Guitars, Guitars, Guitars – The Romeros!

       The Carmel Music Society pulled out all the stops last night as it opened its 2008-2009 season with a highly successful concert at Sunset Center featuring the fabulous Romeros — “The Royal Family of the Guitar.” The gala event began late in the afternoon with a reception and festive dinner across the street at the Carmel Women’s Club.

       Members of the audience arriving at Sunset Center for the concert received an added bonus, for in the lobby was a interesting display of some beautiful guitars, thanks to the Carmel Classic Guitar Society, the Hill Guitar Company and “Nails4guitarists.”

       The main event, of course, was on stage as the four Romeros, Celin, Pepe, Lito and Celino, trooped out and treated us to two hours of varied and absorbing music that both charmed and dazzled us with their electrifying virtuosity and exotic sounds. Although there were undoubtedly some guitar buffs in the audience who were familiar with most of the composers represented on the program, the rest of us were more likely hearing quite a bit of unfamiliar music from unfamiliar composers — certainly an added plus, since it made the program that much more refreshing.

       As is common with performers, the Romeros’ selections ending each half of the program made the most impressive effect, for what better way to wrap up a selection of smaller works than to give us some blockbusters at the end of each group.  Thus, the “Introduction and Fandango” from Boccherini’s Guitar Quintet No. 4 was a clear hands down winner in the concert’s first half in which we heard some fabulous playing featuring meticulous ensemble, impressive virtuosity and solid musical values. At its conclusion, you just wanted to jump up and yell, “Olé.”

       The ending selections on the second half, “Fiesta en Cádiz” (Homenage a Sabicas) by Pepe Romero and “La Boda de Luis Alonso” by Gerónimo Giménez also brought the house down with thunderous applause and a rousing standing ovation. This is not to say that the remainder of the program lacked interest, for during the evening we heard a fascinating mixture of classic guitar compositions, and also works that had their inspiration from the flamenco style. Several of the works we heard were transcriptions and two of these, the Preludes by Villa Lobos and “Granada” by Albéniz, were knockouts that displayed deep emotions and a broad range of expressive musical effects.

       The first encore featured “Malaguena,” which we were informed in comments from the stage was originally written by Pepe Romero for solo guitar, but kept being arranged for larger ensembles as the family grew and continued the tradition of playing together.  Two other encores were also dazzlers — with Flamenco style hand clapping, foot stomping, thumping of guitar bodies, etc., that raised the audience to new levels of frenzy. There is no question that the Romeros know how to work an audience, and they did it extremely well last night!

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