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Joaquín Rodrigo, Spain’s greatest contemporary composer, said of Celedonio Romero: "He has contributed immensely through his artistic interpretations for classical guitar music. More importantly, he has enlarged and enriched the repertoire of 20th century music with his own compositions."
Composer, guitarist and poet Celedonio Romero was born on March 2, 1913 in Cienfuegos, Cuba, while his father, an architect from Málaga, was constructing the Concert Hall in Cienfuegos. At a very young age Celedonio returned with his family to Málaga. Due to his prodigious talent on the guitar he was largely self-taught on the instrument. He studied music and received his degree at the Conservatory of Málaga, and later at the Conservatory of Madrid where he was a pupil of Joaquin Turina.
He first performed in public at the age of 10. After his formal debut at age 20, he played widely throughout Spain but was refused permission to perform outside of his native country. Deprived of his artistic freedom under the oppressive government of Generalissimo Francisco Franco, Celedonio escaped with his first to Portugal in 1957 and then in 1958 to the United States.
Within two years the family settled in southern California, and Celedonio created a guitar quartet with his sons Celin, Pepe, and Angel - The Romeros. Romero taught each of his sons to play the guitar from the age of two or three. All three of the Romero sons made their debuts by age seven. They all went on to become prominent guitarists. In an article in The New York Times, a noted critic wrote, "Collectively, they are the only classical guitar quartet of real stature in the world today. In fact, they virtually invented the format." They became known as the "Royal Family of the Guitar". In 1990, grandson Celino replaced Angel and the quartet comprised three generations of virtuosity. The family tradition continues with grandson Lito Romero joining the quartet upon Celedonio Romero’s death.
Celedonio Romero was highly decorated for his contributions to the Spanish culture and to the world of the classical guitar. King Juan Carlos presented him with Spain’s highest award bestowed upon a civilian, the title Commendador de Número de la Orden de Isabel la Católica. He received many other high honors and awards from leaders around the world including Caballero del Santo Sepulcro ("Knight of the Holy Sepulchre") given by Pope John Paul II (for which he was subsequently addressed as Sir Celedonio Romero), the Gold Metal of the Japan Festivals, the Placa given by the Red Cross of Mexico, the Insignia de Santiago el Mayor, and the Artista de Honor y Amigo de San Diego given by the Mexican and American Foundation. Among the local honors he received, Celedonio was especially proud of the Beethoven Award by KFSD, the classical radio station in San Diego, and "Celedonio Romero Day" (January 14th) proclaimed by the Mayor of San Diego. For his 80th birthday gala celebrations were held around the world in Málaga, Sevilla, Berlin, London and San Diego. The city of Málaga named him Hijo Predilecto con la Medalla de Oro and created a museum and foundation in his name. In 1995, Celedonio was awarded the title of Doctor Honoris Causa by the University of Victoria, British Columbia.
Much of the credit for today’s high regard for the classical guitar can be attributed to the life work of Celedonio Romero. His compositions for classical guitar, numbering over 100 (including ten concertos) have emerged as masterpieces for the guitar. One of his best loved pieces for solo guitar is the Andalusian Suite. Federico Moreno Torroba (1891-1982), who composed works of his own for guitar and orchestra, persuaded Romero to base a guitar concerto on this suite. Moreno Torroba then worked with Romero on the orchestration. Joaquín Rodrigo said of Celedonio: "He has developed the technique of the guitar by making what is difficult to be easy. He is, without a doubt, the grand master of the guitar." Celedonio Romero was known and respected around the world and The Celedonio Romero Method for the Classical Guitar is taught in Master and Doctoral programs in the universities of North America and Europe.