OpenLIVES material has inspired the internationally renowned singer/songwriter Clara Sanabras to write and perform 5 new songs, to accompany her upcoming album ‘Scattered Flight: songs of Spanish exile’. These songs were first performed on 29th November 2013, at the Turner Sims concert hall, at the University of Southampton.
The link with Clara and OpenLIVES is entirely serendipitous…and comes about due to the work of Harvey Brough, Turner Sims Professor of Music.
Harvey is a very talented, versatile and inspiring musician and he began a community choir for Southampton University staff and students which would delight our lunchtimes and bring the ‘shower-singers’ out of hiding… With about 100 of my colleagues, I took up the opportunity of ‘no audition necessary’ and joined a group who meet regularly in the Turner Sims concert hall to sing the lunchtime away…
After two local performances, Harvey presented our choir with a new challenge: we would support the gorgeous and brilliant Clara Sanabras in a concert of Spanish songs of exile, at the Turner Sims itself. A key aspect of Harvey’s work is bringing together amateur and professional performers, and so we were excited, honoured and (maybe a bit) terrified by this tantalising prospect! Harvey also mentioned, in passing, that he and Clara were still putting material together for the concert…at which point, I leapt out of my seat and pointed him to HumBox and the OpenLIVES collection online. In particular, the incredible interview, images and drawings recounting the life of Germinal Luis Fernandez.
Watch a subtitled video interview with Germinal
Clara was moved and inspired by Germinal’s story of escape from civil war in Spain, aged 11. He was split up from his parents then and subsequently lived a life of exile as a refugee in France and the USA. He was reunited with his parents 6 years later in Venezuela, where they had emigrated to start a new life.
Clara wrote 5 beautiful songs based on his experiences with lyrics which replicated Germinal’s own words in telling his story:
Children of War; The Wrong Train; America to Us; The Lucky Ones; Y lo que es la vida (Such is life…)
On the afternoon of the 29th November, I went up to the Turner Sims concert hall and put up an exhibition devoted to the story of the Spanish child exiles who took refuge in Southampton after the bombing of Guernica, in 1937. This exhibition was part of a research project carried out by staff in Modern Languages at Southampton (2008-11), and it had formed the basis of the material which OpenLIVES had digitised and published as open content.
I also displayed photos and information from the OpenLIVES online archive about Germinal.
So…we were all set for the concert!
Later, the choir gathered with Clara, Harvey and the Elysian Quartet to perform Clara’s songs of exile plus the ‘Germinal’ set. We had a big audience of nearly 200 and so nerves and excitement were high! During the concert, I read edited extracts from an English translation of Germinal’s story (in his own words), which had been created by Southampton student, Laura Davies, for OpenLIVES. When I recounted his reunion with his parents after 6 years, you could have heard a pin drop:
In July 1947, Germinal got on a plane to Caracas to meet his family. He had been in the United States since he was 11 years old and was leaving it at 17, so his father would hardly recognise him. He saw a man standing looking at him, and Germinal knew it was his father, even though he was shorter than he remembered. Germinal said: “you’re my father, aren’t you?” and his father went crazy! He had bought a watch for Germinal which he was wearing at the time, and he took it straight off his wrist and put it on Germinal’s.
Clara followed this extract with the moving ballad ‘Y lo que es la vida.’ Her wonderful music and words had captured Germinal’s story and his own words in telling it. It was an amazing privilege to be part of the concert, and the ‘Germinal set’ fitted superbly with the rest of Clara’s songs which illustrate various aspects of Spanish exile including 15th century ballads, songs from the trenches, a Scottish folk song about a Scots fighter in the Spanish civil war, and contemporary responses to exile.
Watch a recording of two of Clara’s songs from the Germinal cycle: America to Us and Y lo que es la vida.
And what happened next?
The choir finished the concert high as kites…none of us could get the songs out of our heads and I’m still constantly humming either ‘Children of War’ or ‘Y lo que es la vida.’ We are all anxiously awaiting the imminent release of Clara’s album ‘Scattered Flight,’ so we don’t have to live without the songs any longer! This album will not feature the Germinal songs, but will feature many of the others that we sang.
“This has made my day!”
Germinal himself was contacted by a member of the OpenLIVES team and told about Clara’s songs based on his life story, and the performance. He was overwhelmed and said “This has made my day!” Arrangements are being made for him to meet with Clara and Harvey, in Barcelona, of which…more soon!
Rumba sin rumbo
Read more about a member of the community choir’s experiences of the concert on the Music at Southampton blog
…And here is an extract from the concert, in which Clara sings ‘Rumba sin rumbo’, from her album of songs of Spanish exile.