by J. Andrew Dickenson
“I’ve devoted my entire life to music.”
When someone like Jorge Morel makes a statement like this, it means more than from most people. At 72, Jorge Morel has, through his performances, compositions, and arrangements, entertained millions of people with his unique style of music. On April 3, the New York City Classical Guitar Society will be honoring this living legend’s remarkable legacy with a concert that features some of today’s finest players. “It’s an honor,” he says humbly. “It really is.”
Jorge Morel first stepped onto Manhattan in 1961. Although born in Buenos Aires, at the time he was living in Puerto Rico with his wife Olga and happened to make acquaintance with Vladimir Bobri, president of the New York Society of The Classic Guitar. Bobri invited the young man to perform at Carnegie Hall, and he proceeded to play two sold out shows to an enthusiastic audience. This was the commencement of a long and prosperous career.
“I couldn’t speak much English, but people said, ‘Just talk with your guitar!'” he laughs. “It was the ‘good old days,’ as they say. Everyone was hungry for guitar.” He smiles as he reminisces about the old Society. With Andre Segovia actively involved, the Society had weekly meetings at a local restaurant and hosted concerts by people such as Aliro Diaz. Morel had his own style, though, as appealing as it was intriguing.
“People told me, ‘You don’t play like anyone else. You have your own technique,’ and they would ask me why I didn’t play classics. There were so many great players that were playing classics. I wanted to do my own thing.”
Morel began composing as a teenager, when he was influenced by folklore traditions and the music of his native hometown, the tango. As he became older, he learned more about composition techniques and orchestration, expanding his boundaries and composing more than just guitar music. His influences also broadened as he absorbed different cultures and their music. In America, he was greatly impressed by the jazz masters and the harmonies they used in such a unique way. It was special, an element of music that captured something evocative like nothing else.
“My music comes from my travel,” Morel says. “It’s a fusion style of rhythms and melodies.”
In recent years, Morel has received commissions from Evangelos and Lisa, the Greek Guitar Duo, and various orchestras, and his most recent CD is a compilation of original duos and arrangements recorded with Ricardo Iznaola. He continues to perform regularly, and recent tours have taken him back to his native country of Argentina. He is one of the most respected figures in the guitar world, and yet he humbles himself when he acknowledges important people such as Vladimir Bobri, Maurice Summerfield, Rose Augustine, Tony Acosta, and even Chet Atkins, among the many people who have helped him during his career.
“If you don’t have any encouragement,” Morel says, “it’s hard to go on.” He tries to pass the same encouragement on to his students and others in his life. With his music and personality, Morel’s life has been a beacon of light that shines with positive energy and happiness, an inspiration to people worldwide.
“I want to communicate what I feel,” Morel says. “I never try to impress — that word isn’t good for the arts. I just follow my heart.”