The passion of flamenco


scanurraThe music and dance of southern Spain heat up the stage of McLaughlin Performance Hall today during a dynamic midday concert. Titled “The Passion of Flamenco”, the concert features Canada’s pre-eminent flamenco guitarist, Roger Scannura, an instructor in York’s Department of Music, Faculty of Fine Arts, with percussionist Kevin Quevedo Smith and renowned flamenco dancer/choreographer Valeria Scannura.

Left: Roger Scannura with his wife Valeria

A product of Andalusian culture, flamenco’s roots run deep in Spanish history. The music ranges from melancholy to fiery and is accented with rhythmic clapping and clicking castanets and punctuated with passionate dancing. The flamenco style of guitar-playing is more dramatic than the classical style, and has a sharper, more brilliant tone.

Motion, colour and panache are the hallmarks of flamenco dance. Feverish footwork transforms feet into percussion instruments which make their own kind of special music, while flowing arm movements add to the drama of the guitar’s rhythms.

Scannura became hooked on the compelling melodies and complex rhythms of flamenco after hearing virtuoso guitarist Pepe Habichuela in a Toronto bar 30 years ago. He makes annual pilgrimages to Spain to study the gypsy music that possesses his Maltese soul.

“Last year when York invited me to teach flamenco guitar, I hesitated, despite 30 years’ practice and four CDs, but I said that I’d try it one day a week,” said Scannura. “I loved it so much, I couldn’t wait for Mondays to roll around. Flamenco is in my blood.”

Scannura now teaches in York’s Music Department three days a week and is also completing an ambitious guitar concerto, while juggling his responsibilities as art director for Roots Canada.

Kevin Quevedo Smith plays dumbek, djembe and congas, but his specialty is cajon, an instrument originally from Peru but now standard flamenco fare. He was the first percussionist in Canada to play cajon in flamenco.

Guest artist Valeria Scannura has been performing and teaching Spanish dance for almost two decades. Trained in classical ballet as well as flamenco, she has worked extensively with master artists such as Paco Romero and La Tati in Spain, as well as leading Canadian ensembles such as the Paula Moreno Spanish Dance Company and Esmeralda Enrique Spanish Dance Company. She is principal choreographer and performer with Ritmo Flamenco, a dance company she founded in 1996, specializing in the fusion of traditional flamenco with innovative contemporary dance.

Part of the Music Department’s Music at Midday series, The Passion of Flamenco runs from 12:30 to 1:30pm in the McLaughlin Performance Hall, 050 McLaughlin College. Admission is free.

This article was submitted to YFile by Mary-Lou Schagena, publicist, Faculty of Fine Arts.