Upon creating his first concerto for orchestra and guitar, Ramses Calderon learned an important lesson. “When you write a solo for an instrument, you have to allow the instrument to breathe. The concerto is almost 16 minutes, and the guitar is playing the whole time. That’s quite tiring for the hands!” he laughs.

Currently residing in Regina, Calderon was born in San Salvador, El Salvador. He has composed original works for professional musicians and orchestras, including the Regina Symphony Chamber Players, the Guatemalan Youth Orchestra, the El Salvador Symphony Orchestra and the Holguin Symphony Orchestra in Cuba. He has also composed pieces for various community projects and organizations in Saskatchewan.

Calderon incorporates traditional instruments and rhythms into his music and compositions. The result of his creation process is a unique fusion of classical, traditional and popular music.

“Concierto de las Ninfas” or “Concert of the Nymphs” was composed over a six-month period in 2015-16, with the help of an Independent Artists grant. The work explores Calderon’s cultural roots and contains a variety of influences from the Americas, Spain and Arabic countries. The piece is unique in its use of quarter tones, in contrast with the half and whole tones used in Western music. “I like to experiment with microtonal music. When we listen to quartertone music, we think it’s out of tune,” he says.

To perform the piece, Calderon required two guitars—one fretted and one fretless. But travelling with two guitars is difficult, so he and a friend from Ecuador designed a double-necked classical guitar. “Flip it over, and you have two guitars in one!” he exclaims.

Calderon will be taking the concerto on tour in August 2017, supported by a Culture on the Go grant. He will perform in Regina, then travel to Costa Rica, Paraguay, Uruguay and El Salvador.

He believes music is a profound tool for communicating with one another. “It’s very important to create and compose music to help people to connect with themselves. Music is just not for pleasure. It has a deeper meaning of touching our souls to help us become better human beings,” he says.

Front page: Photo by Don Hall

Above: Gary Robins/Available Light Photographics

Culture on the Go is funded by the Government of Saskatchewan through an agreement with the Ministry of Parks, Culture and Sport.