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2011 Tennessee Guitar Competition Winners

2011 June 5
by Christopher Davis

The Tennessee Guitar Festival was held June 1-4, 2011 at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) in Murfreesboro, TN. All rounds were free choice, and there was an three-round open division and a two-round youth division.

Open Division Competition Winners

First Prize: Edel Munoz
Second Prize: Jeremy Collins
Third Prize: Erol Ozsever
Forth Prize: Joseph Palmer

edel munoz & bill yelverton

Festival Director William Yelverton (left) & Edel Munoz

Youth Division Competition Winners

First Prize: Sojourner McClure
Second Prize: Veronica Eres
Third Prize: Meade Forsythe

Watch Winner Edel Munoz Play

The Brazilian Guitar Quartet Plays Villa-Lobos [CD Review]

2011 June 4
by Christopher Davis

brazilian guitar quartet

The Brazilian Guitar Quartet was formed in 1998. They’re an interesting ensemble that performs a variety of works, including a lot of transcriptions. When the Villa-Lobos CD landed on my desk, I didn’t think much of it. Another guitar CD of all Villa-Lobos? What’s the big deal?

Suffice it to say this is not your typical Villa-Lobos CD. This album is a collection of transcriptions: Villa-Lobos’ piano and string quartet music rendered for guitar quartet.

Debussy and Ensemble Excellence

The CD opens with Suite Floral, a Debussy-esque work originally for piano. Suite Floral is a three movement work full of wandering melodies, a very free sense of development, and the clear sectional forms we hear in Villa-Lobos’ guitar music. Frankly, this was my favorite work of the CD.

As soon as Suite Floral started playing I was struck by how tight and together the BGQ was. The ensemble playing is excellent. In addition, there’s never in any question what the guys in the quartet want you to hear: melodies are brought out, and other interesting musical features ring through.

String Quartets & Other Things

Three piano transcriptions follow Suite Floral, all from the work Cirandas. A Canoa Virou is a fun little piece that has a very typical Brazilian sound. A Condessa is a slower work that would sound like a lullabye if it weren’t for some interesting dissonances in the accompaniment. Terezinha de Jesus begins with a bold homophonic statement then becomes a typical Brazilian sounding work. All the works were beautifully played, and after this far I began to get a sense of how much thought went into the programming of this CD.

The next work on the CD is a transcription of Villa-Lobos’ fifth string quartet. The first movement opens with strummed chords underneath short, scalar melodic fragments that are repeated and imitated. Like much of Villa-Lobos’ guitar works, this movement is very sectional without any real transitions. The bold opening is followed by a more subdued middle section that features syncopated melodies and accompaniments interrupted by scalar passages that allude to the opening. The second movement is a quick one to start with, using the same scalar passages as the first movement, but this time as accompaniment. After an energetic opening, however, the piece moves into a slower, more subdued section, then picks back up. Villa-Lobos’ use of short, imitative fragments remains in this movement. Andantino, the third movement, opens with homophonic chords similar to the first movement. It then moves into a texture familiar to the rest of the piece: two or three guitarists accompanying, with one or two playing the melody. This particular movement was the first time you really get to hear one of the Quartets more interesting features: two 8 string guitars. Some of the bass parts in the third movement demand the lower string. The final movement of the work opens with some dissonance building up to a break out melody that features abrupt leaps and the same scalar sounds as the first movement.

African Dances and More Piano Music

Three pieces from Danças Características Africanas, another piano work, are next on the CD. Farrapós is subtitled, “young people’s dance,” which it clearly is. The melodies are simple, folky-sounding and syncopated. Kankukus is an elder’s dance, and its definitely a bit more adult sounding with a more complex melody and interesting dissonances. Kankikis is a children’s dance, and has some fun, angular melodies.

Cirandas, the work for piano from which an earlier set of three pieces on the CD came, makes a reappearance next. A Procura de uma Agulha is the first of this second set. The melody and accompaniment here feature a lot of repeated notes. One of two things usually happen with repeated notes: (1) nothing, the musician doesn’t take time to shape them, or (2) they provide a sense of drive that moves the piece forward. Thankfully number 2 is true in this case. A Procura has a beautiful melody, and it’s perfectly executed. Senhora Dona Sancah followed by Qui Lindos Olhos, another Debussy-esque work with a meandering melody.

