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VIII Encuentro Internacional de Guitarra, Xalapa 2013.

Posted By Connie Sheu, Tuesday, December 17, 2013

By Randall Kohl 

Xalapa, Veracruz, Mexico has long been recognized within the country of Mexico as a center for the creative arts, in particular music and especially guitar performance. This past August, 2013, the city continued this tradition by hosting its 8th International Guitar Meeting and 6th National Guitar Competition with the support of the Universidad Veracruzana, the Instituto Superior de Música of Veracruz and two national arts councils, the FONCA (Fondo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes) and CONACULTA (Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes).

Despite Tropical Storm Fernand’s best attempts to cause havoc, only the first day’s talks and concerts were postponed and, after some minor adjustments to the original schedule, the rest of the week went by quickly and smoothly. In all, 17 different events were programmed which included research papers, master classes, CD presentations, concerts and the two-round competition. Particularly noteworthy were the concerts and master classes given by Eliot Fisk, Bill Kanengiser and Judicaël Perroy, all grand master performers and instructors who need no introduction to readers of this publication. We can also include in this category, Matanya Ophée whose talks on Domingo Prat’s work and the lascivious origins of the tango were particularly well received.

In addition to the world-renowned participants, the organizers of this event have also made a point of promoting local and national talents and this year was no exception. They included Daniel Guzmán, luthier at the National Instutute of Anthropology and History (Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia) in Mexico City; David F. Mozqueda, originally from Guadalajara, Jalisco and alumnus of the guitar program at the University of Southern California; Mexico City’s Juan Carlos Laguna, instructor for the National School of Music at the Autonomous University of Mexico City (Universidad Autónoma de México) and recording artist for Urtext Digital Classics; Rodrigo Neftalí, also from Mexico City and third place winner of the 2007 "José Tomás” International Guitar Competition in Petrer, Spain; Álvaro Hernández, alumnus of the Universidad Veracruzana’s undergraduate program in guitar and the Universidad de Extremadura’s (Spain) master’s program; and Carlos Alberto Viramontes of Coahuila, Mexico, who studied guitar at the Autonomous University of Coahuila (Universidad Autónoma de Coahuila) and took first place at last year’s installment of National Guitar Competition in Xalapa. Special mention, in this category, must be given to Juan Helguera, composer, guitarist and researcher from Mérida, Yucatán, whose contributions during the second half of the 20th century and the first decades of the 21st via publications, radio and television were on grand display and to whom this year’s gathering was dedicated.

We should also note the participation of the Italian musician, composer and painter Marco de Biasi who, in addition to performing his own original works for the guitar, gave a talk on his theories of color and music based on the works of Kandinsky and writings by Klee. Also noteworthy was the presentation of the CD Mictlán by the Universidad Veracruzana’s Cutberto Córdova with works for guitar by this local composer. A particularly moving moment was the in memoriam presentation of the recently deceased Mexican music researcher and guitarist Corazón Otero’s life and work.

Of the 15 contestants participating in the Young Performers’ competition, the winners and their respective prize money (in Mexican pesos) were: Jesús Serrano Huitrón, age 21, from Mexico City, first place ($25,000); Juan Pedro Villegas Bernabé, 24 –years-old, also from Mexico City ($15,000); and Bernardino Rodríguez Espejo, 23 years, from Xalapa, Veracruz ($10,000). More information on this past Encuentro and Concurso can be found at the following links:,

The next Encuentro with concurrent competition is scheduled for April 18 to 24, 2015. Details will be made available through the Universidad Veracruzana’s music and arts web site.

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