I well remember my first ever Morna Christmas show. It was the first time I had ever been responsible for providing music for such an event – but not the last – and it still amazes me to remember how what seemed to be utter chaos eventually became a brilliant show that people talked about for years afterwards. Heather was one of the leading primary school teachers at the time. Tio Fulano is not the Spanish teacher’s real name. I have used the name throughout my book to offer anonimity to those who I have been unable to contact; it is Spanish for “What’s his name.”
Tío Fulano, the Spanish teacher, a major cynic in religious matters, had initially just ignored requests to “teach the students a nice Christmas song in Spanish,” but suddenly he seemed to have seen the light. He started enthusiastically teaching the children a tuneful, jaunty song in Spanish.
“Si, si,” he insisted with a mischievous grin, “it’s a Spanish song for Christmas time.” Heather was suspicious at this sudden change of tune and the carefully-worded nature of his explanations, but was pleased that Tío had agreed to cooperate, and events proceeded harmoniously until the morning of the show. We were rehearsing a carol in the Las Dalias theatre when Heather burst in: “Does anybody speak Spanish?” she demanded furiously.
“Why?” I asked – and then suddenly realised that now was probably not the time to be the centre of attention.
“I’ve heard that this song Tio is teaching them is all about going out and getting drunk!”
I listened to a Spanish rehearsal for a few minutes. The first verse was quite sweet, referring to the fact that it was Christmas Eve, and that we should go to the Marimorena (Black Maria) to celebrate. Not only Christmassy, but multi-cultural and politically correct, I pointed out, rather hesitantly to the smouldering Heather.
The second verse, though was a little less appropriate:
“Ande, ande, ande esta Nochebuena / saca la botella / que me voy a emborrachar”
Which, roughly translates into English as: “Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go, This Christmas Eve, Get out the bottle, I’m going to get drunk.”
Heather was livid, but it was too late to change anything much, and Tío explained that anyway, the song celebrated a tradition in certain parts of Spain.
Heather aimed a glare in his direction that nearly stripped the paint from the door behind him, but Tío just smiled. Nothing ever seemed to worry him.
From a purely selfish viewpoint, I was glad the song stayed in the programme. I had spent many long hours working out the guitar chords, and quite enjoyed playing it Spanish style. When the students sang the song, the symbolically well-oiled parents cheered and roared with approval. It’s doubtful that many of them appreciated Tío’s mischievous sense of humour – but none complained.
As always, your comments are more than welcome – and if anybody has a photo of this show (there were a lot of cameras flashing when I was playing the guitar) please feel free to send them, and I will add them to the post.