Monday night with the quartet

By Sara Heflin

   Bridgewater College played host to the Georgia Guitar Quartet on Monday night.  The group consists of four University of Georgia alumni, each of whom has been involved in music since their childhood, Kyle Dawkins, Brian Smith, Phil Snyder, and Jason Solomon.

   The quartet started off the night with Dawkins’s original composition entitled “Flight.”  This was the perfect piece to start their concert off with; it set the tone for the group’s unique and distinct style and gave the audience a glimpse of what was yet to come.  As they flowed through the song, they kept the listeners on edge by implementing musical techniques which one would not usually expect to hear when thinking of classical music.  Pick scrapes and taps along with percussion elements truly characterized the musicians as a group and their multi-toned opener set up the unique nature of their remaining performances that night. 

   It was inspiring to see the looks of passion and true joy on their faces as they played the music with such heart.  The Quartet began the first half of their performance by taking their audience members on a musical journey through time, starting out in the early renaissance period with composer Michael Praetorius and, later, ending the journey with a modern take on an Irish traditional piece. 

   As the quartet moved through various arrangements from Domenico Scarlatti to Heitor Villa-Lobos, they inspired the audience to feel the music and even imagine themselves in the time period of its composition.  Just before intermission, the group surprised the audience with the popular piece “Linus and Lucy”—from Charles M. Schulz’s popular cartoon series “Peanuts”—written by Vince Guaraldi.  Their arrangement was playful and exciting and left the audience wondering what they would hear next. 

   The second half of the performance continued to impress as it journeyed through time.  Enrique Granados’ piece “Spanish Dance No. 2 Orientale” was played with such fluidity and grace that it put audience members in an almost trance-like state.  As the musicians worked their way through each piece you couldn’t help but be impressed by how precisely they hit each note in time with one another.  As they would play, each member would take their cues from one another and they would hit staccato notes at the perfect time, and this helped to portray the story that each of these songs was telling. 

   The group made their impressive and difficult techniques look seemingly effortless to the members of the crowd.  In an exclusive original composed by member Brian Smith, the group took the audience through yet another journey.  Composer Brian Smith said that the inspiration for his piece, “Freight Train,” came from his frequent summer trips up through the mountains in the Highlands of North Carolina.  He would travel up the steep mountains in his beat up, old, un-air-conditioned van and felt as though he was in a freight train as his van struggled and chugged along to make it up the mountain.  The ending of his piece portrayed the relief he would experience when he reached the top of the mountain and felt the cool air as he traveled back down. 

   I was truly impressed and ultimately envious of Brian’s ability to take such a distinct memory in his life and transfer it into a song which perfectly portrayed it.  As the piece began and continued to crescendo the audience could picture his van trying to get up the mountain and when the piece came to its climax, audience members were able to feel the sensation of relief similar to that of what Brian must have felt.  The piece was thrilling and many audience members wished it would have lasted longer.

   Next, the group performed a piece by Alberto Ginastera, and then concluded the night with a presentation of a traditional Irish song, which Kyle Dawkins so intricately arranged.  The quartet showed their levels of mastery as they played their individual parts at different rhythms but then managed to come back together as a group and hit their notes with extreme accuracy. As the song continued on I couldn’t help but feel like I was back in an old pub in Donegal, Ireland; one of the most impressive parts of the night was the musician’s ability to evoke emotion and transfer the audience into the story which each piece told. The George Guitar Quartet’s level of talent is clear in their passionate performances and in their astonishing levels of musical ability.

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