This project began in the year 2010 in response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and March 11, 2004. An American pilgrim Federico Sheppard had wondered what would happen if empty churches could host concerts for world class guitarists using only simple signs to promote the concerts. So a pilot project began in 2010.
Local authorities took interest in the project, and a residency program to house the concert artists began in 2012. Our basic premise is that a mobile pilgrim population creates a new audience every day and that the guitar is the ideal instrument because it is easily transported and fills the churches we have been given the privilege of using.
Although classical guitar concerts are not frequent in the area these days, there certainly is a tradition of written music for string instruments since the middle ages. We appreciate the beautiful stone work in the handsome decoration of many of the doors in churches and cathedrals where our musicians play. We use the stonework for backdrops while photographing musicians tuning or playing their string instruments, like the Vihuela.
On his way to Santiago, Dr. Federico Sheppard, guitar builder and concert promoter, fell in love with the landscape and the people of Castilla-León. At seeing the frequent images of the stone work on the façades of the churches, Sheppard kept wondering why there were no concerts there. He missed music and he thought it wouldn’t be difficult for him to attract guitarists and other artists from different countries to take part in a series of concerts in the central part of the Camino in Castilla. He decided to organize the first concerts the following year precisely at the area of the Camino where the pilgrimage experience gets harder.
In Palencia, he found the right person – Father Jose Luis Calvo, Patrimony Delegate in the Dioceses of Palencia – who supported him right from the beginning. With his enormous help and the generosity of the first 12 volunteer guitarists, the 1st season was celebrated in the summer of 2010. That’s how the first 72 first guitar concerts started in the magnificent Romanesque churches on the French Camino in the province of Palencia.
In September 2011, Dr. Sheppard signed a cooperation agreement with the Town Hall of Carrión de los Condes (Palencia). Since then, this town offers a place for housing artists and volunteers, and a workshop for building instruments. In 2012, Federico Sheppard created the non-profit company CaminoArtes. With his enthusiasm and the generous support of the musicians who come every summer as volunteers, we are promoting Music and Art on the Camino in the provinces of Castilla-León where the Camino goes through, to foster understanding among different cultures, to offer opportunities to give concerts to musicians coming from diverse countries, and to enrich the Camino with artists in residence.
In the first years, this project proved its worth, and for the moment, it is being financed by selling the hand-made guitars built by Federico Sheppard in Carrión de los Condes. Since then, many renowned professional guitarists have come to Castilla-León from around the world. Some of them admire the phenomenon of the pilgrimage so much that they keep coming back and devote part of their summer holidays to offer their repertoire and new compositions to the audiences of the Camino. All our artists are the soul of this beautiful project and all of them are doing their best to keep it alive.
Without the support of the Dioceses of Palencia and the Town Hall of Carrión de los Condes, the project Music and Art on the Camino would not be possible. We thank both institutions for their ongoing help. In 2013, our program premiered the first new musical work commissioned by us specifically for el Camino, “Recuerdos Del Camino,” by the Argentinian composer Jorge Morel, and we premiere a new composition each year. American composer Bryan Johanson prepared an inventive work of 31 variations of the church bells heard in the province of Palencia, and arch/harp guitar inventor James Kline has added to the repertoire of that instrument with his work “Peregrino”. However most of the concerts include traditional Spanish music and arrangements of other classical works composed or arranged for the guitar.
The long range goal of this project is to create a permanent presence along the Camino for the Spanish guitar including all the elements necessary to sustain a musical culture:
-The production of musical instruments
– The performance of the instrument
– The teaching of the instrument
– The performance of the new works
Since 2013, we also have the support of the Diputación de Palencia. In Europe and Spain, there is not another project like this, which offers such benefits to the community along the 800kms of the Camino of the European Cultural Patrimony. People of all ages can enjoy 5 months of concerts during the Spanish summer from May to September, 3-4-5 concerts a week and approximately 70 high-quality concerts every summer.
We want our audiences to enjoy peace and beauty in connection with the architecture, sculpture and the many centuries of history of the Romanesque churches. We want to show the historic and cultural heritage of Castilla-León and of the Camino de Santiago to all the artists who take part in the project and the people who attend our concerts. We are already creating opportunities both for the artists and for the people in Castilla-León, attracting tourism and nurturing cultural understanding.
We hope that the work we have done helps to guarantee future work with other organizations in Castilla-León.