Guest review by Ken McNaughton
Michael, thanks for your great review of the José Barrios performance at the Gala Theatre on Thursday. I attended on Friday and ran into my friend Paula Durbin, who publishes dance reviews in The Washington Post. She said these flamenco performances really need a musical review, so I sent her yours.
[Figure 1. José Barrios (left) signs and Juan Debel sings for Nieves. ]
The Fundación Conservatorio Flamenco Casa Patas of Madrid incubates nouveau flamenco and we are the benefactors when, once a year, the Teatro Hispano Gala—under the guidance of managing director Rebecca Read Medrano and her colleague—brings us a special troupe. The performance this year by José Barrios and Company was truly a complete experience. The first standout on Friday was when the young cantaor, Juan Debel, stepped up for Noche Callada/Quiet Night. He approached two wooden cubes, where the male dancer, José Barrios, had chalked on the pavement, Nieves. Juan's cante jondo was haunting. He fully occupied the song, which he also wrote. He became the music. José signed the words, and it turns out that the song was dedicated to Nieves, a deaf friend who passed away.
View from the balcony at Taberna del Alabardero: harmonica player Diego Villegas, singer David Vázquez, singer Juan Debel, guitarist David Durán with dancers José Barrios and Raquel Villegas in Martinete/Seguiriyas. November 26, 2010 8:25pm
It's almost 4:00am on Saturday as I type these words. Just got home after a Thanksgiving dinner turned house party in Crystal City, Virginia. Good times! Before that I stopped by Taberna del Alabardero restaurant in downtown DC to checkout the Casa Patas Flamenco performance.
I arrived at the restaurant a little bit after 8pm—not sure exactly when the shows were starting though. But as it turned out, my timing was perfect: I had just enough time to chill for a moment and enjoy a glass of Estrella Galicia beer when I overheard someone say the show was starting.
My now crumpled concert program. I probably unknowingly gripped it tightly during intense musical moments. Yeah I'm like that.
It's almost midnight on Thursday as I type these words. My latest Facebook status proclaims: "Just got home from the opening night of the Fuego Flamenco Festival at GALA. Feelin' inspired. Going to play my guitar all night and annoy the hell out of my flute-playin' neighbor for a change." So true!
The source of my inspiration for the evening: José Barrios and Company who performed Por si acaso amanece to open the sixth annual Fuego Flamenco Festival.
I suppose it's different for someone like me, a performer, going to see another performer. Not that I claim to be anywhere in the same league as the ones I saw onstage last night—no not at all. But in a way it's harder for me to just relax and enjoy myself. Can't help it. As a lifetime student of the guitar, I can't help but have my attention drawn almost exclusively to the guitarists when I see a flamenco show.
Before I neglect to mention the other artists, here are names of those that make up José Barrios and Company:
- José Barrios, choreographer and dancer
- Jesús Núñez, musical director and guitarist
- Raquel Villegas, dancer
- David Vázquez, singer
- Juan Debel, singer
- David Durán, guitarist
- Diego Villegas, saxophone, flute and harmonica
Yeah, yeah I know. The politically correct answer as a flamenco aficionado is to say that I paid attention to the cante (flamenco singing) more than anything else. And in any other situation that would've been true for me, but since Lisner's Flamenco Festival back in February, it has been a long time since I've seen flamenco guitarists other than the ones that perform regularly here in the DC area (all of whom play beautifully by the way). Still I was dying to hear some fresh new material. And yes, the José Barrios Company guitarists David Durán and Jesús Núñez gave me what I was craving for!
Guitarist Miguelito at Cafe Citron. November 13, 2010 (photo by Chris)
It's 9am on Sunday as I type these words. I just got up a short while ago and even though I only got maybe four hours of sleep, once I'm up I can't make myself go back to bed. But it looks like it's going to be a beautiful sunny day, so it's all good!
Last night was the first time in a while (a month or two I think) that I performed with flamenco dancer Emily Mazzotti. I think she was away in Spain so she hadn't been available to call for gigs here in DC for awhile. But she's back!
Onstage at VCU's Sonia Vlahcevic Concert Hall: dancers Ginette and Sarah Hart discussing choreographic ideas for the closing group bulerías. November 5, 2010
It's almost 10:00am on Sunday as I type these words. Finally got a full night's sleep—first time in a while, plus an extra hour thanks to Daylight Savings! For one thing I didn't stay out late at my Cafe Citron gig last night. Sara Jerez was dancing. Had some flamenco dancer friends in the audience: Teresa D'Aprile with her guitarist husband Pat D'Aprile (all the way from Philadelphia) and Madelaine Marie so naturally we got 'em up onstage for some Sevillanas. It was a crazy night...I definitely have to write a blog about it soon, so stayed tuned. Pics coming soon!
So anywayz, last Friday I was performing in Richmond at Virginia Commonwealth University's Flamenco Festival II. The concert took place in the Singleton Performing Arts Center's Sonia Vlahcevic Concert Hall which seats 500. The acoustics in the Hall are pretty good—so good that I could've played without a microphone and be heard just fine. But I insisted on using amplification anyway.
The Flamenco Festival, now in its second year, is part of the guitar concert series so from what I could tell when I was meeting the audience afterwards was that a lot of them were fellow guitarists. I'm sure it's the same thing in say a concert series focused on dance: most of the audience is made up of fellow dancers.
Speaking of dancers, I selected a few DC-based bailaoras to perform with me: Pam de Ocampo, Ginette and Sarah Hart. I've worked with all of them extensively in local tablaos where they've honed their skills as flamenco dance soloists. Let's see...Ginette started working with me in tablao at the Andalucía restaurant in 2004, Sarah Hart also at the Andalucía in 2006 and Pam de Ocampo at Cafe Citron in 2005. Long enough that we feel comfortable to let loose and improvise in performance week after week whether in the tablao or on a theatre stage as we did this past Friday night.
I don't officially have a performing company although I tend to invite more or less the same group of artists when I put together bigger shows. Hence the informal group name of "Miguelito & Friends."
Chillin' in the Green Room: Pam de Ocampo, Hector Márquez, Sarah Hart and Ginette. November 5, 2010