I know that there is always music to be found in Jerez de la Frontera. Usually it’s of the flamenco variety, but I have, in the past, happened across 13th century song cycles, jazz, classical, modern tribute bands (hearing ‘Radio Gaga’ resounding from the walls of the ancient Alcazar some years ago was quite something) and world music. This summer is no exception with a range of concerts, sometimes free, sometimes charged for, in some spectacular locations. July saw ‘Baile’ a series of flamenco dance performances in the 13th century Claustros de Santo Domingo and ‘Mima’ or Musicas Improvisadas En El Museo Arquelogico in the eponymous museum. I caught the wonderful jazz trio Nocturno on a sultry Wednesday night playing their own compositions, inspired by the night and Frankenstein. The music was stupendous. I wondered what Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley would have made of it, I’d like to think that, free thinker as she was, she would have enjoyed it as much as the audience did. Afterwards, given the temperature, musicians and audience spent the next hour or so in the Plaza Mercado (the old Moorish market place, which features in my novel Reconquista ) drinking excellent wine.
Two other series continue into August – ‘Viernes Flamenco’, with some tremendous musicians, David Carpio and Manuel Valencia to name but two, again in the Claustros and ‘Noches de Bohemia’, likewise. I was annoyed to have missed the sublime-voiced David Lagos in the latter, but I did catch the Raul Rodriguez Trio with special guest kora player, Sirifo Kouyate. On Saturday evening the set included music part-flamenco-part-arabian (you could say the first comes from the second anyway), modern rock-style electric guitar and the wonderfully fluid arpeggios of the kora. These concerts run into the 55th Fiesta de la Buleria de Jerez, a stunning series of gala concerts with the cream of flamenco performers – Manuel Lignan, Gema Moneo, David Carpio, Antonio El Pipa, Manuela Carrasco and more. The buleria was invented in Jerez, it is very rapid and complex, with demanding changes in rhythm for all performers. Guitarists consider it possibly the most virtuosic of the soleas. Lively and intense, it is also great fun, often performed at parties and as a dance at the end of a show, when all the performers (not just the dancers) join in. With origins in the nineteenth century it was popularised outside of Jerez and other corners of Andalucia in the twentieth century by ‘cross-over’ artists like the guitarist Paco de Lucia and singer Camaron. Still going strong, it is celebrated annually in Jerez, just before the beginning of the vendimia, the wine harvest. This, and the other series of concerts have been augmented by free concerts and dance performances in Plaza Ascuncion, in front of the 13th century church of San Dionysio and the neo-classical town hall.
Then, of course, from September there is the Autumn programme at the Teatro Villamarta. No matter what time of year song, dance and melodies are always to be found in Jerez, city of music. Here is a snatch of a buleria played by a master… watch those fingers.