Dane Johansen's Walk to Fisterra: a cellist's journey

We hear from cellist Dane Johansen on the first leg of his Walk to Fisterra

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Dane Johansen's Walk to Fisterra: a cellist's journey
Dane Johansen looks out on a ridge between Roncevalles and Zabaldica, Spain (photo: Kayla Arend)
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Cellist Dane Johansen is making a 500-mile journey along the El Camino de Santiago in Spain with his cello, performing JS Bach's Six Suites for Cello at ancient churches along the way...

 

I am lying in my berth in a long room full of bunks. Curfew has passed and the lights are out. Strangers whisper the last words of the day in languages from all over the world: Japanese, Korean, Spanish, English, German, Dutch, French and others unrecognizable. Tonight the albergue [shelter] we're sleeping in is in Los Arcos, a small town on the border between Navarra and La Rioja in northern Spain.

Everyone is here with a common purpose: to walk El Camino de Santiago, an ancient pilgrimage route to the historic city of Santiago de Compostella, the Atlantic Ocean and a place called Fisterra, the western-most point of mainland Europe. We are all pilgrims. We walked 23 kilometers today and anticipate 29 tomorrow. Everyone is exhausted.

‘Why are you walking the Camino?' is most common question posed from one pilgrim to another. Everyone has their own reason for doing so. Some are dealing with the loss of a loved one, others were recently laid off, many walk as an expression of religious devotion, and some walk for sport. I am walking with my cello, performing Bach’s Suites for Solo Cello in 36 churches along the way. Each day I carry my cello between 20 and 30 kilometers, record Bach’s Suites in ancient churches and perform them for other pilgrims and locals eager to listen to music.

Many people have asked me why I am walking with my cello. The simple answer is to share Bach’s music with as many people as possible in some of the world’s most beautiful churches while testing my mind, body and spirit. The longer answer involves exploring music as a language; one that transcends the expressive limitations of speech and communicates our deepest feelings and emotions.

I have performed the Bach Suites every night on the Camino for seven days now. The audiences have been warm and welcoming. One woman even brought some homemade tortillas - a Spanish-style omelet with egg, potato, ham, onions and cheese - for me and the team of filmmakers and audio engineers who are traveling with me to create a documentary film.

Tonight, I looked out to a smiling audience of several hundred people and couldn’t believe that this adventure – six years in the planning and making – was finally a reality. I am enamored with Spain and its people, and so thankful for the many generous individuals who made this experience possible.

I look forward to exploring how my relationship with Bach’s music, which I’ve been playing since I was a child, will evolve over the next five weeks and five hundred miles. 

- Dane Johanson

Above: Dane Johansen prepares to at Iglesia de Santa Maria de la Asuncion, Los Arcos (photo: Kayla Arend)

 

American cellist Dane Johansen's Walk to Fisterra was funded by public support and will be filmed for a documentary and recorded. Visit: www.walktofisterra.com for more information.

 

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