Notes by Paco Peña

There are for me two equally compelling reasons for taking Lorca as a central subject for this project: in the first place, apart from the genius of his poetry and writings, he was a consummate musician and made an important contribution to the Andalusian folk repertoire; furthermore, his poetry is so deeply evocative of his beloved native land, and so linked to the essential expression of flamenco that it is a constant source of inspiration for any artist in the genre.


On the other hand, Federico lost his life in the Spanish War.


I am taking the liberty of combining those two realities, using Lorca’s wonderful life and his tragic, untimely death in the realisation of this project. I have sought and found wonderful help in the poetry of some of Lorca’s writer friends and contemporaries who suffered the war too, some in exile, and who wrote moving tributes and statements of outrage about Lorca’s cruel, pointless execution, notably Antonio Machado, Pablo Neruda and Vicente Aleixandre.


The music includes a variety of songs that Lorca recovered from the Andalusian folklore and also songs performed by Federico himself on piano. From the basis of these a very important part of the musical components develops, giving shape to the pieces performed in the concert.


Developing the piece, I have also looked at a collection of simple songs of the time, used as hymns, rallying or moral-boosting cries for combatants and supporters on either side of the conflict; and at references of some episodes that took place in the war. If, inevitably, it is in the realm of near-impossibility to bring stories to life in any literal sense in the context of a musical concert, I nevertheless will try to portray the feelings they evoke in me and, at the same time, with invaluable help from the artistes in my Company, attempt to give them what may amount to a personal “meaning” by way of conveying the emotions they provoke in all of us.


When looking at visual records of the War, some poignant, stirring examples of personal suffering jumped out at me, notably from the moving French documentary Mourir à Madrid (Frédéric Rossif 1963), and I felt they too deserve to be briefly displayed during the concert, in order to try to faithfully bring home the blunt reality Spanish people lived through at that time.


I hope this humble embracing of the work and the person of the great Spanish artist, plus the brief look at the tragic times and circumstances that so cruelly took his life help remind us that Federico García Lorca is and will remain essential…


Paco Peña

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