7 de septiembre de 2019

Conversación con Antxón Elósegui








Introducción

Convivir con los compañeros con los que haces música  es algo que acerca mucho, que ayuda a conocerse mejor, a cantar mejor, a disfrutar más, a quererse.  A ser mejor, en definitiva. La asistencia al Certamen de Tolosa en su edición número 50, en noviembre de 2018, fue una de esas actividades de convivencia que algunos amigos de Cantate Mundi quisimos compartir. ¿Objetivo? Para la mayoría, asistir al certamen por primera vez y disfrutar enormemente de una edición que prometía mucho. Prometía y no defraudó en absoluto. La ocasión del 50 aniversario del certamen bien merecía tirar la casa por la ventana, como hizo la organización, para que todo resultara único.   



Tolosa, con los amigos

Para mi era la ocasión anual del reencuentro. Reencuentro con mayúsculas. Con música y grupos de gran calidad, con repertorios e interpretaciones a veces mágicos, con paisajes que enamoran, pero sobre todo el reencuentro con grandes y muy especiales amigos. El fin de semana de los abrazos.


Entre otras cosas, en mi agenda la entrevista ya pactada de antemano con Gary Graden, pero había otra idea que también llevaba ya organizada de aquí. Tenía la necesidad de que mis amigos conocieran al creador del certamen, a una de las personas que ha hecho que hoy, Tolosa sea referencia en el mundo coral: Antxón Elósegui. Así que le propuse quedar con él para una de las entrevistas-conversaciones de El Atril, aunque a diferencia de otras conversaciones, quise plantearlo como una conversación en grupo, con mis amigos también participando.

Por supuesto, me contestó que estaría encantado, pero que él era más de charlar ante unos vinos, nada formal, así que en esa idea buscamos el hueco que finalmente encontramos al término de la sesión de mañana del sábado, en efecto en un bar frente al Leidor, el teatro donde tienen lugar las sesiones del certamen, en una mañana soleada y en la calle, en círculo con él y unas cuantas botellas de txacolí que él, generoso como pocos, se empeñaba en pagar cada vez (ya había advertido a Julio y a Raúl de ello, así que intentaron pagar alguna ronda, pero aún así, no hubo manera).

–Este año–nos decía Antxón con orgullo– el nivel de los coros es más alto que ninguno. Otros años ha habido dientes de sierra, pero habéis venido en el mejor. Si venís dentro de unos años y no lo disfrutáis tanto, no es que el nivel haya bajado: es que habréis envejecido. Bueno, todos menos ésta–, dijo, refiriéndose a nuestra joven amiga Marta Pilar, ante nuestras risas.

Así es él. Una de cal y otra de arena. Cuenta algo serio, pero no puede parar de decir chascarrillos. Sencillamente no puede. Y eso me encanta. Sus ochenta y seis años parece que rejuvenecen cada vez que cuenta alguna anécdota divertida y entonces él, y todos, nos reímos. Antxón es un personaje adorable, toda una institución.


Por sentimiento


–Cómo se te ocurre la idea, de donde sale?
–En la televisión de aquí me han hecho una entrevista (un “blablabla”, dice en realidad) y también he escrito algunas crónicas, pero siempre contesto lo mismo: “por sentimiento”. Y luego añado “y por humanismo”. Porque tú puedes ser músico, albañil, ingeniero o lo que sea, pero lo primero de todo es que has de tener sentimiento para hacer las cosas. Yo de música no sé nada. Javi Busto me ha preguntado muchas veces cómo he podido organizar todo este lío sin tener ni idea de música. Es verdad que en carnavales saco una charanga, sí, pero salgo tocando el bombo…
Pero creamos el CIT, el Centro de Iniciativas Turísticas de Tolosa. Fui el primer presidente, pero el mérito lo tiene todo el equipo. Tú puedes ser un director fenomenal, pero si no tienes buenos componentes, no te desarrollas. En un coche se necesita el motor, las ruedas, la correa de transmisión… y lo mismo pasa en las empresas y en todas partes, todos tienen su papel.



Tolosa desde el convento de Santa Klara

Organizamos todo esto en unos años muy difíciles, 1969-1970, ¿os suena el Proceso de Burgos?, pues ese era el contexto. En aquel momento tuvimos esta idea. El grupo lo capitaneaba yo, cierto, pero éramos varios, y queríamos hacer cosas por y para el pueblo, por la cultura y para la humanidad. Allá por el año setenta y tantos organizamos una final de la Vuelta Ciclista a España, cosas así, por ejemplo.
Teníamos la sensibilidad de un pueblo que ama a su pueblo, éramos un poco osados, eso es cierto, pero teníamos cierta capacidad de gestión. Para los nacionalistas éramos franquistas por ser el Centro de Iniciativas Turísticas, y eso sonaba a Franco; y para el gobierno, como hacíamos cantar en vasco, pues éramos nacionalistas, es decir, nos daban por los dos lados, y nosotros siempre decíamos, como en El Quijote: “Ladran, luego cabalgamos”. Pero teníamos mucha fe en el proyecto, en la cultura.
Empezamos a ir viajando y conociendo otros certámenes de otros países, y de ellos aprendíamos. A mi me impactó terriblemente el certamen de Gorizia, en Italia, pero no por lo musical sino por lo humano. Al término de la guerra, con el Tratado de Malta, los políticos trazan una línea y deciden que quienes están a un lado son comunistas y quienes están al otro no lo son: los que estaban a un lado y tenían una huerta en el otro, por ejemplo, precisaban un permiso especial, todo era así, era terrible. Pero lo único que estaba permitido era participar en un certamen coral como el de Gorizia.  La música unía a los pueblos. La música era el mejor vínculo de comunicación entre personas que estaban distanciadas física, psíquica y geográficamente. 
Yo no soy nacionalista, todo el mundo lo sabe, me han propuesto varios cargos políticos y siempre he dicho que no. Mi negocio profesional es la construcción y los sanitarios. Yo me ducho en pelotas, y hablo igual–, dice, entre risas–. Pero me maravillaba lo de cantar en nuestra lengua, cantar a Iparraguirre, ese fue otro gran aliciente para el certamen. 
Creíamos en el proyecto, y cuando crees, creas…
Empezamos sin dinero, sin prestigio, con la oposición municipal y el pueblo dividido. Fue más o menos a los cuatro o cinco años cuando ya se vio que íbamos llevando una misma línea. El Leidor tenía 1.400 localidades y llenábamos. Teníamos más abonados que aforo tiene ahora, pero te das cuenta de que la música engancha…

–Cristina, ven un momento. Es mi hija mayor…

Y en efecto, Cristina y su marido se unieron a nuestro grupo, nos saludamos, nos pusimos al día, intercambiamos nuestros pareceres sobre las actuaciones de las sesiones previas en el certamen y compartimos también algunas anécdotas de su padre. Le digo a Cristina que me apasiona escuchar a su padre, su filosofía de vida y ella vuelve a hablarme de su humanidad: “la música tiene el riesgo de que busques sólo la técnica y dejes de lado la humanidad”. De tal palo…
Les comenté que mi primera visita a Tolosa, seis años antes, había sido por unas palabras de Antxón, que me llegaron al alma: “Tú no puedes escribir un libro sobre Javi Busto sin conocer el certamen de Tolosa. Tienes que venir. Llámame”. Seis ediciones, en efecto, y las que quedan, porque Tolosa engancha, porque la música y su gente, como dice Antxón, enganchan.


