Monday, July 25, 2011

Strummin’ Along

Tonight I heard the guitarist Anastasios Comanescu at the Greek parish. Taso is the son of Fr. Ioan and Matushka Effie Comanescu in Palo Alto, whom I know from my San Francisco days. The concert was a fundraiser for the Nisiotes Greek dance troupe, which provided refreshments.

About a hundred people sat in the church hall. The guitarist came in wearing casual clothes and decked in a few flower leis (“I don’t usually wear these at concerts.”). As he tuned his guitar he introduced himself and talked about the pieces he was going to play.

The first set began with “Romanza,” a very recognizable tune which, according to Taso, “will warm up both my fingers and your ears.” Then came a couple pieces by Narváez, followed by a great adaptation of the Prelude from Bach’s First Cello Suite. He continued with a Celtic hymn (“Be Thou My Vision”), something by Ponce, and finally works by the French composers Visée and Couperin originally written for the harpsichord. The lilting guitar was very soothing for the soul, and loud applause punctuated the end of each piece.

A short intermission followed; I got some refreshments (including baklava!) from the table, and talked to my neighbor (a German exchange student) about actual guitarists in Spain.

The second set was made up of three pieces by Mikis Theodorakis (famous for scoring “Zorba the Greek”), which added a nice Greek flavor. He ended the set with three pieces from the brilliant blind composer Joaquin Rodrigo. “Pajaros de Primavera” was quite enthralling, using intricate jumps to mimic the chirping of birds. After the final piece we called for an encore, which Taso gladly played.

It was the best ten dollars I’ve spent in a long time. Good music, good food, and good company equal a wonderful evening.

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