This weekend I did something I haven’t done in quite some time, I went to and participated in a music festival, mores specifically the MidAmerica Guitar Ensemble Festival at Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne. It was held over this past weekend, March 27th-28th, and featured a Saturday evening performance by the Canadian Guitar Quartet, who also gave a masterclass at Sweetwater Sound on Saturday afternoon. There were two additional concerts, one Friday night consisting of some of the participating ensembles and then another Sunday afternoon with the other ensembles and the world premier of Patrick Roux’s piece “Thunders and Strums” which was scored for guitar orchestra and commissioned by the festival. The orchestra was made up of 150 guitarists, the participants of this year’s festival.
I got into Fort Wayne at about 9pm Friday, so I missed the opening concert. I joined in the festivities at about 8am on Saturday when I checked in at the campus. From there I joined Dr. Julie Goldberg and my fellow Chicago Community Classical Guitar Ensemble members to take part in the morning’s rehearsal of Roux’s “Thunders and Strums” with some members splitting off for guitar parts I while others of us were on the other side of the stage with part VIII. Roux was fun to work with. He was focused, communicated well and really worked with us to get the piece up and running. His piece involves some shifting time signatures which, while not quite as varied as York’s in “Quiccan,” did provide a bit of rhythmic challenge for the large group. He worked on the articulation quite a bit, and while he was demanding, he wasn’t overly so. He was very aware that he was working with a broad spectrum of players ranging quite a bit in skill levels.
Saturday afternoon was spent at Sweetwater Sound, the primary sponsor of this year’s festival. Sweetwater is a large music store and is a serious competitor with Musiciansfriend in the MidWest. They have a “campus” on the outskirts of Ft. Wayne on RTE30, which houses their warehouse, onsite store, conference center, performance auditorium where they host masterclasses and performances, as well as several cafes, another stage area, a school for neophyte players, equipment lending library for employees and various other amenities. The Canadian Guitar Quartet (Julien Bisaillon, Renaud Cote-Giguere, Bruno Rousse, and Louis Trepanier) gave a two hour masterclass in the auditorium with four of the participating ensembles, drawn by lottery, receiving a half hour each of performance critique time. Patrick Roux also joined the quartet (he was a founding member before moving on a couple years ago) in the critiques. There was also an hour long workshop following the masterclass that was essentially a discussion with live examples focusing on composing for guitar, as well as transcribing and arranging for the quartet. The three hours spent were quite interesting and rewarding, giving me much to think about and to apply to my own work.
Saturday night was given over to the Canadian Guitar Quartet’s performance in Auer Performance Hall back on the campus of IPFW. Their program including contemporary works by Hans Bruderl, Renaud Cote-Giguere, Randames Gnattali and Patrick Roux, as well as a piece by Antoine de Lhoyer and Gioacchino Rossini’s William Tell Overture. All of the pieces were demanding of the players and they executed them beautifully to the audience’s delight. Their performance was met with repeated standing ovations and the CGQ performed two encore pieces.
Sunday started with an 8am rehearsal call for the Chicago Community Classical Guitar Ensemble where we worked through our performance piece, “Koudougou” by Luc Levesque, before moving over to the Rhinehart Performance Hall for another two hour guitar orchestra rehearsal with Patrick Roux where we picked up where we’d left off on Saturday morning until our break for lunch before the final concert of the festival. Sunday afternoon the remaining groups gave their performances, including the CCCGE with yours truly. There was an intermission followed by the premier of Roux’s “Thunders and Strums” with 150 of us, along with the members of the Canadian Guitar Quartet sprinkled among the rest of us, providing the guitar orchestra. It’s truly amazing how much power 150 unamplified classical guitars produce, and what a broad palette of color and breadth of dynamics available.
All in all I found the whole experience to be quite rewarding and enriching. I learned quite a bit from the performances as well as the masterclass and discussion. If you’re thinking about attending something of this sort I highly recommend doing so because not only is the learning opportunity so great, but also the experience of being around so many like minded individuals who share your interests in the instrument, the music it produces, the music written for it and the actual performance thereof. Really, what could be better?