Grande y con boina


Fue allá por el año 2012, Javi Busto y yo estábamos inmersos de lleno en el proceso de redacción del libro de su biografía, “La mirada azul”, y en ese tiempo le solicité nombres de personas importantes en su vida musical, con la idea de pedirles un pequeño escrito en el que hablaran de su relación con Javi. Antxón contestó a mi correo diciendo que él era más de hablar, de contar, que lo de escribir no era lo suyo, y me planteó vernos en alguno de sus viajes a Madrid, que por lo visto eran frecuentes. Y llegó el día, y mis nervios, porque fue la primera intervención del libro que se realizaba vis a vis. 
Javi lo describió muy bien: “Verás a uno grande, gordote, con boina y majísimo". No llevaba boina, era un día de primavera muy caluroso, pero por lo demás, supe de inmediato que era él, no por lo grande o lo “gordote”, sino por la cara de bondad y esa mirada de buena gente de la que no puede desprenderse en ningún momento. 
Llevaba yo mi lista, un cuaderno con las preguntas que quería hacerle, con una especie de guión de cuestiones que quería plantearle.

–Está bien que tú pongas la carretera, que yo luego ya iré poniendo las curvas…


Antxón, noviembre 2018

Y así fue, más curvas que carretera, pero fascinante. Pasaron las horas y yo seguía embelesaba escuchándole contar sus anécdotas, sus historias divertidas junto a otras tremendas historias que no lo eran tanto, su experiencia, su amor por la cultura, su tesón, su enorme humanidad. 
Han pasado, como digo, ocho o nueve años ya desde esta conversación, pero conservo frases enteras de ella grabadas en mi corazón. Antxón es un modelo a seguir, un referente. Por eso mi empeño en volver a hablar con él, en darle, de algún modo, un pequeño papel protagonista aunque fuera en estas páginas, porque merece la más absoluta de mis admiraciones y estaba segura de que mis compañeros también compartirían este sentimiento. 


Una de alubias


Volvemos a esa edición número 50 del Certamen de Tolosa. Alguien le pregunta:

–¿Tú cantabas en un coro?
–No, nunca.
– Canta fatal, dice su yerno– ¡No sigáis indagando por ahí!–, añade, entre risas. 
–Yo sólo tenía voz para vender periódicos, pero admiraba mucho a los coros.
–Se metió en esto–, añade su hija Cristina, bromeando–, porque tenía muchos hijos y como dábamos mucho la lata, necesitaba una excusa para salir de casa…
–Ya os lo he dicho antes: me metí en esto por sentimiento, por amor al pueblo, por querer hacer cosas y ser positivo. Por buscar las cosas que unen. Hay que encajarse en el “haber”, porque el “debe” viene solo. Ya sé que es difícil de entender, pero es que aquí hay música en todas partes.
–Antxón–, le tiro yo un poco de la lengua–, cuéntales lo que hiciste con Javi y su coro el año que participaron por primera vez con el Ederki.
–Fíjate qué gracia. Estos días le han hecho a Javi una entrevista en la televisión de aquí, le han pedido que contara alguna anécdota del certamen y justo ha contado eso.

Él me lo ha dicho, lo dice en el libro también, porque para Javi esa anécdota marcaría el inicio de una relación muy especial con este hombre. Le marcó, no me extraña que eligiera esta anécdota para contarla porque le quedó grabada en el corazón.

