Saturday, March 30, 2013

Easter Week - Semana Santa

It has been a cold and rainy week in Madrid, in fact most of Spain.  But that has not stopped the many parades and celebrations associated with Easter, or Holy Week as it is called here.  Spain's strong religious background, especially with the Catholic faith, has led to many rich traditions of celebrating Easter.  There have been many concerts and especially parades.  Every parish has its own traditional celebration which often involves taking the sacred or precious artwork of the local cathedral and shouldering it through the local streets and plazas of the neighborhood to music and various rituals.  Many people dress up in costumes and hooded robes and there are thousands of candles in the processions and lots of music.
Unfortunately we were not able to witness any of them first-hand because of a busy schedule (and bad weather; we're such wimps), but we definitely plan on seeing a lot more next year.
At the Stake Center here on Temple Square we had a concert last night, Good Friday, with a large choir and small orchestra where we performed works by Beethoven, Bach, Mozart, Sibelius and several hymn arrangements.  The building was full and although it wasn't the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square, it came off quite well.  Sister Margarita Bareto who directed, is a member in Madrid who has sung for many years with the National Choir of Spain.  Members had advertised by handing out lots of flyers in the neighborhood and we understand there were quite a few non-members.
It was fun to sing again in a choir and even though it was all in Spanish, it was all familiar musical material.  I've never attended such long rehearsals though.  Sister Bareto thinks nothing of a 4-hour rehearsal, or even longer.  In fact, last night before the concert at 7:30 we rehearsed from 4:30 until 7:00.  I really have to bite my tongue and say to myself, "Relax and take a deep breath.  This is a different culture than you're used to.  Try and contribute and not to criticize."  But it's hard.
For those parents of missionaries in the Madrid Missionary Training Center who may view our blog I just want to say "Thank you" for raising such incredible young men and women.  They are truly awesome and the spirit they carry is almost palpable.  I'm going to include several pictures, but if I happen to miss your son or daughter please forgive me; taking pictures is not my forte and even if I was good at it, there is almost no time in which to take a photo during the schedule of the day.
We currently have about 62 missionaries, which is more than double our normal number over the past year.  We are going to be up around 90-100 for the rest of the year and considering the fact that the MTC is only built to house 72 it's going to be "interesting" to say the least.

This is Brother Jack Tyndale (descendent of the brother of William Tyndale) from Malaga, Spain.  Recently returned missionary who is incredibly gifted on the piano.  He performed a solo arrangement of "This Is The Christ" at last night's concert.  Really fantastic.  He is coming to BYU to study piano performance and composition.  I think you may hear more about him in the future.

Here is Sister Sullivan with 3 of her "children" who have left the MTC and are all serving in the Madrid Mission. They were at the concert with investigators.  From left to right:
Sister Rica from Malaga, Sister Seastrand from Salt Lake and Sister Palomino (bilingual and a great sense of humor) from Salt Lake.

Sister Sullivan with Sister Benito who serves as Second Counselor in the MTC Relief Society.  She is a convert from England who came to Spain years ago at 17 and married a Spanish young man and convert named Javier Benito.  They are a terrific couple.

Vivienne and I with Sister Margarite Bareto after the concert.  I think she's about 4'11" in heels but has a HUGE voice.

Part of the orchestra after the concert.  There were about 50 singers in total.  On the far left is Sister Bareto's husband who also composed one of the numbers we sang.  We had violins, viola, flute and cellos.

Our MTC is dividing into 2 zones because there are so many.  Today we went with Zone 1 to Retiro Park, as we do every Saturday to allow them to do personal "street" contacting.  Most of them have only been speaking Spanish for 2 weeks, so it's exciting to say the least.  Zone 2 goes to a different location in Madrid, so we don't overwhelm the park-goers, and we switch the zones each week.  Below, we just exited the Metro and are getting ready to cross the street into the Park.  We spend about 1 1/2 hours contacting and then we end by gathering together at one of the main fountains and singing as a group, which always gathers a large crowd.  As we sing, several missionaries are assigned to go out into the crowd and contact those listening.  Then we come back on the Metro to the MTC, where we have an evening devotional/testimony meeting and share the experiences of contacting in the Park.  There are some amazing stories, even miraculous episodes almost every week.  If the missionaries are diligent and humble it's amazing to see what happens.  They almost always give out about 50 copies of the Book of Mormon and obtain about 25 referrals.  

Getting ready to cross the street into Retiro Park

The Park is huge and filled with fountains, statues, benches, play areas and gardens.  Down one of the paths today I happened to find this little sign by a species of tree.  I discovered this is the exact species of tree Stradivarius used to create his violins and other stringed instruments.  I was fascinated. 

This is the tree.  He used only the straightest and most perfect parts of the trunks.  Scholars have often speculated about why those particular instruments are so special; certainly part of it is the wood used.

Two Sisters contacting.  The one on the left is Sister Kercheruk (not sure I spelled that right) from Russia and going to Moscow, and Sister Kunz from Idaho going to Malaga

Sister Griffin from Albuquerque going to Madrid with a companion I can't identify

Elder Day from California going to Madrid with Elder Curtis from SLC going to Malaga

Getting ready to Sing

Elders Day and Curtis contacting

Elders Day and Curtis - the family was Jehovah's Witness; the Elders got an earful, but they survived.
Not everyone is ready, but surprisingly many are.  Our job is to give everyone a chance to hear the message.  On average, it takes 7 contacts with the Church before and investigator joins.
Well, it's time to head to the MTC for our evening devotional and testimony meeting.  We hope you all have a very meaningful, thoughtful Easter season.  What a wonderful opportunity to remember the Saviour.  As President Hinckley used to say, "Without Easter, there would not be a Christmas to celebrate".


  1. Good times! Looks like you are having a great experience.

  2. life is good in Spain, I can tell. We think of you often. Love you doug and ilean

  3. I personally like the picture of Elder Day! :) It is special times! I would love to hear more!