Since the beginning, Andorra SaxFest has been one of the most prestigious music festivals in Europe, said the organizer of the festival, a professional saxophonist Efrem Roca Gayete

Efrem Roca Gayete
The 5th annual international festival “Andorra SaxFest” will be held in Andorra from 14th to 22nd April 2017. The organizer of the festival, a professional saxophonist Efrem Roca Gayete told about his vision of a musical culture in Andorra:

“I came to Andorra to work as a music teacher and to teach the saxophone. I gained my higher education in music in Barcelona, then continued my studies in Montpellier (France). Later, when I became a Selmer brand representative (one of the largest top class saxophone producers), I got in touch with the best saxophonists in the world.

It has always been my goal to organize an international festival at a very high level, and to include concerts, workshops and competitions in order to find talented musicians. I offered Vincent David, who is, from my point of view, a genius and the best saxophonist in the world, to become a member of the jury. He agreed. Then we were joined by other famous international musicians.

We started in 2013 and since the beginning Andorra SaxFest has been one of the most prestigious music festivals in Europe. The festival program has always been attractive for saxophone lovers. But I think here, in Andorra, the audience don’t fully appreciate what they are offered. The most popular and favorite part of the festival here is normally the street musicians. But SaxFest is not only about street musicians! As I mentioned, we organize professional shows with beautiful and complex music, but unfortunately, they are not very popular here.

The International Congress of Saxophonists is a very important event in the world of saxophone. It is held every three years: the last congress was held in Strasbourg (France); the next will be held in Zagreb (Croatia) in 2018. To highlight the comparison: the Congress’ itinery normally includes about 50-60 concerts and all the seats are sold out, whereas here in Andorra, we hold less than 10 concerts and the halls are half full at best.

However, we see some positive results beginning to show. As a professor at the Andorran Conservatory of Music, I can say that interest in this instrument is growing among both children and adults. In my opinion, one can learn to play the saxophone at 6-7 years old. There is a theory according to which a child must first learn to play a simple wind instrument such as a recorder. But I believe that it is not mandatory. The only qualifying factor is that the child must have their two front upper and lower teeth fully formed.

Here, in Andorra, it costs about 60 euros per month to study to play the saxophone: one saxophone practical lesson and two theory lessons a week). The cost of a good saxophone is around 500-600 euros. Professional saxophones can cost 4,000 euros. Saxophones are usually made from brass and then coated with silver or gold. The price varies depending on the manufacturer and brand, as well as the amount of gold used in the coating. Оf course, when beginning to learn, it’s cheaper to rent a saxophone.

This year SaxFest has been supported by the Andorran Government, the Ministry of Culture and the administration of Andorra la Vella. On 21st February we signed an agreement stating that 30,000 euros would be given to finance the annual festival for the following three years. This is about a third of our total budget. We have also private sponsors, among them is the largest producer of saxophones, a French brand, which I have already spoken about, Henri Selmer. This brand is the official sponsor and it provides the first and second prizes – two saxophones worth 6000 euros (first prize) and € 2,000 cash (second prize).

The number of people interested in participating in the competition is gradually increasing. The last letter I got was from a woman from Russia. At the moment we have musicians that have registered from as far as Japan. Registration is open until 18th March. The participation fee is 90 euros. Musician must have an intermediate level in order to participate. The contest will be divided into three stages. After the first stage we choose top 15 performers, then only 6 will reach the finals. Participants of the first and the second phase will be asked to play with a piano accompaniment. The finalists must play with the orchestra.

Regarding the seminars; participation depends on the teachers’ schedules. The cost of an individual lesson is 60 euros per hour. This year, private lessons will be held from 17th to 20th April. Among the professors are: Niels Bijl, Jay Byrnes, Damien Royannais and Joan Martí-Frasquier.

The program of concerts has not been completely confirmed yet. But I can confirm the following concerts: Arno Bornkamp, 17th April, 20.30; Vincent David, 18th April, 20.00; Jan Menu, 19th April, 21.30. A concert by the pianist Aniana Jaime Latre and saxophonist Mariano García will be held on 19th April at 18.00. Sylvain Beuf (saxophone), Michel Perez (guitar) and Diego Imbert (double bass) perform on 21st April at 21.00 in the municipal theater of Andorra la Vella. Quartet Yendo & Baptiste Herbin perform on 22nd April at 21.30.

Steven Broyden

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