–Cuando Javi estudiaba Medicina en Valladolid, cantaba en el Orfeón Vallisoletano. Luego se unieron algunos estudiantes vascos que estaban allí también y vinieron aquí a cantar. Era el Coro Ederki. Participaron en el certamen y quedaron detrás del último –siempre la nota de humor, siempre–. No tenían derecho a la comida que se celebraba con los coros ganadores, así que se pusieron de camino a San Sebastián, donde tenían un concierto. Eran estudiantes, no tendrían un duro y seguro que también tenían hambre, y se marchaban. Me vino un impulso, cogí el coche, y salí a su encuentro. Les alcancé más o menos a 10-15 kilómetros de aquí. Me puse detrás de su autobús y empecé a pitarles y a hacerles señales, pero no paraban, aunque sí me miraban con cierta alarma desde la parte posterior del autobús. Entonces decidí adelantarles y ya les hice parar.
–¡Hala, a comer a Tolosa todo el mundo! Les impactó. A mi me llamaba la atención ver en los coros modestos, parroquiales, cómo algunas mujeres iban con los niños en brazos a cantar porque no tenían con quién dejarlos. Esas cosas son las que me llegan, por eso me vino el impulso de no dejar a estos pobres chicos marcharse abatidos y encima con hambre. Por humanidad. ¿Tomamos otro trago?
–La idea de la comida la trajiste de París, ¿verdad?–le pregunté.
–Tú sabes mucho…
–Y además –dijo su hija–, vas sacándole poco a poco…
–Hace ya unos años que me lo contó en Madrid.
–Tú tenías un año, Cristina, o sea que no te acordarás. En el año 62, en Carnaval, desfilábamos con una parodia de Gigantes y Cabezudos y nos dijeron que era un número muy bonito y que si nos vamos, los veintitantos que éramos de Tolosa con otros tantos de los ballets Oldarra de Biarritz a París, a un desfile. ¡Imagínate! Ir a París a un desfile. Fuimos en autobús, y teníamos todo tipo de comida y bebida. Nos alojamos en una escuela y dormimos casi en el suelo, aunque casi diría que no dormimos, que las noches de París estaban llenas de aventuras… 
Y resultó que, además, era una concentración de partidos comunistas. El director de Oldarra era comunista y nosotros no teníamos ni idea, pero allí anduvimos, desfilando. En esos días de París, la comida la hacíamos todos juntos y aunque no sabíamos mucho de idiomas, lo cierto es que la comunicación entre todos, los italianos, los de Normandía y varios países del Este, fluía, era muy bonito. Nosotros les debíamos parecer los ricos porque teníamos en el autobús comida y bebida y por una botella te daban la bandera checoslovaca o lo que fuera. Hubo una convivencia preciosa que a mi me marcó. Al llegar a la frontera, regresando ya a casa, con nuestras banderas checoslovacas y todo lo que traíamos, bueno, íbamos un poco asustados la verdad– ríe. Hay que ponerse en situación, claro…
La cuestión es que la idea de la comida me pareció sensacional. 
–Fundásteis el Eurocomunismo–, dice su yerno, sonriendo.
–Hasta nos hicieron participar en un meeting, qué sé yo. Pero todo el rato pensábamos en que íbamos a ir derechos a la cárcel cuando llegáramos aquí.
El caso, volviendo a los certámenes corales, es que en todos los que se hacían entonces, cada coro estaba alojado en un hotel, comían y desayunaban allí, alejados del resto, sin ver ninguna participación de otros coros, aislados. Por eso después de estar haciendo el tonto un rato por las calles de París, al volver planteé la idea de la comida coral, al principio como un catering, para que los distintos coros pudieran comunicarse, hablar en diferentes idiomas. El humanismo era el nexo común, aparte de la canción, claro.
–Cuando nos conocimos, Antxón, nuestra asociación Cantate Mundi no existía, surgió después. Organizamos cursos de música coral y siempre tengo en mente esta idea que he aprendido de ti, que no sólo vale cantar, sino todo lo que surge después. Por eso desayunamos, comemos juntos, ahora estamos aquí unos cuantos, compartiendo piso, conviviendo. Se hace grupo, se canta de otro modo, siempre lo decimos.
–El instrumento es la voz, sí. Pero la voz es del hombre. Bueno, y de la mujer, y es de ahí de donde hay que partir, pienso yo, de lo humano.
–Tengo curiosidad por saber en qué momento el certamen da el salto internacional.
–Básicamente cuando empezó a haber un poco de dinero. Bueno, esto empezó el primer año con coros vasconavarros y algo de Iparralde (el País Vasco-francés), el segundo y el tercero más o menos igual, pero sabemos esa frase del bardo Iparagirre “pon tu idioma, tus sentimientos y tus raíces y trasládalos al mundo”, así que vas poniendo el coche en primera, segunda… A partir del cuarto año creo que trajimos ya un par de coros alemanes, que nos parecieron sensacionales, pero comparado con los vascos eran muy diferente. Aquí se cantaba a base de chorro de voz. A partir de ese año empezaron a venir coros de casi toda España y los coros extranjeros que llevaban traían otra musicalidad, eran obras planas donde no era tan importante eso de nuestro chorro de voz. 
Pero este proceso nos trajo muchos problemas porque los coros de aquí estaban acostumbrados a eso y no aceptaban el cambio que ya se veía venir. Joaquín Pildain, un compositor de Tolosa, escribió una obra que elegimos como obligada un año, Egur Ezearen Kea, y muchos coros de aquí se dieron de baja un mes antes del certamen, precisamente por no aceptar este cambio que pensaban estábamos haciendo mal. Javier, con su coro, tiró hacia adelante, algo que siempre le agradeceré. No lo hicieron muy bien, pero echó adelante. Si un coro de estudiantes era capaz de cantar así y de introducirse en ese tipo de música, entonces es que tenía posibilidades.
Al principio está claro que no tienes ningún tipo de apoyo, especialmente de los políticos, pero cuando empiezas a ser importante se suman a la foto y en ese momento fue cuando empezamos a recibir ayudas. Hablamos con el Gobierno Vasco, los consejeros, etc. El Consejero de Cultura del PNV, que había sido seminarista y tenia mucha musicalidad, siempre me decía lo que teníamos que hacer, hasta que un día me enfadé y le dije: “Mira, Joseba, por qué no nos dejas conducir a nosotros el autobús. Tú sólo limítate a echarnos gasolina, que ya conducimos nosotros”. Los políticos tienden a que lleves su color. 
–¿Siempre ha habido obras obligadas aquí?
–Siempre, desde el primer día, por eso decían que éramos abertzales, porque hacíamos que todo el mundo cantara en euskera en 1969, imagínate.
–Y ahora, ¿en qué país del mundo no se ha cantado en euskera?
–Desde el inicio, han pasado por aquí más de 1.200 coros, y todos ellos han cantado en euskera, eso es un gran orgullo para nosotros.
El certamen puede decirse que ha pasado por dos temporadas, así a grandes rasgos. Los primeros 20 años serían la primera temporada, la época en la que yo más estuve presente. Era una época difícil, los años setenta y tantos, por el contexto político social y por nuestra precariedad económica. En esa época hacíamos todo de un modo más humano que técnico. Desde entonces, en lo que podríamos definir como la segunda etapa del certamen, Luismi Espinosa lo está haciendo todo de otro modo. Él cogió las raíces de un árbol y las regó, las cuidó con esmero para que poco a poco se fueran desarrollando hasta llegar a lo que ahora es.
–Con el Certamen has tenido que poner dinero de tu bolsillo, ¿a que sí?–. Sonríe y se toma su tiempo antes de responder. Es obvio que sí, que ha puesto, aparte de ilusiones, tiempo y trabajo, también dinero.
–¡El primer año tuvimos 300.000 pesetas de déficit! Pero no nos echamos para atrás. Con la venta de lotería, por ejemplo, conseguíamos unos ingresos que nos ayudaban a autofinanciarnos. Un año jugamos 500.000 pesetas que vendíamos en participaciones con un pequeño margen para nosotros. Eran años de mucha convulsión y en un bar le ofrecieron lotería a la mujer de un guardia civil Automáticamente se pensó que ese margen de beneficio iba para ETA. Gainza, que fue juez de paz, era quien me ayudaba con la organización de la venta, así que terminamos los dos en el cuartelillo de la Guardia Civil. Al pobre Gainza al poco le dio un infarto y murió, así que presentaron la denuncia, empezó el juicio y allí estaba yo como único inculpado. El juez pidió cuatro años de cárcel para mi y el quíntuplo de la cantidad jugada, más de 2.500.000 de pesetas. El juicio fue en Hacienda, Contrabando y Defraudación, era un tribunal económico. Todo esto sucedió en el 72, yo tenía ya a mis seis hijos, imagínate el panorama. 
Todos aquí sabían cuál era exactamente el destino de la recaudación, el alcalde y todo el mundo, y hubo un capitán de la Guardia Civil, un gallego muy inteligente, que se portó muy bien, pero como él decía: “la denuncia está metida, pero ¿quién la saca?”. Todo tenía su proceso. Así estuve dos años, dando vueltas al tema, hasta que al final fue sobreseído, se buscaron otras fórmulas. Tengo enmarcado por ahí el sobreseimiento de la causa. Bueno, ya os he dicho un montón de majaderías…
–Es historia pura.
–Conocer de primera mano el arranque del certamen–, decían mis amigos, encantados con la charla.
–Nos aportas mucho, de verdad.
–No os he hablado del circuito de esculturas de Basterretxea, Chillida, Otaiza, etc.  Se organizó con motivo de los 25 años del certamen. Se creó una comisión en la que se trató de evitar el autobombo en favor de hacer algo que deje un mensaje, algo que perdure, que quede como patrimonio. Fue bonito. Aunque de todas mis aventuras, he de reconocer que lo que más me ha gustado ha sido ser torero, bueno, becerrista. 
–Claro, es que nació en el barrio de la plaza de toros, su origen es este, que seas becerrista no es nada especial–, interviene su yerno nuevamente, sonriendo.
–Se trata de superar el miedo haciendo arte. Entonces yo tenía cintura de avispa. Ahora la tengo de obispo. Se cambia alguna letra y ya está… Los toros siempre han sido mi gran pasión. Luego un día hice otro cambio de letra y dije: “dejo los toros y paso a los coros”.
–¿Tienes alguna foto vestido de luces?
–No, sólo de campero. No llegué a ser un matador importante.
–Tiene un museo del toro–, apostilla su yerno con orgullo.
–Hace dos años, en una finca de Mérida, estuve toreando una vaquilla.
–Dijo su hijo Antxón que lo había hecho bastante mejor que él. Que seguía manteniendo la percha y la categoría.
–Bueno, ya hemos bebido bastante, ¿no? Habrá que irse a comer.
–Espera, deja que nos hagamos una foto contigo.
–Claro, y me la mandáis. Por correo, que mirad qué teléfono más viejo tengo. No tiene whatsapp ni nada, porque yo racionalizo mi tiempo: te llaman, no te llaman. Tengo ya 86 años y prefiero organizar mi vida.
–Gracias por este tiempo, Antxón, por esta conversación.
–La comunicación entre los seres humanos es fundamental, pero además siempre para debatir, no para rebatir. Aunque en mi caso, ¿cómo me vais a rebatir si no hago más que hablar yo?
–Gracias, de verdad. Me apetecía mucho vivir este momento. Eres una persona que deja huella. 

