John Tavener and Manolo Escobar, R.I.P.

I learned this evening of the passing of John Tavener, aged 69, who was one of my favourite contemporary composers. (Read the short Alice Vincent article from today’s Daily Telegraph, and I look forward to reading fuller obituaries later.) Alongside Olivier Messiaen, Tavener was a composer who communicated the Christian faith to me and helped me to believe in the truths of spiritual realities unseen. I met him once, very briefly at the London Russian Orthodox cathedral in Ennismore Gardens, and I had the impression that I have felt intuitively when meeting very few individuals in this life: he seemed an angel. I cannot explain what I mean by that, but that is what I mean.

John Taverner 1944 - 2013

John Tavener 1944 – 2013

Just two days earlier, while waiting for a take-away chicken and chips at the Paradiso in Finestrat, with El porompompero blaring out on the restaurant music system, I learned that Manolo Escobar had died very recently in Benidorm, where he lived in the Rincon at the end of Levante beach (Manuel García Escobar, 1931 – 2013). He was the Spanish popular music sensation of the 1960s and star of several comedy musical films which helped to kick-start the Spanish film industry. We all used to sing el porompompero at any opportunity in Ibiza in the 1960s, simply because it was an infectious song. Just as Escobar’s Viva España even took England by storm a few years later.  Don’t click on it, or you will end up singing it. Whoops, too late…

viva españa

In tribute to Manolo Escobar and his part in the great dream that is the success story of Benidorm, here is the opening sequence from the awful and highly watchable, wonderfully crass film Un Beso en el Puerto (A Kiss in the Port… !) 1965, in which the first phase of Benidorm high rise buildings can be seen in the background. The beach scenes show how the resort was attracting a customer base of wealthy, stylish people, before the industrial working class Brits arrived in large numbers, with the decline of Blackpool.  And a few minutes into this opening sequence – a marvel of soporific historical photography guaranteed to switch off a cinema audience immediately – Manolo Escobar launches into the first kitsch song of the film.  Truly glorious, but in a different sense than any of the works of the great John Tavener.  Rest in peace, both of you talented musical giants, and God love you.

un beso en el puerto


About Gareth Thomas

After a mixed career as an aircraft technician, London fringe theatre playwright, Franciscan friar, and secondary school teacher, I find myself looking after the needs of four donkeys in a remote location in the mountains in the Costa Blanca. I like to listen to BBC Radio 4 and the wind in the pine trees. I am writing a comedy about a school in Benidorm. My favourite film of all time is "Jean de Florette". If I had my time again I would not have spent the early 1970s working for Special Branch.
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One Response to John Tavener and Manolo Escobar, R.I.P.

  1. Kenny norton says:

    Thank you for your nice email. You sound more at peace than when I first ran across your site. All of my donkeys are Mediterranean miniatures. My tallest donkey is 36 inches at the shoulder. My smallest is 26 inches. Most others run between 31 and 34 inches. I have kept donkeys for over 10 years. I was intending to sell them and in fact sold 3. I missed them so much I had to go and buy them back for much more than I sold them for. But it was only money and having my 3 friends back home was worth much more than money. I went through a very hard time after being with my wife for 45 years. One day she just up and walked away with a much older and richer man. I do not think I would be here today if not for the love of my donkeys. I may well be crazy but they are all I live for. Each one knows its name and never fails to come when called. I think what one must learn is to be willing to let the donkey be the teacher. In order to learn from the donkey you have to be willing to live on donkey time. When we require a donkey to live on our time we have created a beast of burden, not a partnership. As I said any one of my donkey who hears its name comes to me. Some come at once and some will stop several times along the way, either to graze a bit or just have a look around. Tho some may take their time, and some come running they are soon standing at my side. Every one of my donkeys have a different personality. One of the donkeys I bought years ago would not let me near her. I tried once and she ran. I never tried again. Every time I went in the pen I spoke to her in a soft voice. I never tried to approach her. I would take a bucket to the pen and sit on it sometimes for an hour at a time while she stood off and looked at me. Then one day after about 3 weeks of this I was combing another donkey and felt a nudge in my back. As I turned around I was shocked to see her standing by me. It was in her time frame, not mine. Her name is Karmen and she is one of my sweetest. Most of my donkeys buddy up with another donkey and she has chosen pancho, a geilding. There is something special about the donkey, there is much the universe is trying to tell us and I really believe 90% of it can be learned from the donkey. At the top of the list is patience. Then there is loyalty, compassion, grace and mercy. I feel among all creatures the donkey is Gods Masterpeice. After all it was the noble donkey the Christ choose. And it was God Him Self who rebuked the owner who abused his donkey. It is snowing and sleeting here tonight, the donkeys are in their 3 barns under heat lamps. I fed them double tonight to help fight off the cold. Their pens are cleaned each day. They run freely on 10 acres and their pens are about an acre. The gates to the pens and barns are never shut , they go and come at will. I am a songwriter so I’m not too full of money. As I said before, there is not enough money to buy one of my friends. There are truly some things money can’t buy. Three of those things are love, peace and my donkeys. With them I have all three, and much more. I don’t have money for a vet and in 10 years have not needed one. I remind God daily of that fact and I pray for my donkeys several times a day. One ginnie cut her hoof very bad about 3 years ago. I called a vet for advice and he was good enough to tell me what to do. He told me the medicine and then said to wrap the hoof and make sure it stayed wraped. Well of course every time I got it wraped she would pull it off. I ended up spending two days and nights with her locked in the barn. As long as I was with her she made no attempt to remove the wrap. I had to do a lot of rubbing her back and talking softly in her ear, but we finally fell asleep with her stretched out and me with my head laying on her side. Best sleep I ever had. Your donkeys are beautiful and so big. I don’t know about big donkeys but these miniatures will get fat fast if they are over fed. That can lead to founder. All of my have hay bellies but that goes away, fat is forever. My donkeys eat high quality horse coastal hay. They get a cup of sweet feed once a week. They also get carrots now and then. They get no grain. They are all healthy and you can tell when a donkey is happy because they smile. You sound much happier and that makes me happy. Life is life, we can accept what is and choose to live in peace or we can try to make life what we think it should be. Good luck with that. And that is exactly what donkeys offer us, so much more than we could offer them. I hope your days are all you hope for and I pray your donkeys bring to you all they have to offer. If you allow them to do so, you will be a rich man, richer than money could ever make you. You are living with masters of zen, watch and you will learn. I might add that cats are also masters of Zen. Kenny norton

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