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Davis, California

Thursday, February 29, 2024

Guitar as you’ve never heard it before

For most of today’s music listeners, the words “classical” and “guitar” probably do not sound like they belong in the same sentence. But if the only guitar you’ve ever heard is of the rock-and-roll variety, a performance by the San Francisco Guitar Quartet might be an ear-catching event.

The quartet performs this Friday at 8 p.m. at the Davis Art Center, concluding the DAC’s summer/fall Classical Guitar series. The series began in July and has featured classical guitarists from Davis and San Francisco, according to DAC executive director Erie Vitiello.

“We thought that [the series] would fulfill a need in the community for smaller, less well-known groups of really good musicians,” Vitiello said. “People have told me that it’s really great that we’re having this, and attendance has grown over the course of the series.”

The SFGQ was initially formed by David Dueñas in 1997. Today, it includes Dueñas, Mark Simons, Patrick O’Connell and Jon Mendle.

The group has performed all over the world and prides itself on a diverse repertoire that blends classical, jazz, world music and more. It concentrates primarily on contemporary composers, and as a result, the SFGQ frequently performs pieces that were written specifically for them.

“We have a established a reputation as advocates of new music as well as for presenting engaging new works in concert and via our recordings, so many excellent composers seek us out to offer their latest creations for our consideration,” Simons said in an e-mail interview.

Mendle said that Friday’s concert will feature contemporary pieces that utilize jazz, South American influences, the avant-garde and even improvisation.

“One piece we’re playing is a really awesome suite by a composer named Gary Eister, written for us, called ‘Chasing Lights,'” he said. “The last movement is supposed to be a musical depiction of driving down an L.A. freeway at night.”

Mendle and Simons believe that the SFGQ offers the chance for fans of all styles of music to be engaged and entertained by the classical guitar.

“Anyone who enjoys the guitar, contemporary, alternative, world music or even pop will almost certainly enjoy the music we play,” Simons said.

Local guitarist Elizabeth Busch performed in the DAC series in November. She agreed that the classical guitar can be easily enjoyed by today’s audiences who may not be familiar with classical music.

“Classical guitar is very audience-friendly,” said Busch, who also teaches guitar lessons in Davis. “People who have heard very little classical music can still relate to the guitar as a familiar instrument, and are often pleasantly surprised at all that can be done on a guitar.”

“I’m so glad the Art Center is making this a part of Davis’ cultural life,” she said.

SFGQ member Patrick O’Connell is excited about Friday’s concert and the chance to showcase the group’s unique style.

“It is a great feeling to play a role in expanding the guitar’s repertoire as well as presenting some incredible new music to our audience,” he said. “It’s going to be fun!”

The San Francisco Guitar Quartet will perform on Jan. 15 at 8 p.m. at the Davis Art Center, 1919 F St. Suggested donation is $15 general and $10 for students.

ROBIN MIGDOL can be reached at arts@theaggie.org.


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