Around Pedro Antonio Ramírez de Galarreta Planell

Oct 20, 2022

Around Pedro Antonio Ramírez de Galarreta Planell

A few months ago, Cristina Ramírez Sanginés kindly asked me to write a short piece about how I discovered the existence of her ancestor Antonio Ramírez de Galarreta Planell, a brother of José and Manuel, who, like his brothers, also worked as a guitar maker, at least in the city of Logroño. Naturally, I was happy to write it, although it took me a little longer than expected to do so.

In the first few days when I started to write it, the first thing I realised was that my relationship with Ramírez guitars went back a long time. No more and no less than when my love for the guitar began.

My love for guitars came from a guitar “José Ramírez”

It was the summer of 1978 in Viveiro (Lugo). It had been years since my family had spent the summer there and I was lucky enough to meet new friends. One of them, Javier, brought and carried a “José Ramírez” guitar that belonged to his father, the prestigious neuroradiologist Manuel Trujillo, who lived in Madrid. It was the first guitar I held in my arms and the first one I got to play roughly.

Now that so much time has passed, writing these lines, it occurs to me to think about what kind of magic spell, apart from its qualities as an instrument, that guitar must have cast on me, which gave rise to a love and passion for the guitar that has only increased over time… in that Ramírez guitar, I am now convinced that there was something more than just fine woods and constructive art…

Sometime later, as a native and resident of Logroño, the then forgotten figure of the guitarist from Logroño, Francisco Calleja (1891-1950), crossed my path in 1989. Since then, I have been researching and recovering his life and work, at first together with the guitarist Marcos Felip Molins and, since 1995, together with the guitarist Carlos Blanco Ruiz.

The start of the investigation

It was while researching the life of Francisco Calleja that Ramírez guitars came back into my life, and how much I have to thank the digitisation of old newspapers and the Internet for the progress of my research into Calleja and the other guitar subjects that have interested me!

Curiously, it was only chroniclers in the Cartagena press who noticed the instrument Calleja played, and who led me to deduce that he played on a seven-stringed Manuel Ramírez. One chronicler said in 1930: “And what a concert! from the sonorous instrument that Ramírez made, a harmonious box of fine wood, where the seven saetas of the cordejo vibrate like a harp“. And another said this in 1933: “His guitar (a seven-string guitar only play by Calleja and Segovia)“. (Remember that in those years the guitar used by Andrés Segovia was a Manuel Ramírez).

This deduction was confirmed years later when, at the end of October 2012, the Uruguayan musicologist Alfredo Escande informed me that there was a guitar that belonged to Francisco Calleja among the possessions of the, at that time recently deceased, Uruguayan guitarist Rafael Sánchez Claggett. Some days later he told me that it was a Manuel Ramírez guitar from 1911, which originally had seven strings but which in the 1960s was transformed into six strings by a guitar maker in Montevideo. Alfredo made it easy for me to get in touch with the owner of the guitar at that time, Rafael Esponda, who sent me photographs of the instrument.

The first time I contacted Cristina Ramírez via email was about this issue, in November 2012. I sent her the photographs of the Manuel Ramírez guitar that belonged to Francisco Calleja, also telling her the history of the guitarist, in case she could confirm that the guitar was a Manuel Ramírez and if she could provide me with any other information about the instrument. Cristina had no doubts that the guitar was a Manuel Ramírez.

Not two months had passed when my friend Carlos Blanco Ruiz acquired the guitar from its owner in Montevideo and it crossed the Atlantic again, from the Uruguayan capital to Logroño. With it, Carlos gave his recital with works by Francisco Calleja at the Tertulias de la Guitarrería Ramírez on 17 January 2014.

Logroño’s tradition and love of pulse and plectrum instruments

Researching Francisco Calleja made me realise that nothing had been researched about the guitar past of the city of Logroño, a city in which historically there has been an enormous tradition and love for the pulse and plectrum instruments. Discovering the performers first, came later discovering those who built the instruments for them. The guitar makers who efficiently carried out their work during the 19th century in Logroño were concerned with building good bandurrias and good guitars.

Benito Campo left Logroño to settle in Madrid, running the Muñoa guitar workshop, becoming a good friend of Dionisio Aguado, and in Logroño, guitars were made by Cosme García (who later invented the submarine), Eustaquio Torralba (one of whose guitars from 1863 is mentioned by José Luis Romanillos), Mariano Zorzano (of whom the Ramírez family keeps one of his guitars in their collection), Ezequiel Jubera (son-in-law of the former, who took over the Logroño guitar workshop when his father-in-law, Mariano Zorzano, left for Madrid to set up a guitar workshop in Calle Tudescos), Pedro Antonio Ramírez and José María Zubía, among others.

