Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Fall concert tour '15

It's been an awesome year.  Memorable.  A title-winning athletic season, and a sabbatical concert tour.

After a whole summer of barely touching my guitar in the midst of 2 athletic championship events including a trip to France, I embarked on a sabbatical concert tour in late October.  The tour included University concert series events, a guitar society, school visits, masterclasses, and ending with a "Live in Studio C" performance on Nashville NPR.  I played solo classical guitar, and a short lute set.

The program
Renaissance set: 2 spanish vihuela pieces on guitar, Elizabethan lute music on lute - including Monsieur's Almaine by D. Batchelor.  Handel Suite (HWV 441), and 4 Brazilian pieces - 2 by Reis and Brasilerhino which I arranged.  Intermission.  Farruca - flamenco, Merlin's Dream by Koshkin, Frevo by Gismonti and a set of fingerstyle pieces by Hudson (Delta), J. Reed (Drive-in, Jerry's Breakdown), and S. Salz (Bluetude).

It was a really comfortable program... a mixture of a brand new piece - Merlin's Dream, and pieces I've played on and off over the years.  The big choice was whether I wanted to include Frevo or Mallorca by Albeniz, I chose Frevo because it was the faster and more lively piece.

First, I played some 'warm up gigs' at church service at Otey Parish, Adams Place retirement home, MTSU performance classes, IONA art gallery, and some late night sessions at All-Saints in Sewanee.

My last 'informal' gig was a performance at the Belmont School of Music for the Guitar Seminar class.  My colleague Robbie actually got me paid an honorarium for the gig.  It went really well.  Probably because I was relaxed and talking with the students.

Springfield, IL
Then, the tour started... thanks to MTSU for the nice new Ford Taurus motorpool car that I used for 2 weeks.  Off to Boone, NC and to see my colleague Doug at Appalachian St. University.   Concert went well, just a few brief memory slips but not bad for a first full concert.  It rained constantly and was cold in the mountains, mid 40s all day.   I left that night for Greensboro and visited Patrick Lui's at the Weaver Academy.

I played for his students, (to be interrupted by a fire drill) and it went well.   This has to be the best high school guitar program I've ever visited.  Patrick has done amazing things with these students.  Some of the 16 yr olds were playing better than my college sophomores.  Before going to an excellent Vietnamese restaurant, Patrick snapped this photo of his students and me.
Masterclass at Weaver Academy - Greensboro, NC

Continuing on toward Greenville, NC to East Carolina University and to see my colleague Elliot.  Before my concert he asked me if I wanted to stream it live on line, I said, "sure, WTH."  With very little notice, I notified my parents so they were able to watch it.  I also got an audio recording.   After listening to it, the performance seemed ok, about 98% accurate, good tempos, and some energy.

The response on FB was good, in fact one of the local people - Drew, who regularly attends guitar concerts said, "One of the best guitar recitals I've seen at Fletcher Recital Hall, and I've seen many over the past 15 years!!!!!!"  Definitely an overstatement, but nice to hear.  I had a nice hang with Elliot that night, pizza and ice cream.  And the next day I gave a masterclass.   His students played great and I met a guy I'd love to recruit as a grad student.
East Carolina Masterclass

Back to Sewanee for weekend of practice and teaching my students at the University of the South.  

Then, off to Chattanooga to visit the McCallie School where Chip Evans runs possibly the best guitar program in the state.  I played my whole program pretty much for his 2 classes and it went well.   I answered a lot of questions but didn't hear his kids play.  I know they have an excellent guitar ensemble program.

Now the long drive to Hattiesburg and my concert at Southern Miss where I stayed with Nick Ciraldo.  I have to say, this concert was my only regret, it was somewhat of a 'southern miss' (pun intended).  It wasn't terrible, but just more mistakes than the others.

Afterward, I taught a masterclass and heard some excellent doctoral level students.  One from Brazil played the Bach Chaconne.

Performance at the McCallie School - Chattanooga
Then, back to Murfreesboro to turn in the car, and back to Sewanee to host my annual fall party on the weekend.... it was a blast.  I had driven 2000 miles in 2 weeks.

I then had a week to gather myself for my last 3 performances.

