The Art Of Island Life

The Lanzarote Ensemble & José Vicente Pérez & Acatife,
Jameos del Agua, May 2019

Shining a light in dark places

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the arts in education on Lanzarote
The Lanzarote Ensemble & José Vicente Pérez & Acatif,
Jameos del Agua, May 2019

Tickets for an opening event to celebrate Canaries Day at Jameos del Agua had been made available to the general public on a first come first served basis from the Cabildo in the previous week. Not only that, but they had also offered a free coach transfer, from The Cabildo up through Arrieta to the caves, and back again after the concert.

The demographics of those on our coach were interesting. We were certainly the only English people on board, and probably even the only ´new residents´ as everybody seemed to be indigenous to the island. Ninety five per cent of the passengers were female, all dressed in their finery and obviously seeing this as a grand occasion. Not many of the other men on board looked to be quite as excited as I felt about the concert we were going to see, but this could well have been an annual pilgrimage for them, giving them an air of having seen it all before.

The allocation of tickets had been advertised in advance, and indeed we had published details in these all across the arts pages here on Lanzarote Information. With tickets limited to two per family there was no other caveat to their availability, so long as tickets were collected in person from The Cabildo.

Why, then was there such a low number of new residents on the coach, and why was that percentage reflected, too, in the sell-out concert in the auditorium?

Dee and I certainly felt included in the general chat and banter on the coach and were not made to feel intrusive in any way, so new residents here need have no fear of being made to consider themselves in any way unwelcome at such events. Nor should any pre-conceived notions about any kind of slapdash ´mañana´ attitudes deter them. The coach was punctual, carefully driven and seating well organised.

So, let me place an advertisement right here and now for the future. What we enjoyed tonight was a FREE trip to a most magnificent and unique venue. Hewn out of the interior faces of a cave deep underground, with comfortable seating for six or seven hundred people, Cesar Manrique’s creation provides a cosy (and strangely historic and futuristic) atmosphere of lovely, concealed or subdued lighting, disguised in the rock face and ceiling, that throws eerie shadows in blues, greens, yellows and reds, of seemingly troll-like figures around the ´theatre´ as we listen to the concert.

We have seen this arena before, having attended a concert here many years ago on a holiday long before the present refurbishment. We have also brought friends from the UK here on the regular tourist walks through the caves. None of this quite prepared us, though, for the breath-taking sight of the caves at dusk, (albeit a cloudy dusk). The view from the top of the steps, outside, that lead down to the steps inside, was awesome.

The stage is on a floor of the cave which has steep steps at the front and back, so that, on this occasion for instance, the thirty odd members of Acatife were seen corning down the stairs at the back to join The Lanzarote Ensemble, even as the orchestra was still playing its final number, to create a crescendo of a conclusion to the opening set. Meanwhile Jose Perez exited stage left at the front after a heroic performance on the timple.

We took our cushioned bench seats about halfway down the terracing and settled down to listen to the opening ceremonials, with about ten minutes to spare. There was just time for a few minutes of people watching before the formalities commenced. A few rows below us we noticed Dee’s yoga professorio, Mercedes, who was there with students from her Tahiche class, and about six rows behind us we thought we could also see writer Larry Yaskiel and his wife Liz.

The Institutional Act of the Cabildo of Lanzarote started with a rendition of the anthem of The Canary Islands played by The Lanzarote Ensemble.

The Ensemble is promoted by the Cabildo and was responsible for drawing the variation of the Arroro Of The Cantos Canarios from Teobaldo Power, which, with lyrics by Lanzarote’s Benito Cabrera, has been the official anthem of the Canary Islands since 2003.

The Day Of The Canary Islands is officially designated by this Institutional Act Of Protocol And Institutional Discourse, so therefore includes an opening welcoming speech, delivered here by Acting President of the Cabildo of Lanzarote, San Pedro Ginés, before the concert began.

Not sure whether this public speech could, by protocol, or should, for expediency, be in any way used as a political platform we wondered how it might be delivered. Given that the results announced since the previous Sunday’s voting in local and European elections suggested we might have no party with an overall majority in The Cabildo we really didn’t know what we expected to hear, and when the speech was concluded I didn’t even know for certain, because of my linguistic limitations, what we had just heard.