Pero con él no se puede terminar de un modo serio, así que todavía antes de despedirse definitivamente, soltó el último chiste, y tras él añadió:

–Siempre tiene uno que tener como dos brazos: uno serio y otro cómico. Pero os voy a decir una cosa, este mes no voy a llegar con la paga porque tengo que pagar las botellas de txacolí que nos hemos bebido–. Y en este momento, y en gallego, sorprendentemente, nos canta una coplilla sobre curas y taberneros–.   Voy a ir por todas partes con un cartel que ponga “subid las pensiones”… Nos hacemos una foto, ¿no?

Genio y figura. Arte. Humanidad. Sentimiento. Así es Antxón Elósegui. 


Foto con Antxón, al término de nuestra conversación

TRAS EL ATRIL


Tras ese premonitorio “tú no puedes escribir un libro sobre Javi Busto sin conocer Tolosa”, no hubo más remedio que ir, claro, como para no hacerlo. Mis compañeros de viaje de entonces y yo teníamos el tiempo muy apurado porque después de asistir a todas las sesiones del Leidor, queríamos escaparnos a Santurce a escuchar el concierto que darían allí nuestros buenos amigos del Coro de Voces Graves, que ese año participaban en Tolosa. Pero antes de salir quedamos a tomar una cerveza con Antxón, para que viera que sus palabras habían sido escuchadas y que allí estábamos, por fin, en Tolosa.
–Bueno, Antxón–, le dijimos, tras un maravilloso rato, como siempre, de conversación–, nos tenemos que ir, que vamos a Santurce al concierto de nuestros amigos.
–¿A Santuce con la que está cayendo?– Porque en ese momento llovía bastante, pero cuando emprendimos el viaje, el diluvio universal era una tormentilla de verano en comparación con el agua que jarreaba de un modo imposible de explicar–. ¿Y dónde vais a cenar?
–Ya veremos, donde nos cuadre.
–¡De eso nada! ¡Niña!–así se dirigió a la camarera que atendía las mesas en las que estábamos sentados–. Prepárales a estos unos bocadillos de jamón serrano para que se los lleven, que luego se les hace tarde y a ver dónde van a cenar.
–No te preocupes, Antxón, de verdad, muchas gracias.
Pero allí mandaba él, estaba claro que ese era su terreno porque por más que le insistimos a la camarera, al cabo de un rato teníamos ante nosotros unos bocadillos de jamón, enormes, bien envueltos en papel de aluminio. Yo no podía parar de reír, porque me acordé de la anécdota de las alubias de Javi y su coro, pero es que él era así: entrañable y buena gente.



Antxón y yo, noviembre 2013


Llovía a mares, pero cuando se quiere algo, no hay impedimentos, eso está claro. El viaje se convirtió en peligroso porque además íbamos rápido, que el concierto ya estaba empezando y queríamos llegar a tiempo. Pero el poder de la música era mucho y un disco recopilatorio de canciones de siempre de Víctor Manuel nos llevaba a mi amigo Víctor y a mi cantado a voz en grito, supongo que para asustar o quizás para congraciarnos con Tláloc, dios maya de la lluvia, por ejemplo,  y para horror de nuestros compañeros de viaje, que iban sentados en la parte posterior del coche. 
El concierto fue un cúmulo de emociones y sentimientos y a su término los amigos de Voces Graves, siempre generosos y entrañables, nos invitaron a acompañarles en la cena que habían organizado para ellos. Fue una noche muy divertida, muy especial.

Antxón y mi hija Alicia
Para cuando regresamos, ya sin prisa, a nuestro alojamiento en Tolosa, a la casa rural en el monte en la que nos quedábamos, eran ya las dos de la mañana o algo así. No llovía, pero la noche había quedado fría. Había un leve rescoldo en la chimenea, y unas mantas de lo más acogedor sobre los sillones alrededor de la lumbre de ese salón. Nos quedamos un rato charlando, viendo algunos vídeos que Víctor había grabado de actuaciones del día en el certamen. Y fue entonces cuando nos acordamos de los bocadillos. Cayeron, por supuesto que cayeron. Y nos supieron a gloria en la paz de aquel momento. Gracias una y mil veces, Antxón, no sé si alguna vez te he contado esto, pero te lo debía… 

Tras el atril también hay otro momento especial, que en esta ocasión tiene lugar una vez escrita esta entrevista y enviado su borrador al protagonista de la misma, para que le diera el visto bueno antes de su publicación.
Unos días después del envío recibo un correo de una nieta de Antxón, Nerea, quien acusa recibo de la entrevista por parte de su abuelo y me envía información y varias publicaciones sobre el homenaje que el Ayuntamiento de Tolosa dedicó a Antxón en febrero de ese año. ¡Cuánto me alegré de esta excelente noticia! Leí con avidez todo lo relativo al acto, en el que la corporación municipal tolosarra agradece a Antxón sus más de cincuenta años de entrega a la cultura. Merecidísimo. Me siento muy satisfecha de que este homenaje haya tenido lugar.
Y reparo especialmente en una frase publicada en el Diario Vasco, en una entrevista que con motivo del homenaje firmada por Juanma Goñi. Le pregunta el periodista cómo recibe el anuncio del homenaje y dice él: “No quería nada que no suscitase unanimidad. Tenía que ser algo natural, sencillo, con la participación de gente del pueblo”. Así es Antxón. 


