Flamenco Sephardit

I met Maestro Jeffrey Eckstein last December when he was in Austin conducting Ballet Austin’s Nutcracker performances at the Long Center. Maestro Eckstein instantly impressed me as not only a tremendous musician and conductor, but also a cultural and artistic visionary.

Plus, we discovered we have a common interest: Flamenco!

On Sunday, September 21st at 7PM Maestro Eckstein will present an exciting new show called Flamenco Sephardit at the Paramount Theater. He produced the show once before in Florida, and now brings it to Texas with shows in Austin and San Antonio this month.

Tickets and information are online here.

And here’s a preview of what you can expect to see and hear!

I asked Jeffrey to tell me a little more about this exciting project.


Matt Hinsley: You are known in Austin as a conductor primarily, doing big things like The Nutcracker and otherprojects with Austin Symphony and Ballet Austin, what got you into flamenco?

Jeffrey Eckstein: A few years ago, I went to Barcelona for a friends wedding, and they took me to see one of the greatest flamenco guitarists ever, Vicente Amigo, performing at the Palau de la Musica. I was instantly mesmerized by his entire presence and sound. The gut-wrenching passion, coming from the depths of the singers, dancers, and guitarists souls, was just unbelievable. After that, I was hooked.

MH: Tell me about this particular project?

JE: Ever since that time in Barcelona, I knew that somehow I wanted to be a part of this amazing art form. Upon spending much time in Miami last year, I got to know even more about the style, with the myriad of flamenco guitarists, singers, and dancers there. I would visit the Tablaos and other performances almost every weekend. The idea came to me to produce a flamenco show. Not only flamenco though, I wanted to combine it with my Jewish heritage and classical experience, with a message about bringing cultures together through music. I started out with the concept of a classical guitarist and flamenco guitarist playing together, bringing the experience and mastery of their styles into the mix. Then adding vocals, percussion, and dance...with amazing musicians to make this a truly spectacular event, the likes of which had never been seen before.

MH: Tell me about the relationship between Sephardic and Flamenco musical traditions?

JE: From the 8th century to the end of 15th century, there was a Moorish presence in Spain. This presence mixed up with the Jewish and Christian presence, and gave birth to an incredible creativity in the arts, in the architecture, in science, and in music. Both Sephardic and Flamenco music have Moorish roots coming from all those centuries living together. Of course, at the time of the Spanish Inquisition, the Gypsies, Moors and Jews were all forced to leave Spain unless they converted to Catholicism. The Jews took with them that ancient Castillian dialect, and many Sephardic Jews today living in Amsterdam, Turkey among other places, still speak this language referred to as "Ladino". Songs were written in Ladino, many speaking of the painful departure from Spain, among other subjects. You can hear similarities to the traditional cante flamenco (traditional flamenco song), which is believed to have evolved from the cries and sufferings of a persecuted people.

Both the Serphadic and Flamenco communities began in Spain, and today are spread throughout the world, in large part due to that time period. Many who escaped the Inquisition made it to, among other places, North America...specifically Texas, New Mexico, and Mexico. They changed their last names to hide their Jewish heritage. Many "Crypto-Jews" continue to discover today that their Spanish surnames have Jewish roots, and still keep it a secret for fear of persecution.

Flamenco Sephardit is a way to reunite these cultures, and remind everyone that we all come from the same place, and therefore should always live in peace together.



Thursday & Friday at The Alamo

There’s a moment in this week’s film when Lon Chaney’s character, Alonzo, hears a bit of news he really, really doesn’t want to hear.

What follows is a remarkable uninterrupted close-up as he expresses an unbelievable range of emotion from pretend happiness, to despair, to regret, to rage and scheming. It’s the kind of thing you’ll never see in a modern film, and it’s that ability that earned him the moniker “man of a thousand faces.”

Our artists spent six months writing and rehearsing the music that tracks the action and intensity of The Unknown. Every eyebrow twitch, door slam, and knife-hitting-target is echoed in their remarkable live performance.

The Unknown Poster

The Unknown: Lon Chaney & Joan Crawford (1927)
Thursday & Friday, September 11 & 12, at 7PM
Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar, $20
Ample, free parking in the new Alamo garage on Treadwell
Tickets and Information

The Experience: This new Alamo has free and convenient parking. You choose your reserved theater seats online when you order. They serve from an extensive kitchen and bar menu during the feature, including a new specialty cocktail designed just for us! Following the shows Brian Satterwhite, host of KMFA’s Film Score Focus, will briefly interview the performers about the movie and their score.

