Thursday 13 May 2010
Paco plays for Europe
As, we hope, will smug Dave, with a restraining hand on his shoulder from not-to-be-patronised Nick. Anyway, while all that still hung in the balance last Friday, we celebrated the 60th anniversary of the Schuman Declaration at St John's Smith Square with a concert prompted by the Spanish Presidency.
I went along in slightly curmudgeonly mood, disconsolate that we weren't going to get a flamenco dancer and/or singer like the fabulous Ginesa Ortega (whizz down the old entry). I left treading air, along with the rest of a not-so-stuffed-shirt crowd. Veteran flamenco guitarist Paco Pena had assembled a group of real team players - not a support band, but outstanding musicians in their own right.
It was a fine enough start, Pena conjuring a whole orchestra with a single guitar in two solos. One by one, the others joined him: second guitarist Rafael Montilla, Charo Espina as the very charming Lady with Castanets, Ricardo Sandoval on bandola and mandolin, and last, by no means least, percussionist Diego Alvarez. Here he is doing winsome things with maracas - who'd have thought - behind Pena and Sandoval.
Alvarez's genius had free rein when he turned to the cajon, that thrilling plywood box with vibrating strings. Never heard the like when he did his solo, or adjusted to the slightest change of rhythms in fast numbers - and I'm usually resistant to Bash, Stomp and all that stuff. Met him packing up afterwards and he turns out to be another brilliant product of the Venezuelan sistema that gave us the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra and Dudamel. He's part of Pena's much-lauded show Flamenco sin Fronteras which returns to Sadler's Wells in June. I'll be there without fail. I was also fascinated to hear that Pena's next collaboration is with Malian musicians. In the meantime, among the Spanish and Venezuelan numbers last Friday, we had special concessions to the pan-European theme with racy arrangements of Brel, Karas's Third Man theme and two Brahms Hungarian Dances. A superbly planned and paced programme.
Can't resist another 'framed by trees' coda: here's a ceanothus I snapped as I cycled along Ebury Street on my way to the concert
and another flowering wonder - what's it called? like white lilac, but not - outside the Grey Coat Hospital on the way back.