FolkWorld #77 03/2022
© Pío Fernández

Pancho Álvarez

A Journey Through Time

Pancho Álvarez; photo by The Mollis

Pancho Álvarez @ FROG

Pancho Álvarez is mainly known as the string instruments player in Galician piper Carlos Núñez's music band, but he has also released several CDs of his own, well reviewed by FolkWorld since Pancho’s first album in 1992.[6][48][67]

Pancho Álvarez

Pancho Álvarez "Cordas Históricas", Altafonte, 2020

Now in 2020, he delivers an excellent new record with a collection of 15 songs, each of which has a specific string instrument as the main protagonist, thus providing the introductory title to each melody. For example, there is GUITARRA ELÉCTRICA, which corresponds to the tune ‘Pelo Souto de Crexente’ (by Joan Airas & Pancho Álvarez), where the main instrument is Pancho’s 1970 Fender Telecaster. There is also LIRA DA IDADE DE BRONCE (Bronze Age lyre), where he performs his song 'Albor dos Guerreiros', with a lyre designed by himself inspired by a petroglyph found in the north of Portugal (at the suggestion of Carlos Núñez).

Because that is the whole story of ‘Cordas Históricas’, it is a journey through time with the different string instruments (string = 'corda' in Galician, 'cuerda' in Spanish), and in some cases interpreting the type of songs that were played in their corresponding historical periods. You also find CÍTOLAS (Citoles), two of them, one built by the Canadian firm Seagull (, the second one by the Argentine luthier Esteban Pérez Esquivel (, son of the Nobel Peace Price, Adolfo Pérez Esquivel). With them Pancho plays the medley medieval ‘Cantigas de Santa María’ Numbers 166 & 384 (King Alfonso X, 1221—1284), and ‘Fremosas, a Deus grado’ (Bernal de Bonaval).

There are also fiddle, viola da gamba, harp, psaltery, vihuelas, guitar, viola caipira, mandolin, hurdy-gurdy and its older & bigger brother, the organistrum. With this whole collection of string instruments, and with his own voice, Pancho Álvarez develops a repertoire of traditional Galician tunes (some of them up to 4 centuries old), cantigas (also from the Galician medieval joglar, Martin Codax), but also a few songs composed by Pancho himself.

Somehow, this album can remember for instance the one recorded by the string instruments musician Carlos Beceiro, ‘Fabricas de Sons’ (1997), although in Pancho’s case he makes a broader effort on displaying the large diversity of string instruments and their musical possibilities along the history of mankind.

Photo Credits / Pancho Álvarez: (1) by The Mollis; (2) Collage by Pio Fernandez; (3) unknown/website. (unknown/website).

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