Classical guitar great Pepe Romero is all about family.
He performs with his siblings and nephews in the critically acclaimed Romero Guitar Quartet, which his father started in 1960, and oftentimes he plays a guitar crafted by his luthier son Pepe Jr.
Even when he plays solo, he is not alone.
“Whenever I have a guitar in my hand, when I’m embracing it, I feel his (father Celedonio Romero’s) presence. I feel him within me,” he said last week on the eve of leaving his San Diego-area home to open the 21st annual Tucson Winter Chamber Music Festival today.
“It is very difficult for me to know where my father ended and where I started. It is almost like the same guitarist with two bodies.”
Romero will perform his father’s guitar suite “Fantasia” in a program that includes performances with the Miró Quartet, violist Paul Coletti, baritone Christòpheren Nomura, pianist Berndadene Blaha and oboist James Austin Smith.
Romero said his father wrote “Fantasia” to express the music and memories of Cuba, where he was born and spent his early childhood, and Spain, where he grew up and learned guitar.
“My father moved to Spain when he was 5 or 6, but he remembered the sounds of Cuba,” he said. “That piece represents very special memories of my father.”
Romero and his family quartet played “Fantasia” as an encore to their 2009 concert with Tucson Symphony Orchestra. Romero said he remembers the audience’s standing ovation and the warmth that flooded over him.
“Whenever I do the music of my father, and especially since … I will be playing one of my son’s guitars, I feel in between my father and my son. It’s an incredible warm feeling full of love and family union,” he said.
Romero will join the festival again on Monday to perform Boccherini’s Guitar Quintet in D major “Fandango,” a quintet for two violins, cello and guitar.