This Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, the Oregon Symphony plays host to not one, not two, not even three, but four (FOUR!) guitar virtuosi collectively known as the *Los Angeles Guitar Quartet. The Beavs was lucky enough to chat with Bill, John, Matt, and Scott about their upcoming show, full-stop motets, and getting Steve Reich drunk. Hope you enjoy the read!
Okay Bill, let’s start with you: The LAGQ is scheduled to perform Joaquín Rodrigo’s Andalusian Concerto with P-Town’s hometown band. What can we expect?
I like to think of the Concierto Andaluz as a 25-minute travelogue to the southern coast of Spain. Our teachers and colleagues Los Romeros (for whom this concerto was written) were born in Malaga, and Rodrigo filled this piece with the sounds of strumming guitars and Arabian breezes wafting over the Mediterranean, epitomizing this beautiful region.
I’m feeling warmer already! Hey, I’ve seen a couple of guitar soloists perform with the symphony over the years – one was amped and the other was not. Will the 4 of you be electronically amplified?
We always prefer to play unamplified, but our experience of playing this piece hundreds of times with orchestra is that a little electrical help goes a long way. Guitars are delicate instruments constructed for the salon, and sometimes in a late concert hall, pitted against a full orchestra, they can lose the richness of their tone and become tinny. We try as best we can to be sparing and delicate in our use of reinforcement.
Nice! Okay, last question for you Bill, and it’s a doozey: What’s so great about experiencing classical music live?
In today’s world of instant streaming and digital downloads, music is in danger of becoming devalued by its easy accessibility. Before electronic media, it was a rare and beautiful thing to experience music first-hand. When I visit medieval cathedrals in Europe, I always think how it must have felt to be a lowly peasant in the Middle Ages, who never saw a building higher than one story, never saw colored glass, and never heard music on the organ; then walking into a church and hearing a full-stop motet! It would have been truly awe-inspiring. I hope that when people take the time and expense to hear music played live, they’ll get a richer, more human connection with the composer and the performers.
A doozey of a response ~ Thanks so much! Alright John, the hotseat is now all yours: What are y’all expecting from the Oregon Symphony?
Not really sure. It’s our first appearance with both the OSO and Maestro Kalmar. It won’t rain inside the auditorium, will it??
Just checked the forecast and the Schnitz looks dry until Monday night, but I’d bring a tarp just in case! [ahem] If you could invite 3 composers for dinner, who would you choose and where would you go?
I’d invite Stravinsky, Ravel, and Steve Reich to a really fancy restaurant, ply them with drinks, and trick them into signing contracts committing them to write works for guitar quartet!
Sounds like a plan! Speaking of plying, if I could buy you a drink, what would you order?
I’ve always wanted to try the Midas Touch, a beer brewed by Dogfish Head Brewery. It’s made from a 2,600 year-old-old recipe for beer made by the Sumerians… the recipe was found by an archeologist friend of the brewer.
Oh dear, *Bailey’s Taproom might be our best bet for that. If they’re all out of Sumerian suds, though, I’m sure we can find an Oregon brew to tide you over! Alright Matt, let’s turn to you and get back to guitars: Does anybody in the group play electric on the side?
I play quite a bit of electric guitar, and grew up playing many styles of music. When I was about 12, I started playing in rock bands and jazz bands. I’m still a total jazzhead, so electric guitar is a big part of that.
Sweet! Um, if this rodent had 48 hours in the City of Angels, what would you suggest?
I would explore LA’s famous (but still undervalued) food and music scenes. World class, anything you want. For music: Disney Hall, Hollywood Bowl, The Baked Potato, Catalina Bar & Grill, Vitello’s. For food: Soot Bull Jeep (Korean), Shamshiri Grill (Persian), Nyala (Ethiopian), India’s Oven, Al-Noor (Pakistani), Mas Malo (Mexican), Rocio’s Mole de los Dioces (Mexican), and La Super-Rica Taqueria (not really in LA – Santa Barbara – but worth the trip!).
You had me at Disney Hall, but thanks for the kick-ass recommendations! So… After 30+ years of performing, do you even get nervous anymore before a gig?
I think 99% of performing artists get an adrenaline rush before they perform. Even someone as experienced as Segovia was famous for dreading going onstage minutes before. I think the key is to focus 1000% on the music itself. Then you experience excitement, not nervousness.
My apologies to Scott because I only have one question left, but it’s all you dude: If the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet had a mascot, what or who would it be?
Juan Valdez. We love un buen café and Latin music!
Hilar. Oh wow, thanks to all four of you for the interview… I really, really appreciate it. Stoked for Monday night!