First of all, thank you very much Diego for taking some time to be with SoundTrackFest, knowing you have so many ongoing festival activities, not only as its director, but as the conductor of the orchestra, immersed in the rehearsals of tonight’s concert.
You’re welcome! Thank you for coming to the festival from so far and being interested in it.
First question is obvious but compulsory. You have achieved 10 years, Congratulations! Looking back to the origins, did someone think that this adventure that began so long ago could get here?
If we do a flashback to when the first edition in 2007 took place, the truth is we could not imagine we would get here. We knew obviously that there was going to be continuity, but we kept thinking it was going to be an experiment. It was a new proposal, something very unique with its specificities, that made the festival quite original, and always from the absolute certainty and joy that the ultimate goal was to spread this art of film music as much as possible.
Now, 10 years later, there are so many things that have happened in the festival, comrades who have released their scores, with specially written arrangements for the festival, that watching the spot of the 10th anniversary, everyone is very excited because each image has a meaning. Many memories, many emotions, many difficulties; there have been very bad times, nervousness, managing this “monster” (fondly of course). But here we are, happy to turn a decade old!
What can you tell us about the origins of Fimucité, and how you reach the current point, 10 years later?
My first feature film was La Puerta del Tiempo (The Time Gate – 2002), nominated for the Spanish Goya awards, and when I was called from the producers to write the music for this film, everything was organized to record in Prague. Then in Madrid, in the middle of a meeting with producer Angel Blasco, a great friend, I said “Hey, why don’t we try to stay in the country and record the soundtrack in the Canary Islands?“. I know it was a high bet but I said, “Let me get back to the Canary Islands, and we talk in two weeks. Give me some time”.
I returned to the island, I met with the manager of the government agency in charge of culture in La Laguna, which had a great classical orchestra, and I proposed him this project. He saw it, he thought it was something very new and very powerful, and accepted it, reinforcing the Classical Orchestra of La Laguna with musicians of the Tenerife Symphony Orchestra. I managed all the musical production, and with the participation of the University Polyphonic Choir, I managed to bring the musical production to the island, the first time the musical production of a national film was brought to the Canary Islands for recording. It was in April 2002 and it involved about 120 musicians. This opened a new page in the music of my land, Canary Islands.
This was the score that put me on the map as a composer, a score I composed, orchestrated and conducted myself. I ended up shattered as it involved a lot of effort, and also coincided with a difficult personal moment, my father’s death. But I got it, and this fact, was the seed and embryo of many things, among others Fimucité.
That’s it, because, if that recording could be arranged…. Why couldn’t something else be done, right?
There it is! The example that I put is the jungle and the machete, opening a path, a way that did not exist before. That’s the moment when I told myself, if I could do this, why don’t I try to give continuity in some way?
Three years later of the recording of Puerta del Tiempo, and after a long process, I write and present a project to the council, to the Cabildo, which I still keep with the official seal, that was “Recording Music for Films – a new field of action for the Tenerife Symphony Orchestra (TSO)“.
It’s a report of over 80 pages, explaining the reasons why it could be so interesting to open this new opportunity. Initially, I met with the President of the Cabildo, Mr. Ricardo Melchior and subsequently, after studying and establishing that it was of interest, the project was approved and budget was endowed. Unfortunately, it was not successfully completed because the artistic direction of the Tenerife Symphony Orchestra (TSO) was not interested at that time in the film music industry, in fact they fully rejected it, so even being a project approved by the Cabildo and endowed with budget, it could not be carried out (in 2005).
That is when I decided to establish the Tenerife Film Orchestra (TFO) and the Tenerife Film Choir (founded in conjunction with Cristina Farrais). After the creation of TFO, I called an old and good friend from high school, who had an extensive and serious career as a producer managing other festivals like one he had previously created (a festival called “Folk and Roots” ) very well known in Tenerife at the time. We went for a coffee and I proposed him to be my producer, which basically meant to take the professional management of recordings and activities of the new orchestra. We are still talking about 2005, and to my joy, he gladly accepted.
Automatically and soon after that, the next step was to create Fimucité with the first edition taking place in 2007. We also present the project to the Cabildo of the island, and this time not only it was approved after deciding it was interesting and original enough, but was also put in motion. Pedro Merida with Ana Molowny, external relations of the festival, represent the two other sides of the triangle from the first edition, that has been growing from a very small but wonderfully efficient staff, combined with a truly unique volunteer group. The event is a supernova from the beginning, and the TFO became the resident orchestra of the festival the first three years. The festival has such a success, both nationally and internationally, that the music played by the TFO comes to have several record editions published by the major record label Varèse Sarabande. Finally in 2010, the TSO enters in the equation, which is originally what I had proposed.