He spoke of how the past thirty six years have seen The Canaries reach ´great heights of self-management in the archipelago,´ and said that Canaries Day on May 30th should be a day ´to show off a little of that difference that has our citizens recognized and admired in the rest of the world.´

The Acting President mentioned César Manrique, in commemoration of the centenary of his birth, as being a citizen who had solidly cemented the foundations of the future for generations to come. Whilst it is true that the politician did make some political observations of the somewhat clouded election results, he sounded to do so, it seemed, in neutral and conciliatory tones. I loosely interpreted what San Pedro Gines had to say, too, as including an intention to continue to support the arts and expressing his wish that we all enjoy the concert to come and that we also celebrate The Canaries Day, on the following day.

The entertainment that followed featured collaborations between the twenty odd classical musicians of The Lanzarote Ensemble and the solo timple player, José Vicente Pérez, and also between the orchestra and the thirty strong musical group, Acatife, a band associated with traditional music, mostly rooted in Lanzarote.

Jose and Acatife illustrated why they had each been highlight acts of the recent series of concerts at The Manrique Stage in Arrecife. Lanzarote Ensemble further demonstrated the energy and the strength of Canarian music, in a way that now sees them serve as ipso facto musical ambassadors of Lanzarote and the other Canary Islands. They recently enjoyed great success playing away in London and Berlin, with specially selected programmes, and their musical recipe tonight was of an appropriately Canarian flavour.

The orchestra delivered a couple of opening pieces that, like the waves out on the nearby ocean, seemed to roll in, swell to their peak and then crash in a crescendo against the cave walls before rippling gently away again. These musicians have a thrilling ability to change tempo and mood in the playing of a single note.

Each player effortlessly creates room for us to hear their colleagues, too, and it was perhaps this ability that so marked this evening’s incredible performance with Jose, who was brought on to the stage with a warm introduction from the musical director.

José delivered several solo offerings, representing the breadth of Canarian folk lore music, giving masterful interpretations on the timple and, in so doing, showing it to be an instrument deeply representative of the archipelago. I referred earlier to his performance as being heroic and I employed that adjective as the most accurate I could find. It would have been easy for him to sink into the shadows and simply deliver a ´pleasant´ additional sound, as background or integrated music, of an instrument not often associated with the works of a classical orchestra. Jose didn’t settle for that.

To a man of my generation and taste he, instead, performed like Jimi Hendrix at the legendary jam session at which he blew away the Cream of Clapton, Baker and Bruce. Jose picked, strummed and flailed his tiny timple, always precisely and always musically, as he strutted his stuff. The Lanzarote Ensemble followed his every lead, sometimes playing parallel lines and at others crossing strings that never became entangled. The orchestral playing enhanced the sound of the timple, laying it on a big brass bed above a mattress of strings and rolling percussion. Their own sound, simultaneously, was lifted by the lovely ´high lonesome´ notes of Jose’s instrument.

I have no idea whether this combination of timple and orchestral music has ever been performed live before, or studio recordings made, but if it was, as it seems, an experiment, the results were thrilling and beautiful and must surely be repeated.

As the last of Jose’s notes faded away the thirty white shirted singers and musicians of Acatife appeared down the steps at the back of the stage to replace him. They, too, then worked with Lanzarote Ensemble in concert not only on traditional themes but also on some of their own work too. All this gave us an exquisite blend of choral vocals, instrumental work and solo singers. Dee and I have seen Acatife perform many times and have a couple of their recordings, too, but have never heard their vocals rise to this volume.

The Lanzarote Ensemble played sympathetically and empathetically with the stringed instruments of the folk lore group, never intruding but always supporting, so that the vocalists had a real challenge to rise to match the volume and melodies of the instruments. The singers met the challenge magnificently, their voices seemingly trying to reach the land and skies above the deep, rock roof of the caves and laying over the audience like a comfort blanket.

One song, in particular, we recognised as being part of the staple diet of Lanzarote folk lore music, and we have heard it performed liltingly and gently in market squares as dancers in national costume paraded and pirouetted to its swaying rhythms. Here, this ´little folk song´ sounded enormous, its music urgent and its vocals absolutely joyous. Indeed, the whole set sounded valedictory and celebratory and drew two prolonged standing ovations at the end.

The repertoire of the entire evening was of what I, as a layman, have come to consider as Lanzarote folk lore music, adapted to the symphonic for the timbres of Lanzarote Ensemble. The ´Cantos Canarios´ represented all of The Canary Islands and their people and for The Lanzarote Ensemble, following their away victories in the ´European Champions League´ countries, this return to a home fixture brought them another great triumph.