How did I locate the figure of Antonio Ramírez?

Thanks to the Internet, for a change. One day in November 2013 it occurred to me to enter the word “guitarrero” in the search engine of the Virtual Library of Historical Press, in the Official Gazette of the Province of Logroño, because I was researching the figure of the Riojan guitar maker Mariano Zorzano, and lo and behold, in an electoral roll of Logroño in 1890, it appeared “Antonio Ramírez de Galarreta. Guitar maker“.

Reading the surname Ramírez and the word guitarrero together immediately made me think of the guitarreros from Madrid. Curious, I looked up José and Manuel Ramírez on the Internet, thinking that it would be nice if their surname was Ramírez de Galarreta, but not quite believing that this would be the case. My surprise was great when, somewhere on the Internet, I saw that the famous guitar makers were indeed listed as Ramírez de Galarreta!

As soon as I could, I went to the Logroño Town Hall Archives to consult the 1889 Register and, after checking page after page, there it appeared! On page 2688, in house number 59 of Calle Mayor, Antonio Ramírez de Galarreta y Planells, born in Calatayud on 23 November 1860, aged 28, married to Felipa Alcalde from La Rioja, a guitar maker by profession, with two years’ residence in Logroño, and paying a tax of 110 reales a year, was listed as the head of the family.

It was an enormously satisfying and wonderful feeling of disbelief, I had just discovered a brother of José and Manuel Ramírez who had been a guitar maker in Logroño! Almost nothing! I immediately got back in touch with Cristina Ramírez via email to tell her about my discoveries of those days, which, from what Cristina told me in her reply, filled all the members of the Ramírez family with joy at the appearance of a new brother who was also a guitar maker.

But that was not all, because after going through the pages and pages of the volumes of the 1889 Padrón of Logroño, I found on page 1403, residing on the first floor of house number 9 of the Muro, Domingo Ramírez de Galarreta, born on 3 September 1814 in Salvatierra (Álava), 75 years old, a carpenter by profession, with two years of residence in Logroño, married to Josefa Planells, born on 13 April 1831 in Granada, 58 years old. Josefa Pérez Lázaro, from Alhama (Zaragoza), aged 39, was listed as an assistant at the same address.

From the reading of these register files, it can be deduced that both Antonio and his parents, Domingo and Josefa, arrived in Logroño around 1887. It is possible that at first the three of them lived at the same address and that when Antonio married Felipa, he moved to another address.

Josefa Planells y Canela

Both sheets of the register appear signed on 15 May 1889. I say this because Josefa Planells died on 31 May 1889.

In the 8th Book of Deaths of the church of Santa María de la Redonda, there is an inscription no. 105 which reads as follows:

“Josefa Plané y Canela.

In the city of Logroño, on the first day of June one thousand eight hundred and eighty-nine, I D. José María García Escudero, Dignity of Abbot of the Insigne Collegiate Church and Priest of Santa María de la Redonda of the same, ordered the ecclesiastical burial in the Public Cemetery, of the body of Doña Josefa Plané y Canela, who died the previous day at the age of fifty-eight as a result of uterine cancer according to the medical declaration; She was born in Granada, legitimate daughter of Don Manuel and Doña Manuela, the former from Valencia and the latter from Granada, and was married to Don Domingo Ramírez, born in Salvatierra, province of Álava, leaving three children named José, Manuel and Antonio. She made her last will and testament before the notary Don Federico de Latorre. She received the Holy Sacraments of Penance and Viaticum and other spiritual aids and was buried in her soul, in witness whereof I sign it…“.

My research hypothesis

Regarding the fact that these members of the Ramírez family arrived in Logroño in 1887, I can put forward the following hypothesis: In 1887, in Logroño, Ezequiel Jubera, the son-in-law of the guitar maker Mariano Zorzano, worked as a guitar maker. It cannot be said that he was the only guitar maker in the city. The minutes of the Logroño Town Council meeting of 8 October of that year reflect the farewell of the neighbourhood presented by Ezequiel, who probably moved to Madrid to help his father-in-law in the guitar workshop in Calle Tudescos. In June 1887 the guitarist and composer Vicente Zorzano, Mariano’s son, died, which affected his father, who would have been left alone and would have had difficulties in carrying out his work, so Ezequiel Jubera would come to his father-in-law’s aid. Mariano died in 1889 and it would be Ezequiel who would run the guitar shop in Madrid’s Calle Tudescos until the end of the century.