The Film: One of a number of incredible Lon Chaney & Tod Browning collaborations, this film was lost for decades before being rediscovered in an archive. One confusion, the story goes, is that studios used to label discarded films “Unknown.” Since this film title is, in fact, “The Unknown” it was left untouched for many years! The film is full of many twists and turns, its bizarre to be sure. One of the common exclamations we’ve heard is: “I can’t believe this was made in the 20s!” Joan Crawford and Lon Chaney give extraordinary performances, and the incredible range in setting and feeling from circus to hospital, from love to revenge, was the perfect challenge for our musicians to develop a score to support and illustrate its many facets. The film will be projected from original 35mm reels.

The Music and Musicians: Miró Quartet violinist Will Fedkenheuer is not only a member of one of the world’s greatest string quartets, he was also the national fiddle champion of Canada! His versatility and virtuosity make him absolutely perfect for this performance – which tests both! Our composer/guitarists are Randy Avers from Norway and Benoit Albert from France. They spent months studying the film, plotting the action, and developing both new and existing music to mold perfectly to the action on the screen. They fly from Europe to Texas just for these performances.

The Unknown: Top 10

The Unknown Poster

Our season has begun with an amazing Classical Cactus! What a wonderful night it was!

The Unknown is simply one of the most remarkable projects we’ve ever engaged in. We present it again next week and I am so excited! Here’s my top 10 list of reasons not to miss it!

Matt’s Top 10 Reasons to See The Unknown

#10) It’s showing at the brand-new, state-of-the-art, South Lamar Alamo Drafthouse.

#9) This is one of Alamo co-founder Tim League’s favorite films. Tim knows film!

#8) With our next original silent film score – Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lodger - premiering in January, this is the perfect pre-season appetizer!

#7) Brian Satterwhite, host of KMFA’s Film Score Focus, will do a Q&A with the musicians after each show.

#6) Alamo beverage guru Bill Norris is making special drinks just for this show!

#5) The violinist is the Miro Quartet’s William Fedkenheuer, and he’s awesome!

#4) Randy & Benoit are flying to Austin from Norway and France, respectively, just to play these shows. It’s a huge, original musical work that took them six months to create specifically for us… for Austin. And this is one of the only chances ever to experience it!

#3) A menacing Lon Chaney and a stunning Joan Crawford.

#2) The show is inside this time. Air conditioning… and no bugs!


#1) Both movie and music are riveting and ingenious. Watch this trailer, with cuts from the film and a sample of Randy and Benoit’s music, and you’ll see what I mean!

The Unknown- Alamo Rolling Roadshow

The shows are Thursday and Friday, September 11th and 12th at 7PM at the new Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar. If you’ve not been to an Alamo recently, one cool feature is that you can select your theater seats online when you purchase your tickets. So get ‘em soon!

More information on the show and tickets are online here.

Here’s to a new season at Austin Classical Guitar!

The Unknown

One of our coolest projects ever returns for two shows at the brand new Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar on Thursday, September 11th and Friday September 12th at 7PM.

Dark, bizarre and brilliant, Tod Browning’s 1927 silent masterpiece The Unknown stars “the man of a thousand faces” Lon Chaney, Sr. and superstar Joan Crawford. European ultra-creative duo of Randall Avers and Benoit Albert wrote an original film score for us in 2012. The premiere was astonishing.

Now it’s back, and it’s touring Texas.

Watch the movie trailer with their original music.

Tickets are here.

The Movie

The Unknown- Alamo Rolling Roadshow

This movie is so bizarre, so inventive, that to say very much about it would no doubt spoil at least some of its many twists and turns. We will say these: It begins in a circus in Spain. There is love, love lost, deception, confusion, menace, terror, regret, and revenge. All of these things you can see in Lon Chaney’s legendary expressions, and all of these things you can hear in Avers and Albert’s stunning musical setting.

The Music

The Unknown- Alamo Rolling Roadshow

Randall Avers and Benoit Albert, Les Freres Meduses, spent six months writing the score for two guitars and violin. The premiere was held in June 2012 with violin virtuoso William Fedkenheuer (The Miró Quartet) who will join them again for these performances. The challenge of this score was to write music for a movie that ranges across a phenomenal expanse of emotions. They did it.

The Production

The Unknown- Alamo Rolling Roadshow

We’ll be at the new, state of the art, Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar. The Alamo will project from original 35mm reels acquired just for this show. Our premiere in June 2012 was outside at Laguna Gloria with the Alamo Rolling Roadshow. It was awesome and it was hot – watch the production wrap video here. While we won’t have live knife throwers this time… it will be nice and cool, with no bugs!