by Adam Kalwas
While attending my first Knoxville Guitar Society concert, I found myself embedded in a quaint crowd of forty attendees sitting in the pews of the Episcopal Church of the Good Samaritan (located on 425 North Cedar Bluff Road). The evening’s entertainment featured classical guitarists John McClellan and Kirk Hanser performing as the Hanser-McClellan Duo. The event began with an introduction from the President of the Knoxville Guitar Society and fellow Knoxville Parent contributor, Michael K. Smith. After Smith’s warm welcome to the audience, McClellan and Hanser naturally entered onto the dimly lit stage.
What struck me right away was how incredibly light-hearted and amusing both Hanser and McClellan’s personalities were as they bantered back and forth, collecting quite a few laughs from the audience. Even their warm up melody clearly stated their playful nature. Once both guitars were finely tuned, the Duo dove straight into their anticipated repertoire for the evening.
The more I listened to the seasoned maestros, the more I was in awe of their chemistry and zeal for classical guitar.
The first half of the program contained pieces written by Paulo Bellinati, Ida Presti, and Kim Portnoy. The musical genres ranged from contemporary Brazilian folklore to Spanish and French themed pieces. Hanser and McClellan brilliantly moved their fingers across the fretboard as they played. The dynamics were mostly soft with a dreamlike melody. A mixture of consonant and dissonant sounds filled the church, especially during Presti’s two pieces Danes D’Avila (1957) and Berceuse a ma mere (1957). As I observed Hanser and McClellan perform Allegro appassionato and Andante cantabile (Portnoy), I was moved by the jazzy rhythms and occasional dark tones.
The second half of what already has been an inspiring performance, began with the historic sounds of G.F. Handel, most famously known for composing his oratorio known as Messiah. The more I listened to the seasoned maestros, the more I was in awe of their chemistry and zeal for classical guitar. I greatly enjoyed the moments when Hanser and McClellan closed their eyes, slightly tilted their heads back, and got lost in their own beautiful sounds. Next up for the Duo was the suite Juegos de Manos (Game of Hands) written by Jeffrey Comas, Director of the Knoxville Academy of Music and fellow Knoxville Parent contributor. Juegos de Manos was Comas’ reflection of the Catalan region of Spain, where his father was born. The suite is divided into three parts and each part painted a picture of the Catalan rolling hills, fishing villages, simple beauty of the farmlands, and the pure excitement of the Barcelona nightlife. The last piece of the program was Delta by Roger Hudson, American composer and dear friend of Hanser and McClellan. Delta was originally a solo guitar piece, but Hudson added in a completely new part to complement the solo version. This piece most definitely reflected Hudson’s unique sound with its Blues and Jazz flavoring.
The audience heartily applauded the Duo and brought them back for an encore performance. Once again, we were all swayed by Hanser and McClellan’s humor and their impressive rendition of Boliviana (from their album Jongo). Afterwards, Michael K. Smith encouraged the crowd to attend the free reception, where we had the privilege to speak with Kirk Hanser and John McClellan. The aspect I really enjoyed about the Knoxville Guitar Society was its intimate setting and the ability to speak with the musicians. There are two concerts left for the 2014-2015 season (March 6th and May 2nd), and I plan on attending in the future.
For more information on concert dates and ticket details, head over to www.knoxvilleguitar.org.
Adam Kalwas is the Managing Editor for Knoxville Parent Magazine and current student of the University of Tennessee’s School of Advertising program.