Maria Testa’s Centro de Divulgación Musical del Mediterráneo, which loosely translates as Mediterranean Centre for the Promotion of Music, was launched in 2004. The very first concert took place in a large private house, in an intimate setting of the type of “Hauskonzert” of past centuries.
After this initial concert, Maria Testa started organising monthly concerts in a restaurant in San Pedro Alcántara. Again here, the emphasis was to offer classical music to a small audience, permitting a lively interaction between artists and spectators. This interaction is crucial to the concerts which Maria Testa organises through her Música con Encanto, or music with charm. Ever since that very first concert, the audience sits only yards away from the artist, since there are no stages which separate the artist from the audience. The artist shares his or her music and art with the listener and seeks to engage with the audience, an interaction rarely found elsewhere.
Maria had a difficult start with her innovative project. It is difficult to bring classical music to a wider audience in Marbella due to the lack of musical culture in our contemporary society. The absence of support from the municipal authorities did not help either. However, over the years, Maria Testa has created a unique, exceptional and almost addictive performance space where spectators and artists mingle.
Hundreds of people attend the concerts of Musica con Encanto regularly. The concerts are set up in different locations. Probably, one of the most spectacular settings is where the summer concerts take place. The summer venue is the Plaza de la Virginia, a unique location in one of the loveliest urbanisation in Marbella. Here, huge Steinway pianos are placed on the cobblestone pavement of the square, in front of the church. In this setting the audience listens to the music performed by outstanding artists and is surrounded by the smell of thousands of flowers.
In the intermissions, sandwiches made by Maria’s mother and glasses of cava are served. These evenings are unforgettable, and it should be considered a sin to be a resident of Marbella and not having attended any of these concerts. The concerts of Música con Encanto are a bargain, and a unique space where artist and listeners interact, and where positive vibes float.
Curiously, the audience of the concerts organized by Maria is mostly international, and the reason might be that other countries have nurtured the love for classical music, something which is rather missing in Spain. In order to promote music, the Mediterranean Centre for the Promotion of Music has started a programme in which documentaries about classical music composers, conductors and performing artists are screened. The aim of these documentaries is to help developing a deeper understanding of music, differentiating styles and techniques, and allowing us, the audience, to better appreciate classical music concerts. These films are educational, provide a new perspective into classical music, and show the human face of the musical genius.
According to Maria Testa, the appreciation of artistic culture has to commence in infancy. Children should have access to art and learn the structures of music, since these tools will be very important in their cognitive and psychological development. To play an instrument is a livelong learning process, twelve years at the conservatory, which will help the child to focus on results, often many years hence. The first steps for learning to play an instrument or painting are often difficult, but are the ticket on a voyage to a brilliant future. Artistic education boosts discipline and persistence, a sharp contrast to the values of today’s society, where results are imminent and achieved with only a minimum of effort. New technologies, computers and mobile phones allow children to achieve goals instantly without endeavour, and Maria believes that this is the worst educational mistake. Life is a long journey and children are much better prepared for adulthood if they are aware that discipline, concentration and perseverance are essential tools to achieve a specific goal. Creativity is vital, and those who have learned this are the survivors of tomorrow.
In the arts, institutional support is tremendously important, and generally, cultural iniciatives in Marbella need to receive more institutional support. It is praiseworthy that the cultural department of Marbella’s town hall has started the initiative Take your parents to the theatre and is actively supporting the Pequeña Orquestra Mediterránea (The Mediterranean Youth Orchestra), an assemble of some twenty children between 6 and 14 years of age.
Music lowers barriers and is a universal language that does not depend on verbal language, and since Marbella has citizens from more that one hundred different nationalities, music can serve as catalyst to unite the population which often seems to live on different planets. This shows that art makes us more equal and boosts solidarity. When music is performed, accents are lost, and so are race, religion and social status, they all loose importance, and what remains is music, beauty and happiness.
Part of our community is set to continue to promote a luxurious Marbella. The idea to create an ultra modern and extravagant city, a copy of Dubai in the site where the current industrial estate of Marbella resides, clashes with the economic reality of the beginning of the 21st century. Do visitors really want to see a Marbella of skyscrapers and utter luxury? Or would they not prefer to see a typical Andalusian city, with small streets, and local bars where people drink sherry and eat olives?
Tourists come to Marbella to be in contact with our art, culture, cuisine, with our way of life, and may not appreciate these false models of utter wealth. In times of economic uncertainties, with unemployment and cut backs on social welfare, we can ill afford to present our city, remote from reality, as a paradise of consumerism and wealth.
Marbella has a history that dates back well over 3000 years. Our life, our culture and language have been influenced by Phoenicians, Romans, Arabs, and travellers from all around the world. We have to avoid at all cost to forget our glorious past and become an anonymous city, a global town, interchangeable with any place in the globe. The “new Marbella” model would not leave space for the “old Marbella”, since it would focus on a “city of luxury” accessible just for the few and totally alien to ordinary people.
Culture, music and painting can enlighten more than owning a fast car, and could live along luxury within measure. The need to show off in exclusive cloths, jewels, and cars are often just a substitute for those who have never learned to appreciate real values. The ability to appreciate art, paintings, and music converts the servant in master and the master in servant. Art is freedom, it widens horizons, so let us fight for the Arts.
Maria Testa has been showing us that perseverance, intelligence, and discipline are essential tools to achieve any goal. Let us follow her lead and make art part of our lives. Let’s lay a wager on culture, on happiness, on perfection, on life. It is a privilege to have Maria Testa living amongst us in Marbella, because she fights for our cultural heritage, and for the future of our children and grand children.
Maria Testa’s Centro de Divulgación Musical del Mediterráneo is currently a synonym for culture in Marbella.