This set is not the typical Brazilian faire of the earlier Cirandas set. In fact, it seems as if the Brazilian Guitar Quartet is deliberately taking us away from what we think to be Villa-Lobos due to our over exposure to his guitar music.

String Quartet 12

This work deserves its own section because its so radically different from every thing else on the CD. The first movement opens with an angular melody in a pair of guitars, and then gets imitated by the other two. Eventually the work moves into a more free development section, like an episode, before returning to the original melody then moving into a middle section. While the middle section is of a radically different character, certain aspects of the original melody remain, holding the work together thematically. A brilliant transition leads the piece back into the original melody.

Andante melancolico, the second movement, is — well it’s melancholy. The texture of the movement in similar to the third movement of the earlier 5th string quartet: homophonic accompaniment in three guitars with one playing the melody. Speaking of melody, it’s time to take a brief interlude to discuss tone and color. The BGQ is good at both — really good. They have an beautiful sound and are adept as using color to reinforce the structure and mood of the piece.

The third movement is a Scherzo that begins with a fun melody and some pseudo imitation and moves into a section that definitely fits the Scherzo title. There’s a lot of dissonance here and Villa-Lobos is clearly playing with the more angular elements of the melodies in the earlier movements. The middle section of this movement is much more consonant with some catch melodies. The Quartet’s two 8 string guitarists come in handy here: low voices abound, and the texture and sound is not something typical for a guitar quartet. The final movement is begins dramatically, with a few extended techniques in use to create sounds similar to a string player moving the bow back and forth quickly. As dramatically as it begins, however, the final movement moves in a more subdued section shortly after opening.

Wrap Up

Villa-Lobos has far more to offer, it seems, than most of us are aware. And the members of the Brazilian Guitar Quartet, with their ensemble excellence and interpretive powers, are well qualified to show us just what that is.

CGS of Upstate New York Sponsors Fundraiser

2011 June 4
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by The Classical Guitar Blog

Despite ongoing financial struggles, Koinonia Primary Care will continue to operate as the lone full-service health clinic in West Hill, the city’s poorest, most disenfranchised neighborhood. A Saturday night fundraising concert sponsored by the Classical Guitar Society of Upstate New York is yet one more effort to help keep the doors open.

Guitarist Sean Shibe Wins the Royal Over-Seas League 59th Annual Music Competition

2011 June 4
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by The Classical Guitar Blog


Shibe won a total of about 15,000GBPs. Here’s the press release.

2011 Louisville Guitar Competition Winners

2011 May 31
by Christopher Davis

The Louisville Guitar Festival & Competition was held May 26-30, 2011. The competition was open to competitors of all ages, and had three rounds of free choice music.

The winner received a $1,000USD prize and an invitation to perform at next year’s festival. In addition, this years winner was also invited to give two concerts in Poland: at the Selisian Guitar Autumn Festival and Competition in Tychy and another at the Academy of Music in Katowice.

The Competition Winners

First Prize: Brendan Evans
Second Prize: Zhivko Nikolov
Third Prize: Jeremy Collins
Fourth Prize: Gideon Whitehead
Honorable mention: John Marcel Williams

Brendan Evans Classical Guitar

Brendan Evans

Listen to Winner Brendan Evans Play

Live Recordings by Brendan Evans

Three Challenges for Every (Aspiring) Professional Guitarist

2011 May 26
by Christopher Davis

Tomorrow (May 27,2011) at 2pm I’m going to be speaking at the Louisville Guitar Festival. I’m going to cover business — what it means to market yourself online and what are some of the tools that anyone can use.

At the end of my lecture, I’m going to issue these three challenges to the folks in attendance.

1. Create a Website or Make Yours Better.

Every musician needs a website. We live in a world where people increasing look for information online, and you need to be in that space to even have a chance of getting noticed.