Con mi hija Alicia, en alguna otra edición




 Agosto 2019
® Elena G. Correcher

               

17 de agosto de 2019

A conversation with Gary Graden




With Gary, during our conversation


A conversation with 

Gary Graden

Introduction

For a long time I have wondered what this man would have for Javi Busto to call him "his brother". Gary Graden, an American-Swedish or Swedish-American (as much as he gives), who in Javi’s own words is someone who has most influenced his musical life.
In the process of writing Javi Busto’s biography, a few years ago, it was when I was struck by the idea of locating all those people he spoke of that way, special people, influential, models.
Gary was exquisitely kind then, but he didn’t call my attention either, because the "commission" (to talk about Javi) could be appealing to him in light of that fraternal affection that both profess. The text with which he contributed to the biography was precious and very meaningful. 

Gary Graden and Javi Busto, during Tolosa's 50th edition (November 2018)


I wouldn’t know how to explain it, but I saw clearly in my imagination the experiences that he told: his participation in the Tolosa contest, his meeting at the further reception, the Swedish landscapes, the warmth of the fireplace and the light of the candles, the shared glass of wine. Everything was especially close and very "visual" to me as Gary narrated it in a document he sent me, accompanied by some photos from that time. That text, which was very emotional,  made me cry at that moment. 
Since the emails exchanged with Gary in those days, we have written ourselves a few times for several reasons, but we have never seen each other before.  This year I knew that Gary would be at the Tolosa Choir competition, in the special 50th anniversary edition, and I was happy because we were finally going to meet. Javi told me: "you could take advantage of this situation and interview Gary. He’s a very interesting person". And since Javi is always a good advisor, I took good note of this, and sent an email to Gary to arrange an interview. Of course he said yes.
When I stood in front of him and identified myself, I immediately found myself surrounded by his arms: he embraced me and separated me from him again to look at me: "We have finally met each other in person, not just virtually!" And he would hold me in his arms again and then separate me, like when you don’t quite believe that the person in front of you is really there. We have been in virtual contact for almost eight years, but the chance finally arrived.
Once the contest started, thinking of all the programmed activities that the members of the jury followed daily, I thought that the interview was not a good idea, that it would be impossible for him to find a space and in fact I proposed to leave it for another occasion. I would have understood it perfectly... But Gary insisted on looking for a gap and we squared a 30-45 minute one. I suppose that for a "professional" interview it is more than enough, but I did not finish seeing it. I was afraid if he would expect something that I would not know how to do: he was probably thinking about an official and professional interview of a journalist (something that I am not), because what I wanted was something else.  
In "The Lectern" conversations do not take a closed minute, but we just talk: conversation comes up by itself. I always start from a few questions, of course, but the important thing is not what is previously written, but everything that emerges spontaneously afterwards, because that is where the essence of the person I like to have in front of me is captured, that is how you really know someone.

The beginnings: Eric Ericson

After changing the moment three times, we found our own, as well as the place. And it started to work...
We started talking about the relationship between the choir S:t. Jacobs Kammarkör that he directs and the S:t Jacobs Vokalensemble that participated in the contest in this last edition, a relationship that he explained in detail.

–The relationship is very close, very close, think that we work in the same church. I had the opportunity to start a youth choir ten years ago, and that is when I asked Mikael Wedar to start the project. Mikael had been my student at the "Stockholm Music Gymnasim", a top choral music conservatory where I was a professor and where I met Mikael when he went to study there at the age of 16. At that time, I created a choir, the Stockholm Music Gymnasium Chamber Choir, a very beautiful experience. The choir stayed for several years and Mikael was one of the really brilliant young people who sang in it. He was singing there for three years and since then we have maintained our relationship at S:t Jacobs Kammarkör for years. It is a very close relationship, as I say.
–The "original" question now: what does an American do in Sweden?
–Well, I studied in the USA, yes. We are a family of Swedish-Americans. My grandparents were Swedish and emigrated to America. I grew up, then, in a very musical family, although they were not professionals. We celebrated and surrounded ourselves with all Swedish traditions.

When, in any type of conversation, I have a choir director in front of me, in a compulsory way, I always notice a lot in their hands, because they also speak. Part of the expressiveness of a director is in the movement of his hands, not only when he directs but also in conversations or day to day moments. Gary, without anyone being able to question it, is a conductor. He draws with his hands while speaking. Permanently.
I also observe how my guest is behaving, because it is essential to know if he feels comfortable or not, if you have to change the registration or end the conversation. And small gestures are great signs for this. I do not know if Gary had at some point the feeling of "Bah, another interview!", I have no idea, but of course that was not what it conveyed.

– I studied direction because I was always very involved in choral music and finally I did my degree in the USA. That was when I felt I wanted to follow that path and doctorate. I had the huge need to listen to what I then considered the best choirs in the world. On my list was the Eric Ericsson choir in Stockholm, as well as the works of Helmut Rilling in Berlin and Niccolas Hartnoncourt in Vienna. This happened in the early 80’s, when Hartnoncourt was a real revolution in the interpretation of choral music.
I made a small stop (or so I thought) in Stockholm for a few months and what I found out is that Eric Ericson’s work was a very pleasant experience for me. I always had a good voice, I was a good tenor, which opened many doors for me and that is why I could also start singing with Eric. But I needed to know more, and I wanted to be an active student in his classes. He told me that if this was my desire, I had to enter his classes through an audition for the conservatory. The audition took place in March of that same year. I was accepted and remained for two years.
At that time I met my wife, who is also Swedish. I did not leave, since I stayed directly in Stockholm; therefore I did not get to Vienna.



