Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Eric Conway: We packed up our bags once again to tour yet another Spanish city, Malaga, Spain, prior to concert in a neighboring city, Coin, Spain

Dr. Eric Conway of Morgan State University Choir writes:

Day 6 in Spain,

As it appears that we are seeing as much of Spain as one could possibly see in nine days or so. We packed up our bags once again to tour yet another Spanish city, Malaga, Spain, prior to concert in a neighboring city, Coin, Spain.

On the way to Malaga, we stopped at a Mediterranean resort community called Torremolinos to see yet another face of Spain.  After a two hour drive to the town, we walked several blocks to the beach from the center of town.  Many of us commented that the place felt like our own Ocean City, MD.  However, I guess one beach community looks like another.  We were pleased that despite the fact that we were going more South in the country, the temperatures were becoming more moderate and comfortable.

We were walking ultimately for a group lunch at a restaurant on the beach.  Any meal on the beach, makes the food go down better!  This restaurant as you will see, had many new foods that we all tried and some even ate and enjoyed!  The typical Spanish meal began with a salad of which the only choice for dressing was olive oil and vinegar which you poured on your salad separately, rather then coming out of bottle premixed.  Many Americans eat sardines from a can, however, how many have never eaten fresh sardines that are roasted over fire!  We then had a plate of two other types of fish, smelts and cod, lightly battered and fried.  Most were content for that to be the last course, however, the courses kept on coming.   The waiters then brought out another typical dish from the Andalucian region, - paella with many different types of fish mixed in the rice which was quite tasty.  We finished the meal with ice cream.  Many Americans or persons who do not regularly travel are reluctant to try new foods, however, I believe: what is the point of traveling if you cannot taste the culture?  Unfortunately, despite my encouragement to the choir to try new foods, there was some trepidation regarding trying new foods, especially in a foreign country.  Unfortunately, I believe there was much food wasted on the anxious American students, but in Español  “Así Es La Vida”  - that’s life!

One of the highlights for us was a sand sculpture showing the faces of every person in the European Union - including our Great Britain and United States in Donald J. Trump.  The figures are incredibly lifelike.  Due to wind and rain the artist, must tidy up daily to remain in tact.  The artist stays in place to collect in donations from tourists.  As the chair of Fine Arts at Morgan, I appreciated the work as fine as any piece of three dimentional sculpture I had every seen.  The entire sand display is a political statement on the disaffection with the ecomony in Spain after the European Union institutated the Euro as the common currency of Europe.  After the Euro was in effect, the economies of the southen European countries became much weaker.  One will notice the face of Angela Merkel in the center of the array of leaders whose face has been altered via Photoshop to show the anger of the Spanish people.  

We then drove an additional thirty minutes to Malaga, the sixth largest city in Spain, and the southernmost large city in all of Europe!  Malaga was founded in 1500 - 539 - BC making it one of the oldest cities in Europe founded by the Phoenicians!  The Phoenicians to Spain is similar to Europe to the United States in culture that travelled from their own country to explore new land, settle and conquer.  

I was very surprised to see the parent of one of the choir members from the Prince Georges county meet us at the hotel in Malaga.  She made a vacation in Europe around our trip to Spain. In all of our years, we have never had a parent go so far to hear their child sing a concert!  She was excited to meet up with the group and especially her daughter!

Malaga has the distinction being the birthplace of the well know artist Pablo Picasso and the current actor Antonio Banderas.   After the Phoenicians, the Romans occupied Malaga, and then the Muslims.  Most of us think of the Middle East when we think of Muslim territory, but we all were intrigued that much of Spain was inhabited by Muslims for eight hundred years!  The Muslims hey-day in Southern Europe approximately mirrored the Middle Ages in Europe, had a huge Empire in Southern Europe during that time. 

As an aside, currently, Muslims are returning to Spain, making large families at an alarming rate, possibly to regain majority rule in about a hundred years or so!  This concerns the Spanish people greatly, as their families are much smaller. We only had a few moments to try to see Malaga, but we appreciated the history as many very old structures, from over two thousand years are still standing.

We then traveled to Coin, Spain the site of our concert - the Parroquia San Juan Bautista church.  This church is the main church in the community, with a very old building (as is everything practically in Spain compared to America.  The most difficult part of the trip to the church was the very steep incline to get to the church, perhaps at a 45 degree angle, which challenged the best athlete in the group.

This concert like the first concert where we shared the program with a local choir - Coral Alminares de Nerja.  This choir was larger that the Madrid choir, numbering 45, at least twenty years older.  Once again, the format was for the local choir to open up, the Morgan choir then sing the principal set, followed by a joint section.  We first thought that they might not be as strong as the first choir, but immediately found our impression to be incorrect, as they sang quite well and intentional.

Like the first church concert, this was a free event.  As mentioned earlier, often concerts in smaller areas are much better attended because of the limited cultural activities available.  The concert in Coin, was the best attended concert thus far with over five hundred in attendance.  There were so many in attendance, that at least an additional 75 chairs had to be placed beside the pews in the church.  

The church priest was quite welcoming, and made everyone feel at home.  This particular large space, had a sound system superior to the first which resulted in a much better presentation.  Although the theatre venue had a much more pristine and pure sound for the choir, the audience was much more formal and staid in their reception of the choir, although very much appreciated.  This return to a church, was received as well if not better than the first concert.  We typically sell CDs and DVDs at our concerts, and we ran out at this concert. Once again, this concert was received much like we the first two, so enthusiastically, that an outside might think our concert was pseudo cult-like!

See photos attached sharing the experience of the day!


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