Springfield, IL was a long drive.  I had the misfortune to blow a tire on the highway and had to hunt for a tire service center.   Was lucky it happened during business hours, otherwise... I'd been driving a long way on a temporary tire.

Masterclass at Univ. of Southern Mississippi
The wonderful Springfield guitar society is somewhat unique because it has many patrons who in fact do not play the guitar, but simply enjoy it.  I spent some time on Mark Pence's couch resting in the afternoon before my concert in the beautiful Grace Lutheran church.
Springfield, IL - with my trusty hot water bottle

It was a small crowd, perhaps 35-40 people, but the place sounded nice.  The concert went very well, probably one of my best, and was very well received.   I wanted some time to decompress before my last 2 concerts so I drove all night to get back to Sewanee by daybreak after returning the MTSU car.

I relaxed on Sunday and felt well prepared for my Monday night concert at St. Luke's in Sewanee.   I had a front page photo in the Sewanee Messenger to promote the concert and was happy that it was well attended, at least 60 or 70 people I think, mostly community people, friends and faculty.   It went very well.  My friend John who has seen me play for 25 yrs said, "It was my finest hour."  Don says I "nailed it," and the Music Chair Stephen thanked me for a "wonderful evening of music."

It was a 7:30pm concert and I was home before 10 pm and actually practicing for my next, last, and highest pressure concert:  my NPR show, "Live in Studio C" with Will Griffin.  I got up at 7:30am, practiced an hour and arrived at the radio station an hour ahead of time.   I was toasted so I just put my seat back and rested for 10 min before walking into the radio station.  I did not feel nervous or uptight, just wanted to make Will the host, feel at ease and have a nice short performance.  It's always a bit unnerving to play live on the air in a city like Nashville - where there are more guitarists per capita than probably anywhere on earth.  Plus, I knew the recording would be archived on the WPLN website, maybe forever.

I always like starting with the 2 Spanish Renaissance pieces I've known forever which I play with a capo.  Then, the rest of the program, I tune to drop D for the Handel, Brazilian piece, and Hudson's 'Delta.'   I didn't want to struggle on air with tuning so I brought my cheap Takamine to play the first 2 pieces with.   But it turned out that Will had brought his concert guitars in to show me.  They sounded much better than the Takamine, so I used one of them on the air.  I mentioned it in our on-the-air interview, and 'thanked him for loaning me his guitar.'   I'm sure that confused a lot of listeners... why would I play with a borrowed guitar?   Anyway, the Handel went ok... some buzzes and slight issues but no serious or discernible stops or memory slips.  I took fairly conservative tempi.   The last 2 pieces, 'Xodo de Baiana' by Reis, and 'Delta' by Hudson went really well, as did the interview.   It was a great way to end my tour and the soundfile is available to listen HERE on line.  The Sewanee Music Chair, Steve posted the link on the Sewanee Music website.  So glad it went  ok.  The tour as a whole was a success, despite the hand issues I'd been having.

St. Luke's - Sewanee

Afterward, I did not attempt to play my guitar for almost 2 weeks.   Did some construction work on my deck to get ready for a new hot tub.  Shifting my focus toward athletics and the upcoming track season.

Playing concerts is something that is in me I feel I can pull out anytime with sufficient notice.   I can get ready in 4-5 weeks to pull off a professional concert since I have a decent  foundational technique.  I've been at it a long while.   I distinctly remember staying up all night learning Guardame las Vacas as a 19 yr old, my dad leaving for work, and me still awake downstairs - telling him about the huge amount of progress I had made that night.   I played that same piece in my concerts this tour.  This concert program wasn't as difficult as some of the programs I played 15 yr ago, but still virtuosic enough, and certainly diverse... which has become a trademark of sorts for me.  Glad to have included a new work, 'Merlin's Dream' - a tremolo piece.

By contrast, athletics is more of a long term lifestyle commitment.   It doesn't take as much time on a daily basis as getting ready for a concert, but it takes more of a long term commitment - months rather than weeks.  And you can not 'cram' for a race.

It's good to have both, music and athletics.  The ancient Greeks valued both equally.     If I didn't have athletics or music, I'd find some other discipline or endeavor.  Life is a balance.   Life is definitely good.   This has been truly a great year.

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