As we filed back upstairs, past the swimming pool so beautifully illuminated, we basked in the excited chatter that suggested everyone had enjoyed the concert as much as we had. We managed to catch a quick word with writer Larry Yaskiel as we skipped up the stairs. He, like us, had been impressed by how perfectly all the diverse sounds had integrated and, also like us, could only wonder where the musicians had found the huge amount of time surely needed to have rehearsed these new fusions.

Maybe, though, the real genius lies in making the spontaneous sound polished and the polished sound effortlessly spontaneous. I remember a wonderful football report in which a journalist wrote that ´Rooney turned and shot with rehearsed spontaneity´ and it seems to me that this is what this wonderful team of musicians did here. And they scored !!

We had witnessed a wonderful evening of how the arts are employed to celebrate events such Dias de Canarias, and there was no doubt from the noisy chat and laughter on the coach journey back to The Cabildo building that all our fellow passengers had enjoyed the event. Even with the entertainment over and done with, though, there was still a surprise awaiting us all as we arrived back in Arrecife.


Shining a light in dark places in the fight against MS

The following day, May 30th was the annual World Day Of Multiple Sclerosis, dedicated to raising public awareness of the disease. The President of the Association Lanzarote for the assistance of Multiple Sclerosis (AlanEM), Monique Anne Meine had, earlier in the evening, stood at the front main door of the Cabildo of Lanzarote to read a manifesto to publicize the consequences of this neurodegenerative disease. She had made an impassioned call for an improvement in the quality of life of persons suffering from multiple sclerosis.

After the reading of the manifesto, the facade of the Cabildo of Lanzarote turned Orange, photographs of which were included in press releases, distributed the following day, reporting on the event. These press releases informed us that, in Spain alone, MS affects 55,OOO people, three quarters of whom are women.

It sounds a facile thing to say, but so struck was I by the lighting and the facia of the building against the black, night sky that, when I then saw the photographs of it in those pr issues, I paid more attention the following day to news reports of multiple sclerosis in Spain than I would have otherwise done.


Celebrating the celebrations

It has been quite obvious throughout the year so far that The Cabildo Of Lanzarote has celebrated the centenary of the birth of César Manrique by not only honouring the memory of the universal artist, but also by informing and disseminating among residents and tourists the influence of the artist on the island’s tourist development.

To better explain his legacy and works, the Island Council developed numerous lines of telling the story from different departments which have collaborated to project the image of Manrique in many areas.

The Island Council prepared commemorative postcards for the Institutional Act of April 24 at Jameos del Agua, one of the most emotional moments of this year, which focused on an audio-visual show that was broadcast live by radio and television Canaria to all the Islands, with the performance of the Lanzarote born international star, Rosana Arbelo.

Knowing that tourists from all over the world, who visit the island this year and see how we celebrate the centenary of Manrique, might like to learn more about him, the Island Council has also developed a video on the Centennial, that has been distributed to the different tourist employers and is programmed on the internal TV channels in all hotels and apartments in Lanzarote, as well as on the cruise liners that dock at Arrecife.

From the Departments of Art, Culture And Tourism (CACTS) a special edition of paper bags has been launched for their stores, in addition to issuing a collection of commemorative tickets, a special edition of a map of Lanzarote showing the CACT locations and the addition to their website of a specific banner referring to the centenary. The departments have also overseen the organization and dissemination of centenary events on the website and the CACT apps.

Another action of the CACT scheduled to be delivered in this hundredth year since Manrique´s birth is the placement of the artist’s published works in work places that do not yet have them. For this it has commissioned a report to The Architect Of The Departments Of Art, Culture And Tourism, under the supervision of the Advisory Board of the CACT.

Transport firms on the island have also wanted to join the celebration of the centenary of César Manrique. Thus, a bonus was issued of special transport dedicated to the Centennial, with videos and images on screens at bus stations incorporated and two buses have been specially labelled for two months. There is a Memorial in the airport that now bears the name Cesar Manrique and the Cabildo have also distributed stickers for the fleet of taxis on the island
Other high-impact actions included the delivery of gifts related to activities of the centenary in Iberia, through Madrid Express flight on April 24, the day of birth of Manrique.

For further information please check the Cabildo web site or enquire at the Cabildo Office in Arrecife.

Meanwhile, we can bring you advance news of more forthcoming events. When we might have expected the musicians who had played at Jameos Del Agua, in the event reported on at the top of this article, to be basking in much deserved acclaim, they were already, it seemed, thinking ahead.

