The Romero Family biography
Celedonio Romero, founder and creator of the Romeros guitar quartet, died on May 8, 1996 in San Diego. As the family says, "He is the spirit of the quartet; all our concerts pay homage to him." His sons and grandsons will continue Celedonio's legacy.
Joaquín Rodrigo, one of Spain’s greatest contemporary composers, said of Celedonio Romero: "He has contributed immensely through his artistic interpretations for classical guitar music. More importantly, he has enlarged and enriched the repertoire of 20th century music with his own compositions."
Composer, guitarist and poet Celedonio Romero was born on March 2, 1913 in Cienfuegos, Cuba while his father, an architect from Málaga, was constructing the Concert Hall in Cienfuegos. At a very young age Celedonio returned with his family to Málaga. Due to his prodigious talent on the guitar he was largely self-taught on the instrument. He studied music and received his degree at the Conservatory of Málaga.
He first performed in public at the age of 10. After his formal debut at age 20, he played widely throughout Spain but was refused permission to perform outside of his native country. Deprived of his artistic freedom under the oppressive government of Generalissimo Francisco Franco, Celedonio immigrated with his family to the United States in 1957.
Within two years the family settled in southern California, and Celedonio created a guitar quartet with his sons Celin, Pepe, and Angel - The Romeros. In an article in The New York Times, a noted critic wrote "…Collectively, they are the only classical guitar quartet of real stature in the world today. In fact, they virtually invented the format." They became known as the "Royal Family of the Guitar". In 1990, grandson Celino replaced Angel, and the quartet comprised three generations of virtuosity. The family tradition continues with grandson Lito Romero joining the quartet upon Celedonio Romero’s death.
After the quartet’s first tour of the United States in 1961, they immediately went on to perform on The Ed Sullivan Show, at Carnegie Hall, and at the Hollywood Bowl. Since then The Romeros have played most of the great concert halls in America and have performed with virtually every major symphony orchestra in the world, including those of Cleveland, Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Houston, Pittsburgh, Boston, San Francisco and Dallas in the United States, and The Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, the Vienna Radio Orchestra and la Orquesta Nacionál de España in Europe. They collaborated with many of the world’s finest conductors. The Romeros have performed at the White House by invitation of two Presidents, at the Vatican for Pope John Paul II, for King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofia of Spain, and for His Royal Highness Prince Charles, Prince of Wales. Celedonio’s voluminous discography, both in solo recordings and with the quartet on the Delos and Philips labels, brought his music to an ever-widening audience around the world.
Celedonio Romero was highly decorated for his contributions to the Spanish culture and to the world of the classical guitar. He was knighted by His Majesty King Juan Carlos I of Spain, achieving the rank of Comendador de Número de la Orden de Isabel la Catolica. He received many other high honors and awards from leaders around the world including Caballero del Santo Sepulcro ("Knight of the Holy Sepulchre") given by Pope John Paul II. Among the local honors he received, Celedonio was especially proud of the Beethoven Award presented by KFSD, the classical radio station in San Diego, and "Celedonio Romero Day" (January 14th) proclaimed by the Mayor of San Diego. For his 80th birthday gala celebrations were held around the world in Málaga, Sevilla, Berlin, London and San Diego. The city of Málaga named him Hijo Predilecto con la Medalla de Oro. In 1995, Celedonio was awarded the title of Doctor Honoris Causa by the University of Victoria, British Columbia.
Much of the credit for today’s high regard for the classical guitar can be attributed to the life work of Celedonio Romero. His compositions for classical guitar, numbering over 100 (including ten concertos) have emerged as masterpieces for the guitar. Joaquín Rodrigo said of Celedonio: "He has developed the technique of the guitar by making what is difficult to be easy. He is, without a doubt, the grand master of the guitar." Celedonio Romero was known and respected around the world, and The Celedonio Romero Method for the Classical Guitar is taught in Master and Doctoral programs in the universities of North America and Europe.
Angelita Romero was a singer and stage actress in Málaga, Spain; she studied at Málaga's Royal Academy of Fine Arts and graduated with highest honors. It was there that she met a young guitarist, Celedonio Romero. He was 18 and she was 21; she instantly captivated him and they soon married. The couple had three sons: Celin, Pepe and Angel. Their father taught the boys guitar; Angelita taught them reading, writing and literature. An avid reader and philosopher, she enhanced their education with weekly trips to art museums. In teaching the young Pepe, she dictated the entire text of Cervantes' Don Quixote to him. She kept his hand-written copy as one of her greatest treasures.
She overcame the huge difficulties of raising her young family with undaunted courage. When facing the terror of post-civil war Spain and the darkness that surrounded the family, her words were always of hope. She fought against all forces; she was unbeatable. During the 1930s, 40s and 50s, she was part of the innermost literary and artistic circles in Spain. An inspiration not only to her husband Celedonio, she was a muse to many artists, poets and philosophers of the time.
The matriarch of the world's greatest family of guitarists, Angelita Romero was always the driving force behind the family. Throughout the careers of The Romeros, Angelita rarely missed a concert of the quartet, her husband or her sons. She traveled the world with her family and was always there to support them.
An accomplished castanet player, Mrs. Romero was often called to the stage by her family during their concerts to perform an encore with them. Her spirited playing and regal grace always brought down the house. Famed Spanish composers Federico Moreno Torroba, his son Federico Jr. and Reverend Francisco de Madina wrote pieces for her, which she performed and recorded on the Philips label. Joaquín Rodrigo called her one of the greatest virtuosos of the castanets. One of her most rewarding moments was performing at the Vatican for Pope John Paul II, where he gave a special blessing to her castanets.
