Oregon Guitar Quartet plays live at Portland State’s Lincoln Hall this Friday, Nov. 20, 2015, at 7:30 p.m. The Fakebook concert will preview work from the group’s upcoming album of the same name and promises a unique performance that crosses musical boundaries and features the highest level of guitar artistry.
The concept of the Fakebook album and concert arranges standards of the classical repertoire with standards of the jazz repertoire. The genres are meticulously fused to incite natural, illuminating couplings that inspire both disarming dissonance and satisfying harmonies.
The show will pair the “Infernal Gallop” from Jacques Offenbach’s opera Orpheus in the Underworld with Luis Bonfa’s “Day of the Carnival” from the Brazilian film Black Orpheus. The second pairing is the famous “Waltz in D Minor” by Dmitri Shostakovich (used in many film scores) with the equally famous “Waltz for Debby” by jazz pianist Bill Evans. The final pairing brings Mozart’s “Rondo alla Turca” together with Dave Brubeck’s “Blue Rondo a la Turk.”
Guitar enthusiasts are bound to be intrigued by an alchemy of classical and jazz composition performed by four of the most artisanal classical guitarists in the Pacific Northwest: Bryan Johanson, professor of music and former director of the PSU School of Music; Jesse McCann and Mario Diaz, both PSU professors of guitar and a range of additional music subjects; and John Mery, chair of the division of the arts at Portland Community College.
“When you come to an OGQ concert, watching us play is like seeing a visual puzzle,” Johanson said. “The listener is treated to a complex mixture of sound and visuals. Like a magic show.”
OGQ strives to give their audience a transcendental experience as well as entertain, amuse and move them. The guitarists love the music they play and love having the opportunity to share it with supporters.
The group toured Costa Rica in 2014 to sold-out audiences and nightly standing ovations.
“After one concert, an enthusiastic fan came dashing back stage and, after getting our attention, pointed at each of us and said, ‘Love, passion, control and focus,’” Johanson said. “It will be up to the audience members to figure out which is which.”
Each of the four members brings experience in a range of styles, including rock, jazz, blues, opera, symphonic, musicals and more. The audience at OGQ concerts experience four players who love the guitar and have been given complex works to master. What makes OGQ unique, however, is its repertoire and performance ethos.
The group rejects the ensemble notion that there is some kind of hierarchy of rank. Many quartets feature guitar one, guitar two, guitar three and guitar four. Each plays a part assigned to its own register, something like a string quartet. In OGQ’s arrangements and transcriptions each guitar is considered an equal and may find itself leading the ensemble for a few bars or phrases and then switching to a harmonic, bass or equal role, playing everywhere at once.
“The group is largely relaxed despite the mountain of music we read during the concert,” McCann said. “Often, the music is so intense that we can look incredibly focused. As we should be! However, we are very open and communicate with the audience whether to explain some of the music, tell a story or even make jokes.”
OGQ performs regularly in Portland and the surrounding region and constantly presents new programs, all of which are either arranged or composed in-house. While some groups may arrange works to play, they typically have to commission works or perform works arranged by other people. Having so much repertoire at their disposal allows OGQ to constantly create special programs and album ideas.
McCann explained that OGQ communicates with their audience throughout their performance and this has resonated well with classical guitar fans.
“I believe this can make people feel more connected to the music and even the group,” McCann said. “We are seeing our audiences grow with every concert, which we believe is a reflection of how well-received we are within the Portland community and beyond.”
Fakebook will be the group’s seventh album released and follows 2015’s Vocalise. Interested listeners can follow the group and listen to their distinguished classical sounds through their website.
The Friday concert is the first in a series of three at PSU throughout the 2015–16 season. OGQ will play PSU again in February and April of 2016. Tickets are $25 at the door.