In fact, timple player Jose Perez told all across the arts in an e mail immediately after the show that the following week he would be playing venues in France with his timple, and his guitarist ! Our friend Juan, who sings with the Acatife group, told us about their next big date on July 21st at The Convent De Santo Domingo in Teguise and we also heard, in a press release from The Cabildo, that The Lanzarote Ensemble will play at The Casa de la Cultura Agustín de La Hoz in Arrecife on Saturday 29th June at 8.00 pm, and include a new work by Lanzarote composer Nino Diaz.

Other events are constantly being penciled in on our all across the arts calendar at the moment. A new visual arts exhibition, for example, runs throughout June at CIC EL Almacen, aka The Warehouse, is described as ´taking a metaphysical look at an imaginary island that lies between Lanzarote and Iceland.´

We are told the work collected in Between Isles reflects our times; on the one hand full of sedimentary textures, luminous glazes and intense chromatics and on the other hand, the music that floods the sound geography of volcanic landscapes.

Wind, Water, Earth and Light play a strange soundtrack in the silence of timeless profiles and silhouettes of the abyss and the plains of nature, naked, primitive, rocky and tormented. The exhibition reflects a landscape born of uncontrollable forces, but touched by a startling geological beauty even as it somehow subjugates and overwhelms us, throws us to the edge of a territory able to transmute our soul; a territory where it seems that time stops, dissolves and disappears, leaving us the sound atmosphere.

I may have lost something, or even inadvertently added something, in the translation of those descriptions by José Ramón Betancort Mesa, but they do speak to me of an unyielding island landscape, that even as we have learned to take nourishment from it, seems to cling ever tighter to its resources.

Guided tours to the exhibition will be led by Estefanía Camejo on Tuesday: 18 June and 9 July at 18:00pm and on Saturday: July 6, at 10:00a.m. We will certainly be attending one of these and look forward to meeting up again with Estafania who gave us an enthusiastic guided trip through the art works of The Cabildo a few weeks ago. Since then she has visited New York, where she visited some its world famous arts venues, including the Guggenheim Museum. We look forward to bringing you a brief interview with her, and reporting on the Ildefonso Aguilar exhibition.

On Tuesday, 18 June, at 20.30 pm in the cinema room there will be a special projection of the audio visuals Manrique And Lanzarote (1978) and Looks To The Landscape.

One week later on Tuesday, June 25, 20.30 pm in the cinema room there will be a showing of an audio-visual with the unwieldy title of Minimalist Vision Of Spatial Work Of Manrique In Lanzarote by Ildefonso Aguilar.

There will also be music, composed by Major Tom (Samuel Aguilar and Miguel Jaubert) being performed top complement the exhibition on various Saturdays in June.



The arts in education on Lanzarote

We reported earlier in this piece how artistic effects of lighting helped deliver an important health message about Multiple Sclerosis and almost simultaneously a press release arrived on the all across the arts computer illustrating how the arts can also play an important role in education in general and social studies in particular.

I grew up listening to my dad regularly recite a Stanley Holloway monologue instead of reading me a bedtime story. Somehow, by some sort of osmosis, I learned so much about real life from these comic verses, and my dad couldn´t believe it when, decades later, I was taking workshops into secondary schools creating ‘mock’ court trials around the tale of the The Lion And Albert. My company, Just Poets, delivered these poetic and dramatic interpretations to lead debate and guide social studies about how magistrates´ courts functioned.

Thirty years later, I now know how my dad must have felt, as I learn that similar methodology, if perhaps less comedic in tone, is being employed here on the island to develop gender perspective, among pupils, in a ´court´ dealing with criminal or administrative responsibility for crimes allegedly committed against women, such sexual exploitation, domestic violence and sexual harassment in the work place.

Students of a number of schools on Lanzarote recently participated in a fictitious trial in the courts of Arrecife, adopting the roles of the parties (claimant and defendant) and professionals involved in a real judicial process (judges, judges, forensic, lawyers, lawyers and attorneys, among others).

The main objective of all this is ‘Educating In Egalitarian Justice’ and is a part of a Cabildo scheme to broaden tolerance and awareness.

When my company worked in the UK with a government agency called Artists In Schools we produced measured evidence that the arts, delivered in role-playing and creative circumstances, can reach out to all our preferred learning methods, so I will follow the success of this scheme with great interest.

Indeed, The Cabildo Of Lanzarote and The Association Of Women Judges Of Spain (AMJE) have thanked the participation and the interest shown by the students of these schools high schools, as well as the collaboration and participation from the educational community and the various professionals who voluntarily have enabled delivery of this annual program for the third consecutive year on Lanzarote.