutely delicious and the brownies and ice cream for pudding were pretty good too. We killed a couple of hours there, with lazy coffees, whilst laughing and joking with the staff. There were around another twenty covers already in by the time we left at 7.45 pm to arrive back at the church, where we found parking already at something of a free premium.

We were not surprised, then, to find several fans already standing outside the church, including our friends, Christine, Dena and Michael who had recently enjoyed taken part in a successful series of carol concerts with Voices, raising more than 2,000 euros for Calor y Café charity. We were pretty amazed, though, to find the church doors open, and a couple of hundred people already inside, as a mass was just coming to a conclusion. It then became obvious that many of those inside had sat through the mass in order to reserve seats for the concert to follow, so we didn’t quite win our usual front row seats.

By the time the CCO came out to play there was standing room only left in the venue, and nearly all of that was already filled with throngs of people lining the perimeters of the ornate church. What the venue adds to the occasion with its wonderful acoustics it almost subtracts with its lack of a raised platform, making ´watching´ the concert almost impossible from most seated areas. The music that ensued, though, was so exquisite as to render that almost irrelevant.

Beethoven’s Quarteto number 4 en Do menor, Opus 18 number 4 filled the opening ´half´ of the concert, which Quarteto de Cuerda Ornati opened emphatically by offering a playful, skittish delivery of the allegro ma non tanto over a more restrained cello. A short violin solo opened the Andante sherzoso quasi allegretto, before the other instruments began swooping below and soaring above each other in a delightful dance, again with a strong cello presence, and the Minuet, Allegreto was mature and full bodied yet refined and restrained and wonderfully delivered. The Allegro pestissimo set off at a gallop and continued with each instrument overtaking the others in short sprints to the finish in an exhilarating fashion.

This first part of the concert was concluded with the members of the CCO speaking to the audience about its closing Fragmentos del period intermedia, with their wonderful sense of distance and longing.

During the interval we took the chance to speak with Dee’s yoga ´professor´ who told us about a classical concert that she had seen in Haria on New Year’s Day. She was surprised when we then told her about the forthcoming Haria Guitar Festival scheduled for 23rd to 26th January, as she had not heard or seen any publicity for it, despite the fact that she lives in Haria ! When we told her that we hadn’t heard anything about the New Year performance she had described we realised that whether Spanish, indigenous Lanzaroteño, Italian, German, French or a new resident or tourist from any other country, our arts publicity on the island seems very parochial.

What happens in Haria stays in Haria and what is performed in Playa Blanca also seems to remain private.

We all agreed, Iain and Margaret, yoga lady and Dean and Christine, that whatever our different nationalities it is difficult stay informed about the arts and cultural calendar. Indeed, Magrait Margaret suggested that we should strive to share (this important word again permeating the evening) what we learn in the shops and from the monthly Agenda Cultural leaflets distributed around the island, or from Miguel’s announcements of wha’´s on at his on line Lanzarote Information, or any news I might have published in my Sidetracks and Detours blog or what the choirs are hearing of what other choirs are doing. Dee and I are fortunate enough to see two or three events a week but we always learn, retrospectively of two or three a week we have missed, so what Magrait Margaret suggested has to be worth a try, let’s network, network, network !!!

The time for talking was over though, for now the CCO were returning to the floor to perform Beethoven’s Cuarteto number 13 en Si bernol mayor opus 130.

The adagio ma non trappo and Allegro was noteworthy for its portentous opening and yearning cello, with the Presto being all of a chase as the instruments raced after one another, fluently, without ever stumbling. The Andante con mato, ma non trappo, Poco scherzosa enjoyed sweeping violin and creeping cello and the Alla danza Tedesco and Allegro assai had the instruments building lovely melodies that all four of us found the most enjoyable of the evening. Similarly the Cavatina and Adagio molto espressivo was full of romantic motives, dancing on a solid floor laid by the cello. The Grofse fuge overture, played allegro and fugo, I can only describe in terms coined by one of favourite folk artists, the late Kate Wolf, in her song Dancing Down These Muddy Roads. She described herself ´dancing down these muddy roads, soft sand beneath my toes, shirt in hand and singing out in crazy rhyme.´ Sorry if that isn’t classical enough for the musical connoisseurs amongst our readers, but that is precisely how the piece made me feel.

In fact, I was thinking to myself that this evening had introduced me to a quite different Beethoven to the one I thought I knew, and somehow his usual bombast and drama had been replaced by a joyous mischief.

The closing piece, or Finale allegro, was, though, very different. The music, rather than the playing of it, sounded to me almost experimental compared to the exquisitely wrapped parcels we had listened to throughout the show. It was more demanding than the ´sit back and enjoy´ attitude of earlier but the genius of so many great classical composers is how they created music that could delight and distract, please and perplex all at the same time.

The applause and cries for more revealed that the first Lanzarote concert of this year’s 36th Festival Of Internacional de Musica de Canarias (FIMC) had been rapturously received by an audience even larger than its venue.

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