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String magic: Musicians from New Mexico, worldwide to perform at Classical Guitar Festival

Guitarists from New Mexico and around the world will come together to celebrate the stringed instrument during the 2021 New Mexico Classical Guitar Festival.

Acclaimed Cuban guitarist Iliana Matos will be a featured artist at the 2021 New Mexico Classical Guitar Festival. (Courtesy of Iliana Matos)

Internationally renowned guitarists Iliana Matos and Paul Galbraith will be the featured artists at the festival. Each of their concerts will take place online. The festival, from June 25 to 27, also will include a student showcase as well as in person youth and adult ensembles and workshops.

As a young girl living in the small province of Guantanamo, Cuba, Matos was drawn to music after following a group of children to a private music academy. She later learned to play several instruments, including guitar, piano, and tres, a stringed Cuban instrument. Matos began teaching guitar in her homeland and later in other countries, including Venezuela, Spain, and Canada, where she now lives.

“We (learned) just by hearing chords on the guitar and the piano,” Matos said. “And it was very practical. You learn three chords, and let’s learn a song with those three chords. And let’s practice together and play together. And this is a really practical approach to learning music that I think is great. And I’m very grateful. I’m happy, I would say lucky, that I had that approach to the music from this perspective, because for me, music is all about performing.”

Matos, who has been teaching for about 30 years, will bring her talents to the 2021 New Mexico Classical Guitar Festival. She will perform an online concert and hold a master class on June 25. The one-hour program features classical songs as well as music by Cuban composers and songs from Latin America and Spain. Some compositions in Matos’ performance repertoire include the Spanish piece “El Jardin de Lindaraja,” music by Eduardo Morales-Caso, “Divertimentos Tropicales” by Eduardo Martín and “Prelude, Fugue, and Allegro” by J. Sebastian Bach.

Paul Galbraith was introduced to guitar at age 8 when his father bought him a guitar on an impulse.

“I hadn’t asked for one and don’t have any memory of even hearing the guitar especially,” Galbraith said in an email.

Renowned guitarist Paul Galbraith will be showcased in an online concert that is part of the 2021 New Mexico Classical Guitar Festival. (Courtesy of Paul Galbraith)

Thirty years later, Galbraith would develop a unique eight-string guitar with luthier David Rubio. Galbraith had been playing a David Rubio six-string for 10 years and would regularly visit the guitar maker in Cambridge in the United Kingdom, where Galbraith now resides.

Rubio named the eight-string instrument the “Brahms guitar” since Galbraith immediately played a long set of keyboard variations by Brahms (op. 21a) on it.

The guitar is not the only thing unique about Galbraith’s performances. His posture when playing is similar to that of a cellist rather than a guitarist.

“I’d been searching for a solution to two issues: one involving the need to have equal freedom of movement in both arms; the other involving a better – more balanced and healthy – sitting posture,” he said. “I experimented over a three week Easter break, but came up with nothing, so I left it alone. Then out of the blue it came to me, and I’ve been sitting in the same basic way ever since, though initially I sat on the floor, before I had a cello end-in fitted, as I have now. It allows me to shape phrases and spaces, principally between the notes, in a particular way, and to sit very comfortably.”

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