August in Granada
August is a favourite time of ours in Granada. Traditionally the month for holidays, many inland-dwelling Spaniards abandon the cities in favour of the cooler coasts and leave the streets relatively clear of traffic, both human and mechanical. The holiday season has an immediate effect, and following this year's official start weekend of 28th and 29th July, a languid calm descends, almost overnight, on the city centre. The downside is that many bars also close for the holiday season, so hunting for a watering hole can be unpredictable.
Despite the holidays, paradoxically Granada is alive with music and performance and that is not just limited to the city. There is a very full programme of events across the province, and we have already started to enjoy some of these.
Starting on 19th July and running until 10th August, Granada is currently hosting the 2nd Festival de la Guitarra, a showcase for some of the finest exponents of the guitar. We managed to catch one performance last year, when one of our friends, Sophie, came to visit, and the setting, outside the Auditorio Manuel de Falla, was magical, as was the performance. This year, we made a determined effort to see more of the programme; many of the performances are free and located in some of Granada’s most gorgeous settings.
On the first day of the Festival, we caught a performance by the incredibly talented young guitarist, Alberto López, in the Patio del Ayuntamiento - the colonnaded courtyard in the City Hall. The sounds created by this musician often defied belief, from the most delicate fingering across the strings accompanied by extraordinary percussive punctuation. Thrilling and emotive by turn, the performance ended with a justified ovation.
We had planned our evening to ensure that we could grab some tapas between performances, so we headed off in the direction of the Plaza Pescaderia, just to the south-east of the Cathedral, for a drink and nibble at Restaurante Oliver, still one of our favourite spots for both food and people-watching.
The next concert we wanted to see was in the Plaza de la Pasiegas, literally down the steps from the front of the huge Cathedral. This concert was branded as the Gran Gala Final, the performance to bring the opening day of the Festival to a close. Four musicians: pianist, violinist, percussionist and guitarist, as well as a dancer. Other than that, we had no idea what to expect. Again, this concert was completely free, with seating arranged in the square and people standing around the perimeter, or seated on the wide steps of the cathedral.
As the musicians started to perform, it became clear that this was not a traditional flamenco or Spanish guitar concert, as there was the low hum of a synthesiser supporting a contemporary start on the piano. The young musicians were dressed informally, and it was obvious that they loved performing together. The programme of music was hugely impressive - a fusion of contemporary styles with very traditional foundations based on Spanish flamenco culture. The violinist, Yorrick Troman, had a solo spot where he laid down backing tracks on stage with a twitch of his foot and then played a soaring solo part over the top. He was superb and thrilling to watch.
The highlight to the evening came with the arrival of dancer Alba Heredia, in a stunning white full flamenco dress who then delivered a dance performance of such grace, elegance and drama that we have yet to see exceeded. [turn up the sound when you watch the video!]
Andrew and I both love music and theatre, and this amazing concert had everything that we could have wished for, and it appeared that it appealed to everyone in the audience as, once again, when the concert drew to a close, as a body we rose to our feet. Fantastic!
This week, we return to Granada to see another performance, this time in the Palacio de Carlos V in the heart of The Alhambra Palace complex.
Running concurrently, Granada is also in the middle of its annual Lorca y Granada en los Jardines del Generalife Festival. This music and dance festival depicts periods in the life of Federico Garcia Lorca, and is staged in the open air theatre in the Generalife Gardens, part of the Alhambra. This year’s performance, Flamenco Lorquiano, runs until 1st September.
Third on our list of August treats is another festival, but this time high in the Alpujarra hills, nestled below the Sierra Nevada mountain range, and a very unexpected festival it is.
Me Vuelves Lorca was established in 2015 by Anna Kemp, originally from the UK but who started her career in Madrid working in continuity in Spanish TV and film. Having worked on the film adaptation of Gerald Brenan’s book, South from Granada, (see a previous post to learn more about Gerald Brenan) Anna visited and fell in love with the Alpujarras, and bought a house in the tiny village of Laroles. It is here that she began to develop the idea for a festival that, in her words, ‘punches above its weight’, and her passionate and dedicated team manages to attract some of the biggest names in performance from both Spain and worldwide.
We are going on 10th August to see a fusion of Flamenco and Kathak, performed by Belén Maya and Amina Khayyam - dancing on a stage erected on an old threshing circle with a backdrop that goes on for ever over the valley towards the coast. Magical.
So, August in Granada may be a languid month for many, but culturally it is rich and exciting, and we are enjoying every moment.
If music and the arts is a passion, and you are thinking of visiting Granada in the future, we at Granada Concierge can help you with time-specific recommendations and suggestions of events taking place during your visit.