Bath International Music festival 2007

We have been able to attend five of the amazing plethora of concerts this year and they have included a superb piano recital from Imogen Cooper, playing Haydn, Beethoven and Schubert; a double bill of the soul singer Mavis Staples and Motown music from Jazz Jamaica; songs from June Tabor; Jazz from the Mingus Big Band and a brilliant concert from the London Symphony Orchestra Brass section. An eclectic selection, as the whole programme has been this year, once more under the inspired direction of the multi-talented Joanna MacGregor. Again we have wished that the city had a concert hall worthy of the festival.

Last night we were in Bath Abbey for a quite extraordinary concert given by the excellent Bath Camerata and the Paco Pena Company. It was a Spanish night to remember. In the first half, and after an interlude from Paco Pena on the guitar, the Camerata sang 14th. Century music, including songs by de Morales, Guerrero and Victoria, the cool, pure sound echoing throughout the Abbey.

There was, however, nothing ethereal about the rest of the concert.

The second half of the programme was devoted to a performance of Pena’s remarkable Missa Flamenco by the combined forces of the Camerata and the Pena Company. Commissioned by a Festival in Cracow, Poland in 1988, the work unites traditional flamenco dancing and singing with the familiar words of the Mass in a Spanish translation. Pena says (on his excellent website) that ‘there is a tribal pulse in flamenco that touches something in people’s souls’. Last night we and a packed audience joined the tribe!

Pena’s roots are in Cordoba’s flamenco and catholic culture, and his aim in this work is to unite both, and on this hearing his intention is triumphantly realised. It was an event, an experience, an emotional tornado to be in the Abbey last night. We were amongst the many who couldn’t see the performers, tucked away as we were in the choir stalls.

Even so just hearing the music and the sounds of the dancing was enough to involve us, and as we heard the final ‘Amen’s, like many others we moved nearer to the centre of the building so that we could see the delighted performers as they received an ovation and responded with an encore.

Passion, art, music, religion in harmony. What a night!