Reprinted from The Salem News Online
Thursday, July 6, 2006
Grupo Fantasia explodes onto scene as Castle Hill series opener
IPSWICH - Some musicians switch between two or three instruments during a concert. Angel Wagner
juggles more than 30.
Wagner, founder of the Latin band Grupo Fantasia, is a master percussionist
and uses a lengthy list of instruments as the pulse of the group, including
various congas, bongos, tambourines, bells, maracas and shakers. He often
plays more than one at a time to help create the band's rhythmic island
Tonight, Grupo Fantasia will offer a spicy opening to the Trustees of
Reservations' annual Castle Hill Picnic Concert Series, an outdoor
extravaganza that packs thousands of people onto the lawn of the Crane
Estate each summer.
"I love it. It's the best concert on the North Shore," Wagner says.
This will be the band's fourth time participating in the series, and Castle
Hill concertgoers seem to be eating up their flavor.
"It's like a Caribbean party. We call it our 'Latin Explosion,'" said Karen
Wagner, Grupo Fantasia's event coordinator and Angel's wife. "So many people
come from all over New England. People actually plan their (summer) trips to
see this concert."
The nine-piece band, whose members come from the Dominican Republic, Puerto
Rico, Trinidad, Cuba and other Caribbean and South American countries, mixes
it up not only with instruments but also in their diverse sound. They play
salsa, merengue, Latin jazz, calypso and reggae, among other styles.
"The band is mixed, so the music is mixed," Karen Wagner said.
The variety makes for a "grupo fantasia" - a "group fantasy." Wagner said
the name represents the idea of "all kinds of things for your musical
"The merengue is like the word 'meringue,' a whipped-up topping. It's a
whipped-up dance. It's very fast," Karen Wagner said. "The salsa is not
unlike the salsa that we eat. It's spicy music."
Karen Wagner said the beats always gets the audience dancing, and Grupo
Fantasia dancers will mingle with, and teach, the crowd. While Castle Hill
concerts typically end at dusk, Grupo Fantasia plays on after dark by the
light of candles and tiki torches supplied by the audience.
Angel Wagner, a native of the Dominican Republic, moved to the United States
16 years ago. After studying at the Harbor Arts Academy in New York and the
Berklee College of Music in Boston, he formed Grupo Fantasia in 1993. He
lives in Beverly, and he and his band play throughout the North Shore and
Castle Hill's concert series will run through August with performances by
many other local favorites, including blues group the Orville Giddings Band,
reggae artist Jah Spirit and dance music cover band Roundabout.
What will you hear?
Merengue - an upbeat style from the Dominican Republic often featuring an
introduction followed by a call-and-response segment between a lead singer
and a chorus
Salsa - a Puerto Rican style that combines Latin and big band sounds
Calypso - a form of communication developed by African slaves in Trinidad
that often includes French-Creole dialect
Reggae - a combination of African-Caribbean music and rhythm and blues
developed in Jamaica
Mariachi - Mexican folk music
Bachata - Dominican music performed by a guitar-based trio of men singing
about women who have wronged them
Vallenato - a Columbian form of music typically played on an accordion,
bongos and a guiro (a metal scraper)
Cumbia - a blend of African, Spanish and Amerindian rhythms developed by
slaves in Columbia as a celebratory dance
Castle Hill Picnic Concert Series
||Grupo Fantasia, Latin music
||Crazy Maggy, Celtic and rock
||Roundabout, dance music from the '60s and '70s
||Back Eddy Bluegrass
||Jah Spirit, reggae
||Entrain, rock and blues
||Orange Crush, '80s music
||The Orville Giddings Band, blues
Concerts go from 7 to 9 p.m. on the Castle Hill lawn. Admission is $20 per
car. Bring blankets or seating and a picnic. Castle Hill at the Crane Estate
is located at 290 Argilla Road off Route 1A in Ipswich. For details or
cancellations due to weather, call 978-921-1944.
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