This past weekend, we hosted our latest event in the GSI Concert Series, an intimate evening at the GSI showroom with Andrew York on stage. Featuring no less than four world-class instruments and a stunning selection of original music and classical guitar favorites, the show made for quite a night to remember. Read on to hear the details and see all the photos.
By JohnPaul Trotter
Audience expectations were high as the doors closed and audience quieted in the GSI showroom this past Saturday night. After all, it was Andrew York who would momentarily be taking the stage. Andy is a Grammy award-winning composer and guitarist whose career spans almost 3 decades. He has toured the world as a solo artist and as a member of the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, composed music that has been performed by monumental artists such as John Williams, Christopher Parkening, and Sharon Isbin. His recorded output includes over 15 albums including collaborations with such musical greats as Andy Summers, Allaudin Mathieu, Dai Kimura, and Mitsuko Kado, just to name a handful.
When the lights finally dimmed and Andrew took the stage, he immediately jumped into his “Glimmerings Suite” and set the mood for the evening. His dynamics and range of colors made full use of the room with its high, lattice braced ceiling, as if to let everyone know that though he has probably played these pieces thousands of times, he was still very discriminate about how every note would sound and affect each harmony softly passing below. The guitars that he chose to play on couldn’t have been paired better. For this opening piece, he played on a maple Fritz Ober guitar which had a delicate, but very focused attack and brought a lightness to his moody and lyrical suite.
The transition seemed effortless as he switched from this Fritz Ober to a 1930 Santos Hernandez on which he performed his piece “Albaycin” which takes its name from the hilly district of Granada with the best view of the Alhambra in the city. Following this was his haunting “Yamour” complete with backing vocals. He then effortlessly launched into his very melodic and intermittently dense “Woven Harmony” suite on a David Rubio guitar built in 1964 to finish off the first half of the concert.
After the intermission, he started the second half of the concert with the 1930 Santos again, which seemed to reveal its age, wisdom, and depth of tone as Andrew traversed J.S. Bach’s 5th Cello suite in C minor (using a cello tuning no less) and made it sing, weep, and at times even growl. Next he played “Centerpeace” – a solo arrangement of a piece Andy had originally written for two guitars (the recorded version features Andy Summers as the 2nd guitarist), followed by “Mechanism” which has a bit of rock-n-roll in it (lots of power chords in the basses) countered with a 2nd, almost independent melody line in the trebles. Andy talked a bit before the piece about these two distinct “self-aware” elements and the counter play between them as the music unfolds.
He ended the evening with a pair of short encore pieces, one on the Santos Hernandez once again and another on a beautiful Edmund Blochinger guitar built in 2002. These consisted of an arrangement of Francois Couperin’s “Mysterious Barricades” that, due to an alternate tuning, displayed Andy’s physical prowess on the instrument in order to stretch out all those suspended notes to their full written value (a problem almost every other guitar arrangement has been unable to handle with much success) to create a very provocative, sensuous interpretation of this audience favorite. The second and final encore piece was a charming tune entitled “Mary’s Waltz”. As light-hearted as the piece, the story behind it involved a harp and a bit of creative bartering, once again proving that inspiration comes from many places and situations!
The audience, whether experienced classical guitarists or avid music appreciators, was elated as Andrew sonically crafted out the evening by playing well known selections of his compositions and told stories of where pieces were premiered, how the were named, and what the creative motivation was behind them. As a guitarist, what I found most impressive was his diverse exploration of alternate tunings. Not one piece was in standard tuning and I was almost as fascinated with which strings he was tuning and by what distance, as I was by his anecdotes. Music calls to our imaginations and stretches our ideas of beauty intertwined with communication in an inexplicable way. In the spirit of these ideas, Andrew York embodied this in his uplifting and inspiring performance. He is truly an amazing instrument, regardless of the which guitar he may have in his hands.
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