Casa Rosales

Casa Rosales

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Blubbin' in the sun

San Juan, with houses built into and around it - part of the community
On Sunday evening, I walked up the hill to the church near La Mota - La Iglesia de San Juan - where the local residents and many more from Alcala la Real came to see the Cristo de la Salud brought out for a procession around the steep and narrow streets.

We'd been awoken early in the morning by a series of loud explosions. At first I thought it was guns and possibly the start of some important hunting season but as I took Darwin out, there were more loud bangs, with the telltale signs of firework explosions - little white clouds in an otherwise immaculately blue sky. My neighbour informed me that there would be a procession that evening as she manically swept up leaves, bits of paper, dust and anything else that just happened to be on the little pathway down from the park. She sweeps and cleans all day; every day. (She is Manuel's wife - Manuel of the accordian playing - and I am unable to fix her name in my head but it could, for the sake of this tale be 'Inmaculada' as it's a common enough name around here.) Cesar tells me that when he talks to Manuel, Manuel tells him his wife is mad. When I speak to the wife, she tells me that her husband is mad. The other evening, Cesar was out having his late night cigarette (disgusting habit) outside, where he met the son of these two mad folk. He was on his little motorbike and had a plastic bag dangling over the handle. In it was a live crayfish. The son, also called Manuel, was not sober and also very cross because his father had brought home the crayfish earlier and now he, the son, was going to have to take it all the way back to the river to set if free again, otherwise it would die. It was about 2 o'clock in the morning....They are a clean, musical, caring family. Mad as hatters all of them.

Anyhow, I was told that the procession would start at 7.30 so I strolled up the hill for around that time. And of course, I was much too early. Much.

Putting the finishing touches
And the crowds begin to gather

 It must have been well after 9 before the statue was hoisted upon the shoulders of the twenty or so men who then carried it around the area, followed by quite a large, loud band. The trumpeters blast their tunes shrilly; the drums follow an insistent, repetative rhythm and the trombones and saxophones are invariably slightly out of tune. I couldn't help thinking that it's such a shame that the bands never play anything really fun or even pleasant.

And later on that same evening, I came home and did some reading of my favourite blogs, including one written by my friend Andy Simcox whose latest entry included a clip of a brass band playing in his local park. As the weather is always unpredictable in northern England - well, England all over - the band had in its repertoire, 'Singin' in the Rain' and as I listened to this little clip and heard those lovely mellow euphonium sounds; trumpets that played loudly - and softly - introducing subtlety and humour; drums providing something other than insistent repetition; harmony, melody, counterpart....well, I admit it, I wept. For me, listening to this long-established but by no means famous band, brought me an overwhelming nostalgia. I spent most of the years of my youth playing in orchestras and bands and then rediscovered the pleasure in my thirties when I started playing again. There is a joy - a pure joy - in making music together with like-minded people that I find difficult to put into words but that probably means more to me, despite my lack of any real talent, than most other things in the world. There's the pleasure of the little perfect musical phrase - it might be played in any section of the band or the orchestra - and in every rehearsal, you wait for it, anticipation building, until the moment arrives and that particular mix of interval, tone and tempo sets off a delightful set of goosebumps. From Mozart's Requiem to Grainger's Country Gardens , (played here by the Yorkshire Wind Orchestra, of which I was once a grateful member (3rd clarinet, second stand), an orchestra otherwise full of wonderful musicians including many good friends) I have enjoyed many a frisson of delight and you cannot beat a good frisson! Music has always done this to me and one day, I will document my very best frissons because I do like to share.

Anyway, here is a link to the music recorded by Andy in his local park in's more than a million miles away from how bands play here in Spain but it transported me 'home' immediately and provided me with several little frissons throughout! (Love the strong local accent you can hear from time to time.)

Thanks Andy!


  1. hello Annie:
    We were so interested to read of your music playing and are saddened that you do not seem to have an outlet for it at present. We can understand exactly what you mean about the wonderful camaraderie which exists between fellow players and the excitement when everything 'comes together'. Perhaps you should investigate what musical groups there are near you? After all, even an out of tune procession band might be a start!!!

    The church is absolutely beautiful and we love the way that it rises out of the adjoining houses of which it is an integral part. Lovely!!

  2. Would that I could, Lance and Jane, but the local bands really do nothing for me at all. I joined one last time I lived in Spain but everyone played so loudly that my ears couldn't stand it! I have played such a lot in the past that I can get by with my memories - no one can spoil those and in fact, they improve with time - so please don't be saddened. Axxx

  3. Annie, It's nice to hear and share the reaction that the brass prompted. It always gives me a lump in the throat too, partly because of the association with all that is this part of England, but also because, like you, I was a part of a number of orchestras in my earlier years - 1st trombone in the Rotherham Schools Orchestra for a start.

    I know exactly what you mean about those frisson moments that you anticipate. I can picture very clearly a time playing Eine Kleine Nachtmusik in a brass quartet and the building excitement for many individual parts, including the trombone's romp through the lower chords near the end! I hope you can find an outlet for your talent which clearly lasted much longer than mine in practice.

    The voice that you can hear most clearly near the beginning, by the way, is that of my father-in-law - he of the stroke a couple of years ago, a lover of music all his life, and a lifelong resident of Chapeltown and user of the park. He was a key figure in the Whit Walks in the 80s, and it was nice to see him and Margaret venturing into the park to listen to the music. The last time he did so was in Huddersfield Town Hall a few weeks ago, for the Choral Society's Junior Choir and the Elland Youth Brass Band ... the most frequent expression from him being "absolutely brilliant" on that occasion. The power of music.

    Take care,
    Andy X

  4. I know what you mean about the goosebumps, Annie. Music seems to shoot arrows straight to our hearts.



I welcome your comments - it makes blogging even more fun to know someone is reading!