It's not news that Carlos Nuñez will be playing seven concerts in the Pacific Northwest this fall: after all, even Nanaimo should be entitled to some Spanish bagpipe music every once in a while, no?
What’s more interesting is that the Galician master, who’s recorded with everyone from viola da gamba virtuoso Jordi Savall to American roots maven Ry Cooder, will deliver three very different programs during his time in these parts.
“In Victoria, for example, we’ll have three concerts with the Victoria Symphony Orchestra,” the peripatetic piper explains, on the line from a tour stop in Uruguay. “We’ll make the orchestra play Celtic music with us, and then we’ll have Scottish pipers playing with the orchestra. Classical music is part of Celtic music, so we’ll have new music that we’ve composed for orchestra, film scores that we’ve written for orchestra—all kinds of styles, but in symphonic form.”
Nuñez’s Seattle show, in contrast, will have a far more historical bent.
“That’s going to be with Early Music Guild people,” he says. “I’ve prepared a repertoire for Seattle that’s all about medieval music from the Camino de Santiago, with baroque Celtic music from London and from Scotland.”
As for Nuñez’s performances in Vancouver, Nanaimo, and Olympia, Washington, let’s just say that they’ll be comparatively spectacular. “We will play with my band,” the 43-year-old reveals, “so it’s rock with the pipes, using the same kind of big sound system that we use when we play in football stadiums.
“We use a lot of rock elements, like the drums, the bass, and the guitar,” he continues. “In fact, people often ask, ‘How is it possible to make a concert in a football stadium, with 80,000 people, with bagpipes?’ But when they see us, they understand that we’ve developed a new kind of Celtic music. To play in an Irish pub is one thing: you can play very fast; you can play with fiddles, for dancing. But in a football stadium, you need to understand the rock language. You need to understand the rudiments of people like U2, or people like Coldplay. We’ve learned so much from rock, from the guitar. That was our inspiration.”
Well, it was one of his inspirations. The artist also known as “the Jimi Hendrix of the bagpipes” remains the most highly touted exponent of Galician music, from the northwest of Spain.
“I started when I was eight, when I was at school,” Nuñez explains. “Like every schoolboy, I played the recorder, which is a flute. And then, because I grew up in Galicia, which is the Scotland or the Ireland of Spain, the next natural step was the pipes, the gaita. If I had been born in Andalusia, I might have played flamenco guitar, but in Galicia our national instrument is the pipes.
“What impressed me so much was the energy coming from the instrument,” he continues. “When I started to play for people, I saw that everyone became like crazy, dancing. They told me, ‘Carlos, don’t stop! Don’t stop, ever!’ So I fell in love immediately with the instrument.”
That love affair continues: recent adventures have included playing the Royal Albert Hall with his fellow Galician Julio Iglesias, and discussing production strategies with studio wizard Brian Eno. Nuñez doesn’t mince his words when asked if he’s organized his life to satisfy his curiosity about music, and about the world.
“Well, that’s the way to live, isn’t it?” he says. “To explore is to stay alive.”
Carlos Nuñez plays the Centennial Theatre on Friday (September 19).