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Espana El Vito - The Spirit of Spain - Review

Home > Melbourne > Concerts | Dancing | Music | Performing Arts | Theatre Reviews
by Fiona Anderson (subscribe)
A Melbourne based writer who is a travel junkie, dedicated foodie and emerging photographer.
The Spanish spirit sings as the fingers fly
It's always a concern when a performer starts their show with an apology, but that's how Matthew Fagan kicked off his recent performance. "I had a kidney stone removed on Friday" (two days prior), he said, "and I'm going back to hospital straight after this concert. I didn't want to let you down."

Well, that's dedication, and 'the show must go on' spirit taken to extremes!

Matthew Fagan in Espana El Vito - The Spirit of Spain - review
The talented Matthew Fagan - didn't want to let his audience down

I only recently learned about the talented Mr Fagan, AKA Lord of the Strings, at an interesting conjunction of music and astronomy in Star Show - A Classic Journey Through the Universe. What I learned from that show is that: a. Matthew Fagan is enormously talented, b. he is very knowledgeable about his music, and c. he has a great line in banter, and so is both entertaining and engaging, an appealing combination in a performer.

In the more recent performance I saw, held at the Sacred Heart Oratory at the Abbotsford Convent, there was a different conjunction - something spiritual, as the light streamed through the original leadlight windows of the former convent, and something passionately musical, as Matthew Fagan led the audience through a program of Spanish guitar classics. Again, we were treated to Matthew's knowledge of his subject, in a light, almost off the cuff way. I have to admit to being somewhat ignorant of the origins of Flamenco music, but today I learned of its multiple influences, including Moorish, and even Rajistani. The pieces selected in the program clearly demonstrated this.

I was truly mesmerised watching Matthew's fingers flying over the strings. It sounded at times like I was listening to a duet, so fast and fluently were his fingers moving. His is a performance that is as beautiful to watch as it is to listen to.

I melt when I hear the haunting tones of Rodrigo's famous adagio from Concerto De Aranjuez, which happily was part of the program. Originally written for guitar and orchestra, it seemed to lose nothing when played as a guitar solo. What a treat!

I'd have been happy just listening to Matthew, but then two dancers joined him - one - Laura Uhe - with a background in Flamenco and Spanish classical dance, the other - Egyptia - with a background in belly dance and Middle Eastern dance. It was insightful to see how the music worked with each dance style.

Matthew Fagan in Espana El Vito - The Spirit of Spain - review
Laura Uhe dances to Matthew's music

Despite their different dance backgrounds and styles, it worked well to have Laura and Egyptia dancing together. It brought an extra level of energy and life to the performance space.

Matthew Fagan in Espana El Vito - The Spirit of Spain - review
Laura Uhe and Egyptia perform

Laura and Egyptia left the stage to give Matthew an opportunity to wrap up his recital, which he did by treating the audience to a delightful rendition of Asturias (Leyenda) by Isaac Albéniz.

What I hadn't expected is that there would be some audience participation to round out the performance. The two dancers took to the stage once more, and encouraged the audience to get to their feet, and follow along with a few basic Flamenco dance steps. It was a fun way to finish, and left us all smiling.

Matthew Fagan in Espana El Vito - The Spirit of Spain - review
Some final dance lessons from Laura and Egyptia left us all smiling

During the concert, Matthew mentioned an upcoming concert similar to Espana El Vito, to be held at Deakin Edge, Federation Square, on 9th November 2019. I haven't been able to locate a listing for it yet, so if you're interested, I suggest following Matthew, either via his website, or Facebook page, to make sure you don't miss out.

You can hear some of Matthew Fagan's wonderful Spanish guitar music here:

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*Fiona Anderson was invited as a guest
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Why? Because who doesn't love the energy and passion of Spanish music?
When: 9th November 2019
Where: Keep an eye out for an upcoming event at Deakin Edge, Federation Square
Cost: Tba
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