Listen to Guillermo. ‘Silencio por Alegrías’ with a photo collage of his performances:
Winter’s Respite with Guillermo
William Burgess. Known to some as Bill Burgess. To others as El Espigote. To Luis and I, he’s Guillermo.
Bio William Burgess A hidden gem of the Bay Area Flamenco community, Guillermo carries more than 20 years in California accompanying dancers and singers. A featured soloist for for events produced by the Flamenco Society of San Jose, NorCal Flamencos, AguaClara Co, and Mission Flamenco, Guillermo has enchanted the hearts of the most serious aficionados (fans) of Central California. He has studied guitar under the ‘Godfather’ of the Bay Area scene’s David Serva and also with father of Spain’s critically acclaimed rising star Gema Moneo, guitarist Jesus Agarrado aka ‘El Guardia’. During a recent extensive stay in Spain, Guillermo was invited to perform at the famed flamenco tabanco (flamenco cafe) El Pasaje.
‘After discovering a calm respectful demeanor combined with a seamless ability to transmit emotion and soniquete (rhythmic groove) through the guitar I decided that this Guillermo was the guitarist I have been looking for here in America. He does not play the guitar for recognition. Nor does he try to get himself on every stage and in a every classroom for as much exposure as possible. He is an artist with integrity, who quietly, earnestly gives from his heart to every audience and every student that he encounters.’ Luis de La Tota
Luis and I met Guillermo at the Bay Area Flamenco Festival in 2015, then spent a week of Feria with him in Jerez. (He stayed in our Jerez apartment that did not have water at the time..an adventure that deserves it’s own written story) Then he came to help us out in November 2015 at a recital we called Sin Fronteras…which led to us inviting him to return for Steinway Allstars: Sounds of Cuba in January 2016. There are stories upon stories about stories that will come forth that Guillermo has been involved in. I want to start with Steinway Allstars though, because Sounds of Cuba was a beautiful success in 2016.
Mike Winter, Director of Steinway Allstars, approached us after a student recital in 2015 at a EDR (now Escuela Flamenca). Mike is the director of a local series of piano performances. This particular year, Mike wanted to do an end of season performance that highlighted Cuba and it’s influence in the world. He came to us asking for a performance that would show Cuban influence in Flamenco. Luis and I, as lovers of Flamenco history were a perfect match.
Surely we were going to have Guillermo on board with us for the performance.
The Meat Bag
Guillermo arrived to our house with a small black duffle bag of meat. Affectionately and humorously dubbed by his wife ‘the Meat Bag’. This little black meat bag did not contain just any meat. He brought cherished Morcilla (Spanish blood sausage) and Chorizo from a store in San Francisco. This gift aside from our homesickness for Spanish foods has a depth of history both San Francisco’s and Luis’. Luis’ great uncle, Flamenco artist Anzonini del Puerto, was a butcher that moved to the Bay area in the late 70’s.
Check out this piece of a documentary featuring Anzonini:
Aside from a week of rehearsals and a performance, we were going to have a traditional Bersa. What is a Bersa you say?
Bersa has been the traditional dish of the Andaluz Gypsies for centuries. Many argue that the best recipes are found in Jerez A dish made from simple ingredients that has broken the barriers of social class, finding its self in everyday household meals as well as the fine china of 5-star restuarants.
This Andaluz stew can be made in different ways. The Berza I know from experience in Jerez is made with Garbanzos, blood sausage, chorizo and Azafran. The sausage imparts it’s flavor on the legumes. The finished stew is eaten with crusty bread or crudites such as onions or radish. On any given Sunday an apartment building like ours on Calle Zarzamora, even the streets are filled with the smell of either Berza or Potaje or Puchero (the Andaluz version of chicken soup.)
**Potaje and Puchero are words for foods that we will explore in future writings
During the damp chill of autumn and winter months, Flamenco clubs called Peñas Flamencas attract the public by offering food along side Flamenco entertainment. The event is called a Bersa. Club members cook up a huge pot of Bersa, and a Flamenco group is hired to perform. The public enjoys free entertainment and Bersa (until the stew is gone) and pay for their drinks plus any other tapas they would like to order.
The Berza is characteristic of the strong Gypsy culture in Jerez. It brings depth to the word ‘Convenir‘ ‘Convivencia‘ To share to co-habitate. This sharing or cohabiting in harmony stretches back in Andalusian history to before Isabel and Ferdinand when the Moors ruled Andalusia. It is said that Catholics, Jews and Muslims co-habited the South of Spain, free to worship their own religion without war or persecution from the rulers.
Later, in the time of Inquisition and under Franco rule, when certain groups were targeted for persecution, such as the Moors, Jews and Gypsies, ‘Convivencia’ existed. Only this time these marginalized groups co-habited in exile.
Check out this short documentary filmed on La Calle Nueva. Luis is seen in the doorway clapping his hands as younger children dance and sing. Luis’ grandmother, for whom he was given his artistic name ‘de La Tota’ is also present. There is no Berza but you can get a better idea of what the housing looked like:
Think of La Berza and Puchero as the Spanish version of the ‘Stone Soup’ story. For someone like Luis who was raised in in the Gyspy Quarter of Jerez ‘La Calle Nueva’. Small one-room houses were built around a small water well. Six to eight families inhabited these one room apartments with four to up to six members in per household. There was no running water nor indoor heating or cooking stoves. Everything was done in the tiny center plaza that their houses surrounded. Cooking, washing, bathing. Everything. Everyone shared. Cooking meals was a one-pot affair. It was easier to share in the chore and add a little bit of whatever each household had. Community. Convivencia. Sharing. Times may have been tough, they may have been the outcasts. But they were together.
Here is another interview/video of La Calle Nueva. Videographers walk through the housing and look at the water well. It is in Spanish, but the film quality is excellent and paints an even better image of where Luis lived as a child and where his family would have shared La Berza.
Berza de Boise
Days were filled with ideas and rehearsals. We dug deep in to Cuba, Spain and Flamenco history, sorting out and threading together the details of a rich history to create a set for Sounds of Cuba. We value truth and we value presentations of Flamenco that give audiences the clearest picture possible of what was and what is now.
All this work did not keep Guillermo and Luis out of the kitchen. As usual, we did not have all of the right ingredients for La Berza. For example, we forgot to get the mild long green peppers for the broth that Luis wanted. (The closest that I kind find to the ones in Spain are Anaheim peppers–and they are still a bit to strong) So Luis decided to improvise with Jalepeño. Yes. A spicy Jalepeño would not be my first choice for improvisation either, but heck I spose Luis was feeling frisky about the Berza.
Here is a video of Guillermo and Luis putting prepping. We decided to leave the Berza in crockpots to cook slowly over night:
And WALAH! The end result. We had a spicy batch and a mild batch. They were both amazing. The cast members and their families came over to the Escuela Flamenco house for La Berza. Convenir. To Share. Convivencia. To co habitate…with harmony. We geeked out on Flamenco YouTube. Ate until we could eat no more. Played music, sang and danced. Then all went home to rest for the next day’s performance.
The little black duffle bag dubbed ‘The Meat Bag’ Returned with Guillermo to San Francisco. We can only hope it makes another appearance in 2017!
Escuela Flamenco teaches classes every
Wednesday 6:30-7:30pm Start anytime
Whitney Community Center 1609 S Owyhee St Boise 83703
Show up for your first class and try it for free!
Register through Boise Parks and Recreation
208 608 weeks 7680