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Monday, April 15, 2024

Performing in Davis: The San Francisco Guitar Quartet

Saccharine guitar melodies will soon ring through the halls of the Davis Art Center. On Jan. 17, the San Francisco Guitar Quartet will be performing to debut some new pieces, as well as showcase some international favorites.

Since 1997, the San Francisco Guitar Quartet has devoted itself to performing rich, innovative and complex interpretations of arrangements old and new. The current members of the San Francisco Guitar Quartet are Matthew Fish, Roberto Granados, Jon Mendle and Patrick O’Connell. Together, the group stands as a profound classical guitar ensemble in today’s music.

According to Fish, the guitar’s limitless ability to express emotion is what flourishes the group’s music-making process.

“The guitar can play the same note/pitch on many different strings, each giving that note a distinct sound,” Fish said. “We can also change the sound of our guitars by simply moving our right hand to a different spot when we pluck the strings, which opens up a whole spectrum of tone colors.”

The quartet members are all distinguished soloists, each adding a unique sound to the group’s medley voice. Because each musician possesses a distinct musical style, the group must approach arrangements pragmatically.

Mendle mentions that a lot goes on behind achieving the group’s ultimate aim: to play expressively and introduce listeners to a euphoric getaway.

“When reinterpreting classic pieces, it is first and foremost our goal to be truthful to what is essential to the original piece,” Mendle said. “Yet on another level we cannot be too tied to this, as each member of the quartet has a unique voice on the instrument. Sometimes it is a kind of balancing act — trying to find an appropriate balance between putting ourselves into the music, yet not altering what is already there.”

After establishing the motive behind a piece comes the actual procedure of reinterpreting arrangements. O’Connell further describes the process as a balance of both individual and group work.

“We usually tackle arrangements and original pieces individually,” O’Connell said. “We collaborate when we improvise and spontaneously arrange traditional songs, or when a piece written for us calls for improvisation or indeterminacy.”

San Francisco Guitar Quartet performances thus exemplify the group’s elaborate diversity and complexity. While audiences can always expect a show of innovativeness, the group’s upcoming Davis show has an even newer component in store.

“Our program this year is quite varied and will feature music from Africa, Brazil, Argentina, Australia and works that are dedicated to the San Francisco Guitar Quartet,” O’Connell said. “We will be playing a variety of instruments. This will be the first time the quartet will perform using mixed instrumentation.”

Overall, O’Connell anticipates a moving performance.

“We hope to keep our audiences engaged in our performances by exposing them to music that they are not used to hearing in juxtaposition, to get them thinking about how unique composers and different genres can be and show them how versatile the guitar is as an instrument,” O’Connell said.

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