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Celino Romero Interview

Third generation of Romero guitar comes to Bay Area

San Mateo County Times - July 26, 2002.

LEGENDARY Spanish guitar master Celedonio Romero certainly knew a great deal about the guitar. But he also knew a thing or two about how to rear a successful, unified family.

With the help of his wife, Angelita Gallego Romero, he became the patriarch of a very happy clan of musicians currently known as the "Royal Family of the Guitar."

Now, a third-generation Romero, Celino, is preparing to offer Bay Area music lovers a taste of the Romero guitar magic during a concert with the San Francisco Symphony at 8 p.m. Thursday at Davies Symphony Hall, Grove Street and Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco.

Maestro Keith Lockhart will lead the orchestra in a program titled "Latin Classics," featuring Juan Turina's "Danzas Fantasticas," de Falla's Suite from "The Three-cornered Hat" and Joaquin Rodrigo's glorious "Concierto de Aranjuez" with young Romero as guitar soloist. Celino's grandparents, Celedonio and Angelita, relocated their family from Malaga, Spain, to Southern California in 1957. In 1960, Celedonio, already acclaimed as a world-class virtuoso, enlisted his three guitarist sons - Celin, Pepe, and Angel - to join with him in forming "Los Romeros Guitar Quartet."

Since then, the family has earned world acclaim as consummate musicians and has even been awarded a collective knighthood into the "Order of Isabel la Catolica" from King Juan Carlos I of Spain.

Papa Celedonio's musical and teaching skills have been passed on not only to his sons, but his grandsons and granddaughters. And if grandson Celino has his way, this glorious legacy will even extend to the great-grandchildren. Celino, Celin's son, replaced his Uncle Angel in the quartet in 1990 when Angel decided to pursue a solo career.

Now married and living in close proximity to his extended family in Del Mar, congenial Celino is introducing his own two sons to the guitar.

"I bought my little 1-year-old, Maximino, a tiny little guitar at Costco for $70. He strums it in the relaxed and gentle 'Romero' way, with just the right touch - and with a wonderful smile on his face," Celino said during a recent telephone interview.

His older son, Celedonio IV, at 4, also plays the guitar, but is distracted by such typical boy activities as playing with his Buzz Lightyear toys.

"I think some of my family's success with music is, indeed, inborn," Celino says. "But, a lot is also because of our approach to teaching. I started playing the guitar at 3, and I would study with everybody in the family. I learned the subtle, 'magic' touches from my grandfather, the flamenco techniques from Uncle Pepe (which he explained as a looser kind of action that results in a 'dirtier,' more earthy sound), and a great deal from my father and other uncles. Then, I learned sightreading from my mother Laurie Romero, a fine soprano. The 'Romero' method is to learn touch, relaxation, and technical exercises first, and then to move on from there.

"When I was younger," he says, "I would love to play things fast. But my grandfather used to say, 'Playing a piece through one time slowly is better than 100 times fast."'

Celino says he was involved in athletics in high school and intended to become a professional soccer player. At Palomar College, he played baseball. And, he confesses, he is still a sports addict.

He says, "What I still really love doing is to pack up my cheap Yamaha 'beach guitar' along with my surf board and go down to the beach. Then I spend the whole day, alternating between surfing, practicing my guitar and lying in the sun."

As a teenager, some of his favorite bands were Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin. He even played in a few garage bands. But he could never bring himself to take up the electric guitar; instead, amplifying his classical guitar.

Another third-generation Romero in the quartet is Lito, Angel's son, chosen to step in for Grandfather Celedonio, who died in 1996. While seven grandchildren play the guitar, others, such as Pepe Jr., have found other vocations. Pepe Jr. has earned a reputation as a guitar maker. Cousin Celino says Pepe Jr. studied guitar making in Europe, especially Germany, and now has a four-year waiting list for his handmade guitars.

"His guitars can cost $7,000 or more," Celino says. "I don't even have one yet - but I suppose, when I'm ready, I'll get some kind of family discount."

As a member of Los Romeros Guitar Quartet, Celino has been touring for more than 10 years, giving recitals and concerts all over the U.S. and Europe with the Berlin Philharmonic, Vienna Symphony, the Dallas Symphony and in the Metropolitan Museum Music series in New York City. As a soloist, he has played with major orchestras :in Houston, Dallas, Vermont, east Texas and Utah.

One of the highlights of his life was in 1996, when he performed the "Concierto de Aranjuez" with the Houston Symphony.

"My dad, Celin, was sitting backstage the whole time, since he was too nervous to watch me from out front," he says. "Then after the concert, he was so excited and proud, that he took me out to dinner - and passed his prized Miguel Rodriguez guitar on to me. It's one of my most precious possessions."

�1999-2002 by MediaNews Group, Inc. and ANG Newspapers

Celedonio Romero

(Back) Celin Romero, Pepe Romero. (Front) Celino Romero, Lito Romero.

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