San Miguel de Allende

San Miguel Salon debut is all about the music

Jam session to open the first official San Miguel Salon at the home of Ben and Margaret Gall in Colonia Buenavista, San Miguel de Allende. From left: Ruben Garcia, Nelo Hurtado Rojas, Angie Ciss, Alfonso Medina, and Stephy Loren.

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Went to Ben Gall’s first official San Miguel Salon on Sunday night at his home, Casa Sentosa de las Serpientes, in Colonia Lindavista. Ben has been building toward this day for many months.

Actually, for years when you consider that he designed and built his house so that he could hold intimate concerts in his courtyard. There is a raised patio that serves as a stage and seating for as many as 50 people in the courtyard and 20 more on the roof of his casita.

Angie Ciss performing at the San Miguel Salon on Sunday, January 16, 2022.

Ben and his wife, Margaret, like the idea of bringing friends and music together in a non-bar, non-commercial setting. Ben’s pretty adamant that the focus be on the music, not the too-loudly vocalized current medical condition of your pet lamborpoodle.

“The San Miguel Salon is a ‘listening room,'” writes Ben, “which means you should avoid loud conversations and frequent walking around while the musicians are playing.” If you really have to talk, Ben has made space for that inside his home.

A taste of the jam session that preceded the debut San Miguel Salon.

He has a big heart when it comes to local music and musicians and he wants to showcase them at their best. Any money from the gate goes to musicians and local non-profits. Ben even throws in wine, beer, coffee, tea, and water for his guests.

He held a couple of “test” salons in 2021 and was ready for Sunday’s debut.

There were four performances, each allotted a 30-minute slot with short breaks between. Frankly, any of the musicians on the roster could have filled a whole evening on their own. There was a lot of quality squeezed into one night!

While we waited for the stragglers to arrive, the musicians offered to come out and jam. As an opening bonus, we were given the gift of an extended take on Santana-by-way-of-Tito Puente’s “Oye Como Va” that became one of the night’s highlights.

Angie Ciss

Alas, the stragglers were worse than that – no-shows who couldn’t have been bothered to cancel their reservation. Unfortunately, about half of the 50 possible seats went unfilled.

No matter, the show did go on and it was an eclectic mix starting with the always-amazing Angie Ciss who wields a rich, soulful voice that belies her petite size. Angie performs Mexican traditional ballads, Beatles hits, and romantic pop tunes with equal elan. You can hear her every other Saturday (Jan. 22) at 2 p.m. at Paprika restaurant and on Sundays at Cafe Lula, 12:30 p.m.

Angie was followed by the jazz-blues fusion duo flutist Rubin Garcia and guitar/piano Alfonso Medina (above). They weren’t to everyone’s taste and I think their music is best performed inside, where the walls give it shape and the warmth frees their fingers. (Yeah, it was getting cold out.) They are fearless, cerebral musical explorers  – and personally, I found that exciting. 

The next duo packs their own excitement, Colombians Nelo Hurtado Rojas and Stephy Loren (above) are known as Timka. Their songs are filled with joy and passion and driven by crisp Afro-Latin rhythms. Nelo plays djembe and guitar and Stephi commands the keyboard while both rock the vocals.

Timka!

Classical pianist Mauro Ledesma wrapped the evening with some Bach and a stunning serving of Mexican classical compositions. Mauro graciously engaged the audience as he discussed each piece and its deeper meaning to him. Seriously, he could have filled a whole evening alone and may even do so in some future salon. Each of these performers could.

The house that Ben built:

Ben Gall jokingly calls his house Casa Basura because it is substantially built with recycled materials. It is a playfully eclectic aesthetic that leaves guests in a constant state of surprise and wonder. At the bottom of the picture is the courtyard where Ben and Margaret Gall produce the San Miguel Salon.

You can find out about future salon concerts by friending San Miguel Salon on Facebook.

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