Flamenco Takes Center Stage at The Long Center

Photo courtesy of Austin Classical Guitar Society

Photo courtesy of Austin Classical Guitar Society

Our brains tend to pigeonhole concepts into strict categories. So while we don’t classify flamenco as classical music, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a long history. In fact, ‘flamenco’ as a musical term is older than ‘classical music’ as a musical term.

“Flamenco is a phenomenally rich form of cultural expression,” writes Matthew Hinsley, executive director of the Austin Classical Guitar Society.

The genre grew out of the Andalusian and Romani music and dance styles of southern Spain and encompasses singing (cante), guitar playing (toque), dance (baile), and handclapping (palmas). It has grown in popularity in recent decades, and UNESCO, the cultural arm of the United Nations, declared it one of the ‘Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity’ in 2010.

“Flamenco is about rhythm. And it’s a wonderful marriage of simple, driving foot-tapping rhythm with incredibly complex forms,” writes Hinsley. “I’m a highly trained musician, but I still can’t wrap my head completely around even the most common forms that are counted, I believe, in twelve with accents sprinkled throughout.”

“I love the interaction of the dancers and guitarists – sometimes it seems like they’re working together, and other times it seems like they are on two different teams,” he continues. “And finally, I love the guitar playing. I love the speed, and the power – it’s easy to get totally lost in it.”

Hinsley spent a summer in Spain at age 18. When he traveled south—to cities like Granada, Sevilla, and Murcia—he struck up a conversation with a young man at a café. It turned out the young man was the nephew of the president of the flamenco society of Andalusia. He invited him to go see a flamenco show.

“Of course I said yes,” writes Hinsley, “and what followed was one of the most remarkable and memorable nights of my life with what seemed like a thousand people in an outdoor courtyard venue with wine tents, and many singers, dancers and guitarists rotating around and playing long into the night.”

In 2010, the Austin Classical Guitar Society filled Dell Hall for flamenco artist Grisha.

“The packed house, great energy, and audience response reminded me of that night many years earlier in Granada,” explains Hinsley. “It was that night that we started to put the wheels in motion for what would later become FlamencoAustin.”

This Thursday, for FlamencoAustin, Austin Classical Guitar Society and The Long Center will play host to Carlos Piñana, a guitar virtuoso who comes from a long line of flamenco artists in Spain. His four-member ensemble includes a dancer, a percussionist, and two guitarists.

There’s a free pre-concert flamenco party with Spanish wine, tapas and dance by Austin’s own Pilar Andújar on The Long Center’s City Terrace starting at 6:30 p.m. The concert in Dell Hall starts at 8 p.m.

“Definitely come ready to lose yourself in some authentic, deeply personal musical magic,” recommends Hinsley.

You can find more information on FlamencoAustin right here on ATXclassical.

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