Fiesta Navideña 2010 and Beyond
posted in performance on december 23rd, 2010
2010, now in its waning days, marks my third year with La Peña Flamenca de Seattle. It also marks my last. Yep: this was my last show. Now calm down: there was nothing ominous in my decision to step down — no on-stage deaths by tiger-mauling or binding extradition orders back to Singapore (I swear I don’t know how that baboon got in my carry-on!).
Nope, nothing sinister: I simply decided, after long consideration, that I want to spend more time honing the nuance of my playing, working on more delicate questions of melody and tone than playing for dancers allows.
I had chatted with Rubina, the peña’s artistic director, several months before the show so that she knew where I was at and so that there wouldn’t be any unpleasant surprises on that count. As I expected, she was very gracious and understanding and respected my decision entirely. (In case I haven’t mentioned it enough, Rubina is a paragon of good leadership — our community is incredibly lucky to have both her and Marcos.)
As for the show itself, I couldn’t have asked for a better one with which to end. There were of course the sundry technical problems (this was “The Year of the Recalcitrant Monitor,” evidently), but even these were no match for the enthusiasm of our dancers and singers and of my fellow musicians. And I don’t think any of this went unnoticed by the audience — if they were nonplussed by anything we did, you certainly wouldn’t have known it from the applause.
But enough with the words. Let’s have some pics. (Many thanks to Bernard del Valle for sharing these!):
If the show was excellent (and it was), then the only thing that could possible follow it would be an excellent after-party. Fortunately for us, this is exactly what happened. We used to have our after-parties at the College Inn, near the theater where we perform. I happen to like the College Inn (it is the very definition of dank), but many of my peña coevals are decidedly not of the same opinion (cf. note above on “dankness”).
As a result, a few shows ago, various cast members started hosting after-parties in their homes. This has turned out, in general, to be a brilliant idea. This year’s party, for instance, was hosted by singer Stephanie Hughes and it was absolutely perfect. Food, wine, good people, and a great, warm space for digging back into the flamenco groove “after hours,” as it were.
Again, I suspect some pictures are called for (these thanks to Andrea del Valle):
The pictures tell a good part of the story here, but not quite all. After everyone had begun to get sufficiently fed and wined, Markus brought out his guitar and gave us all a bit ofbuleria for starters. Rubina soon joined in with cante, Marcos filling out the mix on cajón. Another five or six of us made up an impromptu palmas section. Rubina and Stephanie traded coplas, and we all reveled in a bit of bulerias, some tangos, and some alegrias.
After a few songs, Markus passed the guitar to Marcos, who played some solo guitar and then fired up some additional accompaniment for Rubina’s cante. Watching Marcos and Markus accompany cante gives a whole new appreciation of the subtlety and communication that goes into playing for a singer — definitely one of the things that makes evenings like these so memorable.
As Marcos passed the guitar back to Markus, a first round of revelers had started to make their way out the door. Markus passed the guitar on to me (it’s a guitar he built himself, by the way — and it’s beautiful). As people were filing out and bidding their adieus I started playing around with a bit of tangos, a bit of guajira. Markus gave me some rhythm oncajón, but I was really just playing for myself; noodling, not really playing.
Markus kept after me on the cajón, though, and as the exit ruckus started to die down, I wandered my way into a buleria. At first, the folks that were still around kept talking, carrying on as party-goers do. But as I kept playing the room started to get quiet. Palmas started in. Mine wasn’t a beautiful buleria, or even especially well played, but I was now actually playing it and my flamenco peers noticed and tuned in. I finished out the song, as far as I could take it, and passed the guitar back to Markus. I think there might even have been an “olé” from Marcos.
It was an excellent finish.
Now, as you know, you should go play.