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For the first time in the history of the Concerto and Aria Competition at Southeast Missouri State University, musicians who play guitars are among the winners. A guitar quartet will join another winner of the annual student performance competition, pianist Tyson Wunderlich of Altenburg, Mo., as the featured musicians in this year's concert.
Titled "European Odyssey," the program will be presented at 8 Tuesday night at Academic Auditorium.
The Southeast Guitar Quartet consists of Bryan Davidson of Wildwood, Mo., Gabriel Deutsch of Jefferson City, Mo., Patrick Rafferty of Jackson and Jason Weaver of Cape Girardeau. They are students of Jeffrey Noonan, the university's guitar instructor.
Davidson, a senior, also has played trumpet for the marching band and Jazz Lab Band and string bass for the Southeast Symphony and Southeast Wind Ensemble. He also has played electric guitar for the university's jazz ensembles. He is a guitarist for the popular rock band Funky Donkey Cheese. His solo performance of Joaquin Rodrigo's "Concierto de Aranjuez" earned an honorable mention in this year's Concerto and Aria Competition.
Deutsch, a sophomore, also is an electric guitarist and percussionist who has played with jazz and rock bands, including sitting in with a famous one, Green Day. Rafferty, also a sophomore, earned an honorable mention at the Sigma Alpha Iota Honorary Music Fraternity Competition in St. Louis in February. He teaches at the Southeast Music Academy. Weaver, another sophomore, plays string bass in the orchestra and performs in the Southeast Jazz Band. Also a teacher for the Southeast Music Academy, Weaver plays the mandolin and pennywhistle in addition to steel-string and electric guitars.
Deutsch, Rafferty and Weaver will perform as a trio this weekend in Chicago at the Mid-America Guitar Ensemble Festival.
Wunderlich, the pianist, is a senior performance major. Last year in Jefferson City, Mo., he played works by Chopin and Prokofiev to win the McClure Award, a piano competition sponsored by the Missouri Federated Music Clubs. He is a previous winner in the Missouri State Music Teachers competition. His teacher is Dr. James Sifferman.
Wunderlich has worked very hard to be ready to play such a piece, Sifferman said. "It is one of the major war-horse concertos. It is very difficult, a first tier piece of music."
Wunderlich began learning the concerto last summer, when he was one of only 30 piano students chosen to attend the summer session at the Adamant Music School in Vermont. He also teaches at the Southeast Music Academy.
The concert will be conducted by Dr. Sara Edgerton. She describes it as "a musical tour of Europe."
"Finlandia" by Finnish composer Jean Sibelius will open the program, followed by Bartok's "Romanian Folk Dances."
The guitar quartet will provide some Baroque Italian flavor by playing Vivaldi's Concerto in G major, which originally was written for two mandolins and has been arranged for a guitar quartet.
While playing an octave lower, modern-day classical guitars approximate the sound of the 18th century mandolin, which was strung with gut instead of the steel used in modern mandolins.
Guitarists have been in the Concerto and Aria Competition in the past, but this is the first time any have won. Noonan said he encouraged them to try. "We had learned the piece, we were playing it as a guitar quartet and it was sounding very good."
The concertos written for guitar are relatively few both because the instrument easily can be drowned out by an orchestra and because it is so difficult to write for, Noonan says.
"It has all the capabilities of a keyboard instrument ... but there also are severe limitations in how far you can stretch a person's hand." The guitar is "like trying to combine a violin and piano," he said.
Incorporating guitars as soloists with a symphony orchestra can be tricky, Edgerton says. Only the strings will play during the Vivaldi work.
The first half of the program will end with Hector Berlioz' "Hungarian March."
In the second half of the program, Wunderlich and the orchestra will perform the first movement of Beethoven's "Emperor Concerto," the last of his concertos for piano and orchestra. "It is definitely considered one of the great piano concertos," Edgerton says. "... It uses the orchestra and piano in the fullest texture. There is a lot of interplay between the two."
Edgerton said the performance of the "Emperor Concerto" marks another landmark in the growth of the performance program at the university. "It's a milestone that we have a student playing a piece of this level and that the orchestra can tackle it," she said.
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