That is, we reach to the same point but from another way. As Descartes said “denying the evidence is contradicting yourself“. Time puts everything in place. We are delighted that it happened, because it was neither more nor less than what I intended from the beginning
Since 2010 the TSO is the resident orchestra and we are very happy with it. In fact, it is a symbiotic relationship, since Fimucité, as a cultural event of international significance, has a world class orchestra, and for the TSO, participating in the festival is an extraordinary and unparalleled promotion right now.
In any of the editions, have you seen things getting complicated, and did you think that the festival would not be held?
Of course we have been through many crises, on more than one occasion. The festival was born in the middle of an economic crisis in our country. Institutional support is essential and fortunately, it is there and has always been there. Without institutional support, we could not make the festival. It has fluctuated, but has been constant. However, it must be said that nowadays and for many years, the main source of income of the festival are the ticket sales. That is, the economic contribution that comes from ticket sales has been, in recent editions, higher than the institutional contribution, and this is something extraordinary in an event of this type. It means that the festival audience is the one who keeps the festival running, and in cultural management in our country, this is very strange and makes us feel very proud.
If I’m not mistaken, tickets for major concerts of the festival, Friday’s Space Opera and Saturday’s Howard Shore’s Music concerts have all their seats completely sold out!
That’s right, and it fills us with joy! Let me tell you that the capacity of the symphony hall of the Auditorium is about 1,600 seats, and it is full, being that a very high attendance for a film music concert on the island of Tenerife. In fact, entries for Teatro Guimerá concerts have also had an almost full house.
That is, all the events of the festival, since we started with Lalo Schifrin’s concert, have covered and exceeded our expectations and have honored this celebration of our tenth anniversary. We’ve managed to make the event sustainable, and in cultural management that is very complicated, not forgetting that we are in the Canary Islands with the limitations that the islands hold.
In addition, with Fimucité we have achieved to have a real cultural tourism, attracting people that pick up several flights and organize their vacations around the festival. This phenomenon is something that fills us with pride. The initial limitations, have been surpassed and our audience is able to take three planes to visit the island during the festival, stay on the island, enjoy our cuisine, etc. That is, a cultural event of this magnitude is a fantastic revitalization of other sectors that automatically are benefiting from the festival.
One important thing that you mentioned in several interviews are the collaborations with other festivals, and the circuits that have been established. How do you articulate that collaboration with the Krakow Film Music Festival in your case? Do you plan to extend these collaborations with other National / European festivals?
From the beginning we were open to collaboration with other events focused on film music, and as result of this attitude, we have been working in collaboration with the Krakow Film Music Festival for many years, creating a film music festival circuit in Europe, which is in fact the first to be created in this area.
We have shown that this relationship with Krakow is viable. Not surprisingly diverse productions that have been created and released in Fimucité and then subsequently co-produced with Krakow, have been taken to the FMF and have been conducted under my baton. We like to create projects with own, unique entity, that can initially only be see in Fimucité. For example, Alien Biomechanical Symphony was a premiere in 2009. It was the first time that the most remarkable music from “Alien” franchise was played at a festival and was integrated into a single concert. Later I conducted it in Krakow with tremendous audience and critic success. The same happened in 2009 with “The Perfume” or in 2014 with the concert of “James Bond” celebrating its anniversary, also under my baton. All these productions were born in FIMUCITÉ and then were premiered in Krakow. For us it was great to be able to carry them out and create synergies with this festival, which we consider a brother, partner, friend event, and from which we have also learned a lot.
Other examples of exclusive concerts are the Dreamworks Animation concert, or the historic concert of the Centenary of Universal Pictures. The only concert to be held to mark the centenary of the studio. It was not played at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles but it was held here in Tenerife, in Fimucité, played by the OST and under my baton in 2012. It was undoubtedly a historic film music concert. We will have to wait another century to be repeated.
This year we have Space Opera and although some of the pieces we will hear tonight have been interpreted at some other places, others are exclusively world premiere, with arrangements made expressly for tonight’s concert. And all these pieces, as if they were encompassed in a journey through time, from classics to new titles in the genre, haven’t been assembled in one concert like this before. It is very exciting to know that, in that sense, we are proposing new and extremely interesting and unique products for the fan of the genre.
