Fernando Guerrero Briceño is a "crossover" harpist of a different sort. This Caraqueño plays the pedal harp, but he is even more passionate about the traditional Venezuelan style, known as criollo or llanero. After I spent almost the whole day with Fernando, he drove me to La Bandera where I caught an overnight bus to Guanare.
Here I am, at the foot of the Andes (pie de monte = "piedmont"), one step closer to my destination - Elorza, the very heart of the llanos, six hours from here on very bad roads.
More later about Elorza. This note is about Fernando.
Get this. Fernando was perhaps the first teacher of Alfredo Rolando Ortiz!! They went to school together, at about age 13. In Alfredo´s book (the yellow one), he mentions a friend named Fernando. We drove past the school, it is called Colegio Champagnat, located on Avenida Miranda in Caracas.
Fernando, a lawyer by profession, talks expertly about history. This Miranda, for whom a major boulevard is named, fought with the French and his name is inscribed on the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.
When I called Fernando in the AM, he invited me to his office on the 22nd floor of a prominent building. I brought my little yellow Harpsicle (by William Rees). Of course, as I expected, Fernando could not keep his hands off - he immediately took it and played half a dozen traditional creole harp forms. There are about a dozen specific forms, such as pajarillo, kirpa, contrapunteo, pasaje, and tonada. Each form can be elaborated in various ways, simple or complex. The musical emphasis is on the SONG or lyrics, rather than the instrumental performance.
For those of celtic inspiration, as Fernando and I have agreed wholeheartedly, the BARDIC TRADITION is very much alive and well in Venezuela! I´ve been saying this for a while, but this year you simply must be a BELIEVER!
PEDAL HARPISTS NOTE: Fernando has produced various transcriptions of Venezuelan traditioal music for pedal harp, under his pen name FERNANDO GUBRY. Check him out!
I met Fernando last year through Patrice Fisher of New Orleans. Fernando says she is a "hero" for her harp teaching in Guatemala. They had met in Mexico. Now, in addition to knowing Alfredo, I learn he also knows Lis Joosten, who is promoting harp music in Honduras.
A year from now, I hope to bring a tour group combining traditional music and ecotourism. More later. You heard about it here first!