- LACCS-UK 20 YEARS ON
When Classical Guitar magazine ended its series of guitar concerts in
London, the only organisation left that consistently presented the best
international guitarists in England¹s capital was Juan Monroy¹s Latin
American and Caribbean Cultural Society. Bearing in mind the difficulties
involved in keeping alive what is at best a minority interest (as the
whole of classical music is), LACCS-UK has done wonders. Its concerts were
events to look forward to. They featured mainly the guitar (virtually
a national instrument in many South American countries), though I remember
an Italian harp ensemble of seven young women, who I believe brought
their instruments with them; that must have presented some logistical
problems. Then there was a tango evening, with some spirited dancing.
The concerts were (and are) very well attended, invariably with a large
proportion of South American expatriates but with discriminating Londoners
as well. Many of the world¹s great and good have played
at LACCS-UK concerts, not all of them from South America and the Caribbean.
The reason is simple: Latin-American music is immensely popular the
world over, and good musicians everywhere have learned to play it well.
In any case, the repertory is not confined to music from South America;
popular as Barrios and Piazzolla are, the LACCS-UK audience does not insist
on an exclusive diet of their works. Such is the international status
of the guitar that you are quite likely to hear a guitarist from Brazil
playing Bach in one concert, and a guitarist from Germany playing Piazzolla
in the next. There are no rules, and no boundaries; the only stipulation
is that South American music must appear somewhere in every programme.
The guitar is a comparative newcomer to South America, where wind and
percussion instruments formed the old tradition. Then Spanish and Portuguese
invaders brought the Baroque guitar with them, and the Indian population
quickly adapted it to their own purposes in the form of the charango.
That was the beginning. Enormous progress was made in a remarkably short
time, and South American guitarists are now among the best in the world.
The great Agustín Barrios Mangoré, a virtuoso player and a composer
with a touch of genius, is said to be the first to perform a Bach suite
in its entirety. That was in the early part of the 20th century, before
anyone in Europe had got round to it. Since then outstanding musicians
have appeared regularly: Laurindo Almeida, Alirio Díaz, Sergio and Eduardo
Abreu, Roberto Aussel, Eduardo Fernández, Carlos Barbosa-Lima, Alvaro
Pierri, Jorge Morel, Jorge Cardoso, Abel Carlevaro, Ricardo Iznaola,
Eduardo Isaac, Manuel Barrueco, Sergio and Odair Assad, Pablo Márquez,
Paulo Bellinati, Máximo Diego Pujol, Fabio Zanon, Carlos Pérez < the
list is a long one and could keep LACCS-UK busy with concerts for decades
to come. I hope LACCS-UK will continue its good work. Music
is generally a depressed area these days, but Juan Monroy has shown
that idealism, patience, and a determination not to give up when things
get difficult, can produce results. The musical scene in London is significantly
richer for his activities. Long may it continue to be so.