Liam Romanillos – England

The fine tradition of Jose Romanillos is carried on through the ongoing collaboration of father and son

Romanillos guitars by both father and son are among the most desired of instruments. Known for their haunting and romantic sound, owning a Romanillos has been the dream of many fine players. For this reason, Liam’s waiting list stretches out for more than seven years. Liam has honored me by consenting to offer a highly limited number of special instruments through Classic Guitars International…

The following information was kindly provided to me by the Romanillos family, the photograph is credited to Marion Romanillos:

José Luis Romanillos Vega was born in Madrid on 17 June 1932. He went to England in 1956 and on 2 April 1959 he married Marian Harris Winspear (b.Wilton, Yorkshire, 3 May 1937) in London. He is a self-taught guitar maker who made his first guitar in 1961 at 89 Falkland Road, London following the book “Make your own Spanish Guitar”, by A.P.Sharpe. In 1968 he made guitars in Berwick St. James, Wiltshire, and in 1970 he became a professional guitar maker in a rented workshop that belonged to the guitarist Julian Bream, at East End Farm in Semley, Wiltshire. In 1978 he established his own workshop at “Madrigal”, Semley, where he taught his youngest son, Liam. He has two other sons, José and Ignacio and ten grandchildren.

Romanillos Guitars:

The Romanillos guitars are handcrafted by Liam with occasional help from José using traditional tools and the choicest of woods. The rosette, inspired by the Moorish arches in the Mezquita of Córdoba, is an original design of José’s. The rosette and the decorative motifs in the Romanillos guitars are all made using natural coloured woods and the guitars are hand polished with the traditional French polish finish. The label is signed by both José and Liam. The sound qualities of the Romanillos guitars can be enjoyed listening to the numerous recordings, videos and DVDs available. The four instruments played by Julian Bream in the Channel 4 Television series Guitarra, The Guitar in Spain, shown in England in 1985, were made by José and Liam Romanillos. In the recent DVD issued in 2003 Julian Bream stated the finest guitar I have ever had was one which was made by José Romanillos…..a magnificent guitar”. Graham Wade wrote in Classical Music magazine in 1982; “Listening to those recordings (by Julian Bream using a Romanillos guitar) we surely come as close to hearing instrumental perfection as is likely to be found this side of the Pearly Gates”. At the Guitar Foundation of America Guitar competition that took place in Northridge, California, in 1995, the first two prizes were awarded to Antigoni Goni and Elena Papandreou respectively playing on their Romanillos guitars. Teaching and Publishing: José has carried out guitar making courses and given lectures on the history of the guitar worldwide and was a member of the Crafts Advisory Committee in Great Britain for ten years. Since 2001 José and Liam organize an annual two weeks International Course on Spanish guitar making in Sigüenza, Spain. In 1987 José published the book Antonio de Torres Guitar Maker – His Life & Work which has been translated into German, Japanese, Italian and Spanish. In colaboration with his wife Marian he wrote the technical part of the Catalogue, “The Spanish Guitar/La Guitarra Española”, for the Exhibition held in 1991-92 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and at the Museo Municipal, Madrid. In 2002 José and Marian published the book, “The Vihuela de Mano” and the Spanish Guitar, A Dictionary of the Makers of Plucked and Bowed Musical Instruments of Spain (1200-2002). In 1995 he returned to Spain and settled in Guijosa, a village in the province of Guadalajara. Liam Romanillos Liam Michael Romanillos Harris is the youngest son of José Luis Romanillos Vega and Marian Harris Winspear and was born in Madrid on 21 December 1965 at the time when his parents were living in Madrid. Liam Romanillos began his apprenticeship with his father in 1982, and in 1991 Liam became a partner in the business and the guitar label was changed to J.L.Romanillos & Son. He has his workshop at Deerstones, Pound Lane, Gillingham,Dorset. He is married to Susan O’Neill and they have two children, Izaak and Imogen. Liam add’s: “I left school in 1982 and straight away went to work with my father at his guitar workshop at Semley. I was 16 years of age and I did not realize at the time how fortunate I was to be able to study with one of the world’s greatest Luthiers, and how invaluable it was to have all that knowledge and experience readily available. So that I could gain experience and wood working skills my father suggested that I should start producing my own model using his templates and materials. Over a few years, guided by my father, I made and sold seventeen guitars. After that period of apprenticeship I moved on to working on my father’s guitars. When my father retired and handed over the running of the business to me, I felt that it was not only a great honor but also rather a daunting task as I knew I had to maintain the high standards set by my father, and at the same time to try and imprint into my guitars my own approach and ideas on guitar making. I always bear in mind my fathers advice of never allowing my standards to drop and to be my own most severe critic. I have been making my own guitars for several years, although my father continues to advise me and we discuss our ideas and suggestions together. We also get together to run our International Guitar Making Course in Spain in the Summer. I favour, above any other, the use of European Spruce for the soundboard as I firmly believe that material is vital to produce the best possible sound and character associated with the traditional Spanish style guitar. The structure of my guitars is based on the traditional ‘Torres’ seve fan-strut “kite” system, with three harmonic bars. The back and ribs are made of Indian Rosewood, with the back in four pieces because I can find superior quality wood in four narrower pieces, as opposed to two wider ones. The neck is in Cedar, with an ebony fingerboard. I use a V-joint for the head to the neck as my father always used in his guitars, and I make all the inlays by hand using natural coloured woods. My guitars are appreciated by discerning musicians, particularly for the well balanced musical range across the whole spectrum of sound, for the naturally resonant basses, singing trebles, and the clarity and definition between every note played.” I wish to thank the Romanillos family for providing the above, and particularly wish to thank Liam for his consent to provide a limited number of his special instruments to my clients. It is an honor for me to be affiliated with the Romanillos family, truly one of the finest and most respected families in the world of the Classical Guitar. For additional information, pricing, and availability please contact me.