.My concerto “Soñando en Español” has 3 movements, though the 3rd movement “Baroque Flamenco” is often played as a stand-alone concerto – both with full orchestra and 8-piece chamber ensemble Ruth Lee, a harpist from the UK, is performing the entire concerto with chamber ensemble and asked me to update the program notes that will appear in the printed program. Scroll down to see the updated notes.
CLICK HERE to see the video from this performance and what Ruth Lee had to say about it in a short interview, part of the series “Baroque Flamenco Around the World!”
Deborah Henson-Conant is a Grammy-Nominated composer, harpist and innovator whose music combines spontaneity with story, passion and character. “The job of an artist,” she writes, “is to lift an audience from the burden of consciousness for a moment and drop them lightly back, slightly changed.” Soñando en Español is a three-movement harp concerto for harp and either full symphony or chamber ensemble.
I. My Mother’s Mexican Hat
Raised by a single mother, a young girl is thrilled to receive little presents every time her mother returns from a date. One evening, after a weekend trip to Tijuana, Mexico her mother returns with an immense, handsome, ornate sombrero, only to tell her daughter that the magnificent hat is not for the girl — but she can hang it on her bedroom wall, with the strict instruction that she never touch it.
From that night on, the girl dreams in Spanish – a language she doesn’t speak – and is lulled to sleep by strange rhythms. One night, awakened by music, she discovers the hat, vibrant with light, and sliding from the wall. It takes her from her bed and together they dance – wilder and wilder in the moonlight.
Again and again, each night this happens, until – on the third night – her mother hears the music and rushes into the room, where she, too, falls under the spell of the Mexican hat – and the hat, so in love with both mother and child – bursts with joy and flies out the window, forever lost, and yet forever present in their lives.
The girl is now a young woman and has fallen shyly in love with a young Mexican grocer who stacks fruit and vegetables by day — and writes poetry by night. As an excuse to spend time with him, she asks if he’ll teach her to speak Spanish, and he agrees. When he comes to her flat, they study in the kitchen, as in the next room, her roommate practices the harp. As music fills the room, the Spanish lessons become a waltz. The waltz becomes a romance. The kitchen becomes a ballroom, a lifetime, a dream – and in that dream, she blooms as a woman.
III. Baroque Flamenco
The woman is now in her prime – her hair touched with hints of silver. The grocer and the hat are long-ago dreams – but both have filled her life with rhythm, music and romance. She joins a troupe of Flamenco dancers, and on a trip to France, the troupe buys a used guitar – only to discover that it is, in fact, a time machine. Each strum takes them further back in time – but, they’re so enthralled with the instrument’s sound that they don’t notice this until they’re in the court of Marie Antoinette, who’s hosting a ball that night at which everyone else is dancing a Minuet by Jean-Jacques Rousseau. So the Flamenco dancers attempt to fit in.
But soon the stately dance is too constrained for this passionate troupe. They burst into rhythm – once, twice — each time attempting to regain composure (and maintain their cover) until finally Queen Marie herself steps onto the dance floor to challenge the dancers – and our heroine steps forth to meet her, claiming her right to dance the way she does – first with measured slaps of her high-heeled boots, and then growing beyond constraint to stomps and strums of elaborate passion. Marie’s powdered-wig-wearing cohorts stare – first in amazement and then in desire to take part until they they, too, break onto the floor with abandon. Minuet and Flamenco become one. Baroque Flamenco.
This video is a performance of the full 3-movement piece with Eleanor Turner, soloist – and the composer, Deborah Henson-Conant, conducting. Can you hear the story in the music?
HARPISTS: Do YOU play Baroque Flamenco?
... then I'd love to hear your story and see a video of how you play it. Use this form to share your story and a video from YouTube and I'll feature it in a blogpost like the ones you can link to below.
Do you WANT to play Baroque Flamenco?
The solo harp sheet music includes 3 levels: advanced beginner, intermediate & professional. Other versions include harp ensemble, piano/harp duo (piano reduction), concerto and upcoming chamber ensemble versions.
My online class "Baroque Flamenco Beyond the Page" takes you through the piece step by step at all 3 levels, with videos of all the sections and special effects, breakdowns (to show you how the piece is put together) and a set of warmups to help you develop the rhythms.