Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Spanish Serenades

I loved being serenaded in Spain. And I don't mean a violinist strolling between restaurant tables. 

In Barcelona that meant the subway stations where an elderly violinist played to a track of greatest abbreviated classical hits; and a woman strummed acoustic guitar while singing in a clear voice. The tile walls magnified the sound like a really big shower. No thanks to rolling carts and portable karaoke machines, mediocre vocalists accompanied us as we traveled under the city. Then they passed the hat hoping for donations. 

The best ensembles were around the main cathedral. A dixieland jazz duo-trumpet and piano staked out the main entrance. Now that took some major effort! The piano had been rolled onto the plaza from who knows where. A nearby apartment lobby? A truck?

They drew a good crowd, and their donations were more than a drop in their bucket. I was happy to add my euros to it. And to the open music case of the group around the corner. 

There, an Indian-jazz fusion group set up. They had a mellow sound, the oboe player coming in with short improvisation. Usually I can't guess where a jazz melody line is going to go, but I could almost hum along with these guys. I wish there had been benches, I'd have listened for a lot longer. 

In Grenada a couple of scruffy young guys played hot-tub-for-the-mind music. I gave them B+ for the interesting miniature steel drum, only C for their sound.

The violinist in Madrid was clearly trained as a serious musician. We took an outside table at a little bar across the alley  and ordered a beverage so I could listen until he finished his set--about twenty minutes. He not only played beautifully, he engaged the children who came by. If they tarried, he got down to their level so they could clearly see how he created his magical sound.  One young dad danced with his infant. A passing toddler in a stroller turned his whole body to stay focused until he couldn't turn any further. 

I was reminded that there are many talented people in the world. Not all of them find spots on the stage. This man exuded joy, and I thanked him for sharing his disciplined skill and love of music with us that day.

These encounters are among the reasons I won't travel with a tour. They speed walk from "must-see" to "don't miss". And while doing so, they hurry by the very heart of a place.

Where has incidental music captured your attention?  


  1. I went to Munich several years ago for a work assignment and my husband came with me. We stopped to listen to several musicians playing in the squares and on the sidewalks. They blessed my soul.

  2. Sherry, what kind of music were they playing?

  3. Everything you can imagine. A classical pianist or two but lots of 60s rock and roll!


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