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JULY 2019 | Lanzarote Ensemble: Ray Picot in Conversation with Ayoze Rodríguez

JULY 2019 | Lanzarote Ensemble: Ray Picot in Conversation with Ayoze Rodríguez

I first met Ayoze Rodríguez as composer of Fantasia sobre las Folías and co-directing the Lanzarote Ensemble in our concert in March 2019 at St Paul’s, Covent Garden. He is the head of this newly formed ensemble and one of the most active musicians in Lanzarote as a composer, clarinetist, conductor and project promoter. He studied in Tenerife, London and Valencia and nowadays is the head of the Music school of Teguise in Lanzarote, teaches in the High Conservatory of the Canary Islands and is there principal conductor of the Teguise Wind Band and the Lanzarote Ensemble.

Ray Picot: The formation of a new ensemble or orchestra is always exciting so it was doubly good for concert-goers in London to hear the UK debut of the Lanzarote Ensemble in March. How was it for all of you coming to London for the first timer as this new ensemble?

Ayoze Rodríguez: Playing abroad is always exciting, especially when you play in a such marvellous place as St. Paul's Covent Garden in one of the most relevant capitals of the World. It was a wonderful experience. We look forward to repeat with another repertoire anytime in the close future. At the moment we have played in London, Berlin and we expect to play next year in South America and Lithuania.

RP: I gather you perform with varying sizes of ensemble from 6 to 25, which suggests that you don’t always use a conductor, as many small or chamber ensembles do nowadays. 

AR: Yes, exactly. We use a conductor only when is necessary. This means that sometimes we use him even if the ensemble is really small, especially if the piece is contemporary or really complex. The most important thing is that the music works.

RP: For the concert you were conducted by James Blair for the Mozart Serenade, and yourself for the Variations. I gather you have a longstanding relationship with James, who clearly enjoyed working with you all.

AR: Indeed, I know James since I was doing my postgraduate in London. He was the conductor of YMSO (Young Musicians Symphony Orchestra) and I played in this orchestra as a principal clarinet two years. For this reason I have kept in contact with him. Nowadays I can say that he is a great conductor and a really good friend. Both James Blair and Roger Bramble (the president of the orchestra) supported me when I was in London, in a hard but exciting year.

RP: Your ensemble is I understand the first public orchestra in Lanzarote; can you tell me something about how this came about. 

AR: In Lanzarote the people felt over a long time there was a need for a public orchestra also because of the many projects that involve classical music which mostly come from abroad. Last year, the head of the culture department of the Cabildo de Lanzarote, Oscar Pérez, thought that this was the moment to start the project. All the corporation agreed that I was the person who could make the project grow, so they contacted me and we started working. The result is the Lanzarote Ensemble.

RP: The Canary Islands have two other major orchestras based in Gran Canaria and Tenerife but your chamber size (6 to 25 musicians) would suggest you trying to avoid imitating them. 

AR: Exactly, we don't want to be a copy of the two main orchestras in the Canary Islands. We have our own personality and we are open to do different kind of projects and concerts. Our main thought is that the people from the island identify with the ensemble, which has been created for them.

RP: Since you’ve been established do you have core repertoire you like to play and presumably a role in promoting new music, perhaps composers from your island? 

AR: Yes, we have several recognised composers such as Nino Díaz and Samuel Aguilar and both have written for the ensemble. In fact, Nino Díaz has composed a piece Called Engine for piano sextet, which has its premiere on 29 June.

RP: Wind and brass music has a very solid tradition in Spain so you presumably include this genre in your repertoire, particularly with your background as a clarinetist.

AR: Yes, as I said we are open to play all kinds of music. We must not obviate our traditions and roots, therefore we need to attend and care them. Our solid structures of wind and brass players have propitiated the creation of music for many years. This fact helps us to make the project bigger and more interesting. I do think that the audience can feel very clearly when the musicians are connected with the roots of the music the are playing.

RP: I see your studies took you to London - was this a good experience for you? Did you ever consider a career as a soloist with your chosen instrument, the clarinet? And apart from teaching you are also busy directing ensembles and composing. A very busy life but one you must enjoy.

AR: My postgraduate course in London was really stressing and motivating. It was one of the most powerful experiences in my life in all senses. I could develop my playing, make alot of contacts and friends who I keep in touch nowadays. Most of them have moved to other countries but even so we try to know how life goes on and the new projects that are emerging. I could have stayed in London playing but at that time I felt that I needed a bit of calm. I had had six years studying, practicing and playing without almost any rest. For this reason I came back to Lanzarote. After a few months the musical circle of the island called me to play and teach. I felt so comfortable so I stayed there until now.

RP: I gather the ensemble comprises professional players: on an island of the size of Lanzarote was this quite a challenge to achieve and obtain the right amount of financial support? The island Government are a big supporter so presumably you are all able to play concerts regularly. How has the island public reacted? 

AR: The island is quite small, therefore it is easy to know all the musicians there, their level and their skills. This fact helped me to select the best profiles for this ensemble. Although we are always open to the new musicians who achieve a high musical level. This is one of the purposes of the Lanzarote Ensemble: being the goal of the new musicians’ generation.
We have the good fortune of being supported by Cabildo de Lanzarote, which is the biggest institution on the island. This means that we can have a regular concerts schedule, of approximately one each month. The public is charmed with the chance of watching concerts regularly and enjoying them in all places across the island.

RP: Presumably your ensemble has become an integral part of island festivals and cultural events. I gather you were involved such events before the ensemble was formed. 

AR: Yes, I have worked in most of them, but not always as a musician, sometimes as a organiser or just giving ideas and helping in many non-musical ways.

RP: Do you envisage securing recording contracts in the future or being part of collaborative projects?

AR: Sure! In fact, we have played a concert last month with Acatife, a folk music group and one of the oldest in the island. After the concert they told me that they want to record their next CD with us. The experience between both was absolutely enriching. Apart from this we want to record soon all the pieces we have arranged for the Ensemble. We think that this work cannot be lost.

RP: Where do you usually perform on the island? I gather there is a spectacular underground auditorium in a volcanic cave used by musicians.

AR: We usually perform across the whole island. Our concerts are programmed in all the districts, theatres, halls and auditoriums available. As you point out the caves are especially amazing. We have played in Jameos del Agua two times this year and we will play in Cueva de los Verdes in September. Both places are auditoriums built in volcanic caves.

RP: You have played a concert in Germany so you should think that there is good international interest in your project.

AR: In Lanzarote as many other places, people usually think that if you create interest abroad you have to be good, so you first need to conquer the world and then, your own hearth. This attitude is changing little by little but yes, we would love to have a good impact internationally.

RP: What is the best way for readers to keep up with your work and performances?

AR: Cabildo the Lanzarote is working in a website where everybody could check where and when we play, I guess that in a couple of moths will be completely operative. Anyway our concerts are always In the cultural schedule of Lanzarote, which you can find it in the Cabildo de Lanzarote website as well:  cabildodelanzarote.com

 

 

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