September’s full moon is in the sky. On the ground, two thousand people sitting in the stands and chairs of the Theatre of the Axerquía. The musicians go up the stage first, the Orchestra of Córdoba, dressed with strict etiquette and carrying their instruments of work: violins, violas, contrabasses, horns, flutes, oboes, bassoons, arps, piano… Each one a necessary piece of a musical puzzle. After, the Ziryab choir: seventy-five men and women wearing tight black take their place in rows behind. It’s a paradox that armony starts from chaos: over a sustained note, each musician tunes their instrument. Until they manage to do so, disonance can be really annoying (luckly, they’re professionals).
Finally, the director, Roque Baños, enters the stage. The man from Murcia is forty years old this year, but he doesn’t look like that. At this age, who could say that he’s one of the most important and well known soundtracks composer not only in our country, with more than thirty films under his belt, and could direct the orchestra wearing dark jeans and white shirt?
First, a silence that could be cut, and then, slowly, with smoothly, rythmic, the sound emerges, the melody, the harmony, the melancholic notes from Carreteras secundarias or Segunda piel, the disturbing ones from La comunidad, the epic from El corazón del guerrero or the elegy from Las 13 rosas. Above them, on a screen, images go by, sometimes a still photo, others moving video, passages of the same movies which music we listen in perfect synchrony.
And the choir. The orchestra is pure beauty, but when the choir sings, that beauty acquires another dimension. The suite from Frágiles is a storm of restlessness followed by the absolute and icy sadness within the soprano voices of the Ziryab choir. Alatriste is the story of a time and a man, a natural born loser loyal to his own honor code until the end, and Baños’ score is loyal to the melancholy of those who know themselves trapped by fate, too. The final is tremendous, drums full powered, strings and brass are pure epic and the voices… well, you have to feel it. When it ends, we’re all standing, honourably defeated: the Orchestra of Córdoba, the Ziryab choir and Roque Baños have beaten us up.
At the Theatre of Axerquía, for two hours, the show works as a perfect mechanism: each piece fits in its place at the right moment. In such a natural manner that we’re only conscious about the result, but never about the process. Somehow, that’s where success lies. However, I had the chance (never appreciated enough) to attend the rehearsals of this concert. And it changes the perspective.
The rehearsal was at the Gran Teatro, in the last floor, in a room with wooden sloping ceiling. Wide enough for the musicians to have their own space without bothering their colleagues, but nothing else. In that space the musicians are, first of all, just people. No traces of etiquette: t-shirts, jeans, shirts, sport shoes… whatever is necessary to stay comfortable, because they’re spending many hours here. You know who the director is because he’s at the music stand, otherwise Roque Baños, wearing sport clothes, would go unnoticed. This time composer and director coincide in the same person. The result is an unbounded eagerness for perfection and an absolute knowing of the score, so the questions asked by the musicians are answered quickly. It’s a master class. But, even now, it’s only the tip of the iceberg. I wonder how many hours would have they spent, alone, practicing one time and time again each bar of the score. The choir is also there, of course. They warmed their voices up with ‘easy’ exercises before they went up and now are ready to play their part in the multifaceted work of Baños. One by one, talking to them, their voices sound like yours or mine. No one could guess the magic that hides behind. Or maybe Javier Sáenz-López Buñuel, the choir director, was able to do so. In any case, when they sound all together, or when one of them plays a solo part… well, you have to feel it.
Because I saw them making mistakes and correcting them, repeating time and time again; because I’ve seen their efforts and tenacity, and also their joy for the work well done; for all of this, standing clapping at the end of the concert at the Axerquia is not an automatic gesture, but a very aware one. And it’s not because it was just beautiful. It is a sign of admiration and respect.