Competing against the weather in La Coruña, Spain

The Museum of Contemporary Arts in La Coruña (MACUF) is a spacious place housed within the compound of the electricity company Union Fenosa. Our new programme of 21st century music for piano guitar duo contains two world premieres, Gijs van Dijk’s Abstract and Dance and Heleen Verleur’s Fire from the Five Elements.

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The weather in La Coruña, our host and pianist friend David Lopez, is typically windy, cold, wet, and grey — the kind that makes you want to stay indoors instead of braving the elements. Much to our surprise, it was sunny when we landed on 2nd May 2009, a public holiday weekend in Spain.

Our first view of La Coruna, from the taxi ride from the airport
Our first view of La Coruna, from the taxi ride from the airport

These two factors alone, sunny weather and public holiday, would prove risky, if not deadly, for audience development. In other words, don’t count on getting as many people as you’d normally expect to come to a live classical concert.

The third factor, I learned later, is that contemporary music, i.e. works of live composers, are not readily received in this part of Spain. For that reason, Ruben Somesa, the Spanish composer who proposed this series (in its 3rd year) deliberately made it a didactic one — i.e. to educate the public.

Our new programme of 21st century music for piano guitar duo contains two world premieres, Gijs van Dijk’s Abstract and Dance and Heleen Verleur’s Fire from the Five Elements. Both composers had come to our “Duo for Export” benefit concert in Utrecht to support our first trip to the USA in 2007. While it’s always exciting to have the composers at our premieres, it wasn’t possible on this occasion. We have thus planned on a repeat of this programme in Amsterdam, on Sunday 12 July 2009 (4-page PDF). Hopefully all the composers will be there.

The Museum of Contemporary Arts in La Coruña (MACUF) is a spacious place housed within the compound of the electricity company Union Fenosa. I would have liked to have met the employees, if not to reminisce those good ol’ days in the dawn of electricity deregulation when I was frantically completing my thesis and later interviewing energy executives about competition. Piano was a companion but not the focus in those days. Now, it’s the reverse with energy just a distant memory.

As with all concerts, we needed to test the acoustics beforehand. The modern building of MACUF has high ceilings and a lot more echo than we’re used to. I tried to warm up with a relatively unknown piece that sounds like Chopin (in the video below).

To prepare for Lan Chee Lam‘s “Drizzle” I labelled a few notes on scrap pieces of paper to put on the strings inside the piano so that I could easily find them the next day. Without the usual plastic guitar picks, I would have to pluck the high C, E, A, B, D, and highest E strings with my short fingernails.

Preparing the grand piano for Lan Chee Lams Drizzle
Preparing the grand piano for Lan Chee Lam's "Drizzle

After our rehearsal, I asked Robert Bekkers to play a solo piece while I experimented with the video function of my mobile telephone. The rainbow colours of the setting sun danced upon the white walls through the suspended crystal ball, creating a magical effect on this mystical work of Barrios.

By the time we finished rehearsing, it was well past 8 pm. Time to leave, return to the hotel, and rest for the big day. We were not hungry after a late lunch of authentic mouth-watering Galician octopus, prawns, and clams. Instead, we looked forward to an early night, in spite of the big game of Madrid vs Barcelona.

Encore: I just wanted to hear one of my favourite pieces, or rather, the tremolos in Tarrega’s Requerdos de Alhambra.

Note: coincidentally my article (5 page pdf) “Betting on the Weather” had nothing to do with risk management of weather and concerts. Perhaps there ought to be some way to hedge the effect of good weather on audience development! Nearly five years ago, I wrote an article of the same title, “Competing against the weather,” but in Den Haag!

Author: BLOGmaiden

As one of the earliest bloggers (since 1999), I enjoy meeting people who embrace "out-of-the-box" thinking and fear not the unknown. I believe in collaboration for sustainability because it increases stakeholder value.

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