Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Flamenco

We've been filming all day in the mega heat of Madrid. We were actually based at one of the university buildings on the outskirts where it was apparently a couple of degrees cooler than in the city centre itself, but every time we left an area of air conditioning we almost keeled over.

We came back to the hotel and I borrowed our sound man's lovely Sennheiser headphones to listen to the newly mastered Pepys Motet album for the first time. I lay on the bed and allowed the music to transport me to another world. It felt like a really important moment in time. I started writing the Pepys Motet at the same time as I started writing this blog a full five and a half years ago. That's a heck of a long gestation period, during which time the piece has taken right to the edge of sanity more than I care to mention.

Sadly, since being here I've been coming down with some sort of stomach bug. I've obviously eaten something dodgy. Possibly for breakfast in the hotel. It can foxtrot oscar right off as far as I'm concerned. Fancy trying to wreck my time in Spain!

We went out in central Madrid tonight and did some filming in the Plaza Major, which is a stunningly beautiful medieval square. It's extraordinary to think that when those houses were built, Spain was a super power which owned half of the known world.

I found myself transfixed by a street performer dressed as a dog, with a body created from strips of metallic paper. His face was a mask made of beautifully carved and painted wood, and he could snap his jaws together like the crocodile on You and Me. I wonder if anyone else remembers the crocodile on You and Me? We nick-named him Disco Dog, because when you gave him money, he danced like some sort of rain man. I loved him, and could have watched him doing his thing for hours.

The sunset tonight was spectacular. It looked like a fan-shaped graphic equaliser radiating out from behind a cloud!

We went for tapas in the evening and I repeatedly fell asleep at the table, which I found somewhat mortifying. There was a darkened room behind the restaurant which we were ushered into after eating. The room was filled with dark drapes and red-topped wooden tables and it transpired we were being brought in to watch a flamenco performance.

The show was remarkable: earthy, authentic, dramatic, at times the performers demonstrated deep vulnerability. The opening sequence was hugely moving. The guitarist was a virtuoso, the singers ripped their hearts (and vocals cords) to shreds, and the dancing was universally exquisite. I have seldom seen such fast and precise tapping and clacking. It brought the house down.

We were in the audience with one of the lecturers from the university who had brought us there to see proper flamenco. I turned to him at the interval: "please tell me that was incredible. I haven't just loved every moment of that because I'm a tourist, have I?" I was relieved to hear that the performance had indeed been a high calibre one.

What a perfect end to a very special few days in this remarkable city.

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