Ray Sandoval ... Feeding the parched soul

by Chris O’Connor on 2012-09-03

Lost in music: Guitarist Ray Sandoval focuses on his playing as he delights an audience at The House of Masks and Puppets with an intimate concert of emotionally charged classical guitar music. BD/Chris O’ConnorLost in music: Guitarist Ray Sandoval focuses on his playing as he delights an audience at The House of Masks and Puppets with an intimate concert of emotionally charged classical guitar music. BD/Chris O’Connor

This weekend I found myself enjoying Bali’s musical delights at a most surprising venue, The House of Mask and Puppetry at Kubu Bingin near Ubud was hosting the acclaimed Ray Sandoval’s classical and jazz guitar concerts.

I had read promoter Franki Raden’s comments about the ideal nature of the venue and the sound qualities of the location and had been intrigued; acoustics in a wooden box! How would this sound? The venue itself is quite amazing; and set in superbly landscaped gardens.

It features a stunning collection of masks and puppets, with almost 6,000 from all over the world, displayed with thought and care in several traditional Indonesia joglo, one of which had been dedicated to tonight’s performance.

From research, Ray seemed to be a mixed musical bag. His musical influences and training, whilst clearly classical, seem to have been molded by his surroundings, especially in Los Angeles where the Latin influence is great. His concert weekend reflected this and, by putting on two shows, Saturday classical and Sunday with a jazz ensemble, he was able to display his repertoire.

Entering the joglo was like being in church, with traditional-styled wooden benches placed on each side and the performer’s seat placed at the head as the altar. Numerous brightly colored puppets, fangs bared, lined the walls, including on the right side three massive and imposing Barong Landung lending a somewhat surreal flavor.

The lighting was just about right, reasonably bright on the performer and subtly subdued through the seats. The audience, around 60 people, many who had enjoyed the pre-show pisang goreng, were now seated and eagerly waiting.

The large double doors to the rear of the stage opened and Ray took his seat. After a moment’s tuning, he opened his show. The first bars were met with audible sighs from the rapt listeners.

The performance began with three movements from Bach’s “Suite in A minor” and, whilst I thought the whole was wonderful, the second movement was especially beautiful as Ray displayed an impressive command of technique and a delicate and very personal interpretation. Yes, we were impressed!

For an hour, the performance moved seamlessly from Bach through to Ray’s wonderful own compositions, of which “Autumn Rains” reduced me to tears. Its beauty was near musical perfection, its rhythmic flexibility coupled with his technical mastery reached into my heart and gave a gentle squeeze.

In a demonstration of his Latin influence, Ray gave us “Porro De La Suite No 1” by Montana followed by Morel’s “Missionera”. Both pieces he played with the technical brilliance I had already come to expect.

His final piece was surprising, the “Pemoengkah”, the traditional prelude to a wayang kulit performance. He has been working with gamelan musicians in the villages and this was his first public performance. It was unusual, but delicious, and clearly had the approval of the Balinese in the audience who beamed like Cheshire cats whilst drumming along. It was another example of Ray’s honed technique and adaptability and, rather like the man himself, it was compelling.

The performance was over all too quickly, but happily, the artist joined the audience for a drink and chat. Ray and his lovely wife talked freely about his love for Indonesia, its music and people.

Maybe a lady in the audience summed up the evening best of all, “Seeing Ray perform tonight was like feeding my parched soul.” I could not agree more, it was like tasting a particularly fine wine. Ray is an exceptional technical performer and plays with soul, his music is filled with emotion and made me both smile and weep.

Ray will play Jakarta on Sept. 11 and Sept. 12 at the International Expo, Kemayoran. For his Bali fans, Franki plans to bring Ray back in November to perform in Nusa Dua. I hope to see you there.

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