In the second half of the 19th century, the Brotherhood of Our Lady of Solitude began to give unprecedented prominence to the orators of the May novena, following the example of the hermandades of San Francisco. From their low-key participation of the previous century, they now became important elements of the celebrations, to be sought after, praised, and rewarded.
In a rush of enthusiasm – and despite being prohibited by its statutes to enter into the rivalry instigated by the San Francisco hermandades – the Brotherhood of Our Lady of Solitude fell under the spell of the orators brought in by the cofradia of Jesus of Nazareth in 1864, and decided to invite one of them, Francisco Sánchez Juárez “because he has brought forth the greatest spiritual response from our people”.
One of the finest orators was invited by José Tomás Valverde Castilla in 1915: he was the Right Honourable Luis Calpena y Ávila, ecclesiastical adviser to the Tribunal de la Rota, who attracted extraordinary interest, not only in Priego itself, but in the whole of the region.
This was not the only occasion on which he took part in the May celebrations – in total, his appearances stretched over 21 years.
Music has always been an essential element of the celebrations, in greater or lesser profusion, depending on the finances available. In the 1860s, the parish organist and choirmaster León Bidaburu provided the music for the festival of Our Lady of Solitude, and in times of economic prosperity, a marching band also took part. Then, in the 80s, entered Laureano Cano, who was to become a cultural institution in Priego, and the musical inspiration for all the cofradias, followed many years later by his son, Alonso Cano.
In the first half of the 20th century, there were performances by the tenor Luis Morgado, the baritone Julio Vidal and his singers, and Rafael Rodríguez and his musicians: in the 40s, appearances by the choir of Córdoba, and Antono Castro with his orchestra and singers. These days, there are performances by local musical and folk groups, with the hermandad’s own choir, conducted by José Joaquín Alcalá Pérez, and Priego’s Alonso Cano choir sings during High Mass on the Sunday.
During the processions, the streets of Priego have resounded to the music of: the Bagpipe, Cornet, and Drum band of Torremolinos; the Domingo Savio Military Band of Cornets and Drums from Morón de la Frontera; the Band of the Tenth Infantry Regiment of Córdoba, with its Marching Platoon; the Cornet and Drum Band of the Second Infantry Regiment (Lepanto) of Córdoba; the Lucena Town Band; the Second Light Infantry Regiment; the Music Collectives of Priego and Granada; the 42nd Regiment, Field Artillery; the Foreign Legion Band of Ronda; the Band of the Fourth Division of the Legion Alejandro Farnesio; the Musical Collective of Our Lady of the Olive, from Salteras in Seville.
The earliest reference to the auctions comes in May 1848, when a painting of Our Lady of Carmel was sold by means of sealed bids, before the start of the procession: later, we learn that a donation of some pears, a fruit typical of local orchards, was auctioned for five reales. Then no further mention is made until 1856, when a gift of artichokes is said to have fetched 20 reales. From then on, supporters of the brotherhood began regularly to donate fruit and sweetmeats, and gradually the donations became more substantial, and the profits consequently greater. These days, the hermandad holds its auction over three evenings – on the Saturday, the Sunday of the main celebration, and on the Monday, to coincide with the kissing of the hand of Our Lady of Solitude.
Particular mention should be made of the group of Seises – young male dancers -- founded in 1994, to celebrate the fourth centenary of its constitution. They appeared for the first time at the ceremony of the coronation of Our Lady, and since then, they take part in the main service on the Sunday: they also escort the image of the Virgin during the procession, and that of Jesus during Corpus Christi.