In the summer of 2014 Mark played a series of concerts along the Camino de Santiago De Compostella during a two week residencey with Camino Artes. While there Wilson kept a diary of melodic ideas that arose when walking along a 2000 year old Roman road on the camino, or in abandoned gothic cathedrals, or simply feeling the joy of being among people at a cafe. Upon returning he quickly set these ideas to score and the following 4 videos is a visial and musical document of this time in Spain, but also here in the Pacific Northwest with the Guitar orchestra of the 2014-2015 season. Featured are Aidrien Wilkins, Tommy Hoag, Brian Bunch, James McCormick, Calvin Senter, David Fetrow, Dave Joswiak, Peng Chen. Mark Hilliard Wilson conducting and composer
Dreams of the Road
I. Midnight on the meseta (notes on the youtube page)
II. Choose your own path
III. The Journey Begins
(Due to limited time and a desire to show the complete set I have added a different projects performance of the Third movement before going in the final IV movement with a recording of the Chuckanut quartet. Featured are me, Hanh Nguyen Aidrien Wilkins and David Feingold left to right
Guitar orchestra had a really fun quarter this last fall, playing music the lilting melodies from Catalonia arranged by the Canadian virtuoso guitarist and composer William Beauvais. We welcomed two new members in the group in Joel Beerman and Bob Stuart. There is always a bit of a bump in learning the art of listening to others, and feeling the pulse together and then juggling the notes and rhythms on the page with everyone else's complimenting and opposing notes, while at the same time working to shape the phrases dynamically, or with a pleasant color or ritardando. Bob and Joel were quick to integrate into the whole and by the third week our rehearsals were reaching the level of a well structured jam session. The arrangements posed some interesting and challenging treatments of the Catalonian melodies in that our first selection Le Filla de Marxant featured the basses playing in 3/4 throughout the entire piece while the melody, part 1 was in 6/8 and part 2 and 3 explored accents in between the pulses of 6/8 and 3/4. Throughout the three pieces we played Alex Lew and Aidrien Wilkins did a fantastic job leading the group with clear playing, and beautiful tone. Tommy Hoag and James McCormick played the intricate countermelodies with grace and aplomb and Charles Stanton and Bob Stuart and David Fetrow did a fantastic job keeping a very solid groove on a tricky syncopated part. Joel Beerman, Calvin Senter and Faye Alesse played the ¾ part mentioned earlier as solidly as you could ask of anyone and by the time of our performances we had a lovely lilt. El Mestre and El Noy De La Mare were the two other arrangements the Guitar Orchestra of Seattle played. El mestre featured a beautiful pianissimo intro starting in 3 with a noble and mysterious series of open 5ths and octaves and then the familiar melody emerged from the mist of open fifths to then become harmonized with part 2 and 3. A contrasting major theme was played with vigor by those on part 4, Joel, Faye and Calvin, while those on part 1 had a delightful sequence of descending ligados from above the 12th fret on the 1st string to an open e and then then back, or in the parlance of the rock guitarist, some cool pull offs. The last piece El Noi de La Mare featured some more tricky syncopated countermelodies for Tommy and James on part 2, and Charles and Bob and David did a lovely job when the melody came to their part in part three, while the rest of the group supported them.
We had a lovely time playing for the Seattle Classic Guitar Society open mic and the Holiday Concert is one of the biggest events for us in the whole year. It was a real delight to play with everyone who came up at the end of the concert to play while people in the audience sand Silent Night.
It was fun and rewarding and a fair amount of work to accomplish this program within the amount of time given, but there was more. In fact a 30 minute Mass for Christmas called Misse de Noel by the 17th century French Composer Marc-Antoine Charpentier and the Guitar Orchestra of Seattle rose to the occasion to accompany two choirs, a harpsichord, bass and cello and play the part orginally written for the viol. The parts, all in first position and one key, did not look so intimidating at the first glance. But upon further inspection the challenge was clearly in being able to understand where your “simple” part was in literal chorus of singers, 4 parts, and accompanying orchestra, the before mentioned, 2 flutes, cello, bass and harpsichord. And, there were only two rehearsals. We did rehearse this piece in parts a few times, and while playing our viol part alone it seemed that this was a challenge but not outside of our range. There is an interesting feature in the music of this time called notes inégales which is quite similar to the swung rhythm in jazz. Adopting this rhythmic approach was fun and intuitive after a short introduction, however the before mentioned bump of playing with an ensemble, reared its ugly head again and it was disarming for some to realize that there were sometimes 7 different sections within one movement, that featured numerous rests to count, radical tempos changes and an interesting feature of quarter notes remaining the same but the pulse moves to the half notes with time signature changes of 4/4 at 120 to 3/2. Despite a significant bump in skills needed to listen to the orchestra and singers, watch the conductor and not get lost, or how to find your spot if you did, the Guitar Orchestra of Seattle rose to the occasion in splendid form, having fun on the day of the performance and supporting the singers in a very musical way. Of special note was David Fetrow's playing in this configuration as he was given the bass line ot the continuo all by himself. I was so impressed with how loud and clear he played. His contribution was very large in creating a support in many places where the rest of the orchestra would stop and he held his own!
The Guitar Orchestra returned to St John's United Methodist on the solstice, December 21st to play for those being served at the homeless shelter.
You can join the Guitar Orchestra or have us play for you.
The Guitar Orchestra meets once a week for two hours on Tuesday nights 7 to 9 in the Phinney neighborhood in Seattle. We normally have three sessions a year that run for 10 weeks with three to four performances at the end of the session. Mark arranges or writes 90% of the music played, thus giving the musicians an opportunity to work with either the composer or someone intimately acquainted with the arrangement.
Guitar Orchestra is starting Tuesday, January 9th at 7:00 at 5515 Phinney avenue, St John's United across from the Woodland park zoo. The winter quarter will feature the music of Aaron Copland, George Gershwin, India Arie and Paul Simon/JS Bach. The theme is American Music. I am working to create more of an orchestral sound with our group, one of sharply contrasting textures and ranges.
Tuition is $200, please contact Mark at mhwguitar.com or call 206 3019165
The Guitar Orchestra of Seattle performing in Benaroya Hall's Nordstrom Recital hall
from left to right
David Fetrow, Allison Gillett, Brian Bunch, Greg Elder, Doug Donahue, Teresa Jaworski, Manny Weiser, Nic Thomas. Gary Heimbigner is outside of the lease on the left
Please click here for a playlist of the Guitar Orchestra of Seattle's work from 2009 to 2017
Mark Hilliard Wilson is the conductor, composer, arranger and musical coach to the Guitar Orchestra of Seattle; also known as GuitarChestra. Wilson runs the Guitar Orchestra as a workshop, open to all levels of classical guitarists. The goal of the workshops are to get the (solo) classical guitarist out of his or her basement, bedroom, living room and into the fraternity of fellow guitarist so we can all make music together. Wilson has run 30 workshops over the last 10 years, often writing most of the music performed. There is always a specific focus of the music; some of which have been programs exploring the cultures of the Silk Road, Latin America, Spain along with obscure composers from the late 18th century such as Jan Kritic Neruda and Johann David Henichen. Some of the venues Guitar Orchestra has played are Nordstrom Recital hall, Victoria Conservatory in British Columbia, Soundbridge, Phinney Neighborhood Center, and the annual Seattle Classic Guitar Society Holiday Concert at the Seattle Mennonite Church.
The Guitar Orchestra is a collective of classical guitarists in the Seattle area that work on diverse programs and build community.
mark hilliard wilson