Award-winning musician Oscar Lopez has come a long, long way from his first practice sessions – in the humble bathrooms of his hometown in Chile.
“You see, when you play in the washroom, the acoustics are amazing. Everybody wants to use the washroom,” the master guitarist said with a laugh. “I started playing when I was nine years old … I saw this guy playing a fiddle and I said to my dad, ‘I wish I could have that.’ Two days later, he came home from work with a black case and he says, ‘Well, here it is. I want you to play.’
“I grabbed that instrument and without knowing anything about it, I started playing it … I spent all my time in the washroom in Santiago.”
Those countless hours rehearsing in the restroom have decidedly paid off, since today, at 63 years old, Lopez – who lives in Calgary – is one of Canada’s most revered Latin stylists, with a reputation that extends far beyond the borders of this country.
“The spark has always been there,” said Lopez of his 40-plus years of making music. “It’s one life, it’s what God has given me … It’s been ups and downs – I cry sometimes, I laugh – but I know what it is in my heart, and it’s music.”
Next month, Lopez will bring his unique rhythms, talented fingers and infectious personality to town, where he will headline a weekend of musicianship, education and entertainment at Legacy Guitar House’s 2017 Cochrane Guitar Show.
An evening concert by Vancouver’s Lion Bear Fox gets things rolling on Friday, June 9, with Saturday starting off with a casual “play and sing” at St. Andrew’s United Church. Throughout the day, people can participate in workshops on maintaining and stringing guitars, a class by Calgary musician Matt Blais on how to play harmonica, and a finger-style guitar lesson by Cochrane’s Doug MacLean.
For fans and artists looking to get more up close and personal with acclaimed artists, longtime blues impresario Tim Williams will put on a master class, along with a second session hosted by Lopez – although he doesn’t want anyone to feel intimidated by the intimate environment.
“(I want people) not to be scared, please, not to be overwhelmed – we’re jamming,” he said. “We’re just going to sit down and have fun and play guitar – then we can talk. Yes, this guy, their friend Oscar, will come and will ask everybody to bring their guitar … (but) I’m not there to teach them – I’m there to learn from them. It’s the most beautiful thing.”
The celebration culminates on Saturday with a night of music on stage by Lopez himself – something that, even after so many years, and so many miles from the bathrooms of Santiago, he still loves to share.
“The music really is not mine, it belongs to the people,” he said. “We’re born to die and what we do in-between is up to us … I’m very lucky.”
All access weekend passes and individual tickets are available at legacyguitarhouse.com/events.