Music in the Chapels

The chapel of São Sebastião, in Ponta do Sol, prepares itself to host a new season of special concerts starting next October.

Religious temples have long been associated with the notion of good acoustics. They are ideal places to listen to music and have historically hosted grand concerts. For the most part this is a European tradition, less common in Madeira, especially when there is no all-encompassing religious festivity.

Two chapels in Ponta do Sol where the sound quality as well as the space itself have led to the creation of a programme of frequent concerts which have since become part of the town’s own identity. The initiative goes by the name of Music in the Chapels; its first two stages were the chapels of São Sebastião and Santo António.

The Retoiça cultural association is in charge of designing the programme, with the support of the Town Hall. Last season, 14 concerts were held between October 2017 and April 2018. October 2018 will be the beginning of a new cycle that runs until April 2019. Filipe Teixeira, member of the cultural association, says that the programme is still being fine-tuned ‘according to the availability of the artists’.

From the very first concert, the approach has been to make the programme as eclectic as possible. Throughout three seasons, ‘over 70 artistic projects have come to light in the chapels of Ponta do Sol’, entertaining hundreds of spectators.

Demand keeps increasing and spaces have started not to be large enough but the atmosphere has remained very intimate nonetheless. Filipe Teixeira talks about a ‘balance between locals and visitors’ who on average take up 85% of the space in the Chapel of São Sebastião, the larger of the two, which has become the sole venue of the event given the increase in audience figures.

The Town Hall sees this as an initiative which is to must be continued, if not reinforced. Mayor Célia Pessegueiro speaks of ‘opening up religious spaces, respecting prayer while simultaneously maximising their cultural potential’.

Filipe Teixeira believes that the two chapels belonging to the Town Hall and not the Diocese of Funchal ‘widens the stylistic and creative spirit of this cycle’. It makes it possible to vary in terms of musical genre.

No further religious spaces are set to be included in the programme but the chapel of Anjos is always an option. Filipe Teixeira acknowledges it is a great space but holding any musical show it would have to be ‘negotiated with the Parish and follow the rules of the Diocese’.

The Music in the Chapels concerts are one of the offers that make an ever more diverse tourism offer in this municipality to the west of the island. Many of the initiatives are either run by or supported by the Town Hall. But there are also private-run ones, such as the L Concerts by Estalagem da Ponta do Sol.

The first concert takes place on June 30th and includes another debut in the region. The cycle will run until October 6th on a weekly basis, at first on Saturday evenings, then switching to Wednesday evenings. There will be a total 12 concerts, similar to last, according to the organisers, which will include some debuts in Madeira as well as in the country.

Summer sees a number of bars and leisure spaces in the town centre be in charge of plentiful entertainment. And it is also during summer, in august, that the town holds its folk festivities, the festas, as locals call them.

Starting October, film sessions make their return to the town, every Friday night. These are non-commercial films that cannot be viewed in chain movie theatres.