International Guitar Day at Mannes

If these people look like they’re up to something it’s because they are…left to right:  Jean Carlo Espíndola and Alexander Parra Ríos of the Latin American Guitar Duo from Columbia; Gjermund Titlestad of the Duo Gvito of Norway; guitarist/composer Avril Kinsey from Cape Town, South Africa; guitarist Katrin Endrikat who claims a triple nationality of Germany, Canada and (at the moment) Connecticut; Michael Newman of Mannes’ Ensemble-in-Residence, the Newman and Oltman Guitar Duo; Marius Noss Gundersen of Duo Gvito of Norway; and Laura Oltman who is the Norwegian-American half of the Newman and Oltman Guitar Duo.  Photo by Julia Crowe.

If these people look like they’re up to something it’s because they are…left to right: Jean Carlo Espíndola and Alexander Parra Ríos of the Latin American Guitar Duo from Columbia; Gjermund Titlestad of the Duo Gvito of Norway; guitarist/composer Avril Kinsey from Cape Town, South Africa; guitarist Katrin Endrikat who claims a triple nationality of Germany, Canada and (at the moment) Connecticut; Michael Newman of Mannes’ Ensemble-in-Residence, the Newman and Oltman Guitar Duo; Marius Noss Gundersen of Duo Gvito of Norway; and Laura Oltman who is the Norwegian-American half of the Newman and Oltman Guitar Duo. Photo by Julia Crowe.

This past Monday, Michael Newman and Laura Oltman, the Ensemble-in-Residence at Mannes, hosted a three-hour session of free concerts and lectures to the public featuring a variety of music.

The program opened with Avril Kinsey’s quick overview of six notable South African composers and guitarists and their works, starting with Priaulx Ranier, Tim Walker, Kevin Volans, Hendrik Hofmeyr, Malcolm Forsyth and Stanley Glasser. Kinsey, an award-winning composer and guitarist, is completing her doctoral degree in music composition at the Nelson Mandela University in South Africa and is the founder and director of the Cape Town Academy of Music.




Classical guitarists Gjermund Titlestad and Marius Noss Gundersen of Duo Gvito performed Lars Horntveth’s Herman Carlson’s Gitarr and announced that composer Horntveth is now writing music for the American TV series, Hannibal. They also performed Gundersen’s own composition, a Brazilian-flavored Jardim Botânico, followed by Edvard Grieg’s Op. 29, Improvisations of Two Norwegian Folk Songs. Both guitarists performed on their newly matching set of Steven Connor guitars and appeared to be using pedals to perform but the pedals turned out to be page-turning devices for their iPad music reading devices.

Katrin Endrikat of Berlin is currently studying for her graduate degree with Benjamin Verdery at the Yale University School of Music. She obtained her Bachelors Degree in Music at the Hochschule für Musik Detmold Germany with Professors Dale Kavanagh and Thomas Kirchhoff. She performed Tansman’s Variations sur un thème de Scriabin and confessed that it wasn’t really German music at all, as Tansman is Polish and Scriabin is Russian…but there was a fleetingly remote connection, she explained, as cars that do not pass the emissions tests in Germany are often purchased in Poland. She followed with a robustly German Johann Sebastian Bach’s Suite E minor BWV 996 and then Isaac Albéniz’s Cádiz, a place she has not yet visited. Spain, she reports, is a favorite holiday spot for many German nationals.

El Dúo de guitarras Latinoamericano de Colombia Jean Carlo Espíndola and Alexander Parra Ríos, both professional guitarists from The National University of Colombia, performed a set of  strongly rhythmical, folkloric works they have adapted of Colombian composer Gentil Montaña for the guitar, along with two pieces by Brazilian composer Radames Gnattali and Cuban composer Eduardo Martín, which particularly echoed Montaña’s style. The duo has won first prize in the Compensar Guitar Festival International Competition.

Last but not least, Michael Newman did mention he’d planned to bring refreshments to this event but he found out the last person to do so wound up responsible for liquids splashing inside the soundboard of Goldmark Hall’s Steinway grand piano so he pointed out to us all the glaring font of the newly affixed sign, NO DRINK OR FOOD ALLOWED.

However, Michael does know of another room at Mannes where food and drink are allowed. There is one small catch. To partake of sugar, caffeine and spikes of musical knowledge, you must be a registered participant in the 14th New York Guitar Seminar at Mannes. If you’d like to forgo the sugar, caffeine and knowledge spikes for simple nightly guitar listening bliss, the evening faculty concerts are recommended and all the details can be found at http://www.mannesguitar.com

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The Newman & Oltman Guitar Duo is mentioned in My First Guitar: Tales of True Love and Lost Chords (ECW Press). Had they not invited me to attend a house concert where they were playing, I might not have stuck my nose into one room and been struck by the snapshot-worthy sight of black-hatted, black-attired Gary Lucas tuning his vintage dobro upon the frilliest little girl’s bed, surrounded by a pile of mashed, stuffed animals. We all start dreaming and playing from somewhere and the strikingly silly contrast of that moment somehow stuck with me and sparked the idea for the book.