More Inspiration in Spain

by | Dec 3, 2006 | Abroad

Related Categories: Abroad
Posts by: Brian

The heat wasn’t the only thing inspiring about last summer’s stay in Granada.  Just being immersed in a different culture for a time was tremendously useful.  Speaking of culture, I went to two concerts during my month there, both of which were quite different from anything I could have experienced here in Colorado.  The Spanish don’t stick their culture up on a pedestal, but keep it down low and accessible, where everybody and his dog can have a chance to enjoy it.

The first was a concert of religious music by Francisco Guerrero, the major part of the program consisting of the Missa Super flumina Babylonis.  His Majesty’s Sagbutts and Cornetts played while the Ensemble Plus Ultra and the Schola Antiqua sang.  You don’t hear a lot of 16th century masses played here in the Springs, let alone with actual sagbutts and cornetts.  The only liberty taken at this performance was that the choir used women instead of boys.

A bonus was that the concert was held in the cathedral, which otherwise was closed for renovations.  It wasn’t the first time I’ve heard a concert in a cathedral, and I hope it won’t be the last.  Huge spaces and all that stone can make for wonderful acoustics, and ancient music especially sounds perfect in such a setting.  Guerrero writes a most otherworldly mass, and while the music was playing I felt as though I had been transported to some other, more heavenly realm.  I left with a spring in my step and a smile on my face.

The other concert was outside, late at night, in the cathedral square.  The Youth Symphony of Andalucia played two symphonies, one by Mozart and the other by my man Shostakovich.  I arrived just as they were about to begin the latter, and by golly they played their hearts out.  Unfortunately you couldn’t hear much of it, except when the tympani were engaged.

I had wandered in from behind the cathedral, and was at the back of the orchestra.  It was a very casual crowd that I found myself among.  Cell phones rang and rang, and when people answered them, they had to talk loudly because of all the other noise.  The cathedral square is right in the city center, so gaggles of tourists and giggles of Spanish girls passed constantly to and fro.  Then, too, the usual nighttime denizens of the square were on hand, passing bottles and trying to sleep through a floodlit concert that had invaded what was usually their bedroom.  Every now and then one of them would get up to pee through the iron railings at the front of the cathedral, which is something you rarely see or smell at a classical music concert.  Many street people in Granada have dogs, and the dogs were being kept awake, too.  Being awake, one of the dogs would start to bark.  You know what dogs do when they hear the bark of a fellow canine.  At times it was so bad that you could hardly hear the ringing of the cellphones.

Across the square, at the front of the orchestra, chairs had been set up.  All seemed to be occupied, but there was standing room behind them, so I thought I’d mosey around and maybe catch some of the quiet passages in the music that way.  There was a bar at the corner of the square, and in the bar was a television set, and on the television set was World Cup Soccer.  Something exciting must have happened in the game just as I made my way around to the front of the orchestra, because the sound of the cheering from inside the bar would have eclipsed even barking dogs.

I didn’t stay for the end of the concert, even though the playing, what could be heard of it, was excellent, but headed off into the night with another smile on my face.