Ronald Radford

Flamenco Guitar Concert A Foot-Stamping Success

A Review by Terry Smith

Saturday night, master guitarist Ronald Radford filled Pawhuska's turn-of-the- century Constantine Theater with the heart-quickening drama of Flamenco guitar. Were you there? Coulda been? Woulda been? Shoulda been!

The house lights dimmed, and there he was in the spotlight, stark white shirt, black tie and tails, a dot of brilliant red silk on his breast... and the golden Flamenco guitar. From there on it was magic.

From the opening dance-tune Alegrias to the closing lament of the Tarantas, Radford transported the audience to another place; and to cultures conflicted, torn, pushed and melted together. There, for those present, Moorish, East Indian, Spanish, and even Caribbean history mingled in southern Spain's traditional Gypsy music:Flamenco guitar - the heart-beat of Spain.

Evoking the atmosphere of festivals, cobblestone streets, the crowded cafes, Radford created the illusion of syncopated clapping; whirling, stamping Gypsy dancers; and the exotic tonality of their wailing songs. He drove the audience with his staccato percussion and blinding speed across the strings. Listeners were engaged sometimes in rapt reverence, sometimes beating with the vigorous drumming; the richly-textured music pumping their adrenalin along a roller- coaster ride of lively hot-blooded rhythms. They gave him, numerous standing ovations and coaxed from him an encore, Gypsy Tango.

Radford's animated commentary helped to draw the audience into the intimacy of the Gypsy gatherings he sought to recreate, and provided interestng facts just like a visit to a faraway land. Still, the music was the centerpiece - the spirit - of the evening.

Radford's technical mastery was obvious from the beginning, but more than that, this music reached in and grabbed your gut - ran hot and cold up and down your spine - lifted your head away into cloud-like lightness - and soothed your soul with its full-bodied rhythms,

As the night progressed, Radford spun the magic mood deeper, continuing an ancient pulse carried from temple dances in northern India; moving from airy, evanescent melodies to bell-like ringing, to brooding bass, on to bird-like voices, even marching, and a bugle and drum. But there were no other musicians or even instruments on stage - simply Radford and his Famenco guitar pouring out the musical poetry of "the heart pierced by five swords."

And punctuating it all, were the muscular cadence, sudden stops, dizzying heelwork, and pounding palmas of the invisible Flamenco dancers, drawing the listener's whole body, blood rising, into the spell.

This was more than just music, more than just a good time, more than just a fusion of musical influences into a complex and spontaneous folk art. This was more than just "the country of Spain". It was more like running - like flying - through the dark, led on by the honey-like glow of the Flamenco guitar.

Pawhuska Journal, Pawhuska, OK - By Terry Smith.