Eric Ericson

I sang a lot and also directed. Very soon I had the opportunity to lead in S:t Jacobs church as an assistant. In 1984 they asked me to lead their youth choir and I told myself: "This is the opportunity to fully develop a choir, this is my choir". That happened thirty-five years ago. Unbelievable!
–What did Eric Ericson have? Javi has told me about him many times, about his way of making music, the sound of his choir ... Was it really special?
–Yes, of course it was. He had a great passion for choral music. His particular way of working and his behavior somehow managed to get the singers to sing in an especially beautiful way. He got an important position in music very early, as a young director; he developed the Swedish Radio Choir, started his own chamber choir at the conservatory and his famous male choir Orphei Drangär ... I always wondered how he could organize his time. How could he do daily rehearsals, start new projects, attend to everything. He was really a wonderful man, very humble. A great pianist too.
He used the piano in a very intelligent way, not only to give support to the choir but also to give ideas. He was extremely strong and well organized, very curious about life and about the repertoire. His task consisted mainly of promoting music. He was the voice of the composers through the Radio Choir, which at that time had sufficient financial resources to be able to commission works from Swedish composers and from the rest of Europe.
The combination of his position in history and his own personal attributes made the change of Swedish music somehow possible. He was at a point that made possible this kind of explosion and revolution.
Before him, in Sweden, in both big and small choirs, music was until then a romantic experience, a social experience, but at this moment in history, after the end of World War II, somehow it was necessary to be redirected. It was necessary to consider what could be done with the choral movement and achieve a choir with a certain standard, to turn it into a professional instrument in a way that the composer wished to compose for the choirs. They would be the voice of contemporary composers.
Sometimes the opposite may be true, a negative spiral: the composer does not really appreciate the choirs, he writes complex things to sing, the choirs do not like these works ... this has a negative effect: it disintegrates. But in this case a new positive spiral emerged in which composers practiced new genres, new techniques, new opportunities. Pieces that we could now say are not so difficult, but then ... it took months to learn some works!
Eric Ericson became the personification of the choral movement in Sweden. He was not the only one, of course, there were many choirs, incredible recordings, but he was at the top, at the top of the pyramid. For the historical context and also for his personal qualities, he was a kind of pinnacle, and worked very hard for choral music in Sweden.

I do not know how much time had passed at this point of our conversation, but I swear it had already caught us absolutely. There was nothing but that almost whispering voice that transported us to a glorious and unique moment of music in Sweden and probably in the rest of the world too. A voice that made us value the memory of the maestro, Eric Ericson, because even if we had not known him, the way in which Gary talked about him was full of admiration and affection, something that he immediately conveyed us.
In general, I suppose that in a conversation between two, and more when they have never spoken in person, it could be said that if the conversation tone is showing greater energy and enthusiasm, then it is on the right track. You can, but in "The Lectern" it is different.
I know we are on the right track when the opposite happens, and with Gary it happened: his tone of voice diminished as we talked. It was as if he were entering more personal, more intimate moments, scenes of memory, in that atmosphere of peace and tranquility that is a conversation with him. It catches you immediately. The silence around us was such, and the concentration so intense, that the immersion in his conversation was complete. It was captivating to hear him.

Somehow you follow that line too. You have won several awards for your work for Swedish music. That has to be very important, I suppose. 
–Of course, and I continue to do so. The following generations should do it too, all of us should be involved in knowing our composers, commissioning new works, giving voice to the new music, trying to be in the best choir we can be ...
It is not just about working different styles, because Eric Ericson was a church musician, he was a great Bach music player, this is sometimes forgotten, and he was at S:t Jacobs for 25 years. He was a wonderful organist who had inherited that part of the Lutheran tradition of great music: Bach, the Passions, the Cantatas, he knew everything very well ...
I think something similar happens with you too. I know you have recorded several CDs with different music styles. What kind of music do you prefer?
Well, it is not like that exactly. I prefer a broad spectrum, we could say. I really like to work a cappella repertoire and suddenly I adore working with orchestra, I think this is a kind of balance.
You are a singer. You like to sing too. In what proportion do you sing / direct?
–No, I am really a conductor. Sometimes I sing with my choir or with other choirs, but only for my own enjoyment. I have sung for many years in an ensemble, a wonderful male quintet Lamentabile Consort. I learn a lot when I sing with them, they are great professionals. I also love spiritual singing. When I am with the choir, I turn to the audience and sing for them, but it is just to do something different.

                                                        A certain nostalgia

From now on, perhaps the interview took another look, more personal and more experiential. Gary’s tone of voice became more intimate. But there were intense and frank laughter too, no laughter contained. There were silences, memories, precious images.
I must remember this conversation starts in Tolosa (Gipuzkoa), in the days of the 50th edition of the Contest where he was invited to be part of the jury.

Tolosa. When was your first time here?
In 1991. It was the first time of the choir. I started in 1984-85, and our first contest was in Tours in 1986, where we won the second prize. We were completely delighted with that second prize. In 1986 we went to Debrecen, Hungary, and there we achieved great success too. In 1990 we were in Arezzo.
In ’91 we came here and it was magical, fantastic. People were so generous, so frank, so funny. I remember those days as if it were yesterday. The people I see now, 27 years later, are the same ones I met then and I remember them as if it were yesterday, the things they told me, what I told them. I have very good friends here since then. It was also in that year when I met Javi Busto, of course.
There is a very funny anecdote about how you met him, tell us please. You told me about it years ago, when we were talking in order to write the book.


–Yes– The slight smile of the memory, which is what he is talking about these beautiful moments of nostalgia, now becomes a huge smile, one that illuminates his face. –In the contest we were going to perform the Gloria of his Missa Brevis. I think I had seen him before, at some point in the contest, but during the post-contest reception, someone told me: "Look, that is Busto". I approached him timidly and greeted him: “Mr. Busto, I’m Gary Graden. What do you think?”. He looked me up and down, in a very severe, very serious way and I told myself: “Oh, God, no!”, but then he smiled broadly and said: “It has been too good. Very nice, but I’m angry because my choir could never have sung as you did.”

This is, without a doubt, the funniest moment of our conversation. See him live again, with many gestures, those seconds of anguish in which he should have felt analyzed by the composer is really funny. And his relief. And imagine the monosyllables conversation both should have exchanged. I find it endearing. The director could be satisfied with his interpretation and receive, haughty, the composer’s remarks. The humility of the one, the humility of the other. A whole lesson.

–There is another nice anecdote that Javi tells sometimes too. He suggested making some changes in his work. Their choir would sing right after us, so they were behind the stage, waiting. He was leaning on one side and when it was time for his suggestion, I looked at him out of the corner of my eye and saw him nod. It filled me with satisfaction.
We became very good friends. But friendship is not something that emerges immediately. We have met on many occasions, it has been a whole process.  


Gary and Javi, some years ago



He always talks about you as a brother, not just as a friend. 
–Yes, we are more than friends, we adore each other. Javi is a special man. What I feel is what many people feel, it is something that I share with other people. All of us feel privileged to be his friends. We all feel "the chosen”.
I do feel like this!

We laugh. We both share that feeling he says: that idea of ​​feeling chosen, privileged by the fact that Javi counts you among his own. We share an immense affection towards this special man, who makes us feel so special.

