"Serenade with Six Strings" Petar Kodzas (ECMS) at the First Universalist Church, May 13, 2010

I’m just returning to the job market after a long absence, and find I can’t afford most concerts. However, I have odd bits of time here and there between practicing guitar and job hunting ... It finally sank in the other day that there are many free/inexpensive concerts, happening here and there within a fifty-mile radius of my home. For Rochester Guitar Club’s purposes I will be limiting reviews/previews to those featuring the instrument most dear to our hearts! I’m also redirecting the circle to a fifty-mile radius around Rochester to make this search most appealing to the most folks in RGC. This (probably depending on how long it takes me to find work!) series starts with a review of a concert I attended this past Thursday, “Serenade with Six Strings.”

“Serenade,” part of an Eastman Community Music School (ECMS) program, has been taking place on Thursdays at 12:15 pm. All concerts are held at the First Universalist Church; two more (non-guitar) events are scheduled before Eastman’s semester ends. As per the program, “Free admission. Brown bag lunches encouraged.”

“Serenade” featured two ECMS faculty people, Dr. Pamela Kurau, singing solo, accompanied by Dr. Petar Kodzas on classical guitar. We tenda[euro]”-rightfully so, as a guitar club—to present, review and focus on guitarists performing solo, in ensemble, or as band-leading performers. However, it’s wise to take a look at our instrument in its frequent role of accompanist. (For one thing, it’s a way of finding musical work!)

The concert included Franz Schubert’s “Im Fruhling,” (In Spring), “Der Leiermann,” (The Hurdy-Gurdy Man), and “Gretchen am Spinnrade,” (Gretchen at the Spinning Wheel) Dominick Argento’s “Letters from Composers,” and George Gershwin’s “Love Is Here to Stay,” and “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off,” spanning a variety of moods from the deep depression in “Gretchen,” to the pique in Argento’s letter from Giacomo Puccini listing all the reasons he hated Paris and ending with two lighthearted Gershwin pieces.

Pamela Kurau and Petar Kodzas turned these songs into mini-operas for us to enjoy. In some cases, Petar—as in two of the Schubert Lieder—supplied arrangements. Petar’s arrangement of “Gretchen,” with its fast-moving minor passages ensured that, even if we had not heard a translation, we would sense the creepiness of the story—a woman driven over the edge in her love from afar. I particularly enjoyed the lively, jazzy accompaniment to “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off.” Listening as a guitar student, I saw a great model for what the accompanist should do—support and enhance the singer(s) or lead instrumentalist(s), arranging and playing in an interesting and inspired manner without grandstanding and only adding what truly brings out the best in everyone’s performance.

So here’s my plana[euro]”to attend and write about at least one budget concert a month. Suggestions are welcome at debjross@gmail.com!

—Deb Ross

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