Therefore, with the departure of Ezequiel, Logroño was left without a guitar maker, if not without a guitar maker at all, which made it necessary to fill this gap. The Ramírez family may have heard of the lack of a guitar maker in Logroño and moved there so that Antonio could work as a guitar maker in the city. The coincidence of dates leads me to suggest this hypothesis and that the arrival of the Ramírez family in Logroño was not the result of chance.

Returning to Pedro Antonio Ramírez de Galarreta Planell

Pedro Antonio Ramírez de Galarreta Planell married Felipa Alcalde Zapata in Logroño in May 1888. The marriage certificate states that Pedro Antonio lived at Calle de Soria nº 12 and Felipa at Calle Mayor nº 59. The newlyweds lived in the latter house. It can be assumed that Antonio and his parents Domingo and Josefa, from the time of their arrival in Logroño in 1887, lived in the aforementioned street Soria nº 12.

I was able to locate the birth of a daughter of Antonio and Felipa in Logroño in January 1896. In Book 19 of the baptised of the church of Santa María de la Redonda, with inscription no. 301, it appears:

“Josefa Ramírez Alcalde

In the city of Logroño on the fourteenth day of February one thousand eight hundred and ninety-six, the presbyter Don Miguel Martínez, with the express licence granted by me, Don José María García Escudero, Abbot of the Insigne Iglesia Colegial and Priest of Santa María de la Redonda of the same, solemnly baptised in accordance with the Roman Ritual a girl who, according to her father’s declaration, was born at two in the morning of the thirty-first day of January last, and named her Josefa; She is the legitimate daughter of Antonio Ramírez, born in Calatayud, province of Zaragoza, and Felipa Alcalde, born in El Villar de Arnedo; paternal grandparents Domingo Ramírez and Josefa Plané, born respectively in Salvatierra, province of Álava, and Granada, and maternal grandparents Emeterio Alcalde and Luisa Zapata, both natives of the said Villar, godparents and eye witnesses were Juan García and Marcelina Alcalde, of the same nature, whom I informed of the kinship and obligations contracted, in witness whereof, we sign it ut supra….

It can therefore be said that Antonio Ramírez lived in Logroño from mid-1887 until at least 1896, during which time it must be assumed that he worked as a guitar maker in the city. A year later, it seems that he was in Funes (Navarre), as the birth of another daughter, also called Josefa Ramírez Alcalde, was registered in the Civil Register of that town on 3 March 1897. It must therefore be assumed, given the coincidence in the name, that the previous daughter died between 15 February 1896 and 3 March 1897.

Could Antonio’s presence in Logroño until almost 1897 have something to do with the fact that José Ramírez presented guitars at the Regional Exhibition in Logroño, held in September 1897, where he won the Gold Medal?

And again… Internet!

And this story could have ended here, were it not, once again, for the Internet.

In early November 2014, I happened to Google the name “Josefa Ramírez Alcalde” and there appeared an obituary from 1941. The deceased was Juan Utrera Rosado. Josefa Ramírez Alcalde was listed as his bereaved wife. Daughter Juana. Son-in-law Ramón Virallé and granddaughter… María Isabel. I did not know if this Josefa and the daughter of Antonio Ramírez were the same person, but I had the full name of a granddaughter who might be alive: María Isabel Virallé Utrera.

In the Google search engine, I found a telephone number associated with that name. I didn’t hesitate to call it.

I remember that conversation perfectly. The pleasant and welcoming voice that answered my call, that of Mabel herself, once she had heard the reason for my call, confirmed that she was indeed the great-granddaughter of Antonio Ramírez de Galarreta Planell, that she was amazed to be related to the Ramírez guitar makers and that she also lived not far from the guitar shop. She was delighted with the story I was telling her and provided me with the information I did not know about her great-grandfather.

She gave me permission to give her phone number to the other part of the Ramírez family. I then got in touch with Cristina Ramírez, to whom I told my latest discovery and, as astonished as Mabel, she told me that both she and Amalia would be delighted to meet their “cousin”. I know that this contact took place.

A story with a happy ending that I am proud and honoured to have brought about. A story that I don’t know what kind of magic has forged, but which may have begun the day when some clumsy hands embraced a Ramírez guitar.

For Cristina, Amalia, Mabel and José Enrique, with much affection.

José Juan Fernández Moral. Logroño 13 October 2019.

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