I started this morning on the roof.
I was not looking for Saint Nick. Just a little water that needed tending.
While up there, I noticed that the neighbor who flies the Cuban flag -- for who knows what reason -- apparently was flying it at half mast. Had Fidel finally gone to settle accounts with God? Or Raul? Or perhaps Cuba’s benefactor, Hugo Chavez, had shuffled off to his final election in the sky.
A quick check on Wikipedia -- because I can now do that quickly with my handy Samsung telephone as long as there is a telephone signal -- informed me that all three were currently with the rest of us struggling mortals.
Then why the mourning banner?
If you look closely, the problem is my perception. What I thought was the staff is a pipe. The staff is behind the pipe. And the flag is at full staff.
And I got my juices running for no reason at all.
Other than to get to ROMEO (retired old men eating out). I wrote about the group last year (dancing through life). Just some expatriate guys who get together once a week to eat breakfast and share tales and lies.
I always enjoy meeting with them. As I said last year, they always welcome me as if I were a regular. It is one of the things I enjoy about this town.
Before long, it was time for my nightly festival concert. But, let me tell you about Monday night’s performance first.
I know very little about classical guitar. Either the instrument or the music played on it.
But it is easy to recognize a master. And Italian guitarist Eduardo Catemario is that.
There was no program, so I am not certain of the composers of the pieces he played. But it was a nice mixture.
Some very traditional guitar pieces. And a very contemporary atonal piece. All performed with exquisite technique.
Of course, his instrument compares to the guitars played in the plaza in the same way that a thoroughbred horse is the same as an Indian pony.
He played without amplification giving the audience the opportunity to hear his instrument sing. It was almost as if he had a chamber orchestra inside his guitar.
The challenge was to hear the music over late arrivals, squeaky bathroom doors, a vacuum in the hallway, spilled trays, cell phones, teenage chatters, what sounded like someone wrapping her dry cleaning, running children, and street noise.
He chuckled a few times at the interruptions, but he played on like a true professional. And the rest of us ignored the distractions in favor of the beauty of his music.
Tuesday night’s performance was not quite up to that standard.
This was the first performance where admission was charged. The others were free. That is, if you can call $50 (Mx) an admission charge -- about $3.88 (US).
The charge seemed to change the audience’s attentiveness, though. Most of the distractions were eliminated.
The concert was performed by a Spanish pianist -- Ricardo Peñalver Valverde. His credentials were impeccable. His choice of music and his execution were not.
Instead of a mixture of familiar and challenging music, we got Ferrante without Teicher. Selections from Beethoven, Liszt Rachmaninoff, Albeniz, Debussy, and Chopin. The type of program you would hear at a student piano recital.
And our Spanish friend performed most of the pieces at about the level one would anticipate from a student. There were exceptions. He nailed two pieces.
But he indulged in the performance narcissism that is endemic amongst Hispanic pianists. Lots of flash that ends up scrambling the music.
His arpeggios were too rushed. That was evident in the number of wrong notes struck. His grace notes were often sloppy. And where subtle would have been better, he opted for peacock fingering.
But I was one of the few people in the theater who did not appreciate his style. Most of my fellow audience members jumped to their feet and gave him a thundering ovation. Which he repaid with no encore.
Maybe the audience members are so starved for any music that smacks of class, they are willing to press it to their collective cultural bosom.
I like piano music. I know piano music. And this performance was just not what it could have been.
But, so far, it has been the only slightly disappointing concert in this festival.
Maybe it was that false half-mast flag that brought out my grumpy critic side.
Tomorrow has to be better.