That awkward moment when you say, “hurdy gurdy”

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October 17, 2011

11:19 PM

Hearing the word “hurdy gurdy” doesn’t exactly bring thoughts of an elegant musical performance to mind. However, Tomas Lozano proved to those present at his Ewell Hall concert that these two concepts can mix very easily.

Singer and scholar Lozano started the College’s Ewell Concert Series on a high note last Saturday, performing his Spanish ballads in front of an audience made up of college students and Williamsburg residents of all ages. The cultural and musical event was sponsored by the Wendy and Emery Reves Center for International Studies, William and Mary Middle Eastern Music Ensemble, Medieval and Renaissance Studies program, Hispanic Studies program and the Music in America Culture Series.

Lozano was born in Barcelona, Spain and entered the United States permanently halfway through his life. He is currently a permanent member of the musical groups Viva la Pepa, Trio Lococó and Daily Bread. In addition to performing, Lozano gives lecture presentations to students at colleges and universities across America, has published multiple articles and books, and makes his own instruments in his spare time.

“I presented [Lozano’s new book and CD] to the Ewell Concert Series Committee, and we were impressed with what Tomas was offering, and with his extensive knowledge,” said Judy Zwelling, manager of the Ewell Concert Series. “He’s a musician, scholar and writer.”

Lozano’s songs were all performed in Spanish, but the feelings behind them were easy to understand with the soft sounds of his acoustic guitar and smooth voice. Before each piece, he also gave the audience a brief account of the story the lyrics told, and with almost every song came a love story.

“Yo Me Levantara Madre” told the tale of a man searching for his lost love, never quite finding her and still searching by the end of the song. “La Doncella Guerrera” revealed a story many may recognize from childhood movies, that of a daughter taking her father’s place to fight in the ongoing war. In the first half of his performance, Lozano switched between his acoustic guitar and a hurdy gurdy, an instrument that uses a crank and sounds similar to a violin.

“It was truly a once in a lifetime experience,” Morrison Mast ’12 said. “The instrumentation was really unique, and Lozano’s performance reflected a deep understanding of and connection with the music, not to mention incredible musicianship.”

During the second half of the concert, musician Clancy Clements joined Lozano onstage to accompany him with the Galician and Renaissance bagpipes. These new instruments added a far more upbeat element to the performance.

Although she helped manage and promote the event, Zwelling was able to soundly enjoy the performance. “I thought the concert was wonderful,” she said. “Haunting in the first half with just Tomas playing the guitar and hurdy gurdy and singing, and lively and delightful in the second, with Clements adding bagpipes and caña to the mix.”

Clements is a Professor of Linguistics, Spanish, and Portuguese at Indiana University, Bloomington. In his spare time, however, he is a world music enthusiast, and has learned to play a variety of different instruments. He has most recently been receiving instruction on playing the bagpipes from instructors straight out of Galicia, Spain.

Zwelling asserts that concerts such as Lozano’s are important for students to attend, because they give them a greater appreciation for other cultures. “I think students learn about other musical idioms, styles and cultures by hearing musicians from all over the world,” she said. “Lozano played and sang medieval, Renaissance, and Sephardic Spanish ballads, and he and Clements played instruments many haven’t ever heard live: hurdy gurdy, three types of bagpipes and the caña.”

Lozano provided students and visitors with a cultural experience they’re not soon to forget. As Mass put it, “How often do you get to see a professional hurdy gurdy player?”

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