Inés Arce

Real name: Álvarez, Inés
Nicknames: La Calandria
(6 February 1927 - )
Place of birth:
Ricardo García Blaya

met her for the first time at the pre-premiere of the movie concerning the mythical Bar El Chino in the neighborhood of Pompeya. The movie is entitled El Último Aplauso and its director is Germán Kral, an Argentine young man that had traveled to Germany in 1991 to study cinema at the School of Cinema and Television of Munich and finally settled there. The organizers of the presentation invited the Academia Nacional del Tango and the one who subscribes was one of the two or three academicians that went as representatives of the institution.

The film tells us the story of a group of artists that were part of the staff of the bar El Chino and they remember those days gone by. Among them is Inés, a female singer who impressed me just when I heard the first line she sang. Her thin voice but well held, in good shape despite the passing of time, with a delicate, soft phrasing reminded me of the early female tango singers. By the time the shooting of the movie began the singer was seventy-four years old. The rest of the cast included Cristina de los Ángeles, Julio César Fernán, Horacio Acosta, Abel Frías and, as special guest, the Orquesta Típica Imperial.

This daughter of Galicians from Pontevedra, the eighth of nine siblings, began to sing at an early age and, at age eight, appeared on Radio Porteña with La Pandilla Marylin. She also appeared on Radio Mitre with the Orquesta Niños de Buenos Aires, an aggregation lined up by children (from nine to twelve years old) and in the program emceed by Julio Jorge Nelson: La Pandilla Corazón, on Radio Callao. Furthermore, her mom enrolled her in a children choir of the Teatro Colón in which children were auditioned by singing the National Anthem. The requirements forced her to quit, she had to go on attending grade school.

With Néstor Pinsón we visited her house on Cachi Street and, there she told us that when she was a teenager she used to practice dancing all week long with her brother Paco in order to stand out on Saturdays and Sundays at dancehalls. Her choice orchestra was the one led by Juan D’Arienzo. She married at age twenty-two and had to quit singing because her husband Pepe was very jealous. For many years she worked as skilled darner in the Carlitos sock factory.

Despite what was said above, time went by and Pepe (who died in 2005) changed his attitude and La Calandria came back to singing at age forty-eight, precisely, at the Bar El Chino —which was just around the corner. There she stayed for over twenty-five years. In fact, in this comeback to singing the owner of the bar himself had a large responsibility. He discovered her at a party organized by the boy scouts at the Divine Providence parish and he, immediately invited her to work with him.

She and Jorge García aka (El Chino) became very close friends. For a time they used to serenade as a duo. They sang by night on request of couples that were going to be married. On those noches de ronda they used to sing boleros and tangos for the brides-to-be.

Inés told me about her friend with much tenderness: «he was so good and so friendly with his friends that he was incapable of claiming after a debt. Many took advantage of that».

She also told me they both used to visit the children with breathing problems at the Instituto María Ferrer on Montes de Oca Street. They brought them gifts, sang for them and, on some occasion, were accompanied by other artists. She recalls that once they went with Ernesto Baffa.

The local that bears the name of its owner has an architecture and an ambiance that, according to Inés: «It’s a place with no pretenses that keeps our identity thanks to El Chino who was an authentic bohemian and was a worshipper of tango and our things».

The movie shows the female singer the way she is: delicate, simple, with a wisdom acquired by the passing of years. Displaying her professional experience when, talking about tango, she states that when you are young you are led by your voice but at an older age you are guided by feeling. «You have to sing with your heart and feeling in each rendering, in each lyrics, in every tango». It hurts her to see that the very young do not care for tango, do not have identity and she makes a comparison with black music —blues and jazz—, «both genres protest and complain».

Like nearly all the neighbors in the vicinity she is fan of Huracán but she admitted that she also likes River and is worried because of the bad performance of the team.

Furthermore, with a bit of nostalgia, she recalled Pompeya: «On the celebrations, especially at the end of the year, it was quite usual that people would meet and dance on the street. I miss the afternoons when I used to sip mate, seated on a chair by the sidewalk, listening to the radio and, above all, the calm of the neighborhood. Those were other times, now everything is a maelstrom».

In our interview she also talked about Luis Cardei and his bandoneon player Antonio Pisano, the evenings at the Restaurante Arturito on Pavón Avenue and Esteban De Luca where the three of them appeared in the 80s; also about Ángel Díaz (El Paya), Argentino Ledesma and Carlos Cristal with whom she shared the bill and a great friendship; also something that happened at the bar Clásica y Moderna with the Spanish actor José Sacristán in a season in which the latter appeared as a homage to the actor Fernando Fernán Gómez and she had to sing three pieces in the show but, on the insistent request of the audience, she always had to repeat her performance.

In 1999 she recorded a peculiar disc, accompanied by bandoneon and guitar, with a very good repertoire, among which the following stand out: “Nobleza de arrabal”, “Ventarrón”, “Será una noche” and “Milonga sentimental”.

We are glad of having met Inés who, with the humbleness and honesty of true artists, shared with us interesting clippings of her life and career. Welcome Calandria to Todo Tango!