12 August 2010

Festival Internacional de Música Al-Kalat

Every year in the middle week of August the polite vowels of the Home Counties can be heard in the streets, restaurants and bars of Alcalá.  Hearing strangers speaking English here always gives me a bit of a jolt, as if I have suddenly been Tardissed to the wrong time and place.  But these well-behaved visitors are not aliens, they are here for the Festival.  They are the families, friends and followers of the Soloists of London.

The idea of a classical music festival in Alcalá was conceived a few years ago by part-time resident Matthew Coman.  Matt is a member of the Soloists of London, a collection of stringed instrument players whose respective CVs include the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the English Chamber Orchestra, and who have played before two Queens and a Pope as well as jamming with the likes of Madonna and Paul McCartney.

According to a recent press statement issued by Gema Pérez, local councillor responsible for "Culchah", dreams are there to be realised and the festival is now one of the highlights of the summer cultural calendar in the area. This, apparently, is due to the tireless efforts of the illustrious Ayuntamiento in promoting the event and attracting sponsorship, and to the good people of Alcalá who attend the concerts.  It would have been nice if she had also mentioned the efforts of Matthew and his colleagues in attracting internationally famous guest musicians to come and play here, and the five days he and some of the other Soloists spend improving he musical skills of fifty-odd local schoolkids.

Nevertheless, the event has definitely put Alcalá on the map and the town´s hoteliers and restaurant owners love it.  So do many of the locals, as they get a unique chance to hear fine music in the beautiful setting of the Patio de la Sagrada Familia school, or the Church of San Jorge.

The festival always kicks off with a flamenco night, and you will see highlights of this year´s concert as soon as I can persuade YouTube to upload my video clips.   Last night the kids got to show off their skills in the Cádiz Youth Orchestra, and tonight we are eagerly looking forward to Vivaldi´s Four Seasons by candlelight, featuring Sony Prizewinner David Le Page on violin.

A couple of years ago some of the Soloists were accompanied by an impromptu chorus from a flock of starlings roosting in the eaves of the patio.  Fortunately I had my camera with me ...

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