José Mercé – Tía Juana la del Pipa –
Text: Isaac Rodriguez
Photos : Rafael Manjavacas
JEREZ FOR MORAÍTO
Nowadays there are about a half dozen flamenco artists who can fill up a venue. And the good thing is, aside from their supposed worth, is that in addition to fattening their bank accounts and covering costs, they pull in a huge number of potential flamenco fans who, and this is what I’m getting at, end up listening to other singers just as good as the box-office stars. This is the case of José Mercé, lord and master, and Tía Juana, Macanita and Fernando de la Morena the corporals, illustrious Jerez singers who were strong to the finish on this memorable night. Mercé’s name filled up the theater, but it took the whole team to satisfy our expectations to the fullest.
As is the custom, the show began with a capella cantes. Macanita and Juana with martinete, and Fernando de la Morena his trillas which he delivered with particular depth. It’s always nice to hear something so seldom interpreted, and even more so when the singer does it so well.
Then Juana was left alone with the guitar of Antonio Higuero to sing the tientos tangos she knows so well. There was a verse from Badajoz and many more in the Jerez style. Fandangos were dedicated to Moraíto, with all the power Juana is capable of, and carefully chosen verses. The lady was wonderful as always, peeling the paint off anything within earshot with that voice that comes from the deepest part of her insides.
Fernando de la Morena was assigned two cantes, and he chose siguiriya and fandangos. Two interpretations straight from the heart, and without a doubt the guitar accompaniment of Antonio Higuero was excellent.
Macanita did a fine job with the famous malagueña of the “jardín de Venus” before singing soleá the way she does, with deep warmth and feeling. Her voice is so raw, it’s impossible not to think of Utrera and the distinguished Fernanda.
With bulerías, dance included, this trio of singers wrapped up their sold gold performance before the intermission that preceded the recital of Mercé.
He came on happy and composed, alone, elegant, with the look of a seductive leading man; he summoned his guitarist and both took their seats; he greeted the audience and he sang, which is what matters, that one about “a buscar la flor que amaba”, the same malagueña Macanita had done a few minutes earlier. Fine, he seemed very at ease and had some words for his dear Moraíto and he assured us that Diego del Morao, his son, will be accompanying him for a long time to come (and in light of the connection we saw between them in this performance, they’ll do great things together). He then sang soleá with a fandango shoehorned in, and impeccable siguiriyas.
Yes, in flamenco, pure gold, perfection without concessions, pure essence and wise lineage. Like the alegrías and bulerías used to wind up. When José Mercé sings as well as he did this night, we can well forgive his incursions into the world of pop, and his working the audience to sing choruses which we obediently did to the music of “Al Alba”, that well-known theme he used to close his performance. This man from Jerez sings like the angels of the cathedral.