On 11 June the Municipal Music Band accompanied the procession of Marbella's patron saint with great dignity, even though there were only just over a dozen of them. It did not go unnoticed among the public. It was some time since the band had performed, and it was obvious that there were fewer members than there used to be, as they marched with the procession. Why was this?
It was partly due to a reported lack of interest from the local authorities, but it was also because during the economic crisis town halls had no money to pay more musicians who have part time work contracts. Over the past 15 years, there have been no replacements for band members who retired or died.
Now, however, this is about to change. The municipal band in Marbella is one of the oldest in the country and will be celebrating its 150th anniversary in 2020. By then, it should have more members as the present council has decided to activate a waiting list for jobs which was designed by its predecessor.
Sources at the town hall have said that this month details will be published, showing who has been accepted for this waiting list, and who has been unsuccessful this time. Once the definitive candidates for the band have been shortlisted, they will be auditioned by a panel who will be given technical advice from the present director of the municipal band, Ángel Chinchilla.
At the beginning of this year Marbella council announced that three of these waiting lists for jobs were to be created: one to cover the needs of the Town Planning department, another for Tourism and a third specifically to fill the 25 vacancies with the municipal band. The aim is to be able to have a pool of temporary staff available to cover any needs permitted by labour laws, and for any town hall departments where no such pool of workers exists or where it has already been exhausted.
Just over 250 people have indicated that they hope to find work this way, so there should be no lack of candidates to cover the places where needed.
"With the members we have left plus all the new ones, we will finally have a proper band again," says Chinchilla. The 25 vacant posts include percussion, tuba, trombone, French horn, trumpet, flugelhorn, clarinet, flute, oboe, bassoon and saxophone.
As he explains, the lack of these instrumentalists has caused a major problem for the band. It is contracted to perform at 30 events a year, but the repertoire has had to be very carefully chosen to ensure that the band was able to play the music properly with so few members. As there are currently only 16 of them, the music would sound strange if the chosen pieces needed instruments they lack.
"Because there are so few of us, there are some instruments we just don't have. That really restricts me when I'm planning what we'll play, and it means I have to work really hard to try to find pieces which suit the number of musicians we have at present," he explains.
Right now the band lacks a French horn, oboe, flugelhorn and at least one percussionist. Also, with the exception of the clarinets, most of the instruments have solo sections in the pieces of music, which makes the task even more difficult.
"Sometimes if someone is taken ill and can't play in a concert, it is better to cancel the concert because without them the music wouldn't make sense. It depends on the instrument, of course. We are in a similar position to that," says Chinchilla.
The lack of musicians isn't the only handicap for this band director. Certain projects are inaccessible because the contract offered is for one-quarter of a working day. The conditions for these musicians stipulate eight and a half hours a week.
"Our dream is to be able to do this full-time, because we are musicians and this is our real work. If we could work full-time at this and have 25 more band members, just think what we could do. Marbella would have a fantastic municipal band, which would be really good for the town," he says.