Quartet tells stories through acoustic guitars


The melodic stories of Don Quixote, a young Gypsy girl and an upbeat traveling circus were just a few of the tales told in McCain Auditorium Friday night. These stories were not told through voice or narration though; instead the sound of four acoustic guitars resonated through the auditorium. These were the sounds of the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet as they performed as part of the 2011-2012 McCain Performance Series.

The Grammy award-winning quartet has traveled around the world through places in Europe, Asia and the U.S. playing several guitar styles. The group performs different styles of music from Spanish and jazz to classical style guitar pieces.

For the quartet, each piece they played had a story behind it or told a story through the music. They often told the story before the pieces so the audience was able to visualize what the composer had in mind when writing the piece.

“I think it really helps to have the description. It helps to bring the whole thing out, because you can sense it or have instinct in terms of maybe feeling it,” said Martin Vacanti, Manhattan resident. “But it helps then to visualize it also. The mood, the aggression, the resolution, you can sense all of it.”

One Spanish-style piece told the story of a young Gypsy girl haunted by a jealous past lover who did not want her to love another man. The piece took the audience through the emotion of the story from jealousy and sorrow to seduction, acceptance and love.

“I think the best guitar music, of course, is Spanish classical so we’re having a good time,” Vacanti said.

Other audience members liked that the quartet told the story before the piece as well. For Patrick Stokes, sophomore in open options, the explanation was essential for the stories he’d never heard before, like Don Quixote.

“I think that really benefits it, since it is supposed to go along with the story,” Stokes said. “I think it would be interesting if they had the words with the reading too.”

“I liked it a lot because it puts a lot more visuals in your head,” said Jessica Thornton, Manhattan resident. “It’s kind of like a movie.”

Along with the story of Don Quixote, the Gypsy woman, “El Amor Brujo” and the “Circus Polka,” the quartet also played music from the time of Cervantes, “Post-Bop” Classics from Jazz legends, Paisaje Cubano Con Lluvia, or Cuban Landscape with Rain and selections from “Carmen Suite.” Each piece highlighted a specific guitar style and a different time period.

While many McCain Performance events are often sold out, the crowd for the guitar quartet was a bit smaller. Many audience members said they came because they knew others who wanted to go or because they were given tickets, but all of them said it as something new and different they were glad they were able to see.

“I don’t necessarily listen to a lot of classical music or anything, but I do enjoy the guitar,” Stokes said. “I enjoyed the show.”

Thorton said it was also not music she listened to regularly, but said she definitely wanted to see them again.

“I’m wanting to go find some money to get one of their CDs now,” she said.