And in fact, it has proven to be so attractive that it was sold out before Howard Shore’s concert, which was supposedly the highlight of the program.
Yes. It’s good proposal, and this strategy of programming a concert of popular interest on a Friday has been great. It is something that we did with James Bond concert, and that we have repeated successfully this year.
We are witnessing that film music is entering the repertoires of orchestras, not only as individual pieces, but sometimes as thematic concerts or even creating specialized orchestras in that genre. It seems that the public thinks that is usual that film music complements classical music, or even in some cases, substitute it. What do you think of this phenomenon as a conductor, of this fusion of two worlds?
It seems wonderful to me that orchestras are motivated and increase film music programming in their repertoire. In this sense, I have to say that events like Fimucité are catalysts, pushing and popularizing interest in film music. And of course, after seeing the result of festivals, the echoes are far-reaching and orchestra managers see the proposal of film music as an attractive choice, and begin to implement it.
In line with the latter, many orchestras are starting to record film music, something that was previously reserved for very specialized trained orchestras, with musicians used to play at first sight. How do you see this phenomenon that you have also managed with the Tenerife Symphony Orchestra?
It’s something I think is great, and in fact, as I mentioned, I have been doing it since 2002. First with the former Classical Orchestra of La Laguna, later with our project with the Tenerife Film Orchestra and Choir since 2005, and at the end with the TSO. The last three recordings have been the recording sessions for the soundtrack of my good friend Johnny Klimek, who wrote the score for the horror film The Darkness (2016), produced by Blumhouse. Johnny called me from Los Angeles, and asked if we could do it, and after obtaining authorization from the responsible for the political management of the orchestra at that time, we managed the entire musical production, being performed by the TSO under my baton. The importance of this fact is that it was the first time a production from Hollywood came to Spain to record. This had never happened before. Following I brought the music production for my score for “Capture the Flag” and we recorded it in Tenerife played by the TSO, conducted by me and with my team again. It was a great success. It is something that’s getting bigger, and we are very happy with it.
And finally … A festival of this size requires a lot of dedication and a lot of attention; before, during and after the festival. How do you combine your work at the festival along with the projects you have as a composer?
One of the reasons why we had to move Fimucité from July to September, among other production reasons, was my last film, Pasaje al Amanecer (Passage to Dawn), since the recording took place in July. Maintaining the date of July meant we could not celebrate the festival. Whilst we were very fearful for the change of dates, because it’s been 9 years with the festival happening in summer in July, I think it has been a success, given the “tsunami” response of the public, with the two most important concerts sold out.
Regarding Pasaje al Amanecer (Passage to Dawn), I’ll tell you that it was recorded here in July with the TSO, a chamber orchestra of 22 musicians; strings, piano, harp, celesta, percussion, and included a choir of white voices of 30 members. In fact it was the Soft Voices Choir of the Conservatory of Santa Cruz, the same that worked in “Capture the Flag”. In total more than 50 musicians. It has been a fascinating project because the score is very eclectic as it travels from west to east and partly uses ethnic instruments; Arab percussion, Arab voices, exotic sounds… like brushstrokes in a painting. All this is combined with the orchestra, in a score in which the piano is the absolute protagonist. I had to write a special nana, from which I also wrote the lyrics later, and that had to be translated into French.
It is a score that I’m very proud of. It’s probably my most intimate score so far. A total of approximately 60 minutes, including Debussy’s Clair de Lune, that the director wanted to integrate into the soundtrack, so we’re talking about 55-54 minutes of original music. It will be edited in CD, as several record companies have contacted me, and the truth is that I am very proud of the result.
The film is the directorial debut of actor, director and scriptwriter Andreu Castro, who previously has released several very brilliant short films, and has written and directed this film starring Elvira Minguez, Lola Herrera and Nicolas Coronado. It is one of those movies that makes you think, that moves you if you are an empathetic and sensitive person, because you connect with the story. I think that people will talk about it, and in fact, the film will be premiered during the 61st edition of the SEMINCI festival in Valladolid. Undoubtedly, there can be no better start.
Well Diego, I think that with all this information you have given us, people already knows a little more about how has evolved this fantastic festival you have here in Tenerife, Fimucité, and what can be expected from the coming years. Thank you very much for your time and good luck with remaining concerts.
Thank you very much to you for your interview. The truth is that you’ve made me forget the organizational and artistic maelstrom of the festival a little bit, and take all the things out of my head from a while (laughs).
Interview by Gorka Oteiza