HVGO open rehearsal at HCC Music Colloquium, Feb. 24, 10am

On Wednesday, February 24th at the 10 am Colloquium for Holyoke Community College music students, HVGO Musical Director Peter Blanchette will lead an open rehearsal lecture demonstration on the guitar orchestra.  Guitar playing students are invite to join the orchestra in a rehearsal/workshop environment, where we will work together on sections of Ludwig van Beethoven’s masterpiece, Symphony No. 7, second movement, Allegretto, arranged for orchestra of acoustic and electric guitars.I_WANT_YOU_RecruitmentBelow are links to parts in pdf format. You DO NOT need to sight-read fluently, but looking at the part ahead if time is advised. As indicated, there are parts of varying technical levels. We cannot stress enough how welcome players are to participate- it will be fun! Just bring a guitar and, if possible, an amplifier.

Beethoven 7th Allegretto Electric Guitar Group 1 part (quite easy to play!!)

Beethoven 7th Allegretto Electric Guitar 1 soloist (more challenging)

Beethoven 7th Allegretto Nylon 1 (Medium level)

Beethoven 7th Allegretto Nylon 2 (very easy)

This event is made possible in part by funding from the Massachusetts Cultural Council.


Little River Concerts: HVGO @ Hampton Elementary School

HVGO played a matinée show for Hampton Elementary School and an evening show for the public, at the High School auditorium.

A wild bunch of lovable elementary school kids- and we get them to love Bartok!
Bill Klock_w_Hampton kids
Kids love the guitar orchestra- but as is so often the case with popular music bands, some kids REALLY like the drummer. Our percussionist Bill Klock is great with audiences, and these students had lots of questions about the drums, all of which Bill was more than happy to answer.

Here’s a fun video of HVGO closing out our rocking, cranked-up version of Bela Bartok’s 3rd Romanian dance for piano …

HVGO @ Holyoke High School!

“That Bach piece you guys played made me cry.” HVGO director chats with enthusiastic, guitar playing Holyoke High School students after the in-school concert.

HVGO played for a big audience of High School kids in Holyoke today. We played Philip Glass, Bach, Gustavo Santoalalla and Wilco- the kids were awesome! They loved it- and they gave plenty back, as an audience. Afterwards, many came up onstage, enthusiastic about the whole crazy idea of a guitar orchestra, doing such diverse music.

HVGO rocking Holyoke High School!

Some wanting to show us they could play, and interested in joining.
HVGO director Peter Blanchette chats with enthusiastic students at Holyoke High School, just after the orchestra’s in-school concert.
Really a beautiful experience. I have so much pride about my colleagues in the HVGO. They are all different, they bring hundreds of different strengths to a community of music-making that means something very deep.

Mark Todd_Peter B_ Donald Sanders.jpeg
HHS Music Dept. head Mark Todd, Peter Blanchette, MIFA Executive Director Donald Sanders

Thanks to Don Sanders, executive director of Massachusetts International Festival of the Arts, and to Mark Todd, music department head of Holyoke High School.



About our younger players …

HVGO always has young players in the ensemble … The youngest to audition was 11 years old, joining when HVGO started in 2010- continuing for four more years- and has become a formidable jazz bassist. Another guitarist, who fronted an award winning band in high school, played a soloist role in many pieces, and has gone on to study music at USC.
We currently have students from a valley high school and community college filling out our roster.

Over the years, a pattern has emerged: young people who join HVGO gain an abiding love of music, of working together on minute details in their playing, and then they move on! We lose them, wether to college or into a career in music. It’s bittersweet to see them leave, and the HVGO community is proud of them all, and this is exactly as it should be. We also look forward meeting the next eager, interested young woman or man who wants to play in the orchestra! If you know a young person who might be right for HVGO, info on audition/interviews is right here!

Gwen Moriarty, Matt O'leary, Nylon String Guitarsdemeo_hvgo_prtrt_2kohlin_prtrt

Success! HVGO + Holyoke Summer Strings 2016

The Happy Valley Guitar Orchestra announces a partnership with Holyoke Summer Strings.  The partnership is supported in part by funding from the Massachusetts Cultural Council’s Cultural Investment Portfolio Program, and with invaluable assistance from The Massachusetts International Festival of the Arts [MIFA].

HVGO's Assistant Musical Director, Joe Ricker, leading the Holyoke Summer Strings Guitar Ensemble, (group I) at HSS' Summer Concert, Wisteriahurst Museum, Holyoke.
HVGO’s Assistant Musical Director, Joe Ricker, leading the Holyoke Summer Strings Guitar Ensemble, (group I) at HSS’ Summer Concert, Wisteriahurst Museum, Holyoke.

Holyoke Summer Strings (HSS), founded by Musicorda in the 1980’s, has grown from providing free violin and cello instruction in the Holyoke Public Schools to include an inspiring, 5-week day camp for public school students focussed on string instrument instruction. During several brainstorming sessions hosted by another Holyoke arts institution, Massachusetts International Festival for the Arts (MIFA),  Jennifer Gelineau, HSS’ Director for nearly a decade, and HVGO’s Peter Blanchette were delighted to find that the two groups had such compatible visions.

