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Two Chances to hear Archguitar Duo in September!

Upcoming performances of Archguitar Duo: Peter Blanchette & Mané Larregla:

Sunday, September 22, 4PM
New Salem, Massachusetts
Tickets and information here.


Friday, September 27, 8PM
Northampton Center for the Arts
33 Hawley Street, Northampton, MA

Tickets and information here.

Western New Englanders have two chances to experience Peter Blanchette bringing home his latest musical project which he started over a year ago, in Europe. Significantly, Blanchette has formed a new archguitar duo with renowned Spanish guitarist Mané Larregla. They will perform Blanchette’s arrangements of Bach, Scarlatti, Rameau, Vivaldi, and 15th and 16th century dance music.

Peter Blanchette is the inventor of the 11-string archguitar. Blanchette is an award-winning composer and veteran performer at high profile venues such as Spain’s Festival de Guitárra de Cordoba, NPR’s A Prairie Home Companion, WGBH, Boston Symphony Hall, The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and the Heifetz Institute. His diverse recordings appear in many prime time television and movies, including “Sex in the City,” “Royal Pains,”and John Turturro’s film, “Illuminata.”

Mané Larregla is a native of Madrid, Spain and an acclaimed electric guitarist and producer. He is credited on dozens of recordings such as “Donde más Duele”, María Jiménez’s best-selling record. He toured with the great West African singer Mariem Hassan. He has composed for National Geographic’s “El Latido del Bosque.” He and Peter Blanchette met while they both played in Sinfonity, the all-electric guitar orchestra based in Madrid.

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Back to Some Beloved Music and Places!

Here’s a dearly loved piece of which I am very proud: “Mrs. Carmichael of Skirlings and Mrs. Carmichael’s Favorite” from the 2005 album of British Isles music I did with Kenny Butler. As I prepare to head out to Europe for an extended tour, much of which will be dedicated to performing this music with Kenny in Spain, Portugal and who knows where else, I want to share it with you. I composed a set of counterpoints to these lovely tunes, focussing more on line than the more American-influenced harmonic approach. I believe this is more like people improvised back the 1700’s and 1800’s. This tune yielded the contrpuntalist’s home-run: a quodlibet. What is that? Well, let us turn to page 8,474,311,590 in our copy of Wikipedia:

quodlibet (/ˈkwɒdləˌbɛt/Latin for “whatever you wish” from quod, “what” and libet, “pleases”) is a piece of music combining several different melodies, usually popular tunes, in counterpoint and often a light-hearted, humorous manner. There are three main types of quodlibet:

  • catalogue quodlibet consists of a free setting of catalogue poetry (usually humorous lists of loosely related items).
  • In a successive quodlibet, one voice has short musical quotations and textual quotations while the other voices provide homophonic accompaniment.
  • In a simultaneous quodlibet, two or more pre-existing melodies are combined.[1] The simultaneous quodlibet may be considered a historical antecedent to the modern-day musical mashup.

Mrs Carmichael gets the rare and quite difficult simultaneous quodlibet blowout here. I love the effect. The tunes tug at the heartstrings, especially with Kenny’s tender and lively step-style playing on the violin. It’s as if a reminiscence of an older woman’s younger days roll right by, dancing as a girl, as a young mother, right through life to old age. At the final time through, (at 2:49) when the banjo slips in unnoticed (tricky for a banjo!), both tunes face each other till the music fades away, and they harmonize in warm, spinning joy.

Back in the 20-aughts after studying Scottish and Irish “fiddle music” for a year I decided to compose 18th century-style counterpoints to the enigmatic airs and dances rather than the “folk music” accompaniment it more commonly receives. The result is a new and vibrant polyphonic interpretation of this colorful, idiosyncratic repertoire. The listener will appreciate early music techniques infused with rocking modern rhythms of contemporary Celtic music.

The pieces are arranged in small suites. Though it is difficult to say whether this is how this music was originally performed, the brevity of the compositions certainly invite this approach. On this recording I play the plucked instruments; primarily the 11-string archguitar, but also bass dombra, steel string guitar, and banjo. Violinist Kenny Butler tunes his instrument lower (to A = 415hz) and strings it exclusively with gut, employing delightful aspects of baroque playing styles. The result is a warmer sound that blends especially well with the archguitar.

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