Música en Compostela – revisiting the international Spanish Music Festival

Students in Santiago de Compostela Guitar Course with Jose Luis Rodrigo (front row, fourth from the right).
Tamara & Neil Caulkins are in the back row on the right.

Santiago de Compostela in the northwest of Spain is not only famous as the destination for a pilgrimage route from all corners of Europe, but is also the site of an international music festival dedicated to the study of Spanish music. We received scholarships to participate in this course many years ago where we first studied with José Luis Rodrigo-Bravo, a consumate musician and brilliant teacher.*

In lieu of the cancelled festival, José María Gallardo del Rey, the newly appointed guitar maestro at Música en Compostela, presented two days of lecture/demonstrations online last week. Gallardo is a dynamic teacher and performer as well as a wonderful interpretor of Spanish music. He hails from Andalucia, the heartland of Flamenco music and dance, and it is evident that Gallardo, who has played with Paco de Lucia, has a deep appreciation for musical folk roots – both of Spanish flamenco and Latin American popular music.

Gallardo’s course was conducted entirely in Spanish – one of Tamara’s students described his Spanish as a blur! – so we thought it might be helpful to share some of the highlights from his presentation. The class was recorded and you can find the videos for Dec. 17 here and Dec. 18 here: each day ran about two hours although on the second day, Gallardo went over about 20 minutes because he had to say something about Mompou’s Suite Compostelana, a suite written for the festival.

Each video starts with Gallardo offering an homage to Andres Segovia, who started the festival in 1958 along with diplomat José Miguel Ruiz Morales. The video begins with a stunning view of the enormous cathedral on the main town plaza. Legend has it that the body of James, the brother of Jesus, is interred in Compostela – hence the name: his body is literally “composting” there. Pilgrims who made it to Santiago were often in rather bad shape by the time they made it to this distant town, so they recovered in the castle-like hospital that is now a “Parador” (restored luxury hotel). Festival classes are held on the main floor. In this same room, we participated in the course many years ago.

In addition to the Spanish guitar repertoire, students from all over the world come to the festival to study Spanish music for piano, organ, voice, and strings, as well as musicology and composition. It is worth saying a bit about Spanish organ music as Spanish organs – and many organs in Latin America – include idiomatic reeds amongst the usual organ pipes which give Spanish organ music a particular (and wonderful!) quality as can be heard in this example.

* Many of José Luis Rodrigo’s former students – including Eulogio Albalat, Juan Carlos Lorenzo Vila, Angelito Agcaoili, Virginia Yep, the Caulkins Guitar Duo, and others (please let us know if you should be on this list!) – were planning a concert in memory of our beloved maestro José Luis, for August 12, 2020. This has been postponed due to the pandemic – stay tuned!

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