Class(ical) Acts: Ian O'Sullivan and William Jenks November 23 2020
Class(ical) Acts: Ian O’Sullivan and William Jenks
Who could have imagined such an inaugural season for the Hawaii International Guitar Series! Certainly not William Jenks, its visionary founder. Originally there were five concerts planned, to take place on Hawaii Island. But after three impressive performances in Hawi, the world suddenly ground to a halt. But the Series did not: Jenks organized not just two, but three more virtual concerts, broadcast from the artists’ homes to our own living rooms, wherever those might be.
It was fitting that the Series should end with two guitarists right here in Hawaii, Ian O’Sullivan, a native of Oahu, and William Jenks himself, at home on Big Island.
I first heard Ian O’Sullivan when he brought the classical guitar to new audiences by coming to tiny public libraries. Perhaps twenty of us showed up at the rural Laupahoehoe School’s library; he seemed as pleased to see us as he was to see an audience of hundreds at Carnegie Hall. Classic guitar – and classic Hawaiian aloha!
Last week, the Hawaii Performing Arts Festival hosted a roundtable discussion with opera singers of color, who talked about how what is performed, who performs it, and who decides the what and who is almost entirely white/European. Classically trained artists like O’Sullivan with non-European backgrounds feel they must leave behind the musical traditions they grew up with and love. But today, instead of conforming to old expectations, young artists are pushing the boundaries. Ian applies his classical training to Hawaiian music, expanding the possibilities of both.
In this concert, while he has an enormous repertoire, he chose an all-Hawaiian program. He doesn’t sing, but he doesn’t need to; both the melodies and the rippling undercurrent so often heard in Hawaiian music can both be played on one guitar. His own compositions follow Hawaiian tradition; whereas European songs are mostly about the love between men and women, Hawaiian songs are mostly about love of the natural beauty of specific places, love of home, of parents and grandparents. His composition, Mokule’ia, is about the place where he grew up, and the use of classical techniques enrich his music.
William Jenks (above) in a different way kept us anchored in Hawaii. Like Ian, his program was not about fireworks or technical gymnastics. Matching the calm beauty of the ocean visible behind him, his performance was understated and elegant, and the melodic works selected were played at a relaxed pace.
Beginning with some of the earliest music to be written down, he played six Pavanes, slow and stately dances by Luis de Milán from 1536, requiring an even tempo and fullness of tone. Jumping forward to the 20th century, Brazilian Heitor Villa-Lobos instilled native Brazilian and indigenous music into his works for classical guitar, as Ian is doing with Hawaiian music. Jenks played his 3rd Prelude, an homage to Bach, giving the audience their Bach fix! The first Prelude brings in Latin rhythms, and the contrasting sections allowed Jenks to bring out both the brightness and the deep resonance of his instrument. Unlike earlier music, Villa-Lobos encourages the artist to interpret freely; Jenks’s use of changes in tempo and dynamics was moderate, never trying for flashiness or descending into over-exaggeration.
The familiar songs by Spaniard Francisco Tárrega, Adelita, and Lagrima, as well as Paraguayan Agustin Barrios’ Julia Florida, conveyed a sweet melancholy. And to bring us into the Christmas season, Jenks ended with two traditional favorites, one from Spain, Catalonian Song (or Song of the Virgin), and the familiar hymn, Fairest Lord Jesus. All of these short songs brought us back full circle to the simple melodies and harmonies of Hawaiian music.
In these times, spending a peaceful afternoon with these two impressive artists was a treat. Both are ambassadors of aloha with their generosity of spirit, their desire to share what they love with any and all, and friendly informality that puts everyone at ease. We look forward to what the Series will bring us in 2021!
Exciting News - The Los Angeles International Guitar Series is Here! November 14 2019
Next, on Sunday, February 23 at 8 PM also at the Shatto Chapel of FCCLA will be an exciting concert featuring Mateusz Kowalski of Poland who recently won first prize in the prestigious EuroStrings Guitar Competition held in London (July 2019) which is a competition only open to first prize winners of 17 European Guitar festivals held in 2018 and 2019. In addition to the EuroStrings competition, he also won first prize in numerous other competitions and recorded his debut CD in 2018 distributed by NAXOS. This concert will also feature LA's very own concertmaster of the LA Phil, Martin Chalifour, playing duets on a historic Stradivarius violin with Slovenian guitarist Mak Grgic who is emerging as a star on the world wide stage and is touted as a “gifted young guitarist” by the New York Times, and “a guitarist to keep an eye on” by the Washington Post.
