Unholy state of music in Spain

Rafael Puyol. Vicepresident. IE Foundation

14 February 2012

Nowhere is Spain’s lack of sensitivity to music more evident that in its churches, where a couple of guitars accompanied by out-of-tune voices are all you usually get.

A few days ago I was watching a program called Spaniards around the world when I heard the comments of a young musician who, with his double bass at his side, said that he had left Spain because the conditions and incentives he needed to pursue his career simply didn’t exist here. And he had a point, because we have never really nurtured the conditions to learn or appreciate musical instruments. Perhaps the most salient example of this is the music we play in our churches.

When you travel around Europe, regardless of the culture in question, you can observe how music plays a key role in both solemn or everyday religious ceremonies, from masses to funerals. I had the occasion once to attend a religious celebration on All Saints Day in Canterbury Cathedral, and I have to say that I was truly impressed by the delicacy, appropriateness and quality of the music, sung by a choir who really knew their stuff. Here in Spain, with a few notable exceptions, the music played at religious ceremonies is hastily and very half-heartedly cobbled together, using few resources.

The musical instruments are reduced to a couple of guitars that might be accompanied by some loud bongos and untrained voices that sing corny choruses over and over again with great affectation. The only alternative to this is canned music, devoid of voices and accompaniment. And if there does happen to be a choir, you can bet the singing is badly out of tune and that it can barely muster a boring and third-rate performance.

I am not asking churches to provide the large professional choirs and orchestras of the past. The times we now live in require greater levels of austerity. But we really should do more about music in places of worship here in Spain, to have better, more dignified and serious music. As Robert Schumann once said, “music is always the language which permits one to converse with the Beyond”.

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