, Muskogee, OK

June 27, 2013

Flamenco guitarist mixes history with the music

By Leilani Roberts Ott
Phoenix Correspondent

— Shout “ole’!” That’s part of the fun when you experience Ronald Radford in Concert, “Flamenco Guitar: ‘A Miracle of Natural Art.’”

The St. Louis musician is in Muskogee to educate and entertain with his Flamenco guitar at noon today at Creek Nation Nutritional Site and at 7:30 p.m. today at the Roxy Theater. His performance at the senior site is free; his show at the Roxy is $10 for adults and $5 for students. He performed Thursday for Project Transformation at St. Paul United Methodist Church.

Wren Stratton, the secretary of the Muskogee Area Arts Council, said it was helping to fund Radford’s visit. Financial assistance is also being provided by the Oklahoma Arts Council and The Art Foundation.

Watching Radford warm up for a show is like seeing an athletic event, she said.

“He’s amazing,” she said.

Radford calls his solo flamenco guitar music “Spanish bluegrass” or “gypsy jazz.” According to his website, he is one of only about a half-dozen concert flamenco guitarists touring today and the only North American. He has traveled thousands of miles in Spain, immersing himself in the music and lifestyle of Spanish gypsies.

“I talk to the audience about the history of the music and my travels in Spain,” he said of his show. “It will sound quite magnificent in the Roxy. It’s a relaxed and free atmosphere.”

Radford, who has spent most of his life in Tulsa, has friends in Muskogee. His first performance here was in the 1980s at Muskogee High School. He also gave a show during the Azalea Festival one year. It’s been several years since he’s been back.

“I love playing for friendly folks,” he said. “I always get a good response here and I love the little Roxy Theater. There’s a real community spirit.”

When he speaks to students, he tells them about the power of practice.

“You are going to get good at whatever you practice — good or bad,” he said. “Practice your talents and gifts and practice what you love doing.”

He played guitar in a rock ’n’ roll garage band until he heard a record by Carlos Montoya. He copied the style and during his high school years got a chance to see Montoya perform in Tulsa. He played for him, and Montoya invited Radford to study with him in New York as a private student, according to his website. Radford began playing professional engagements including Carnegie Hall. After a career sidestep via the Army in Vietnam, Radford resumed his studies by touring Spain. He was the only one to be awarded a Fulbright scholarship in flamenco guitar music.

Before his show at the Roxy, Radford will arrive early to practice. “The fingers have to be warmed up and tuned,” he said. “You have to keep the engine running.”

When the show starts, Radford said his way of performing is like “storytelling while sitting in my living room.”

If you go

WHAT: Ronald Radford in Concert, “Flamenco Guitar: ‘A Miracle of Natural Art.’”

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. today.

WHERE: The Roxy Theater.

TICKETS: $10, adults; and $5, students.

SPONSORS: Muskogee Area Art Council, Oklahoma Arts Council and The Arts Foundation.