When deciding what I’d do for the 4 days I’d have to wait for Pedro and Raúl to return from the Galapagos, I discovered that the timing would overlap very nicely with the end of the 2nd annual Festival Internacional de Artes Vivas Loja (otherwise known as the Loja Festival). And given that I’d wanted to visit Loja last year while I was in Ecuador – it was really a no-brainer as to where I’d go.
In summary – the Festival was brilliant! First up was one of the two shows I bought tickets to.
Itzel Cuevas – La Ilustre Desconocida
The short description for La Ilustre Desconocida says:
Rosa – a cleaning lady – has read a story before going to bed, and in her dream has made a decision.
Ahhhhhhhhhh… So that was what it was about!!
I have to admit that I was very lost on the details right from the very beginning 🙁 There was a lot of dialogue between Rosa and a sea-captain (both played by the actress, Itzel Cuevas. I think the voices she had to put on contributed to my lack of understanding), with the gist being that Rosa was going to ditch her cleaning job and run away to the sea for a life of excitement and adventure. Well, at least I think that was the gist…
It was a one-woman show and very impressive given the lack of props and the amount of dialogue. But unfortunately not my thing.
Accordzéâm – Classique Instinct
The other show I bought tickets to was a very different experience!
Simply put – if you ever get the chance to see Classique Instinct – do it. It is the most incredible display of musicianship, performance and humour, and I absolutely loved it!
How to do justice in describing it??!!
A group of 5 musicians – a violin player, a double-bass player, a percussionist-drummer, a guitar-oboe player, and the most charismatic accordion player you have ever seen, play around with the main themes from Schubert’s Trout Quintet and Dvořák’s New World Symphony – re-interpreting them through every musical style known to the world.
Seriously! Every. Single. Musical. Style.
It turns out that someone actually recorded the whole performance (naughty naughty)! But to get an idea of what I’m talking about – here’s one of my favourite parts – the tango! This leads into the violinist soloing what I believe to be a very poor busking effort (like what you’d hear from a still-not-very-good-player on the street trying to earn a quick dollar), which in turn leads into a Scottish-sounding version (open to interpretation), which leads into what sounds like an Irish jig, which leads into… You get the picture 🙂 And this went on for 1.5 hours! Seriously – it was incredible!
Throw in a story about the trout (narrated by the violin player in a very-hard-to-understand Spanish accent – he’s French after all, not a native Spanish speaker), and brilliant movement comedy (particularly from the accordion player) and it was an hour and a half of absolute enchantment. Everyone was mesmerized. And laughing. And thoroughly enjoying themselves.
These guys are actually a French group called Accordzéâm who were invited to be one of the international guests for the festival, and I’m soooooo thankful that I got to see them play!
There was a lot more to the Festival than just paid performances, however. One of the key participatory activities of the Festival was the fact that anyone could grab some chalk and produce artwork on the streets that had been blocked off for the duration.
Everyone from little kids to some incredibly talented artists created their canvases each day – only to have them scrubbed off each night, ready for the next group of artists. There were some really amazing creations!
And even the Ambos (ambulance workers) got into it!
A variant on this idea were the blackboards (chalkboards) set up by the Universidad Internacional de Ecuador, which would pose different questions each day for passers-by to answer. These questions ranged from ideas on how Loja could be improved to life goals – it was fascinating to read some of the answers given!
Festival of Lights
Similar to what I experienced the first weekend I arrived in Quito, Loja also lit up its key buildings in a Fiesta de la Luz.
Fortunately the crowds weren’t as bad as in Quito – and it is amazing to see how they pick out the features of the buildings to guide the theme for the lighting.
There were loads of more informal performances throughout the streets of Loja both day and night as well. This group of older women were showcasing that “you are never too old” for dancing latino style, or anything else for that matter.
And of course there was the ubiquitous drumming group. Love listening to these guys.
There were loads more things going on as well, and I had a brilliant time strolling the streets with my new friend (and Airbnb host) Fransiska. We even got stopped by some students for a video interview about what we loved about Ecuador – we were two of the very few foreigners that I saw at the Festival!