–We had many opportunities to meet through music and choirs. He spent a vacation in Stockholm with his choir, and I arranged some concerts for them there, and he did the same with us here.
At first we had communication problems because his English was terrible, –he says, laughing–. The only thing we could do was look at ourselves while we were sitting with a drink and we made several gestures (he does them here, without stopping). We only looked at each other, but our eyes communicated between them.

All this piece of conversation, which takes place between our laughter, is a succession of gestures, barely without words, something logical, since Javi at that time spoke little English and his communication had to be quite gestural. I already knew it, but at this moment I appreciated Gary’s comical sense of humor, it was all that huge gesture that was narrating a complete story only with expressions of his face .... It was very fun to relive it.

–Now we communicate perfectly. I know Maruchi and his children, his grandchildren, I have spent time in his house, I have performed a lot of his music and I can indeed say that it is a really very special friendship.

–Following with Tolosa, when the 25th anniversary of the contest took place, in 1993, we were invited to return and we also won. We were in the 25th anniversary, now in the 50th ... Incredible experiences.... 

Huge silence here. Memories ... It is his moment, so I will leave him in it for a few seconds.

Is the Tolosa contest more special than similar ones? It is different in some way. 
–Each one is different from the other. I have felt very close to Tours, in France. Arezzo is very important for us too, same as others, but here everything is very intense.
–Do you think there are many similarities between the way of being, thinking or singing of Basques and Swedes?
–I have always felt that way. I am not sure now, but I always felt that there was a kind of affinity in the way that Basque and Swedish choirs sing, and the same thing happens in Slovenia. The choral music that is made here has its own identity, perhaps different from what is done in the rest of Spain. There is a very beautiful way of singing, a great tradition in choral singing, great composers, many choirs, and I always felt a special connection, maybe the spirit, the way of singing, I do not know, something that could explain why exchanges work so well between Sweden and the Basque Country. Sweden could be an example, a school that maybe Basque composers could have appreciated, but somehow our way of singing could also have been mutually attractive. I have always been very impressed with singing here.
Certainly, in Madrid, where we live, this tradition does not exist, we do not have these choirs or composers. Everything is changing, but nothing here is similar.
–Exactly, perhaps in Catalonia this tradition exists, and in fact a very powerful choral movement is being created, good composers, good choirs, but it seems that there is something completely different with respect to the choral experiences seen in the Basque Country.
–Have you ever worked in Madrid?  
–No, and I would like it. 
You will do it. With us. Next Spring. 
–Do not wait! Let’s go for it!–he says, laughing openly. 
I have been in Madrid and surroundings. I have also worked in other places, alone or with my choirs, in Ejea, for example, in Barcelona, but not lately. 
–You have to come. 
–I will do it for sure. Sounds really good…

And yes, it will be so, because if we have been searching and giving shape to the idea of working with Gary Graden in Cantate Mundi, as a result of this conversation it is definitely settled. We will have him with us shortly, that is for sure.

Stars in the sky

Do you like to improvise? What do you get from the choir or from the singers when they improvise that can not be found when it is sung in a more traditional way?
–The small things that I do are not the main objective of my work, but rather they are precise improvisation exercises, very simple, aimed at getting each person to participate in their own particular way. Not everyone has to do the same, but it is about creating a kind of opportunity for each singer to sing a small part, his own melody. 
–We are afraid when we sing alone ...
–Right that’s the point. If you can do a simple exercise of this type, you are in a position to take that leap to cross the threshold. These are simple but very important exercises, basically because we sing on scales, we decide which, D Minor, B Minor, B Major and we sing on that scale, changing vowels or sounds. First, a solid relationship with the scale has to be created and understood, capturing the feeling of that scale.
–The feeling of the scale? I like that idea.
–Yes, because each scale has its own character, its qualities. B minor is very different from B minor flat, D minor, etc., there are many differences between one and the other. That is why Bach wrote 24 preludes and fugues in 24 keys, 12 + 12, C minor and C major (at this moment he starts humming one of the preludes), whatever ... Because it’s not just knowing whether it is minor or major, but also if it is D to D, C to C-sharp;  C-sharp to C-sharp, for example is a very beautiful scale, F to F, etc., so what you do is capture the feeling, understand each scale and an individual relationship is established, "singing here", which creates independence and makes each singer have the courage to do so. It is a wonderful and very pedagogical tool, especially for amateur singers, but not only for amateur, because it develops independence and security and it is very nice if you do it alone or with the group or with instruments.
It is fantastic with the organ, with the marimba or any other instrument like this. Recently, at a concert in Italy with an orchestra, I made the orchestra improvise. They were surprised, but they loved it.
–I am sure it has to be a great experience. We are always afraid when we sing in choir, we need to be surrounded by our mates.
–Exactly. We hide behind the score. I use the improvisation from time to time. We use very nice, simple melodies, fragments of Gregorian, for example.
–Yesterday, or I do not know when, when I was preparing this interview, I heard a song that I fell in love with: Den blomstertid nu Kommer …
–Yes, we have a video of a festival in Germany, "Sacred Music in Bavaria". We did it with candles, each singer placed in a different place in the room. It is a simple but wonderful melody. 
–It is a beautiful melody and an incredible version.
–This is the question. We can make a complete program with all kinds of music and if we do some kind of improvisation, however simple, the audience always says: "what was that?". It is always what is stronger, more than any other type of music, and it happens even with the simplest improvisations.
–The atmosphere that is created is different if you are among the audience, you feel part of the music. 
–Exactly, because you listen to all the voices, each voice individually; you see each face individually ... it is like seeing many stars in the sky or many suns in the universe. A face is like a sun, a world of expressions, and this is what we want to create with a choir, not just read music.

Stars in the sky. That was the feeling. There, in that hotel dining room where our conversation was taking place, my partner Yola and I were absolutely immersed in it. At that moment I realized how blond are Gary’s eyelashes, they were an invitation to go beyond them and search that inner look that forms in his blue eyes, very clear, "stars in the sky". My glasses bothered me tremendously, somehow they were an impediment, so I took them off. A very strange sensation of living in that world of expressions that he was talking about right then.
I understood that brotherly relationship between Javi and him and that he did not need words or, as he says a few lines above, "our eyes communicated with each other". Gary’s eyes are light. And if I am allowed this synesthetic and absurd image, the tone of his voice sounds like light, it is light too.




