Archive photo of the First Sundays Concerts series. Courtesy photo

Flamenco duo brings Spanish art form to Pacific Northwest

Virtual performance part of Bainbridge Community Piano Association’s First Sundays Concerts series

To close out the Bainbridge Community Piano Association’s 16th season of its First Sundays Concerts series, the performing arts organization will be jumping out of its usual scope of entertainment with the upcoming virtual performance of Eric and Encarnacion’s Duo Flamenco on Nov. 8.

Typically, the concert series consists of local jazz and classical performers, but in this case, BCPA decided to spice things up with a Spanish-based flamenco performance.

“I just felt like we needed the beauty, the energy, the soul of this duo flamenco, especially as the days got shorter and after we have all survived an election,” said Janet See, co-artistic director of the First Sundays Concert Series and classical flute player surpassing three decades. “I think this event really is going to be what all of us need.”

The performance will be the association’s first since having to cancel its April and May First Sundays Concerts. Even though the performance is virtual, the flamenco duo will be performing at the Waterfront Park Community Center, the location where the concerts are held, but without the audience.

“We’re actually having a wooden platform for her (Encarnacion) to dance on,” See said. “We thought that was important. Our audience, they’re so used to coming there.”

The show will begin at 4 p.m. and is expected to last 45 minutes to an hour. Tickets are available at firstsundaysconcerts.org for $25 per household in return for a link to watch. “The beauty of a virtual performance like this is anyone, anywhere can see it,” See said.

History of BCPA

The Bainbridge Community Piano Association was founded in 2003 by Darden Burns, whose initial goal was to provide the community with a high-quality grand piano in a public space for nonprofit groups and individuals to rent for concerts, recitals, music scholarship competitions, master classes and music entertainment.

“When she originally moved here (mid-’80s) there was no access to a piano in a public space on Bainbridge Island,” said BCPA executive director Amelia Stewart, who is Darden’s daughter.

In 2003, Darden began fundraising, and eventually in 2006, completed her campaign of raising $30,000 to purchase the Yamaha C6 grand piano that still resides at the Waterfront Park Community Center.

“There are many reasons why I always look forward to playing in the First Sundays series,” Seattle-based jazz pianist Bill Anschell said. “First of all, the piano is outstanding, and now that Seattle no longer has Tula’s, opportunities for area pianists to play on a great instrument are very limited. There is no substitute for a first-rate concert grand piano, making First Sundays a gig every pianist loves to play.”

Anschell went on to say: “The audience is always welcoming and enthusiastic; I’m sure they appreciate Northwest musicians being brought to their doorstep. And we’ve always been treated really well by the organizers, who put on the series as a labor of love.”

The campaign received contributions from over 100 individuals along with grants from the Rotary Club of Bainbridge Island and the Bainbridge Island Arts and Humanities fund. Amelia stated the piano will be in-use for virtual concerts starting next year. The piano will not be used Nov. 8 as it doesn’t apply to flamenco.

“That’s part of our job, to maintain that piano and take good care of it,” Stewart said.

BCPA only sponsors the First Sundays Concerts, which has been ongoing since 2005 through the efforts of six organization volunteers. In a normal year, the series consists of eight concerts. Throughout the years, the organization has been able to rely on local musicians to provide a rich and authentic experience.

“Sometimes local people who book think that the good acts have to come from somewhere else,” See said. “That is simply not the case; there is so much fine artistic talent in the Northwest here – world-class.”

Musician Background

Pacific Northwest native Eric “El Comanche” Jaeger of Eric and Encarnacion’s Duo Flamenco had quite an interesting path to get where he is today.

“I’m a bit of an anomaly in the flamenco world with Spanish artists who tour…because I’m from here,” Jaeger said. “I grew up playing rock n’ roll and metal.”

After moving to Hollywood in his early 20s to pursue a studio musician career, the performing artist soon discovered flamenco and “really went crazy over it.” He reminisced back to his gritty days of focus and dedication when he lived in a warehouse for about two years, practicing the art form each day for up to 10 hours.

Jaeger’s life and career would soon be ever-changed after meeting his wife and flamenco partner Encarnacion, who is from Barcelona. The chemistry between the two led to many shows for the duo who were part of the band Children of the Revolution in the early 2000s, fusing together flamenco, Latin, middle-eastern and rock influences.

Once “El Comanche” was fully immersed in the music scene, he began traveling to Andalucia, Spain, every year with Encarnacion to get a deeper understanding of flamenco. He was basically tossed right into the culture, learning from some of the genre’s finest teachers.

“I got schooled the hard way,” Jaeger said. “It’s been an amazing experience. I’ve been going back for about 15 years every year.”

“El Comanche’s” next goal was to find a way to bring everything he had learned over the years back to the Pacific Northwest. The duo created a dance school called Flamenco Seattle in 2010.

With Encarnacion being the Northwest’s only Spanish-born flamenco dancer, along with their business being the only full-time touring flamenco dance school in Seattle, the duo found a niche and is bringing some of the best flamenco talents directly from Spain, such as Rafael de Utrera.

“What we try to do is bring top-level talent from Spain and produce shows for the American audience and expose people to this authentic flamenco art,” Jaeger said. “We’re trying to embed it and plant that seed here in the Seattle area.”

What is Flamenco?

Flamenco is defined as an art form based on the various folkloric music traditions of southern Spain in the autonomous community of Andalusia and Murcia. “That particular region has its own kind of culture compared to the rest of Spain,” Jaeger said. “A simple way to say it is that flamenco is the blues of Andalucia. It’s very much a raw art form, the way blues is, and it’s been an oral tradition passed down for at least a couple hundred years.

“We believe that flamenco kind of represents the ups and downs in life,” he continued. “One of the things I love about it so much is that although some of it can be pretty deep and kind of on the dark side, there’s always this kind of thread of hope throughout it. There’s this thread of dread to it too, just like life and reality. It makes them feel something even if they don’t speak the language.”

Archive photo of the First Sundays Concerts series. Courtesy photo
First Sundays Concerts series logo. Courtesy photo

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