Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Passion for Classical Guitar

I recently discovered a radio interview with guitar virtuoso Eliot Fisk from NPR's On Point radio program, originally aired in June 2009:


How often does one get to hear an interview with a brilliant classical guitarist on the radio? Just about never! So this is a rare treat. We are so lucky they keep their past shows archived on their website so you can go there and listen to any past show anytime.

This is a really great interview; Eliot is a wonderful ambassador for the classical guitar. He is incredibly talented, a true virtuoso, passionate, intelligent and spiritually connected. His playing has those same qualities and he was generous enough to perform on the air during the show.

Listening to Eliot reminded me that my own passion for classical guitar has never diminished, since I was introduced to it by my first teacher, Jim Denton, way back in 1971 in Waynesboro PA. I still have the book of classical pieces he once gave to me. Most of it was way beyond me at the time, but I guess he knew it would be an inspiration to me, and it was. Now, all these years later, I still play pieces from that book.

Eliot very eloquently describes the intellectual, physical, and spiritual aspects of being a classical guitarist. That exactly matches my own experience. Classical guitar appeals to me strongly on all three of those levels and I have learned that they are all inter-connected.

The intellectual part comes from an appreciation of the awesome creativity, beauty and sophistication of the music of the great classical composers.

The physical part is how much I enjoy the technical challenges involved in learning new pieces and refining my technique to the highest possible level I can.

The spiritual part comes from discovering the way one's  performance can convey not just the composer's intent, not just the performer's  interpretation, but something that transcends all of that and communicates directly to the listener's heart.

Even though I have worked hard to "get good" at classical guitar, I still feel blessed and grateful to be able to perform it and share those moments when the boundaries between composer, performer and listener dissolve and we all feel as one.

Enjoy this video of Eliot in concert. I hope this blog inspire you to delve more deeply into classical music; I'm sure you will find it as rewarding as I have.


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Sunday, October 4, 2009

Have Classical Guitar, Will Travel

I get a special sense of satisfaction when I do a classical guitar gig, even if it's a noisy social situation and no one seems to be listening. (it is always best to go on the assumption that someone is actually listening, even if you don't see them. It is almost always true.)

A recent gig I had was to provide background music for a cocktail party at a hotel grand opening. My understanding was that, for this situation, the music needs to be sophisticated, dynamic, and diverse. It needs to blend into the background but also be enjoyable to anyone who stops to listen. To accomplish that, I play a mix of mostly upbeat classical, Spanish/Latin, and easy-listening versions of pop tunes. I also include some contemporary finger-style pieces by Steve Morse, Phil Keaggy, Earl Klugh and others.

The pieces are fun, challenging and/or just beautiful, sometimes all of the above. I have been building up my repertoire for many years, and I enjoy this music very much. I have enough pieces in a variety of styles that I can choose what feels right for the situation, and play music I love at the same time. Some current and all-time favorites of mine to play:

Bach, "Cello Suite No. 1, Prelude"
Sanz, "Canarios"
Satie, "Gymnopedie I"
Ponce, "Scherzino Mexicano"
Steve Morse, "Picture This"
Genesis, "Horizons"

So that's a little insight into the classical side of my musical life.

To wrap it up, here's a clip from one of my heroes, the great British guitarist John Williams. I hope it inspires you as much as it does me!