Guitar dou performs at BC


Alisia Sanchez

Pasquale Rucco and Douglas James, or the Rucco-James Duo, performing at the Simonsen Performing Arts Center on Nov. 6.

Elizabeth Castillo, Reporter


The Rucco-James Duo, a musical partnership specializing in 19th century guitar performances, played for the Bakersfield College community at the Indoor Theatre on Nov. 6.

The duo is comprised of Pasquale Rucco and Douglas James. The two met at a music festival near Venice, Italy 20 years ago and have played together since. Although specializing in 19th century pieces may seem specific, this period of time is special to the duo because the 19th century was the first major “golden age” of the guitar. The duo, include operatic pieces in their performance because of how popular those songs were at the time.

“Everyone knew opera then, even the peasants. It was popular music at the time,” Rucco said.

Some of the operatic pieces the Rucco-James Duo chose to perform did not merely peak in popularity in the 19th century but remain familiar in current pop culture. The duo performed “Sinfonia nell’Opera” from Gioachhino Rossini’s “Il Barbiere di Siviglia”—in English known as the “The Barber of Seville”— which can be heard in commercials and cartoons.

During and after the performance, James showed the audience the different guitars the duo were using and explained some of the history behind the instruments.

In the first half of the program, the duo played French music, and appropriately used French guitars from approximately 1830. James said that the French guitar was slightly smaller than other period guitars they used. The duo said it’s important to use authentic guitars of the 19th century because they ensure the quality of the music.

“They lend a different sound and the instruments can inform a listener’s interpretation,” James said.

After the performance, the duo spoke to audience members further about the guitars they used and shared more information on the pieces they performed. When the duo isn’t touring, they both incorporate music instruction into their everyday lives. Rucco is the founding director of “A.C.I.F.,” a consortium of music academies based in the Naples region of Italy. James is a professor of guitar at Appalachian State University. Both see music as an important part of a student’s life.

“I like to introduce people to music, and kids who want to be musicians,” James said. “I try to give students the best help that I can so they have the best chance at success. I was self-taught for many years.”

James said that although he was strumming badminton racquets from the age of 4, he didn’t begin playing guitar until he was 13. He said that he wished he had a good instructor to show him how to properly play the guitar from the start, as he sometime struggled with self-instruction.

Rucco began taking his musical studies seriously when he was in his 20s. Although it was difficult for him to seriously practice in his youth, he realizes now how important music is for young individuals.

“Music is a way to fill the brains of young people. It’s great brain food,” he said.

To ensure the duo still has time for musical instruction, they primarily tour three times a year. James said they tour the U.S. in March and spend time playing in Italy during May, June and August. Although making time to tour in their busy schedules is difficult—especially since Rucco lives full-time in Italy while James lives in the U.S. — the two enjoy their travels and have a lot of fun playing live.

“We have such a great time playing concerts,” James said. “It’s great to connect with the audience.”