A new listening experience awaits

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By Kirsten Laskey

It will be a series of firsts at the Guitars and Gateaux concert on Thursday – both for the performer and for the audience.

Lynn McGrath, guitarist, teacher and tour director for the Guitar Foundation, will introduce Los Alamos listeners to “Platero y Yo,” by Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco. This is a unique work, which combines classical guitar and narrated excerpts from the book of the same name by Juan Ramón Jiménez. What will make this rarely-performed work even more specialized for the local audience is that McGarth will play the guitar and narrate – the only performer to tackle both ends of this work.

But Los Alamos is not the only one to be introduced to something new. The Guitars and Gateaux show will be McGarth’s first performance in New Mexico.

The show begins at 7 p.m. Thursday at Fuller Lodge.

McGrath commented that this particular piece meshes together two of her loves – Spanish literature and guitar. She explained she majored in Spanish history and literature in college. “So I love Spanish literature and later I majored in classical guitar performance but I never lost my love for Spanish literature.”

Plus, the words come from a very famous poet. Ramón Jiménez won the Nobel prize for his work. “Platero y Yo is a fantastic book of poetry,” McGrath said.

How Ramón Jiménez’s words got combined to music was the result of an Italian composer living in the U.S. receiving the book as a gift. McGrath said he fell in love with the book and wrote it to be accompanied by guitar. McGrath said when she was looking for a repertoire and came across “Platero y Yo,” she thought, “how perfect is this, it mixes my two loves.”

It was by a fluke that McGarth came to wear both the guitarist and narrator hat when performing this work. She said she decided to perform this piece for her doctorate recital at the University of Southern California. She had a narrator in mind to perform along with her but could not afford for the individual to travel to California and stay at a hotel. While racking her brain to determine what she should do, McGarth said she decided to take on both tasks herself.

It was the right choice to make, she said, because “this has been the cornerstone of my repertoire.” No one else plays the guitar and narrates while performing this piece.

“I’ve always been accused of being a multi-tasker … it’s such beautiful literature,” she said.

The challenge is tough, however. McGarth said it is like rubbing your stomach and tapping your head all while doing an Irish jig.

During the Guitars and Gateaux performance, McGarth said the audience will hear excerpts that address the relationship between the poet and a donkey.

The work is autobiographical, she said. Ramón Jiménez wrote the work from 1907-1917. To overcome his depression, the poet went to a small town in southern Spain.

And he seems to find comfort in his donkey. McGrath said his poetry describes him reading to the donkey, singing to the donkey.

“There is no real story,” McGarth said. “It is a series of chapters, like little pictures of portraits of daily life in this little town.”

It’s work McGarth said she is eager to share with Los Alamos. “I love to share it with every community but this is kind of special to me because I just moved to New Mexico and this will be my first official performance in New Mexico. Also, I just finished a CD, so this is the first time I will show my CD.”

“It is also special that New Mexico has a very close connection to Spanish and to Spain … it’s just a really special opportunity,” she added.

The community is invited to seize this special opportunity to hear McGarth perform. Tickets for the show are $10 for Los Alamos Arts Council members and $15 for non-members. The Arts Council sponsors the event.