Festival 21 – Boston

I just returned from Festival 21 a day of “new music” directed by Frank Wallace and hosted by the Boston Classical Guitar Society, for which I am a member.  Due in part to a health appointment, I attended only one event during the day, the member’s concert. When I performed on this event, as a donation, for the first Festival 21 a few years back, it was a free admission, today’s was not. It is the choice of the director but had it been clear it was going to cost $12 I would have skipped it and just gone to tonight’s concert which I will now bypass.  Also, I find paying for a concert with amateurs insulting, especially when the concerts by professionals are the same price!

Venue:  Gordon Chapel in Boston is a beautiful place to look at but I find its acoustic very muddy for more than one guitar and/or weak players.

That aside, my biggest complaint falls to programing. Why call it a festival of 21st century music and allow music that was written as far back as 1960 & 70’s, and why program an electric guitar!?  Is there not enough real new music?!  Piazzolla in any form is really not new and Tippett (programmed but not played) might write good music but why program someone who has been dead for more than five years?  Cuban Landscape with Rain by Leo Brouwer is a neat piece and I have played it a couple of times in the quartet form, but it was greatly underrehearsed and it became more of a humorous farce than an actual beautiful piece of sound.  On a professional note, I find it laughable how conductors and performers expect the audience to spend money and listen but can’t take the time to tuck in their shirts.  The guitar gets shorted for being a tavern instrument when in reality the performers lack class.

Regarding the electric guitar, it should not be part of the program, as it is the Boston CLASSICAL Guitar Society!  I did not join the society to hear solo electric guitar.  There are more than enough venues and open-mics that can handle an electric guitar, yet so few that allow for an un-amplified classical guitar that it made no sense to include it.  This is not a dig on the performer, his LH tapping technique was neat.  It seems to be a very popular technique now, though I for one find it as a nice effect for a moment, not something I would base a piece on.  Also, if people are going to play new music, say a word or two about the piece and composer.   Though you have probably practiced it for months, it’s our first and probably last time hearing the piece!

Two, Audience members!  The mother of two kids who sat behind me did not understand what a concert is for: LISTENING!   I do think someone from the society could have said something to the woman prior as well as during the concert, as the kids consistent noise was not fun. The mother finally stepped out with her daughter though her noisy son stayed for another couple of pieces.  Mr. Wallace did not say anything about the children but did mention that the chairs make noise so we shouldn’t move.  I think that a venue with noisy chairs probably is not a good venue for a classical guitar concert where the dynamic range is ppp to p.

Three, Boston on a Saturday is the most uninviting place for anyone who has a car. After the number of parking tickets I have received trying to get to unprofessional and unsatisfying concerts I will not renew my membership.

I have not heard of Gyan Riley except that he is the son of Terry Riley.   After visiting his website I realize he is the son of Terry Riley.  Best of luck to his concert.

2 Responses to “Festival 21 – Boston”

  1. Dr. Lynn Job, composer

    I agree with the comments concerning the electric guitar. And it is not a very “green” instrument, is it?, nor equipped with the acoustic properties to soothe human flesh and soul.

  2. Andy A. Salerno

    I went last year, really looking forward to this years lineup.

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