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.

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Archived in these categories: Carmel Music Society, Guitar


Angel Romero – Guitarist Supreme!

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Wow! You have never seen so many school age kids at a symphony concert! For its Saturday-evening concert at Sherwood Hall, the Monterey Symphony had arranged some special ticket pricing to attract young students, and they came in droves. Of course someone had to bring them, so there were also a lot of parents and an assortment of school teachers. Was this a “pops” type concert aimed at young audiences with Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf” and Benjamin Britten’s “Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra” on the program. Absolutely not, for this was a grown up program, very much the standard fare in the Monterey Symphony’s 2007-2008 season, and consisted of Copland’s “Appalachian Spring,” Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aránjuez and Poulenc’s  Sinfonietta. Maestro Max Bragado-Darman, was on the podium for the occasion.

It was a long program, and although I observed a lot of fidgety kids during the Copland and the Poulenc (a few of the very youngest left after intermission), during the Rodrigo guitar concerto, these kids were really plugged in and making a connection. The soloist for this concert was the charismatic guitarist Angel Romero (in his family everybody plays the guitar), and he was absolutely on the top of his form. The Rodrigo Concierto de Aránjuez is the most famous guitar concerto ever written, and Saturday evening’s performance by Romero showed why. Its lovely tunes, exciting passages and lots of virtuoso Spanish guitar effects were absolutely winning. The great moment in this concerto is the extraordinary Adagio second movement where Romero’s gorgeously shaped and emotionally charged melodies could have wrung tears from a stone. After a prolonged standing ovation (and lots of “olé’s”), Romero returned to the stage and honored us with one encore, a Fantasia written by his father, Celedonia Romero. This was as fascinating to watch as it was to listen to, for Romero trotted out every guitar virtuoso trick in the books – he played virtuoso riffs with either hand alternately (sometimes strumming the guitar way up high on the finger board), and he thumped with his fingers on the body of the guitar in Flamenco style. It was a knockout!

This concert will be broadcast on KUSP 88.98 FM on Sunday, March 30, 2008 at 11:00 a.m.

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Archived in these categories: Concerto, Guitar, Monterey Symphony, Orchestral


Guitarists John Williams & John Etheridge

Last night at Sunset Center we heard guitarists John Williams and John Etheridge in concert. Anyone expecting to hear a guitar version of “Dueling Banjos” was apt to be disappointed, for dueling they did not. A curious aspect of this concert was the unevenness of the two artists. Etheridge is a natural musician whose skill on the guitar is dazzling. There were times in his solo sets where he would be picking away at a melody that soared above a beautifully controlled accompaniment, while one of his other fingers was twanging out what sounded like a Fender Bass line — all three musical elements pumping along simultaneously gave the impression of three musicians playing together in ensemble. When John Williams appeared on stage after one of these dazzling displays of virtuosity, he said to the audience, “That’s hard to follow.” And, this was true, for Williams seemed to be a mere shadow of his former self. Acknowledged as one of the preeminent classical guitarists of his generation, it would seem that he has decided to follow the “crossover” trend and find larger audiences by abandoning his former repertoire of classical staples and seeking out new music.

The problem was that when Williams played solos, unlike Etheridge, his melodic lines tended to be obscured by accompaniment textures. There was no cantabile so melodies did not command our attention, nor were they beautifully shaped. As he played with Etheridge in the lovely piece “Triangular Situations” by Vasco Martins, Williams played the accompaniment waltz pattern so loudly, you could hardly hear Etheridge.

It was an interesting audience that attended this concert. It appeared to consist of between 400 and 500 people, and there were a lot of new faces in the audience that we don’t normally see at Carmel Music Society concerts. However, we didn’t see a lot of students, nor did we see the “brown bread and open toed sandal set” from Santa Cruz that sometimes attends pop events presented by Sunset Center. During the first fifteen minutes of the concert we heard some yahoos yelling appreciative remarks from the audience, but that quickly died down so that it was a pretty sober audience by the end of the concert, and after only one encore, the audience made for the exits.

One problem with most pop concerts is the self indulgence of the artists. There was a time when some of the best musical results were achieved in the recording studio where an artistic type A & R man, would encourage the artists to edit down their material. But, the more recent trend is to record live concerts (it is cheaper than recording in the studio), so the result is that many pieces just go on entirely too long. Thus, we heard some mind-numbing minimalism last night from these two artists, although there were also some fine moments.

So, the bottom line is: Etheridge sizzled, but Williams fizzled.

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Archived in these categories: 20th Century, Carmel Music Society, Guitar