While HSS uses a modified Suzuki teaching method and HVGO uses a modified demonstrative technique more reminiscent of rock-n-roll, both groups believe that people can discover the techniques needed for classical music within their own listening culture.

Proud parents giving a "Bravo" to the guitar ensemble!
Proud parents giving a “Bravo” to the guitar ensemble!

Further, both HSS and HVGO believe in the value of musical literacy, but also believe that big strides in musicianship can occur even pre-reading.

The younger group of violinists performing at Holyoke Summer Strings Concert, Wiseriahurst Museum, Holyoke.
The younger group of violinists performing at Holyoke Summer Strings Concert, Wiseriahurst Museum, Holyoke.

Thus, this summer, in addition to instruction in violin, viola and cello, Holyoke Summer Strings will offer free, introductory guitar ensemble instruction to Holyoke public school students. HVGO Assistant Musical Director Joe Ricker will teach four groups of 10 students weekly guitar ensemble classes at Holyoke’s Morgan School. Specifically, Blanchette and Ricker are working on an arrangement of Cheki Morena as an introductory piece for HSS’s new guitar students.

HVGO’s Peter Blanchette acknowledged the assistance of MIFA’s Executive Director Don Sanders and MIFA’s Managing Director Kathy McKean: “They are such excellent advocates for the arts that they functioned like organizational match-makers.

HVGO's Joe Ricker, leading the HSS Guitar Ensemble, (group 2) at HSS' Summer Concert, Wisteriahurst Museum, Holyoke.
HVGO’s Joe Ricker, leading the HSS Guitar Ensemble, (group 2) at HSS’ Summer Concert, Wisteriahurst Museum, Holyoke.

This is just the first step in a collaboration with Jennifer and HSS. HVGO would like to establish an ongoing guitar orchestra in the Holyoke Public Schools.”

Click here to visit HSS’s “GoFundMe” to ensure students will have a full compliment of electives this summer such as yoga, dance, chorus, art, and creative writing.

L-R: HVGO Musical Director Peter Blanchette,
Holyoke Summer Strings Director Jenifer Gelineau
HVGO Assistant Musical Director Joe Ricker
HVGO board member Mary Anne Fishman
MIFA Executive Director Don Sanders
MIFA Managing Director Kathy McKean



HVGO working on new recording!

HVGO is making a new recording of its recent repertoire hits- music of Bach, Philip Glass and Gustavo Santoalalla. Tracking is being done at Rotary Records in West Springfield, Massachusetts. “It’s great to be doing this recording in such a big, musical space,” says Musical Director Peter Blanchette, “Warren Ammerman has converted this lovely New England church into a state of the art studio, and it’s perfect for the huge sound of the Happy Valley Guitar Orchestra!” The recordings should surface in late 2015.

The converted church space at Roatary Records has great, natural sound, Many great contemporary artists have recorded here, among them, Chick Corea and Return to Forever.
The converted church space at Roatary Records has great, natural sound, Many great contemporary artists have recorded here, among them, Chick Corea and Return to Forever.

What will HVGO be recording? Watch our live performance of one the pieces, an arrangement of J.S. Bach’s Adagio movement from the Organ Toccata, BWV564:

Joe Ricker, HVGO’s Assistant Musical Director

Joe RickerHVGO enthusiastically welcomes Joe Ricker on board as the new Assistant Musical Director. Along with his invaluable contribution as electric guitarist in the ensemble, Joe will assist Musical Director Peter Blanchette in running full and sectional rehearsals, and help create a comprehensive “HVGO Book,” – a complete repertoire of guitar orchestra arrangements for other nascent guitar orchestras to use in practice and performance. Further, Joe will lead in the development of HVGO’s educational and outreach components, working with Pioneer Valley area schools to form young people’s guitar ensembles, based on the HVGO approach.

Joe Ricker is one half of the critically acclaimed Duo Orfeo (duoorfeo.com), lauded as “Brilliant and wild-thinking artists.” Duo Orfeo’s 2012 release, I Sing the Body Electric featured Ricker’s distinctive and colorful use of electric guitars and his transcendent arrangements of Arvo Pärt, John Cage, Valentin Sylvestrov and other modern composers. Ricker is a graduate of the University of Hartford’s Hartt School where he studied classical guitar performance and was a longtime pupil of renowned guitar pedagogue Phillip de Fremery (a student of Andres Segovia). Joe lives with his wife Shana in Northampton, Massachusetts, and is a dedicated guitar teacher at his “Guitar Studio of Joe Ricker.”  More about Duo Orfeo at  www.duoorfeo.com


Joe Ricker & Peter Blanchette interviewed on The Bill Newman Show, WHMP Radio, Sep. 16, 2014

Duo Orfeo play music of John Cage (1912-1992):
In a Landscape Arranged by Joe Ricker.