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Queen Guitar Rhapsodies

The Aranjuez Concerto in Guanajuato

Fiesta time in ex-Spanish Mexico

The university town of Guanajuato is my favourite town in Mexico. In fact, it is one of my favourite places anywhere. Not surprisingly, it is a UNESCO world heritage site. It has narrow cobbled streets leading to small squares with pavement cafés, grand ex-colonial Spanish style residences presiding over the main streets, and Baroque churches with intricate stone carvings springing out as you turn street corners.

Guanajuato made a fortune from the silver mines right underneath its pavements. Even now the maze of underground tunnels is in use as roads, walkways and underpasses. A magnificent opera house dominates the central square where Verdi's opera Aida was staged for the inauguration in 1903. And here I have come to play the Aranjuez Concerto in the main theatre El Teatro Principal, with the University Symphony Orchestra as part of the town festivities and Guitar Festival.

On the evening before the rehearsal I sat on a bench in el jardín de la unión, the main square. Opposite on another bench sat a mariachi musician in full outfit quietly strumming a guitarrón, a huge bass guitar, every few minutes glancing at his mobile phone. On the same bench as me sat a trumpet player, silently mouthing and fingering the instrument. There were at least four streams of live and recorded music vying for my attention, creating a chaos of conflicting styles and noise in the name of music. At one point the mariachi musicians left hurriedly, presumably to fulfill an engagement just received by phone.

Thursday’s midday performance of Joaquín Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez was a memorable occasion. In a gala atmosphere the audience was received by hosts and hostesses dressed in 18th century costumes. We gave a good account of the music in spite of loud crying from a small child who clearly was not enjoying the proceedings.

At lunch a jolly time was had by all, which included Raul Barajas, the maker of the wonderful guitar I played in concert, my friend the guitarist and teacher Antonio Muñoz, and the very fine composer Miguel Sagrero.

That evening Guanajuato was all dressed up for the traditional baile de las flores, dance of the flowers, where young men reward young women of their choice strolling the streets with a flower as a prelude to courtship – very charming. By the early hours, much the worse for wear, they were mostly staggering about in search of food, water, coffee, and yes, even more drink.

During the festival I met for the first time American guitarist and Bach editor supremo Frank Koonce whose work I have much admired. On Friday morning, well relaxed after the previous day’s performance I had breakfast with Mexican guitarist and composer Julio César Oliva, and the Guitar Festival Director and main mover of all things 6-stringed in the region, José Montenegro.

From left to right - Julio César Oliva, Carlos Bonell, José Montenegro

We sat in the patio of the hotel to the accompaniment of loud singing from two large colourful but caged parrots. It was only nine in the morning yet the shades were up to protect us from the hot sun. Julio is a very quietly spoken man of very wide interests as well as a brilliant compose and arranger. José Montenegro is a man of great vision and organizational ability, a combination not often found in one and the same person.

So we had a jolly good breakfast which included huevos a la mexicana, scrambled eggs with green peppers and chili, and after a discussion ranging from music to how we would solve the world’s problems, arose, had our picture taken, and went on our separate ways.

Since I am a guest professor at Guanajuato University, I know I will soon be back.

Read more:

Guanajuato
http://www.lonelyplanet.com

Juarez Theatre, Guanajuato
http://www.wikipedia.org

Mariachi musicians
http://www.wikipedia.org

Joaquín Rodrigo
http://www.joaquin-rodrigo.com

Selected music of Julio César Oliva is published by:
http://www.gspguitar.com

Frank Koonce
http://www.frankkoonce.com

Listen to:
Antonio Banderas - Cancion del Mariachi (Music Video)
Julio César Oliva
at http://www.youtube.com

Composer Miguel Sagrero is on Facebook
Guitar maker Raul Barajas Becerra is on Facebook

April 2011

Printed from: http://www.carlosbonell.com/blog/?p=476 .
© 2017.

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