But there’s a catch. You need to be able to update and edit this website very easily. It’s a big problem if you need to hire a guy every time you want to add something to your site. That gets expensive (see point two).

So if you do have a site already, consider having it redone using a content management system (CMS). A CMS gives you an administrator area which you can log into to easily add or update pages. There are tons of options: WordPress, Modx, Joomla, etc.

2. Create One New Piece of Content Every Week.

If you have tracking software installed on your website, you’ve probably looked at it thought, “Wow, why do I bother with this? 3 people visited last week.”

So let me tell you a secret: the way to get more visits is to invite people over (via social media or search engines or links on other websites), and the way to keep people coming to your site is to continually add new content for them to check out. Content can mean anything from an audio file to a video to a blog post.

Think about your core business and what makes you a living as musician. What sort of things could create that relate to that business? What sort of concerns do your customers have, and can you address them in an article? How about a video?

Once every week create a new piece of content and put it on your website. Try to focus on things that are evergreen. In other words, content that is not time sensitive. That blog post about your upcoming concert doesn’t count (sorry).

3. Learn HTML and CSS

I firmly believe that anyone who has a website needs to know HTML and CSS. HTML is the stuff that gives the website is structure, and CSS (cascading style sheets) make it pretty.

The good news is that HTML and CSS are pretty easy to learn. I used this book. Spend a half our a day learning a bit about HTML

The Dublin Guitar Quartet plays Philip Glass

2011 May 23
by Christopher Davis
Dublin Guitar Quartet

The Dublin Guitar Quartet with Philip Glass (middle)

The Dublin Guitar Quartet is Brian Bolger, Pat Brunnock, David Creevy and Tomas O’Durcain. They specialize in contemporary music, and the Philip Glass arrangement in the video below even garnered some praise from the composer:

This is a very special arrangement. Arranging for guitars is a very tricky business and you really have to know what you are doing, so I have never done it, but Dave Flynn and Brian Bolger have made these arrangements and they’re really quite beautiful.
-Philip Glass

If you like what you hear, there’s another movement (and some other videos) on the quartet’s Vimeo page and their recording, Deleted Pieces, is available on Amazon.

This piece, Mishima, was originally for string quartet.

New DVD from Douglas Niedt

2011 May 22
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by The Classical Guitar Blog

Classical guitarist Douglas Niedt has released a new guitar instructional DVD that teaches the intermediate to advanced guitarist how to play “Take Five,” the Dave Brubeck jazz classic, measure by measure with professional-level execution. It is titled “Take Five for Guitar: Douglas Niedt’s Play It Like a Pro”. This is the first release in Douglas Niedt’s “Play It Like a Pro” series. He will release more DVDs covering other songs for the guitar in the coming months. The series uses a new format that vastly improves the teaching effectiveness of instructional guitar DVDs.


Guitarist Peter Fletcher Visits Some Elementary Students

2011 May 22
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by The Classical Guitar Blog

Internationally renowned classical guitarist Peter Fletcher gave nine short performances at Seton Elementary on Monday, May 9, where he was quizzed by second graders in music teacher Todd Herbst-Ulmer’s room.

Fletcher laughed with the students, answering some very seriously — he likes to play guitar for people who enjoy listening — and some not so seriously — about 50 billion songs.

He used to give lessons, but currently he spends a lot of his time on the road, performing approximately 130 concerts a year.>


Craig Ogden Feature on Yahoo News

2011 May 22
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by The Classical Guitar Blog

It has been a big year for internationally-renowned Perth-born classical guitarist Craig Ogden.

In the past 12 months his album, The Guitarist, has debuted on top of the UK’s classical music charts, where it stayed for five weeks before spending a further three months in the top five. He has also recorded his follow-up album, Summertime – despite an elaborate heist which saw his £18,000 ($27,700) WA-made guitar stolen just two days before he was due to enter the recording studio.

It was a year in which The Guitarist was the UK’s top-selling classical music album and on the back of that success, the 43-year-old has been nominated for Album of the Year in the Classic Brit Awards 2011.