Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Pepe Romero Day!

Did you know that Saturday, October 15 was officially proclaimed, by Mayor Adler himself, as Pepe Romero Day in Austin and Austin proclaimed as the Classical Guitar Capital of the World? Me neither! But when the lights went down that evening, Pepe took his seat and propped his foot up on his stand, it was pretty obvious why.

Thanks to the Austin Clubhouse (austinclubhouse.org) and their relationship with Austin Classical Guitar (austinclassicalguitar.org), my son and I were able to join a group that attended the sold-out Austin Classical Guitar International Series Opening Night at the AISD Performing Arts Center featuring Pepe Romero.

Arriving at the PAC for the first time, I was surprised by its beauty (and its ample parking). Our group carefully rolled into the parking garage as we were in a large van and it looked like we were going to hit the roof. Lots of laughter started the evening off right! Our short walk to the atrium brought us into a well-lit lobby peppered with displays from Austin Classical Guitar as well as representatives from AISD's guitar programs. My son's guitar teacher from McCallum High School was there as well. Very cool.

Once we got to our seats, we saw that the stage was filled with chairs. Was Pepe going to have a backup band? After a wonderful introduction by the emcee, we were treated to a opening song from the William B. Travis Classical Guitar Ensemble. They were wonderful, and after they completed their song, Pepe came out on the stage to wild applause.

Pepe started without a word and the audience was silenced until he lifted the spell to let us raise him up with the first round of raucous applause. While over the night, I only recognized two of the songs, his technique was incredible and he truly mesmerized the crowd.

Would you like some education about Freedom with that?
Partway through the show, he stopped and spoke about his background and I was able to get a bigger perspective on how he fits into the world and why he had spent so much extra time here in Austin working with students and guitar groups. His father was unable to take his music outside of Spain by Fascist dictator Generalissimo Francisco Franco (1892-1975) due to Celedonio Romero’s participation in the Spanish Civil War against Franco. Pepe truly cares about freedom, freedom through music and music education, so he travels to spread the word and his and his father's music.

My son has been playing guitar for years and I was very happy to have this opportunity to have him see such an amazing artist. What I didn't expect was that he told me that he saw "at least 15" new guitar playing techniques that he wanted to learn. That was worth the whole trip.

Thank you, Austin Clubhouse! I'm looking forward to the next outing.

Want to learn more about Pepe? Here ya go!

This week's edition of Classical Guitar Alive! features a look at how political events have shaped music history from the 16th Century to 20th Century. Pepe Romero tells how his father Celedonio Romero (1913-1996) was prevented by Fascist dictator Generalissimo Francisco Franco (1892-1975) from concertizing outside of Spain, due to Celedonio Romero’s participation in the Spanish Civil War against Franco. The Romero family immigrated to the USA in 1957, and then performed world-wide as Los Romeros Guitar Quartet. Pepe Romero performs his father’s flamenco-based work, “Concierto de Malaga”. Pepe says “Because my father was in Malaga, he fought against Franco’s forces. He was in a group of artists and musicians that were very liberal thinkers that wanted freedom for Spain, and that whose ideas were the very opposite of what Franco and the Fascist government stood for. Therefore, many of them had a much worse fate, like Garcia Lorca, Antonio Jose. And my father was just prevented from leaving Spain … and he performed magnificently-inspired concerts for us.”

When I think of Austin Classical Guitar and the extraordinary work they are doing for the Spanish guitar, it fills my heart with happiness.

I see Austin as a wonderful center where young people have the opportunity to learn, love and experience the wonders and mysteries of my beloved guitar.

I have had fantastic experiences in Austin with the guitar and truly consider Austin to be one of the most inspired places on the planet. Matthew and his team harness this natural energy and weave it with the guitar and her music, making it thoroughly enjoyable and uplifting to the beginner player as well as the seasoned professional.

I look forward to my return!

- Pepe Romero

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