When Pepe Romero was born in 1944, his home nation of Spain was reeling from the aftermath of a bloody civil war and the even more devastating conflagration raging in the rest of Europe.
It wasn’t a happy time, but, in the Romero household, there were still moments of joy — in music.
The family patriarch, Celedonio Romero, was a renowned classical guitarist who passed on his love to his sons, Celin, Angel and Pepe, with whom he would later star in a guitar quartet, The Romeros.
Seventy years after picking up the guitar and following in his famous father’s footsteps, Pepe Romero returns to the New Orleans area this weekend to perform with the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra in its final concerts of the season.
The orchestra will present concerts at 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Saturday at the Orpheum Theater, and at 7:30 p.m. Friday at First Baptist Church in Covington.
Romero will play one of the best-known pieces in his repertoire, “Fantasia para un gentilhombre” (Fantasy for a Gentleman), by 20th-century composer Joaquín Rodrigo.
Other selections on the orhcestra's Hispanic-themed program are “Corridos” (Calendar) by Mexican composer Salvador Contreras and the ballet music for “El Sombrero de Tres Picos” (The Three-Cornered Hat) by Manuel de Falla.
The orchestra will be accompanied by the New Orleans Vocal Arts Masterworks chorale under the direction of Meg Frazier with featured guest soloist soprano Rose Mannino. Orchestra Music Director Carlos Miguel Prieto conducts.
Romero, who has performed in some of the world’s most prestigious venues and before numerous heads of state, lavished praise on his late father, whom he called “the most elegant and magnificent guitar player that I’ve known.”
His father taught more than technique. “The most important thing was how to love music," Romero recalled. "How to nurture the passion for music, for the guitar and for bringing the joy of music — the great gift we have been given — to share with the public.”
While perfecting his musicianship, Romero has become something of a musical historian. Mining the baroque, classical and romantic periods, he's been the first to record many works by little-known composers from centuries ago.
He credits Spanish baroque composer Gaspar Sanz with originating the Spanish music genre that evolved into the flamenco style. Sanz also was the inspiration for much of Rodrigo’s work, Romero noted.
“Joaquin Rodrigo took the themes of this great baroque composer and, in homage to him, he called the work, ‘Fantasy for a Gentleman,’ ” Romero said.
The piece is about 20 minutes long, with strings, winds and horns backing the solo guitar on some passages.
Guest soloist Mannino also was steeped in the Spanish musical heritage, raised in South Florida by a Cuban mother.
An LSU graduate with a master's degree in vocal performance, she taught voice part time at the University of Alabama and at Mississippi State University this past year. She was referred to the orchestra by Loraine Sims, her former professor at LSU.
“When they asked if I was available, I said absolutely, and now I’m really looking forward to doing this,” Mannino said.
"Pepe Romero and The Three-Cornered Hat"
Presented by the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra
Featuring guitarist Pepe Romero, the NOVA Masterworks Chorale and guest soloist Rose Mannino. Carlos Miguel Prieto conducts.
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday
WHERE: Thursday and Saturday, Orpheum Theater, 129 Roosevelt Way, New Orleans; and Friday, First Baptist Church of Covington, 16333 La. 1085, Covington, LA
TICKETS: $20-$140 New Orleans; $20-$55 Covington
INFO: (504) 523-6530. lpomusic.com