Castanets, Maracas and Flamenco – School Music Tours to Spain

For those students who go on school music tours to Spain, such visits are often an eye-opener – especially for those who are only familiar with its music due to its influence on Latin American pop music.

While one can safely describe Spanish music as rich, lively, passionate and evocative, these are perhaps the only generalisations that can be made. The music is diverse and varies across its many different regions – with each one having its own characteristic sound and blend of instruments. The richness of Spanish music can be confusing, but for a quick overview, school music tours should take in the classic national favourites, such as the flamenco, the zarzuela and, of course, the romantic compositions made for the Spanish classical guitar.

Flamenco

For an impressive and unforgettable beginning a trip to Spain, nothing comes close to a flamenco performance. Attributed to the Andalusian gypsies, this historic art and musical form is both an audial and visual delight – perhaps one of the reasons that UNESCO declared it one of the “Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity”, in 2010.

Composed of several elements – the cante (singing), toque (guitar music), baile (dance), palmas (clapping), and zapateados (stomps) – all interwoven to create a seamless masterpiece, watching an authentic flamenco performance in a traditional venue is a history, art, culture and humanities lesson in one.

Zarzuela

Another must on school music tours of Spain is experiencing the performance of a zarzuela- the Spanish version of the opera. It alternates between spoken and sung portions, with performances by soloists and ensemble members, accompanied by an orchestra.

Different regions have their own version of the Spanish operatic play – such as the Catalonia zarzuela, the Basque zarzuela and the Catalan zarzuela, as well as the various derivatives in Hispanic colonies such as Cuba and the Philippines. But there are two basic forms of the zarzuela – Baroque and Romantic. Watching performances of both styles can provide valuable insights into Spanish history and culture.

Music From The Regions

The region of Aragon is best known for the jota – a traditional Spanish dance characterised by chord and percussion instruments, with castanets held by the dancers. School music tours to Castile, Madrid and Leon can also take in performances of the jota, although these regions have a slower version with a slight variation in instruments used.

A different kind of sound, predominated by bagpipes, can be experienced in the regions of Galicia, Cantabria and Asturias, as well as other northwest Atlantic areas; while the Basque regions, on the other hand, have music that exhibits ancient Moorish influences.