Day of the piper
Each May Laguardia hosts one of the most popular festivals in Rioja Alavesa and Álava: The day of the Piper. It first started on 11th May, 1975 in homage to Jesus Martinez (Jimeleo), a local pipe major, however, over the years it has become a celebration that attracts more and more people.
In fact, initially it was limited to a Sunday, whereas now it goes on all weekend. And this cultural event attracts pipe bands from different parts of the Basque Country, from neighbouring provinces and even more remote areas such as Valencia, Zamora, Soria, Hendaye or Bayonne.
What will the visitor who comes to Laguardia to enjoy the Day of the Piper encounter? Concerts, dance festivals, composition contests and classic pieces, reveilles, parades, etc., all form part of an extensive programme of activities.
Laguardia has been the birthplace of important pipers-dulzaina players and the town, with its medieval flavour, is the perfect setting to hear the echoes of this instrument resounding through its streets.
Within the extensive folklore of the Historical Territory of Álava, its dances and music are, for the vast majority, relatively unknown. This is not due so much to scarcity, which is not the case, rather because very little work has been done to describe, study or research such.
Any documentation that can be found is very poor, with hardly anything at all if we go back more than thirty years ago. The means of transmission has always been oral, at best we can find the sheet music but this is usually no more than jottings for the piper’s repertoire.
Each piece of music and dance in particular had a set date for its performance, beyond which it was never staged, and in the best of cases this was generally once per year. Melodies and dances belong to a people not because they are a birthright but rather because they are heard and seen, they do not leave an area so their only vehicle of transmission and diffusion is the piper.
In most cases, dances are performed by young people, who change practically every year or when they reach a certain age, meaning that new elements are introduced and the original dances may be modified.
The arduous research work done by the pipers of Laguardia into the traditional music of the area, along with a series of dances that still are performed on certain dates, makes it possible for us to continue to enjoy these enveloping sounds.
The bagpipe or dulzaina is a traditional double reed wind instrument in the oboe family. It is considered the most important, most representative folk instrument native to Rioja Alavesa. Over the centuries its presence has become a requisite at all the religious and festive acts that are conducted within the region’s municipalities.
Laguardia is located some 46 kilometres from Vitoria-Gasteiz via the BU-750 and A-2124, or 68 km via the AP-1 and the N-232a or, finally, 86.8 km via the AP-1 and AP-68.