Valencia is one of the 17 regions in Spain and a paradise for music lovers. It is an area of exceptional passion for the Arts spoilt by its location by the Mediterranean Sea. Valencia enjoyed the first Golden Age in the Iberian Peninsula and inherited a rich mix of cultures from the Romans to Muslim Al-Andalus. A bridge between Europe and Africa. This wealth of influences has allowed this region to maintain a unique exposure to creativity; especially music. Any city or village, however small, benefits from a classical music orchestra run by volunteers. A tradition given from fathers to sons. It is not unusual to find three generations playing in the same orchestra. Concerts and Festivals are common during the Summer evenings as it is the perfect occasion to listen to music al fresco.
A Music Festival has been held in Valencia for over 100 years inviting some of the most prestigious orchestras and philharmonics. Titled: Certamen Internacional de Bandas de Música "Ciudad de Valencia" (International Contest of Orchestras - City of Valencia) and it takes place in the month of July in the Palau de la Musica, Valencia's Music Hall. It is a great opportunity to listen to some of the best musicians in the World nowadays.
The President of the Palau de la Música, Mayrén Beneyto, has stated that "there is not in the world any orchestras' contest with so much competition level, either by the relevance of musical societies involved, by the prestige of the jury or its international character, which are represented by three continents". Beneyto has encouraged all Valencians and visitors to "enjoy the illusion and hard work of the more than 2,500 musicians present in the activities of the event." In this sense she said that "we want to continue the success of last year, and exceed the 23,000 people who attended the previous edition." She has also stressed that the event "is a very clear manifestation of Valencian cultural tradition, that honours Valencian orchestras abroad"
Saint Cecilia Musical Union
A clear example of vocation is the Union Musical Santa Cecilia (Saint Cecilia Musical Union) from Villar del Arzobispo, Valencia. An orchestra of a village of just 3,500 inhabitants which competes, and beats, orchestras from cities of over 25,000 inhabitants. A previous winner of this contest, it managed to get the second prize in the First Section this year. A music association which started as a group as early as the 16th century according to historic documents in the church archive.
One of its musicians, Juan Arcon Porter, also a History graduate and a member of the Rock band "Santa Cecilia Orquesta", represents the unpaid hard work and commitment of its over 80 members. He plays the clarinet, claims to be very proud of belonging to such a successful orchestra with such talented musicians and feels that they deserved to have won the first prize. When I asked Juan how intensive was the preparation for the contest, he says:
"We began rehearsing since last September and I've lost count of how many hours have been invested in getting ready. We rehearsed during the three weeks before the contest on a daily basis - sometimes twice a day."
Top quality, 28 orchestras from Europe, Asia and America and a beautiful setting makes this Festival unmissable.