Dane Johansen's Walk to Fisterra: Part III
Cellist Dane Johansen continues along the Camino de Santiago with Bach's Solo Cello Suites
A man I met along Spain’s Camino de Santiago told me: 'when a musician shares music with other people, listeners have the opportunity to become musicians themselves.'
'For a brief moment,' he said, 'everyone is participating in the same communicative experience. With the help of a musician, they all share in a beauty that transcends culture, age and language.'
This man was one of many I have met while walking the Camino de Santiago, a pilgrimage route through Spain that leads to the Atlantic Ocean. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to have conversations as deep as this with everyone I meet - I speak Spanish poorly at best. Many people on the Camino speak at least some English, and I’ve enjoyed practicing my French with pilgrims and French emigrates living along the trail, but its almost impossible to have a conversation of any real depth using broken language.
But I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to explore the possibilities music holds as a common language during my time in Spain. Every night I perform Bach’s Suites for Solo Cello in ancient churches along the Camino. I witness audience members separated by language but sharing a deep appreciation for Bach’s music. People express their appreciation in many ways and this often uses as few words as possible. On the trail this morning, I crossed paths with Spaniards, Italians and Dutch who expressed their gratitude and enthusiasm with heartfelt grunts, hands placed over hearts, an inclination of the head, a warm smile, mimed cello playing and, of course, the ever-universal ‘thumbs up.’ Receiving so much encouragement from people visiting Spain from all over the world has confirmed for me that music truly is a language for all people.
From those I have been able to communicate with in English, French and broken Spanish, the overwhelming reaction is extremely positive and generous. Many have described the nightly concerts as one of the highlights of their experience along the Camino, something they look forward to day after day. Surprising numbers have spoken about the ‘journey’ they experience while listening to Bach’s music, describing it as a perfect accompaniment to their Camino journey. And one Belgian woman described reliving scenes from throughout her Camino while listening to Bach’s Sixth Suite. She even chose a word I like to use when describing that particular suite: 'transcendental.' It is wonderful to know that the music is communicating to others exactly what I experience while playing it.
This endeavor was first conceived of as a series of recording sessions along the Camino, which I now realise is an inherently selfish pursuit. It has ended up being a series of concerts and, as I have developed personally, the goal has shifted away from a self-serving project to a focus on the experience of others. One of the most powerful lessons I have learned on the Camino is that I foment negative energy when I focus on myself and that I am liberated from negativity when my focus is directed towards others. I never expected that these concerts would be so meaningful to so many people and that Bach’s musical language would be so universally received. I hope to find ways to continue sharing music as a gift, not as a commodity, when I return home.
As a nun told me a few weeks ago, the real journey begins after you reach the end of the Camino.
- Dane Johansen
For more information about Dane's journey through Spain with the music of JS Bach, visit: www.walktofisterra.com
Photos: Kayla Arend