Ronald Radford

Flamenco Guitarist Draws Huge Applause

A Review by John Cutler

To know Ronald Radford's flamenco guitar credentials is to know the origins, workings and emotions of gypsy life in southern Spain. Radford would not let an appreciative Kimball Hall concert crowd hear one note Saturday night without explaining each work he performed. Just for the record, Radford is a perfectionist, a student of the great Carlos Montoya, and a dweller among the migrant Spanish gypsies of Andalusia, birthplace of flamenco music.

As blues is a musical style native to the United States, flamenco is idiomatic to southern Spanish culture. Much is improvised in this music. Performance can't be judged by perfection, but rather "soul." As Radford proceeded through his opening piece, "Solerares." this "soul" became at once apparent in his playing techniques. Radford hugged his guitar and hunched, yearning to evoke the most from every strum.

Radford reached one stopping point and made the distinction between flamenco and classical guitar music, such as what will be heard at Tuesday night Lincoln Symphony concert with Angel Romero.

The flamenco guitar uses wooden tuning pegs, much like the viola or violin. The front panel is coated with hard lacquer or acrylic, so the fingers can drum out dance figures. Tuning differs. The wood is lighter than that used in classical guitar construction. Performance techniques vary in strumming and plucking styles.

Notes flew by. The Kimball crowd conjured up images of gypsies with castanets, clapping, singing and dancing at "La Feria de Sevilla," the Sevillan counterpart of the Lancaster County Fair.

The "Tarantas" concluded the evening. The song is a mournful lament of gypsy coal miners, a style found deep in the heart of the Andalusian population. "This is my favorite," Radford said just before beginning the work.

An audience participation number was a perfect encore. Radford asked the crowd to join in a "Juerga," for a "gypsy tango" piece. "They'll throw you in jail for passive listening in Spain," Radford chided. The audience joined in "palmas" clapping, shouted a few rounds of "Ole!" and relished the atmosphere for a few final moments.

At one point in the concert, Radford stopped playing for a few minutes and told of the most important lesson he had learned from his travels through Spain. It was on a visit to the home of Senor del Gastor, one of the old masters of gypsy music. "The most important ingredient of flamenco performance is love," del Gastor told his awed student, "love of the authenticity and of the music. The second most important ingredient is your love of the audience with whom you are performing. And the third most important ingredient is that those who are listening must also listen with love."

The concert had been a great success, labor of love, and an evening to remember.

The Lincoln Star, Lincoln, NE - By John Cutler