Music talks to us

Javi told me about your way of working with the choir, how you organize the rehearsals, he told me that everyone goes in time before the rehearsal begins. Here there is a tendency to be late to rehearsals–, I tell him, jokingly.
–I do not know exactly what he is referring to, Javi, we would have to tell him to explain it to us or perhaps to remind me ... We started with vocalizations in my choir for many years. I have a good choir, they are all very good singers. We meet at 18.30 hrs. and at that time they have been talking all day, working, not singing, they are amateur; their voices are already in place, they do not need many vocalizations, so we start directly making music. I think they prefer it that way. "Gary, do not annoy us," you know… We started at that time directly. It is very frequent they come earlier, they have to be prepared, but of course there is a logical issue: my singers are all very busy, more and more, with their families, children, with jobs that are very demanding, many activities ... I am not very strict. I am glad they want to come and I only ask them to let me know if they can not do it.
Some essays are correct, sometimes you think: well, it was not a great essay. Maybe you miss those who have not come and the results are not what you expected, but in those cases you have to say: "Ok, next week will be better", and always keep working. Sometimes, however, when there are missing people in the rehearsals, those who go have the opportunity to take the initiative and that makes the rehearsal with a smaller group very interesting.
–In those situations you know your singers individually, but when you prepare a choral workshop where you do not know the participants, how do you deal with the first two hours of work, for example? Are you testing the singers?
–Maybe like in the rehearsals, but with a new group I do vocalisations, so I can listen to the voices, men and the women separately, and I then think about how I can help in some way: singing, with voices or physically with bodies, which can be a sounding board to achieve human expression; how can we keep our mind and our voice connected to our whole body, so I like to do exercises, breathe, control the body, sometimes even dance to remind us that the body is there. And then, depending on what the musical ambition is with the group, we just start singing, once we have selected the repertoire that we like. You immediately evaluate what we can do together, how we can find interesting ways and what this repertoire can bring to us. It is not something very mysterious, actually.
When you choose the repertoire for your choir, maybe not in a workshop, but with your choir, what does a score need? Of course, sometimes you will have to do a concert on traditional music, for example, but when you simply choose what you want, what do you search in that work?
–I understand, yes, good question. Each time is different, but choosing a program for a concert is a big responsibility. I like the programs that are interesting for the choir, which are opportunities for them. My choir likes to learn new things, it is not too attractive to stay with the same repertoire for a long time. Once we make a program, we go for new things.
Sometimes I compare it with a "study circle". I must give them something interesting, so it resembles a group of people that meet once a week to visit a museum together. Imagine, for example, that we go to the Ufizzi Gallery, in Florence, or to El Prado and we have 5-6 weeks to work in this room at El Prado, spending three hours there and studying the repertoire and the paintings together. Let’s look at them, learn from them and then maybe we can go to another room, the next project. Or maybe we do not want to stay in El Prado, but do something different, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, for example.
–But you choose the painting. Do you want to teach them that music or do you want to show yourself acting through music? 
–No, I want the music to talk to us. I want the music to paint the paintings, the music to be revealed. Of course, I have to study the work a lot in advance, and if we all study honestly, doing something new is an opportunity. I do not know all the secrets of a work and we have to do it together. Sometimes I have to say: "I am sorry, I can’t, we have to do this together, let’s do it". And then together we find what the music is telling us.
–Do you discover new things by listening to your choir singing? 
–All the time, this is the beauty of this. It’s that: music reveals its art to us, it is not me, I’m not that interesting, surely not: music is interesting ...
Or not. Sometimes we have an assignment, you have to sing that, all right, we will always do the best we can, we will try to do the best, always to improve.
It is clear: I am not an artist, I am an administrator. Somehow, I manage the time, the sound, I try to do what is in the score in the best way I know, in a very honest way. 

I already knew it before, but at this point it is when you confirm that you have an artist in front of you, say what he says, feel what he feels, because an artist is the one who makes art, and he does it.

The time of our conversation came to an end. It is obvious that I was longing to continue the conversation, but obligations came first. Magic, it felt. But we are left with the promise to continue this conversation at some point.


After the lectern

After the lectern I leave a little story, one of those that I love, and of which Gary was the protagonist, both in these days and 27 years ago.
In the group of friends and choirmates who traveled to Tolosa in this edition, there is Karmele. At the end of the interview with Gary, I discussed with Karmele and the rest of my colleagues a detail, as Gary remembered as if it were yesterday all that he had lived 27 years ago, when he was in Tolosa for the first time. I suppose this was the comment that led Karmele to tell her cousin Khristina, who lives in Tolosa. At that time, she was one of the volunteers who accompanied the choir during the celebration of the event in Tolosa. A person of reference for them, someone to communicate with and who served as a guide and liaison. That is something that is still happening.
On his first visit, the choir S:t Jacobs Kammarkör was accompanied by Khristina. The closeness of Gary and her spontaneity made those days very pleasant. When S:t Jacobs Kammarkör returned on the 25th anniversary of the event, Khristina asked to repeat with them but it did not happen. And now, on the 50th anniversary, so long after, that comment of Gary’s memories aroused in her the need to greet him, to see him, to say: "Do you remember me? I accompanied you on your first visit! "
And neither short nor lazy, Khristina showed up at the theater door with her poster "Mr. Gary Graden ", hoping to recognize him among the people who came and went. But she did not see him. One more attempt without result and the contest was coming to an end. But she was not willing to miss the opportunity. The event closed with a formal lunch, so she went to the place where it was held, with the idea of ​​asking to enter, only to see him and then leave, and I saw her decided, walking fast street above.
Meanwhile, Gary appeared from behind, he was not eating yet, so I yelled at Khristina and she turned around. The reunion was beautiful. Maybe he did not recognize her at first, 27 years are many years, but when  they exchanged two or three  sentences, we all saw them embrace each other. It was not a greeting by commitment, no: it was a tremendous hug that I undertook to immortalize, thinking that for both it would be a beautiful memory. An endearing story.


Gary and Khristina



And behind the lectern is that special personal feeling that has remained since our conversation. You can not imagine that the next day, when you meet again and say hello in the theater, minutes before the contest begins, he will thank you for the evening we had spent the previous day, for how good it was. That he insists on keep talking, that we should find a gap that day or the next, or perhaps that we talk on the phone later, to finish something that certainly, and because of time, we had left short.
As I commented the other day to a very dear friend, in order to have this kind of conversations in The Lectern, you place yourself in a special point, you get rid of the superfluous and it is from that moment when you start to approach the person. I need a time to "return to my being". It is as if you walked inside a person that is not you and you have to go back to your place. And in that process of relocation of the following days, it seems like someone is playing with you, sending you winks, not letting you go back, and sending you signals that prevent you from leaving that point where you temporarily live. 

Gary and me, after our conversation

And as if it were a signal coming from some strange place, when I put the end to this conversation, the doorbell of my house rings. From the kitchen, where right now I am writing, I see a white van parked in front of my door. I guess it’s not very common to deliver orders on Sundays, but today is Sunday, and what I get is just one of the S:t Jacob’s Chamber Choir CDs that I have ordered these days. Own and other people’s gifts. Absolute connection. Bode well…
Will be continued for sure….


Elena González Correcher ®