When I first visited the south of Spain at the age of 20, I probably didn’t know the difference between “flamingo” and “flamenco.” But during that trip, my dear friend Raquel’s father who I call “Tio” (or Uncle) introduced me flamenco music, and to a guitar master named Paco de Lucia. It was instant love for me, and from then on I couldn’t get enough flamenco. On future trips to Sevilla I sought out live performances in bars and theatres, and for the past two summers Raquel and Tio treated me to concerts in the exquisite gardens of the Alacazar palace. At home, I played Paco de Lucia cds, studied flamenco dance for several years, and dragged my husband to flamenco festivals and even a painfully boring film on the subject in a tiny independent theatre that he still groans about. But nothing could have prepared me for the experience of last night, when my husband more than made up for mocking me all these years and gave me a wonderful gift: front row seats for Paco de Lucia’s concert at Strathmore Hall.
I knew we were in for a treat, especially with the incredible acoustics of the Music Center, but didn’t realize the effect watching someone I’ve so long admired—a true musical genius at the height of his craft—up close would have on me. I’ve been lucky enough to see musical legends like Eric Clapton and Prince in concert before, both incredible talents who can certainly tear up a guitar. But witnessing Paco de Lucia’s fingers effortlessly glide over the strings gave new meaning to “while my guitar gently weeps” and actually made me weep. Plus being up front meant I could catch the subtle exchange as he orchestrated his peers, guiding them with a small smile or nod, and feel the reverence they had for him. I could appreciate the expressions of the singers, pouring out their souls with words of longing for love and places I remember like Sevilla, transporting me there. I could almost touch the dancer who spun and stomped his feet so fast I thought he might create smoke. It was amazing, inspiring, and humbling all at once, and I wish each of you could have been there to experience it with me. If you haven’t ever heard anything by Paco de Lucia, please check him out and tell me what you think.