My Musical Heritage. Why Spanish Guitar and what Paco Pena asked me on Tour?

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Some of you may wonder if I have Spanish Heritage as I perform Spanish Music.

As it turns out my Great Grandfather Albert Parkes was of Spanish origin, a generation before, on both his mother and father’s side, according to his wife Lillian’s sister.  Perhaps this explains his small stature and striking appearance.  He passed his physique and jet black hair onto some of his descendants.  I will let you decide.

Albert Parkes

It was when my parents took me to see Paco Pena, and Paco de Lucia in concert when I was 12 had me thinking “That’s guitar playing” and inspired me to learn Spanish Guitar and record Spanish Music.

Touring with Paco Pena and what he asked me to do on tour.

Paco Pena

I also had the honour to tour with Paco Pena around Australia when my friend Slava Grigoryian and Leo Kottke,  filled in for Spanish Classical guitarist Pepe Romero.   I volunteered to be an unofficial guitar carrier.  Truthfully I felt indescribably privelaged just to be in the presence of Paco Pena who is more or less the God of Flamenco Guitar in my eyes.

When we were jamming at a post concert private function in Sydney, I was blown away when Paco said I was a   “True Artist”.  Of all things would you believe he asked me to teach him the Blues, which isn’t my signature style, although I have recorded some blues music and I knew enough to teach him some simple blues scales and chords. This was around the time when my music career was about to take off as  I had just recieved a record deal for my album Indigo Moon which included Flamenco, Celtic and Classical Music and has been a career success and highlight for me.

Buena Vista Social Club

My love of Latin Music was also inspired from when I had the thrill of opening concerts for the Buena Vista Social Club when they toured Australia.  They were so impressed when I jammed with them that Ibrahim Ferrer said I had a Latin Soul and wanted to take me home with them to Cuba.

My European Music Heritage.

My great Grandfather Albert Parkes and his three sons Cecil, Kingsley and Milton had a profound effect on the Australian musical scene between 1900 to 1940.

Albert Parkes, Cecil Parkes, Milton Parkes                                          Milton Parkes, Kingsley Parkes, Cecil Parkes

Albert with Cecil (L) Milton (R)                                 Milton Piano, Kingsley (L), Cecil (R)

My Great Grandfather Albert Parkes (b.1868) was a celebrated concert violinist from Covent Garden/Manchester and was taught by a pupil of Joseph Joachim, the famous Hungarian violinist and composer.    By the time he was 17 he was playing in the Halle Orchestra in the UK.

1 of 8 children Albert at the age of 20, and his family emigrated to Australia in 1889 during the depression. Sailing on the SS Liguria on December 21 1888, not long out of England Albert played the fiddle for dancing on the deck.  Albert helped to organise a concert on board at which he performed and found a pianist and singing skipper onboard to accompany him.

Performing on ships must run in the family.  I have had the opportunity to perform on ships in over 120 countries across Europe, Mediterranean, South America, Alaska, Canada, China, Japan and South East Asia.  Touring around the world has also inspired me greatly to learn, perform and record music from many cultures.

As Alberts family arrived in Australia during the depression, Albert’s income from playing and teaching kept his family going by offering music lessons as his father James a cabinet maker and wheelright could not find work.

Albert taught at Carlton College then at the Melbourne Conservatorium (Later Melba Conservatorium), Allan’s and Glen’s music stores.  Almost all of the violinists in the Williamstown Symphony Orchestra were his pupils and many were to take their place later in professional orchestras.  Albert would conduct the Williamstown Orchestra at the renowned Ballarat Competitions with great success as did many of its members in the individual sections.  Many famous Australian artists from Melbourne and Victoria claimed their first success at the Ballarat Competitions and virtually launched their career from there. Albert was called on to conduct choirs, orchestras and opera at the Princess Theatre.

Albert Parkes played as a section leader of the Second Violins in an Orchestral Concert organised by George Allen of Allen & Company, Music Shop proprietors and publishers in 1892 in the Melbourne Town Hall to a full House. The concert was a triumph and was followed by the creation of an organisation headed by Carl Pinchoff, Austrian consul, who, with his wife, controlled the Albert Street Conservatorium,  Madam Wiederman, John Mackay, Felix Meyer, James Barrett and others.  The result was that concerts were given continuously until 1902.   The programme for July 27 1901 shows that Mr A Parkes in the Violins and Mr F Dierich, Alberts’ teacher in Australia, as orchestral leader (known today as concert master).

Alberts wife Lillian was also a violinist and pianist and taught the piano in her early adult years. Albert continued to teach until the 1940’s after having retired from professional playing in 1922.

I hope you have enjoyed gaining some insight to my musical lineage.  For me performing is not just about the guitar chords, or the number of albums sold, but rather it’s knowing those things first hand that makes me a musician, the path that my ancestors laid out before me.   And it’s knowing that you are one of a small percentage of the population to not only have seen and heard, but to have lived behind the curtain that makes my music journey meaningful and worth while.

But perhaps even more importantly than all of that, it’s YOU, the listener, that makes all of it matter.

I look forward to many more experiences on this musical journey of creating, performing and recording music. Here’s to hoping that you are part of that journey.

If you’d like to hear the most recent milestone of my musical journey,

click here to listen to my most recent album, ‘El Vito’.

Thank you for being a listener and for giving me purpose in life.


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