Guitar Royalty with Lobero Roots, Los Romeros Returns to Santa Barbara
Acclaimed Guitar Quartet Comes Home to Celebrate the Lobero’s 150th Anniversary
Timed with the Lobero Theatre’s remarkable milestone of hitting its official 150th anniversary mark this spring, certain local luminaries have been folded into the celebration. Last week, the list included global pop sensation and Santa Barbaran/Hawaiian Jack Johnson (in a uniquely resourceful concert performed “unplugged,” after the wind knocked out the power on the block). On the following night, locally raised and based David Crosby would have hit the Lobero stage, but he sadly died in January.
And then, there is the classical guitar phenomena known as Los Romeros, whose connection to the Lobero is a deep one, going back to an origin story in 1958. The Romero name became more broadly legendary through the careers of the Romero Guitar Quartet and individual guitarists Angel and Pepe Romero making international names for themselves, with sons in tow.
On Saturday, March 4, a presenting consort of CAMA’s Masterseries and the Lobero Theatre Foundation will host Los Romeros, at a time when the eldest brother, Celin, is still going strong at 86. The concert is doubly special as a rare performance after a long COVID-mandated hiatus. Call the show an auspicious homecoming.
In another milestone Romeros-at-the-Lobero night, the family musical dynasty offered up a memorable and moving concert in the venue a decade ago. The year 2013 represented the 100th birthday of the family patriarch Celedonio (who died in 1996).
In an interview last week, Pepe Romero expressed his fond recollections of the 2013 evening. “It was a family affair, including the Romeros ‘Quintet’ — Celin, myself, Angel, Lito, and Celino Romero, and also a special encore with our grandchildren performing with us the famous ‘Noche en Málaga’ by Celedonio Romero. These were wonderful times, and now those grandchildren are grown up, married, and each of them is contributing to making the world a better place.”
Your return concert in Santa Barbara synchronizes with the Lobero’s 150th anniversary. There is a kind of serendipitous link between Lobero and the Romeros. Can you explain that history? We left Spain in 1957 with the help of our hosts Farrington and Evelyn Stoddard, who were living in Santa Barbara. They provided everything for us upon our arrival, including a house, clothes, and Green Cards for everyone, as we had to flee Spain, leaving everything behind.
Our father Celedonio, performed his first guitar recital in the U.S. at the Lobero Theatre on June 13, 1958. The following year, 1959, our father, Celedonio; my brother Celin; and I performed a joint recital as “Celedonio Romero and His Sons, Celin and Jose Romero.” At this concert, my brother Angel made his first appearance also, thus making the Lobero Theatre the first concert hall where Los Romeros appeared together on stage.
Does the specific ambience of the Lobero, which also played host to Andrés Segovia — and Santa Barbara herself — play a strong nostalgic role in the saga of the family and its musical fiber? Yes, it definitely does, and I particularly remember the many wonderful opera performances by the Music Academy of the West that my family and I attended at the Lobero. One week after arriving in the United States, I performed during Santa Barbara’s Fiesta at the entrance of the mission in an outdoor concert — the music, the atmosphere of Santa Barbara seemed like a perfect fit for us.
Was it always obvious within the family that classical guitar would be the center of cultural life within the Romero dynasty, and are there next-generation players coming along? We have been celebrating our 60th anniversary for the past two years, and there was never a doubt in our minds about our role with the guitar and music. The original and current members of Los Romeros have always been dedicated to this life. The fourth generation — well, my son, Pepe Romero Jr. (third generation), is a world-renowned luthier, as is my grandson, Bernardo Romero. This fourth generation also includes an extraordinary opera tenor, a fantastic ballerina, a beautiful competitive dancer, a promising pop singer, a young songwriter/singer, and the list goes on.
They all play the guitar, and this connection is forever.
The guitar quartet format is now, if not a common grouping, much more of a tradition around the classical world. But the Romeros actually were the pioneers with that format, correct? How did it come together with the family, and can you reflect on how that format has expanded outward — including L.A.’s own LAGQ? The Romeros were the first classical guitar quartet, and we invented the genre. We also have created and enriched the guitar quartet repertoire through compositions written for us by world-renowned composers and the many transcriptions done by the Romeros. The formation of the guitar quartet in the Romero family occurred naturally, as it was our father and his three sons. If there had been two sons, it would have been a trio, and if there had been four sons, it would have been a quintet.
Celedonio’s love for the guitar was that contagious. The LAGQ was formed by four of my USC students and originally was named the USC Guitar Quartet. They have done a wonderful thing by becoming their own entity reflected by their style and repertoire and have influenced many young guitarists. There are now many guitar quartets all over the world, which fills us with joy.
The group has specialized in Spanish and Baroque repertoire, as well as original music by Celedonio and others. What will the Lobero program consist of? Will you approach it as an overview of the music integral to the group over its history, in keeping with the historical theme? Yes, we will be performing some of our “favorite” pieces in this celebratory concert. I would like to say that in addition to the Spanish and Baroque repertoire, the great American composer Morton Gould wrote a concerto for us, Troubadour Music, for four guitars and orchestra, and it is truly one of the greatest American compositions.
Are there any special projects Los Romeros will take on in the near future? We are enjoying the wonderful gift of performing together as a family, especially after being shut down during COVID, and there is always something cooking in our plans.
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