HVGO: the unknown album [Compact Disc]




“Every instrument is distinguished by its sound, the peculiar timbre that sets it apart from every other. But the guitar is perhaps, of all instruments except the purely electronic, the one that gives players the greatest range of available sounds. Acoustic or electric, nylon string or steel string, hollow body or solid body, clean tone or distorted – these are just some of the many gradations and variations that give light and shade to what guitar players do. As a guitar orchestra, the Happy Valley Guitar Orchestra is built on using these distinctions of timbre to maximum advantage. The blending of different guitar tones is as important as the mixing of different genres in the group’s repertory, and it is a mark of Peter Blanchette’s brilliance as an arranger and conductor that he can achieve such unity out of such disparate elements. The guitar is most often treated as a solo instrument. Someone approaching the Happy Valley Guitar Orchestra for the first time might then wonder, is this an ensemble of soloists, of more than a dozen versions of Hendrix, Segovia, or de Lucia trying to play together? The answer would be no. Which is not to say that this is not a collection of exceptionally capable players, many of whom meet the criteria of virtuosity – not least the orchestra’s leader, Peter Blanchette. But this is a group that plays “in concert,” meaning they strive for a sound that is much more than the sum of its individual parts. It is orchestral in the true sense of the term, built on players that work most to harmonize with one another and subordinate their individual talents to the whole. Yes, this is an orchestra, but it is so very far from traditional, let alone stuffy. How could a guitar orchestra be anything else? Peter Blanchette himself epitomizes the unruly balance of qualities that somehow coexist in this group. Trained at the Boston Conservatory, he also spent his youth playing in rock bands, developing a facility with Beck and Bach in equal measure. Under his leadership this is an orchestra that can make Beethoven rock, and can make Wilco sound like a new music composition for guitar ensemble.”

Steve Waksman, author of Instruments of Desire: The Electric Guitar and the Shaping of Musical Experience


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