While the combination of a Gypsy Mass and Flamenco was unknown to me until yesterday, it was the object of adoration at All Saint’s Parish in Beverly Hills on Sunday afternoon, June 21. Held in the chapel, the venue provided the perfect acoustics for Drew Croon’s Misa Gitana Andaluza.
I was among the guests who attended the melange of a performance that came from the collection of the late composer Drew Croon. Croon, an American from Los Feliz, spent his life composing in Europe. When he died in 2007, his sister, Doranne found his music boxed in an attic in France. She has made it her goal to bring it to the stage.
Last month, I was contacted by Doranne Croon Cedillo. We connected through Facebook and have a mutual friend in common. When we chatted I assumed she was in Los Angeles. Turns out, she makes her home in Denver. She told me her brother, Drew Croon had written a “Gypsy Mass” before he died at the age of 56, and that she was assembling a performance. It’s taken her seven years to find the right ensemble to perform his work. The first performance premiered in San Francisco in April and the second would be held in Beverly Hills. She asked if I would come.
The first part of the program featured the young guitarist, Taso Comanescu. From Los Angeles, When I heard his rendition of Recuerdos de la Alhambra, by Francisco Tarrega, I was fell into complete silence. It’s one of my favorite pieces because of it’s simplicity, where one watches the grace of the performer. Highly romantic and perhaps the most famous tremolo piece for classical guitar.
Next came Alex Conde, a classically trained pianist from Valencia, Spain. Born into a musical family, he has spent the last six years in San Francisco. Conde was trained as a classical pianist, but when he came to the United States to pursue his classical studies, he began to miss flamenco tremendously.
Seated in the second row, I watched his fingers and his movements. He’s got extraordinary musicianship and creativity and has great technique. I expect to hear more of him in the future. He also mentioned to the audience that artistically he was thinking of how to combine flamenco with jazz and the following evening he got a call by Croon Cedillo asking him to do just that. He played his own composition Barrio del Carmen (Alegrias) with such flexibility it made you want to get up and dance.
Fanny Ara, originally from the French Basque region hit the floor dancing. I loved watching her elegant body movements which included a concave pose, arms stretched upward with hands in a prayer pose, fingers spread in exclamation points and her feet gliding in circles. And alternating these movements with an attack of the floor.
And there was the mezzo-soprano, Kindra Scharich. I think her job was the most challenging and she did it superbly. Singing a Mass has to be complicated. The notes don’t come easily but she pulled it off beautifully. When she wasn’t singing, she clapped her hands at various volumes.
Being married to a classically trained singer, I recognize when you sing live, you realize yourself, and express the best you have inside at that moment. You interpret the composer’s intent to the best of your ability.
None of the musicians knew Croon or his music. Despite this, there was not an empty seat to be seen.
Who knew a Flamenco Mass could sound anywhere near this great?
The audience loved the concert and although when it ended, it wasn’t followed by “Otra! Otra! Otra!” I would venture most of the audience would be happy hearing another two hours of Drew Croon’s Gypsy Mass. They will have to settle for the CD set.