2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner

Guitars’ Alive at GOCA

Published: July 16, 2014, 10:08 pm, by David Sckolnik

MKGD performing

Finally made it to a concert last night at the GOCA 121 gallery.

UCCS musical mover and shaker Colin McAllister was performing downtown with his duo partner Derek Keller. The program used two guitars and voice in service to “Songs – New & Old.” The concert actually realized its stated theme.

The gallery was sporting its current exhibit – “36 Views of Pikes Peak” – which provided a stimulating setting for the concert. The Daisy McConnell curated contribution to this city-wide artistic celebration is worth the visit all on its own. But the chance to have intimate music in this aesthetically-charged environment is to be savored. Kudos to all who made this happen including the Colorado Springs Guitar Society

With the duo placed in the front of the gallery’s central room, the audience was snuggly nestled into the back half of the room. The place was packed.

For be it from me to ever complain that there were too many people at a performing arts event, but, in this case and with the chosen seating configuration, sight lines were all but obscured for all but those in the first few rows.

So while the sound was perfect for these instruments, I wished more thought had been put into the set up. If the musicians had performed against the long wall of the space, the chairs could have been only a few rows deep in a wide semi-circle. Maybe next time.

As suggested, the concert was a winner. The music existed on two intentionally intersecting planes: cir. 1600 and modern times. Keller is a gifted singer with a voice perfectly suited for the gentle Renaissance sounds of John Dowland. The three songs he offered by the Englishman accompanied by McAllister were pure pleasure.

The music essentially passed from ancient to contemporary but in two cases profound connections were made.

The traditional Chilean song “Toy of Love” was sung by Keller and was a motivic component of his “Events-Mixtures-Foci from 2008/2013.” The latter was the longest piece of music and kept the audience in rapt attention through its 20 or so minutes. This was a fascinating study in abstraction and seemed to contain a treatise of the history of guitar styles. Here, the duo proved to be an ideal purveyor of the avant-garde.

A similar set up after intermission. After Brenner sang Dowland’s “Come Heavy Sleep” McAllister was left alone to perform Benjamin Britten’s “Nocturnal after John Dowland” from 1963. The guitarist captured the composer’s slow and sparse burn that led to a beautiful homage to Dowland.

Quibbles? The duo had to restart Steve Reich’s “Nagoya Guitars” after struggling to keep this fine example of minimalism in synch. Although the audience loved Keller’s arrangement and vocal performance of the Gesualdo madrigal “Tu Piangi, O Filli Mia”, I found it too full of vocal histrionics and lacking the dramatic connectivity that distinguishes the composer’s dark genius.

Otherwise, the evening was a true treat and realized possibilities for the guitar and concert programming that, at their best, were a revelation.