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Letters from the Atlantic Letters from the Atlantic by Barrie Mahoney

'Writing Inspired by an Island in the Atlantic'

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A Beacon of Culture in the Canary Islands

A Beacon of Culture in the Canary Islands

As regular readers may remember, I started playing the violin again last year. In fact, I became so enthusiastic that I started teaching myself to play the viola and cello as well. Sometimes it is a painful and painstaking process, and I would not inflict my efforts upon any listener. However, I do enjoy listening to stringed instruments, and in particular, being played by those who really do know how to make their instruments sing.

Last week, I was fortunate to be able to attend a concert given by the Gran Canaria Philharmonic Orchestra. Most tourists, and indeed many residents, remain unaware that we have our own world class orchestra on this island. There are regular concerts advertised and I can highly recommend making the effort to travel to the Alfredo Kraus Auditorium in Las Palmas for the evening; it is a delightful and impressive experience.

I particularly enjoy visiting the Alfredo Kraus Auditorium in Las Palmas. It has often been described as “A Beacon of Culture”, which it is in so many symbolic ways. Looking at the impressive building as it stands on Las Canteras beach is just a start. For me, the true magic begins inside the building when looking at the orchestra seated in front of a huge picture window with an incredible view of the Atlantic Ocean outside. Visitors to the concert can watch waves crashing and lights twinkling on the water outside, which creates an evocative and memorable experience when listening to the music being played by this exceptional orchestra. The Alfredo Kraus Auditorium was built as a beacon for opera, music and ballet in the Canary Islands. However, who was Alfredo Kraus?

Alfredo Kraus Trujillo was born in Las Palmas on 24 September 1927 - the son of a Spanish naturalised Austrian. Alfredo began piano lessons at the age of four and after completing secondary education he studied industrial engineering. Soon after graduation, Kraus began to concentrate more and more on singing, which he studied in Barcelona, Madrid and later Italy.

Alfredo Kraus made his operatic debut as the Duke of Mantua in Giuseppe Verdi's Rigoletto in Cairo, in January 1956. He then appeared in La Traviata in Venice, Turin and London, and in 1958 made his first appearances in Rome and Lisbon. Kraus quickly developed into a world class tenor, starred in a movie based on the life of Gayarre, an early famous Spanish tenor, and became a frequent and well-respected performer at the world's most prestigious opera houses, singing with Maria Callas, Joan Sutherland and other world-renowned sopranos.

The last two years of Kraus's life were darkened by the death of his wife in 1997, which affected him deeply. A proud and strong-willed man, he eventually returned to the stage and to teaching, making the comment, “Singing is a form of admitting that I'm alive.”

In 1991, Kraus was awarded the Prince of Asturias Award. In 1997, his home city of Las Palmas opened the Alfredo Kraus Auditorium in his honour. Kraus died on September 10, 1999 in Madrid, at the age of 71, after a long illness.

The music of Strauss and Mahler soothed my ears and made me forget the world outside. I felt inspired by watching the professionals playing their violins, violas and cellos with such enthusiasm and grace. During my next practice sessions, I will try harder.

If you are visiting or live on the island, I strongly recommend a visit to the auditorium and, better still, to experience a concert given by the Gran Canaria Philharmonic Orchestra. Link this to a good meal in one of the many nearby restaurants, and I suspect that you too will have a most enjoyable evening that you will remember for a long time to come.

If you enjoyed this article, take a look at Barrie’s websites: http://barriemahoney.com and http://thecanaryislander.com or read his latest book, ‘Footprints in the Sand’ (ISBN: 9780995602717). Available in paperback, as well as Kindle editions.

Join me on Facebook: @barrie.mahoney


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© Barrie Mahoney

​​​Wish You Were Here

Wish You Were Here

When was the last time that you sent a postcard? I guess, if you are anything like most of the younger members of the population, it was some time ago; maybe several years. Thinking about this question recently, I realised that I haven’t sent any for several years, but with the exception of one of those fun and expensive 3D picture postcards that we thought our elderly aunt would enjoy receiving. Sadly, she didn’t even mention it when I spoke to her, so I doubt it made any impression, and we needn’t have bothered.

It came as no surprise to read that the UK’s foremost publisher of picture postcards, J Salmon is going to stop production in December. This family-owned company has been publishing calendars and postcards since 1880, but now sales have dried up. Charles and Harry Salmon, the fifth generation of the family of postcard publishers, recently commented that the popularity of social media has had such a negative impact upon their business that their production was now unsustainable. Many will remember the beautiful scenic shots, the comic ones, as well as those very ‘rude’ ones that were often so popular at seaside beach shops.

I still like to receive postcards and pin them to a display board. It is fascinating to receive a card from some faraway place that I have never visited. A postcard from somewhere that I remember is also welcome, since it brings back many happy memories and experiences. The closest that I get to this nowadays is sending a ‘virtual postcard’ to a few special people with one of my own photos, by using an app on my smartphone. It is quick, convenient and good value and takes away the need to try to find a post office in some foreign land to buy a stamp, only to find that it has closed for siesta.

Do you remember that well-worn phrase to quizzes in newspapers, magazines and radio shows? It was always “Answers on a postcard please”; now it is “send a text to…”, usually at a premium rate charge. The demise of the humble postcard seems to have gone almost unnoticed.

As a replacement for postcards, many people now post some of the more ecstatic moments of their holiday experience on Facebook, Instagram and other social media sites. This is fine for the sender, but how many of us are bored senseless with seeing endless platefuls of holiday food from some exotic holiday destination on Facebook, and the alcoholic “I’m all hung over” posts that seem to have replaced the humble postcard from the younger generation. Are today’s electronic offerings intended as merely a showcase for the sender, or for the enjoyment of the receiver, I wonder? Do we really need to see yet another pizza or giant plateful of a cooked English breakfast? A shot of the Leaning Tower of Pisa or a pretty Venetian canal boat would be a nice alternative; just a thought.

A few years ago, I remember spending several enjoyable hours sorting through a battered suitcase belonging to a great aunt containing hundreds of sepia postcards with stamps bearing the head of long dead monarchs. Photographs of exotic destinations, such as Weymouth, Edinburgh, Yarmouth and Blackpool, peppered with occasional postcards from more adventurous destinations, such as Venice, Bruges and Paris. As well as the fascination of seeing how popular resorts have changed over the years, the comments on the back were often very revealing.

I remember some of the lengthy discussions that my parents had when selecting postcards for family members and friends when we were on a family holiday. Should we send a scenic shot of the beach to Aunt Joy, would Uncle Frank like something a little more cultured, or is that one just far too rude for cousin Paul? We had better be careful what we write on the back of that one to Brenda, because we know that her postman always reads them, and he is such a gossip...

I shall miss those photographic treasures from J Salmon and other publishers. I guess that the publishers are right to draw a halt to the production of this much loved remnant of the past. Like so many things in our lives, times change and maybe it is now time that the humble postcard be relegated to history.

If you enjoyed this article, take a look at Barrie’s websites: http://barriemahoney.com and http://thecanaryislander.com or read his latest book, ‘Footprints in the Sand’ (ISBN: 9780995602717). Available in paperback, as well as Kindle editions.

Join me on Facebook: @barrie.mahoney

© Barrie Mahoney

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