Making the “Casa Concert” at Home in San Miguel de Allende
By Louis Marbre-Cargill
If you see the name “Hopalong” and the next word that comes to mind is “Cassidy,” you need updating. I had the experience one afternoon with some fifty other folks, chatting and sipping peppermint-flavored water, in a lovely house in Ojo de Agua. The sun was a cantaloupe disc beginning to set as our particular Hopalong reached for his guitar and his colleague Claudia Shiuh raised her violin.
They played ballads, tangos, and boleros, as well as original pieces by Hopalong in a “casa concert,” the phrase coined by Joan Hecht, hostess of the event. The casa concert took place in her gran salon, with its high boveda ceiling and splendid acoustics.
Hopalong, born in Mexico City as José Luis González Chagoyan, met Shiuh in San Miguel de Allende three years ago, and both discovered an affinity of musical interests. From a start playing the acoustic guitar at 14, Hopalong became adept on the electric and classical guitars and both electric and upright basses. His skills propelled him into a career as a soloist, a performer with ensembles and symphony orchestras, an accompanist to singers, a participant on TV and radio programs, and an artist who has displayed his talents as far afield as Copenhagen and Berlin. In 1995, he became a serious composer, mainly in the jazz idiom, creating music for documentaries, plays, and TV commercials. Hopalong moved permanently to San Miguel in 1996 and appears regularly on Sunday evenings at Mama Mía Restaurant.
Though Shiuh and her husband, a retired flutist, own a house in town, they usually spend months in California, where Shiuh is principal violist for the Fresno Philharmonic Orchestra. Some years ago, as a fifteen-year-old violinist, she was, up until then, the youngest member it had ever hired. Shiuh trained to play both instruments in Texas and California. Her resume shows extensive performing as a soloist and ensemble member in the United States, Mexico, France, Italy, and Austria. Shiuh has played for such luminaries as Kate Smith, Tony Bennett, Andre Watts, Itzhak Perlman, Placido Domingo, and Renee Fleming.
The relaxed and intimate tone of Joan Hecht’s soiree was emphasized not only by the nature of the premises, but by the affability of the performers themselves, especially Shiuh’s charm.
This brings me to why such an article is a propos. It is hoped that the description of this “casa concert” will encourage other homeowners with suitable premises to arrange similar musicales. This would enhance musicians exposure and benefit them financially. It would also allow residents to share each other’s company as if