José Mercé, the Voice of Jeréz

Rarely do flamenco singers manage to get their audience to sing along. Even when Estrella Morente came to London some years ago, shortly after the world-wide success of her rendition of Volver, the self-conscious British audience in Sadler’s Wells held back somewhat stiffly from launching forth into song with her. This, however, was not the case with José Mercé on the last day of London’s Flamenco Festival. From the moment he walked on stage, it was clear that the audience was with him.

José Mercé is by far the one of the best known singers from Jeréz. Nephew of Sordera, he is the scion of a dynastic family of singers and his name is somewhat inseparable from that of other flamenco ‘greats’, such as the late Moraíto Chico, who used to accompany him. Mercé secured a global following through his affiliation with Antonio Gades’s company in previous decades, whereby he made a name as an exceptional singer for dance. However, as he proved in Sadler’s Wells, he is also an exceptional soloist. With typical clarity (and I have always thought that one of the great advantages of listening to Mercé is the fact that he makes the lyrics perfectly comprehensible, without distorting phonemes), he introduced each palo before singing it, so the audience always knew what the mood was. The performance started with deep song and became lighter as it went along. Towards the end, and the end itself was protracted by repeated standing ovations frm the audience and requests for ‘otra!’, he sang the songwriter Aute’s well-known song, Al Alba. Everyone in the theatre sang along with him, and did so indeed whilst spilling out onto the street after the show. Diego Morao, the talented son of Moraíto Chico, took his father’s place as the guitarist. And, here in remembrance of the wonderful music and the great joy of flamenco that Moraíto Chico and José Mercé together gave the world, is an alegrías:

February 23, 2012 Post Under General - Read More

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