Don Apolinar Gal Gainza

Thanks to  the music of the festivities of his city has been preserved as it was two centuries ago. However, this musician has been unnoticed through the ages. Due to the proximity of these festivities, San Pedro (29 June) and San Marcial (30 June), I would like to pay homage to one of the most endearing musicians form Irun of the 19th century by naming a street after him, at least a virtual one.

The festive atmosphere

Although Irun is a modest city in Guipúzcoa, it is home to a lot of music lovers. It is a fact that many of us are thrilled to listen to the San Marcial marches, played by the band of Irun. I have to say that in my family we have this music recordered in a vinyl that is about my age, securely stored by my father.

The celebrations commemorate two victories over the French troops: one on 30th June 1522, and the other one on 31st August 1813 in The Mount San Marcial. This last battle meant the end of the Spanish War of Independence.

Each 30th of June, Irun is divided into companies, which correspond to neighborhoods or clubs (for example the Real Union football team). Each company represents an infantry battalion, except Artillery, Cavalry, Band, Tamborrada (Drummers) and Hacheros (Axemen). The band and tamborrada, along with the drums and fifes of each company, brighten up the parade of this day with this music.

Don Apolinar Gal Gainza

 Don Apolinar’s ear comes into play

Well, who is responsible for having preserved these songs? Our man is Don Apolinar Gal Gainza , who transcribed by ear all the music of the festivities because the written repertoire had disappeared. It is said that perhaps his brother helped him, but what is sure is that he composed a last march, ‘La Fajina’ , which is interpreted at the end of the day to remind the troops dinner time.

Banda de Irun en 1886

The music in Irun in the 19th century

As you can imagine by the meaning of the fajina, Apolinar had a good appetite and was also very sociable (he won the ‘Good Mood’ award according to the Festivity Programme of 1991), but music was his deepest passion. He was born in 1843 and at the age of 6 his brother Patricio began to teach him muisc theory, to join 6 years later the band of Irun, according to a popular magazine of 1918.

At that time, Irun had 1,400 inhabitants (66,000 today) and the musicians of the band were paid nothing at all: the City Council provided them with a rehearsal room, light, wine and a feast on Saint Cecilia and San Marcial days. You will find more information about the band (the photo shows the musicians of 1,886) in this link.

Apolinar created the first school of music in Irun. Years later, this school had to close because a free teaching music school had been opened. He also opened a music store that he had to close years later. He was the band director and organised and led many orchestras and students bands, to raise funds to alleviate the ravages of the wars at that time.

His legacy

Apolinar died at the age of 85 leaving behind a hundred compositions, as well as the spark of his passion for music, which was transmitted from one generation to another. All his twelve children played the piano, the guitar, the flute, the clarinet and the bandurria. Later on, he taught his grandchildren the guitar and the piano. In 1991, seven of her great-granddaughters worked as piano teachers and a great-great-grandson was a sub-director of the Easo Choir.