On her 80th birthday, the Vatican awarded Angelita Romero the title "Lady of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem".
Angelita Romero died on March 10, 1999, surrounded by her loving family, who feel her guiding presence in every aspect of their lives.
To some fortunate musicians, it is given to rise to the peak of a musical art form; to some very few musicians, it is given to originate an art form. The Romeros have achieved both.
The illustrious career of The Romeros is unmistakably a milestone of twentieth century music. Celedonio Romero, with his sons Celin, Pepe and Angel, founded the internationally renowned ensemble known to millions as "The Royal Family of the Guitar." With the introduction of Celin’s son, Celino, into the quartet in 1990, and Angel ’s son Lito joining in 1996, the Romeros encompass three generations of concert artists. To have so many virtuosi of the same instrument in one family is unique in the music world, and in the realm of the classical guitar it is absolutely without precedent. Since the Romero family came to the United States in 1957, they have consistently dazzled audiences everywhere and have inspired enthusiastic praise from critics coast to coast. The Romeros have given thousands of concerts all over the world; today, they continue to produce music which is extraordinary. Whether performing as a quartet, duo or as soloists in recital and with symphony orchestra, the Romeros prevail as champions in the realm of classical guitar.
The sterling reputation of The Romeros has further been earned by repeated appearances with virtually every major symphony orchestra all over the world. Regular festival appearances include the Hollywood Bowl, Blossom, Wolf Trap, Saratoga, Flagstaff, Garden State, the Osaka in Japan Granada and Nerja in Spain and many others.
The Romeros are extremely popular with college audiences and make regular appearances on university series throughout the country as well as on the fine arts series of major cities. In New York they have appeared several times at Carnegie Hall, at Alice Tully Hall in Lincoln Center, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium, at the Cloisters in upper Manhattan’s Fort Tryon Park and on the Distinguished Artists Series at Rockefeller University. In addition to their extensive concertizing throughout the Untied States, they also regularly tour Europe and the Far East playing in every major city.
A number of important additions to the guitar repertoire have been written for The Romeros by such distinguished composers as Joaquín Rodrigo, Federico Moreno Torroba, Morton Gould, Rev. Francisco de Madina and others. Television fans have seen and heard the Romeros many times on interview shows including the Tonight and Today shows as well as on PBS specials and PBS’s telecast of Evening at the Boston Pops with The Romeros performing Vivaldi and Rodrigo.
Recordings have done much to spread the international fame of The Romeros. Their voluminous discography spans the repertoire of the classical guitar from the works of its earliest composers to those of today’s masters—Rodrigo and Moreno Torroba, as well as compositions by Celedonio Romero and numerous transcriptions by The Romeros themselves.
Those who are privileged to hear these world-renowned musicians perform have the delightful opportunity to experience a musical phenomenon: "One of the enduring mysteries of musical talent is how skills seem to flow genetically from musical parent to musical child. In the Romero family the flow has been swift and unimpeded. The virtuosity of the four Romeros was uniformly solid and finely considered, as if these techniques had derived from a single mold" (The New York Times).
Pepe Romero Jr.
Born into the world of classical guitar and gifted with the talent of woodworking, Pepe Romero Jr. found his calling in building guitars. Pepe built his first guitar in Bellingham, Washington with Dake Traphagen. He has studied in Spain with Manuel Contreras II, Jose Romanillos, Miguel Rodriguez, and in Germany with Edmund Blöchinger. From the beginning his guitars have been in demand. His father, Pepe Romero Sr., tours the world regularly with his guitars. Angel, Celin, Lito and Celino Romero have also toured with Pepe's guitars, along with many other concert guitarists. Each guitar is hand crafted by Pepe, and follows in the tradition of his family by producing the finest quality of sound and beauty.
To visit Pepe Romero Jr.'s website, click here: www.peperomero.com/luthier
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Angelina Romero, second daughter of guitarist Pepe Romero, demonstrated her heritage of musical inspiration and individual idealism by beginning to study the piano at the age of eight. Angelina, the first Romero offspring to play an instrument other than the guitar, has studied privately with Eliane Laussade, who was a pupil of Lili Kraus, and Zsuzsa Heiligenberg, whose teacher was a pupil of Franz Liszt. Angelina has attended piano master classes at the Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria, and holds a music degree from California State University, Northridge, where she studied with Francois Regnat.
Angelina has performed with her father both in Europe and the United States, including a special concert in Mälaga, Spain, honoring her grandfather, Celedonio Romero.
Angelina is an instructor of music for elementary school children in Solana Beach, California and teaches private piano lessons in her home in Carlsbad where she lives with her husband and two children.
Bernardo Romero, eldest grandson of Pepe Romero, Sr., has been surrounded by guitar playing since birth and has grown up watching his uncle, Pepe Romero, Jr. transform beautiful woods into magnificent guitars. From early childhood Bernardo was talented in guitar playing and wood carving. He began his first guitar under the tutelage of Juan Miguel Carmona in Granada, Spain and completed it in San Diego with his uncle Pepe Romero, Jr. From the beginning Bernardo's guitars have been masterful instruments and are used in concert by internationally acclaimed guitar virtuosos. His grandfather Pepe Romero has used Bernardo's instruments in such prestigious venues as the Rheingau and Schleswig-Holstein Music Festivals.