Look for a wealth of tones and harmonies when seven professional guitarists — Ed Dunsavage, Joseph Thompson, Glenn Freese, Page Hamilton, Michael “Hawkeye" Herman, Mark Nelson and Grant Ruiz — get on stage at the same time to perform together.
"The comment I heard last year from the guitarists was that they 'didn't think they'd ever played at one show together,' " says Kay Hilton, director of education and engagement at Britt Festivals. "They've all got different bands that they play with, and they're out in different venues."
The collective's commonality is that each is faculty of Britt Festivals' Guitar Workshop, running through the weekend and culminating with a concert at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 28, in the Performance Garden at Britt Pavilion, 350 S. Fir St., Jacksonville. Tickets are $10, free for ages 12 and younger, and can be purchased online at brittfest.org, at the box office, 216 W. Main St., or by calling 541-6077.
"Each guitarist will have about 15 to 20 minutes of solo," Dunsavage says. "That's enough for two to three pieces — or one long one. It's similar to what we did last year, and that was to give the concert an historical perspective."
Classical guitarist Joe Thompson will start the concert with a solo guitar piece that may be from the 16th or 17th century, something by Bach or along those lines, Dunsavage says.
"Thompson will be joined by flamenco guitarist Grant Ruiz for a duet. Flamenco came up through Spain in direct relationship to classical guitar. Then Joe will leave the stage, and Grant will showcase a solo piece or two, and on down the line," he says.
Glenn Freese will step up with American bluegrass, which developed in the late 1800s, early 1900s, Dunsavage says. That directly connects to folk music from England and Ireland played by Mark Nelson, who also plays Hawaiian slack key guitar. Herman will follow with acoustic American blues, which again follows an historical sequence. Jazz followed blues, so Dunsavage will play a duet with Herman, then a couple of solo pieces. Afterwards, rock guitarist Page Hamilton will join Dunsavage.
The party closes with an arrangement of George Harrison's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," created by the seven guitarists.
"I attached the live performance to the workshop last year because I thought the students didn't have an opportunity to see the guitarists performing at their highest level," Hilton says. "The students and the public could benefit from seeing the concert. They will see how classical can be played with flamenco, jazz with blues, and so on."
This is just the second year Britt has offered the Guitar Workshop. About 20 students age 14 and older responded last year, and Hilton thinks the workshop will garner that many students again this year.
The workshop begins Thursday, Aug. 25, and runs through Sunday, Aug. 28. Registration for the workshop is available until Thursday. Anyone interested can stop by Music Building C on the Rogue Community Campus, 130 W. Eighth Ave., Medford, to register. A schedule of classes and the cost of registration is available online at brittfest.org/camps.
"The workshops are a win-win situation," Dunsavage says. "I teach guitar at Southern Oregon University. As long as you have an open mind, you can always learn something new. Things we take for granted as musicians we'll sometimes forget about — some beginning technique or some piece of music theory — the student may never have experienced before. So the instructor rediscovers it and realizes that his student has never played a major scale before, never played a minor seventh chord. It's all new to them. The instructor has to step back a little bit.
"It's always interesting to see that," he adds. "In a workshop situation, as opposed to one-on-one lessons, the students play on different levels, and it's necessary to fairly quickly assess where each individual is, then make the workshop accessible to everyone. I improvise for a living, so I like that spontaneous challenge. There's no set rule. I have a general outline, but I've learned that those can go out the window pretty fast. For me, that's the fun of it."
Each guitarist teaches a beginning and intermediate class. This year, students had the option of registering for classes from a single level or mixing them up. Also new this year are an instrument repair and maintenance workshop offered by Freese, a discussion and demonstration of blues influences led by Herman and segments of time for students to jam together after each class.