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Ronoel Simões

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The Greatest Collector


Foto: www.polemicos.com.br

Some people devote their lives to the guitar without ever recording a disc or giving a recital to an unknown audience. This kind gentleman called Ronoel Simões is one of these cases.

Mr. Simões, who is widely known in Brazil as simply Ronoel, is now 87 years old and lives in São Paulo, Brazil. He doesn't collect guitars, so do not expect him to have a Hauser that was played by Segovia. On the other hand, name any composition or arrangement ever written for the classical guitar and make your best bet that he has it. It's also difficult to name a player of the 20th century who Ronoel hasn't met in person yet: Andrés Segovia, Heitor Villa-Lobos, Narciso Yepes, Julian Bream, the Assads, etc. Any guitarist who went to Brazil or was born there after the 1940's certainly met him.

And because he met so many players and used to become friends with most of them, Ronoel has also hundreds of home-made recordings that ended up being crucial to rescuing some great players from the oblivion. For instance, when Paulo Bellinati first issued and recorded the works of Garoto (Anibal Augusto Sardinha) in the USA, he based some of his flawless transcriptions on recordings that were made in Ronoel's house by Garoto himself, who didn't use to write his own music. Some of those pieces had never been recorded anywhere else, so what Ronoel had in his hands was a real treasure.

Ronoel started his collection in 1941. Besides dozens of unique recordings, he also has lots of manuscripts that were given to him by the composers themselves. He would also trade stuff with collectors from all over the world. His efforts paid off: he managed to get something extremely rare, a replica of the only recording made by Francisco Tárrega in a wax cylinder in 1892. He also has an original manuscript by Tárrega dated of 1880.

His collection is fairly big: over 70,000 music sheets, including hundreds of manuscripts and sheets signed by the composers and/or the performers themselves; over 7,000 recordings, among LPs, CDs, 78rpm discs and tapes; hundreds of videos. When people ask if he's planning to sell his collection before he passes away, he laughs and says: "I'm not selling, I'm still buying". As a matter of fact, he buys an average of 15 titles every month, not including the ones he receives as gifts.

And before you ask the question: "does this guy play the guitar at all"? The answer is yes, he does and has been teaching guitar since 1953, having stopped only a few years ago. But he never wanted to be a concertizer and travel the world, he just wanted to be around guitarists. In fact, he still hosts workshops (or saraus, in Portuguese) in his house every weekend.

I couldn't find a better way to finish this article other than with Ronoel's own words. When asked about what kind of advice he would give to anyone who wants to be a good guitarist, he said:

The guitarists have to be aware of their own playing. It's interesting, but a lot of them don’t have that basic notion, they think they're playing well, but they are not. Guitarists should always study and listen to lots of recordings in order to play the best they can.

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