The Tradition Continues

Friday, January 27, 2012 10:32

An Interview with Celino Romero

by: Casey Pukl

It’s not every day that you get to interview a super jolly classical guitarist in the middle of a soccer field, but fortunately for me, yesterday was just that day! Los Romeros, also known as The Romeros, have been dubbed the “grand masters of the guitar” for good reason. Spanning generations, this legendary family of classical guitarists is still making waves world-wide. I had the chance to catch up with Celino Romero yesterday and get the scoop on what’s on the agenda for 2012 and beyond!

CP: What have you guys all been up to lately?

CR: We just finished off 2011 with The Romeros’ first Christmas recording for Deutsche Grammophon in Germany. We had a big tour in Germany, it was a great success, and it was really great to see the family. Christmas is really big, all the kids each play a song, and it’s really big for the Romero family. Finally we have a Christmas CD out there, and it was a great success, so we’re looking forward to our first concert of the year! Since that tour, we had a little break for the holidays, and now for 2012, we’ve got a whole month in Europe planned. We’re also heading to Asia, just non-stop. It’s special because we’re kicking off 2012 with Anthology as our first concert.

CP: Excellent!

CR: We couldn’t think of a better place to be than our hometown of San Diego, well at least Lito and my hometown. My father and Pepe of course consider Spain their hometown! (Laughs)

CP: (Laughs) It’s just a little further away.

CR: Exactly, but it’s going to be a really great start. We’re really happy with what we’ve done in 2011, and we’re happy to be going into 2012. The Christmas album was so special to us, and it’s a really nice thing to have in our collection.

CP: Tell me a little bit about your show this weekend at Anthology. 

CR: This concert is going to be really neat for us. I’ve been to Anthology, and it’s very nice. I was really impressed by the acoustics, and the food was phenomenal.

CP: You know, it’s always great to hear that. But every time I ask an artist what they’re looking forward to coming in here, everyone says that they can’t wait to try the food (laughs).

CR: Yeah, the food last time was outrageous. I’m hoping to get a little plate this weekend! 

CP: We’ll feed you; don’t worry!

CR: That’s awesome! But yeah, we always love San Diego, and we’ve been trying to make this concert happen for a while. It’s going to be really exciting to have so many friends there. We have so many friends around the area who have never seen our family play. 

CP: You’re kidding!

CR: No! It’s just hard to get time to do things. A lot of times I just forget to mention it. There’s a lot going on. But it’s nice. I think I’ve got about 20-30 friends who are coming to the show. But we’ve got a great show planned. Without saying too much, I want some things to be a surprise, we’ll play a mix of really beautiful and exciting Spanish classical with a lot of flamenco influence of course, and a few romantic slower ones. You can’t always play the fast ones; you’ve got to mix it up!

CP: Absolutely. Make it interesting!

CR: For sure.

CP: You guys tour non-stop.

CR: Yes, we certainly do.

CP: Do you have any specific shows or venues that really stick out to you?

CR: Well, so far, the US is great, but I’ll go back to when I was a kid going on tour with the original Romero quartet, my grandfather and his three sons. I was always fascinated with the halls in Germany that were just amazing. We’re in Germany almost 3 months out of the year; it’s insane. But the US is really picking it up, and Anthology is a great example. This is a venue that has respect all over the world. I mentioned Anthology in Berlin, and people already knew about it!

CP: You’ve got to be kidding!

CR: No! It’s great! It’s already getting so much respect all over the world. But as far as a real standout, it’s so hard to say. There are so many concerts that were great. It’s like trying to pick a favorite restaurant. Sometimes you just can’t say. But each concert has a different feeling and mood. But I will say that all over Europe is spectacular.

Asia is really amazing as well. There will be 1,000 kids coming in for a field trip to our concert. You’re in China and Beijing, and you’ll see a train full of students, and they get off the train and walk into the Romero concert! Things like that are really nice to see. That’s the future. 

Actually, (laughs) I’ve got a standout! In Germany on this last Christmas tour, I was playing on stage and my chair shattered.

CP: Shattered?

CR: Yeah! It shattered, and I went flying onto the stage on my butt! So that was a scary moment. But I finished the concert. But when we got there, I knew that this piano bench wasn’t too sturdy, so I told the stage manager, ‘This doesn’t look so sturdy!’ And he assured me it was fine, and I commented that it must’ve been very good German quality (laughs). I think the guy was a little offended, but sure enough, the chair broke on me! He must’ve set that up.

CP: Sounds probable. So now, getting into this tradition a little bit, I mean, there are not many people who can say that they have generations of incredible musicians in their family.

CR: Definitely not.

CP: I know you have kids of your own now, correct? Are you passing along the tradition?

CR: I’ve got two sons and a daughter, and yeah, everyone plays. It’s tough though, I’ll speak for when I was a child, but when I was growing up, I would see my father, grandfather, uncles, and I never thought it was possible to ever get that good. I just thought why am I even trying? But then I decided to do it because I loved it. But no one ever said, ‘You have to play the guitar.’ I just did it because I loved it. It was part of everyday life, and with my kids and Lito’s kids, we’re taking the same approach. If you find a love for it, you’ll do it. But right now, the kids are a little more distracted these days. I wonder if I have to change things around and pressure them a little bit. If I don’t say anything, they’re going to skateboard or end up on the computer. But I think it would be great to have the Romero family continue. So, I’m trying to find the right way to not make the kids feel uncomfortable. My one son, I heard him tell his mom, ‘Don’t ever make me play in front of people.’

For me, that’s the part that I love. I love to look out and see the eyes and the individuals. I love looking out and seeing people’s reactions after— most of the time (laughs).

CP: (Laughs) Unless they’re taking the screws out of your piano bench!

CR: (Laughs) Right!

CP: Well, I think it’s really cool that your kids do play and that you’re taking such a relaxed approach with it.

CR: Yeah, it is nice. I know they do love it. I think the most important thing is to play as a youngster. If you play as a kid, then you have it under you already. Growing up here in Del Mar, all of these kids would surf when they were really young. I have all of these friends here who haven’t surfed in 10 years, and then they get back on and are great. So that’s my idea. Maybe 1 lesson a week so I don’t burn them out, but just keeps it going. Keep the touch. That’s what we call it, the touch. It’s the fingers contacting the strings.

CP: Did you ever take outside lessons when you were learning to play?

CR: Yeah. I studied with my whole family, but I also studied with my mom who was a great soprano. And then I would study with my dad’s students when he was out of town. He’d assign one of his better students to teach me. It was nice. I had a lot of good teachers.

The technique we learn is based on one technique, but everyone in the family has slightly different tweaks to it. Everyone’s hands are slightly different.  It all comes from my grandfather who was self taught. But he believed in playing guitar without your fingernails. Start playing it more like a bass guitar with just your skin on the strings. That’s the technique that we use. Rather than going nail to string, you go flesh, the tip of your finger hits, and then your nail will hit it and make that nice tone. When you see it, it looks like you’re just plucking your fingers, but there’s a lot to the technique. It’s frustrating at times, but once you get it, you don’t forget it.

Don’t miss this rare hometown appearance by Los Romeros! Special thanks to Celino for his time! Be sure to pick up your tickets to their second show, as the first is almost entirely sold out!

WHAT: Los Romeros
WHEN: Saturday, January 28, 2012, 7:30 & 9:30pm
TICKETS: $13-$69 Buy Tickets
MORE INFO: Artist Profile