On Saturday, March 14 at 8 PM will be the legendary Scottish guitarist David Russell who won a Grammy Award in 2004 for his CD Aire Latino in the category of best solo instrumental classical album and he was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the Guitar Foundation of America in 2018. Classical guitarist David Russell is one of the leading guitarists of our time and is world renowned for his superb musicianship and inspired artistry, having earned the highest praise from audiences and critics alike. In recognition of his great talent and his international career, he was named a Fellow of The Royal Academy of Music in London in 1997. Mr. Russell has a vast repertoire and has recorded 27 albums. He has performed throughout the globe in the major concert halls of the world. This concert will take place at the serene St. Mary's Chapel located at the Chalon campus of Mount Saint Mary's University.
The next concert on Saturday, April 18 at 8 PM at the Shatto Chapel of FCCLA will feature Hawaii and Portland based U.S. Classic Guitar President William Jenks with internationally renowned Italian guitarist Giovanni Grano. William Jenks has toured extensively throughout the United States, Europe, South America, and Mexico and has recently returned from a tour to Spain, Austria, and Macedonia in May of 2019 where he performed solo concerts, taught master classes, and served on the jury for several international guitar competitions. Giovanni Grano also performs and teaches internationally and has recorded a series of CDs dedicated to romantic and contemporary music for guitar. His most recent CD called Phantasia was recorded and produced by the Italian label Symposium. This will be the annual U.S. Classic Guitar benefit concert which will help support a local need or charity in our community.
The next exciting concert of the season on Sunday, May 17 at 8 PM located at the gorgeous First Congregational Church of Los Angeles (FCCLA) Main Sanctuary which features an incredible ambiance and the largest pipe organ in the world will be the legendary Spanish Guitarist Angel Romero of the Royal Family of the Guitar with world renowned cellist Nina Kotova. Their recent sold out performance at Carnegie Hall was a tremendous success and they continue to dazzle audiences across the globe with their thrilling performances.
Considered to be one of the greatest guitarists in the world, at the age of sixteen, he was the first guitarist to ever perform with the LA Phil where he premiered Joaquín Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez at the Hollywood Bowl. After an extremely successful career as a soloist, recording artist, conductor, and member of the Romero Quartet, he returned to the Hollywood Bowl in 2016 where he premiered another concerto written for him by the Argentinian composer Lalo Schifrin. This performance in front of a sold out audience of 17,500 with the LA Phil conducted by Gustavo Dudamel was recorded live and is now available on a Blue Ray disc called Tango Under the Stars.
The final grand finale concert of the series on Saturday, June 27 at 8:00 PM also at the FCCLA Main Sanctuary will be Jason Vieaux who won a Grammy award in 2015 for best solo instrumental classical album. He has been described by NPR as, "perhaps the most soulful classical guitarist of his generation" and by Gramaphone as, "among the elite of today's classical guitarists. Just recently on October 27, 2019 he held a captivated Portland audience spellbound with his interpretations of a wide repertoire from Johann Sebastian Bach to Pat Metheny.
In addition to six outstanding concerts, U.S. Classic Guitar remains committed to education and there will be master classes to accompany each performance.
Season Ticket Holders get the most benefits including savings of $295 per individual ticket or over $1360 of savings for a group of 4 tickets (Based on $65 per reserved ticket plus $30 per master class), the best seating in the house, early entrance to each performance, discounts on additional tickets for their guests, and invitations to private events such as artist receptions. Season Ticket holders also receive an audit ticket to each master class. Season ticket holders may transfer their ticket to another person of their choice by emailing us at email@example.com or texting us at 971-715-8097.
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Please Note: Concerts Start at 8:00 PM. Doors Open to the venue 45 minutes before the show and the doors to the hall open 30 minutes prior to show time. Season ticket holders and reserved ticket holders are let in first to select their seats.