If a picture is worth a thousand words surely a video is worth more. Here is the story of the first edition of the festival. There will be a second edition and it is looking very good. Kudos again to Vicente Coves.
As a wrap up of the Torres Bicentenary activities in the city of Almeria, Dr. Hanen brought his wonderful guitar La Leona to the Apollo theatre and Wulfin Lieske worked his magic with it. This was the first time I had heard the Leona in concert and actually the first time I had heard Lieske live. What a wonderful team they make! Despite the bottom-heavy sound of the Leona the guitarist drew out beautiful tones and created a perfect musical atmosphere. The high point of the evening was definitely the music but it was also a pleasure to share a meal afterwards with Lieske, Hanen, guitar-makers Juan Miguel González and Andy Marvi as well as other guitar dignitaries including descendants of Antonio de Torres, Marcus Toscano, Penelope Maravalhas and Norberto Torres.
Guitar-making might well be the most popular pasttime in the world today. People take it up after retirement, guitarists get interested in how guitars are made and try their hand and I have even met people who have lost a job in their own field and think that guitar-making might offer better opportunities for a decent salary. There are schools in almost every country and makers, some good some not-so-good, are supplementing their income by teaching. So, more and more guitar-makers are appearing and offering guitars for sale.
I have always felt that competition is good the guitar in general, those coming up behind you keep you on your toes and those ahead of you give you something to work towards. Specifically I have always appreciated the competition in Granada because it draws more and more clients to the city. The fact that buying a “handmade” guitar is such a personal choice means that there is usually a client for every maker and a maker for every client. This all works very well as long as the quality of the instruments is high and the client is well-informed. Sadly, all sorts of guitars (hobby-makers, factories, imports) are being offered today as wonders of craftsmanship while at the same time more and more guitar buyers are looking for a luxury item instead of a tool to make music with.
Back to the subject at hand, what moves a maker to begin teaching? Some people are born to teach; this vocation usually makes them good teachers and if they have done their work and know how to make good guitars they might well turn out some graduates who may go on to become decent makers. Fair enough. Especially as many of these better teachers only teach a few students over their lifetime and may not even be charging the students. My problem comes when someone begins teaching because they can’t make a living building guitars. I hesitate to say that this indicates that his guitars are sub-par but that certainly can be one of the factors that lead to failure. So here we have someone who is not exactly helping to raise the bar of this fine craft and on top of that he is teaching others thereby working towards saturating the market with deficient instruments giving all of us a bad name.
Virtuoso Fernando Espí came to pick up his new guitar in November, a rosewood Torres copy ordered earlier this year. I have known Fernando for years now ever since he started playing on guitars made by Rolf Eichinger and his dúo partner Evaristo Valentí bought a Lorca copy from me. Fernando spent the afternoon in the shop putting the Torres through its paces and seems to be very happy with it.
On the workbench you can see a Santos Hernández guitar which he brought along for me to see, knowing that I am particularily interested in Santos. Ferando teaches at the conservatory in Alicante and concertizes all over the world. He is also a prolific recording artist and composer. I had the pleasure of hearing him play one of his compositions here in Nigüelas, Granada this summer with orchestra. Here you can find his music including a cd of his compositions. The video below shows part of a performance at the Fundación Juan March.
I am very pleased with the attention that the First Annual Festival de la Guitarra de Granada has brought to Granada and the guitar scene here. This article in the local newspaper tells of the sudden interest in the guitars made by the winner of the guitar-making competition which bears the name of Antonio Marín Montero and forms a part of the Festival. Also guitarists from all over the world have expressed interest in playing in the Granada Festival.
The Granada school of Guitar-makers (La escuela granadina de guitarreros) is centuries old but has only been called by that name since 1987 when the first association of makers was established. There were three foreigners out of 15 total founding members of that association. This ratio has remained more or less constant in the Granada school since then and the 20 per cent that come from elsewhere have been an integral part of it. The latest additions are russian, syrian, argentinian and italian and we hope they will continue the Granada tradition and add to it. I am thinking about this these days because the original association has been decreed by the regional government to be incorrectly constituted and has been dissolved. A new association has been founded and hopefully I can post news about it very soon. Another reason I am coming back to this topic is that the most visited post on this blog is an article which Evaristo López Valentí wrote about the foreigners in Granada. Read it here in English and here in Spanish.