Thursday, February 23, 2023

Guitar museum offers spectacular music from Portugal's heart, soul

The art of "fado" or music of the soul is a time honored, intricate and emotional rendering of
Portuguese songs with a melancholy theme, sometimes of lost life or love gone wrong.


Photographs and beautifully displayed musical instruments
highlight the museum's extensive walls of exhibits.

IF YOU LOVE the guitar, you may want to travel to a northern Portuguese city for an inside look at this time honored instrument.
It will be worth your time and money if you long to immerse yourself in the history, beauty and versatility of the guitar.
Nowhere can one find a more extensive representation than at Porto's "Casa da Guitarra." You'll hear the familiar sounds of the instrument as you climb a polished stairway to this little gem of a museum. 
It's small and tucked away, but not far from other landmarks of Porto.  Everyone knows where it is and can proudly direct you.
Located in a two-story building near the city's famed Clerigos Tower, the museum attracts people from all over the world, of all ages and many backgrounds. All share a love of music and this graceful instrument which dates back to Portugal and Spain as early as the 13th Century.

Viewers or patrons of a concert in the small, intimate hall are in for
a treat with traditional Portuguese guitar accompaniment to fado singing.

THE CASA da Guitarra was designed by Alfredo Teixeira, who created his masterpiece in 2012. He intended to create a space to promote the construction and dissemination of traditional Portuguese instruments and musical history.
He did so with elegance.
His masterpiece is part museum, part concert hall and part musical instrument store. It  supplies wood and other materials for building the guitar and other musical instruments.
TO OUR delight, we happened on a concert. One of its missions is to promote concerts and provide a forum for musicians.  It also promotes exhibitions, offers music classes and sponsors workshops. Our concert was thrilling with the traditional accompaniment integral to fado. Two expert musicians played Portuguese guitar and fado viola, much like our mandolin.
WE FELT so much life in this lovely place.
Fado singers are deeply involved in the
story they're telling, always accompanied
in formal circles by two guitars.

Our guide told us, "The exchange of experiences between musicians, guitarists and music lovers contributes to the preservation of our heritage." 
She stressed that the museum also provides a forum for new musical ideas "which makes our heritage alive and interesting for new generations to explore."
SO PORTUGAL'S "second city" has become the country's "guitar capital" -- known for its guitar teachers, performers and splendid guitar craftsmen.
The casa, known to American visitors as "The Guitar House," has a magical feel to it.  Portuguese musical guitars have a noble heritage, dating to to Medieval times when troubadours and minstrels entertained the wealthy. But middle-class people and peasants found ways to enjoy the instrument because it could be carried fairly easily, often with a strap over a shoulder. It was also usually passed down from generation to generation.
It's fitting that the museum's next door neighbor is Porto's splendid cathedral where noblemen and working class folks mingled centuries ago. A mix of people of all incomes and backgrounds continues to visit the museum.
Dozens of beautifully crafted guitars are carefully displayed.

WE TIMED our visit to the museum with tours of Clerigos Tower and Porto Cathedral, those illustrious guitar museum neighbors. We happened onto a  beautiful organ concert and had also booked "Spiritus," a multi-media immersive show.
WE RECOMMEND the museum for an authentic encounter with Portuguese culture and its unique values ​​and traditions.
Our afternoon included fado music, gorgeous Portuguese guitar music, time to browse vintage photos and inspect dozens of guitars, and a glass of port wine during intermission.
The memory of the emotional voice of the resident fado singer, in the company of two splendid instrumentalists on Portuguese guitar and fado viola, lingers today.
GUITAR AND FADO trivia: This centuries old tradition is on the rise in popular urban neighborhoods. Fado and Portuguese guitar have become Portugal's primary cultural expression. Our guide described the art form as "the manifestation of the soul of the people." Fado is deeply imbedded in the culture. We booked several fado concerts besides the one at the museum -- mostly in restaurants. But we heard young people in bars late at night singing impromptu fado with their friends. At formal concerts, it's not unusual for professionals to share the stage with amateurs who are moved to contribute a favorite song.
The museum features a history of the instrument,
with photos of famous guitarists through the
years, and close-up looks at the instrument.
The Portuguese guitar has 12 steel strings strung in six pairs. Portuguese guitars are smaller and have a softer, more mellow sound than Spanish guitars. They are used in traditional music throughout the world. We've seen them in Rio on visits to Brazilian cafes and bars. Spanish guitars are typically larger and have a brighter, more forceful sound.
Museum admission includes those wonderful daily concerts. It's 16 Euros or about the same in dollars. Don't miss an opportunity for a visit.
and other helpful Porto contacts:

Christene "Cookie" Meyers and Bruce Keller climb Sydney
Harbour Bridge a second time and share its wonders.
UP NEXT: Climb every mountain? Well, not yet, but we've climbed a few spectacular bridges. Days ago, we climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge for a second time. The massive iconic structure is the symbol of Australia. Along with the magnificent Sydney Opera House, it attracts scores of visitors each year. We braved it on a warm but thrilling afternoon. It's a challenge well worth the ladders, ropes, straps, and work-out.  Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us weekly for a fresh spin on travel, the arts, nature, family, road tripping, offbeat restaurants and more: 
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  1. So interesting. We play traditional Spanish guitars and love flamenco and fado as they are true, distinctive southern European art forms. Thanks for this.

  2. Great photos showing the intense emotion of singer and musicians.

  3. Very cool story about my favorite instrument. Love the mandolin maestro.