FORESHADOWING WHAT WILL OCCUR AT SUNSET CENTER over the next two weeks, three-time Grammy winning film and stage composer Mark Mancina wrote the following blog entry on his website in October 2011:
“Much of my life revolves around the classical guitar. I have been actively seeking out the finest players in the world, listening, and experiencing their artistry. I am embarking on an incredible undertaking to bring together the world’s greatest guitarists to perform my original compositions from some of my most successful and/or favorite film scores. Now is the time to bring these contemporary film scores to life in extraordinary arrangements for the classical guitar and orchestra.”
Mancina made his name with the scores to movies such as Twister, Speed, the anime filmBlood+ and Disney’s Moana.
He sent some of his scores to Bach Festival artistic director Paul Goodwin, who gave a listen.
“I especially noticed two movements that had fantastic guitar parts,” Goodwin says. “I asked him to write an opening movement to go with them, and I’m thrilled he agreed.”
The result is called Suite in Three Movements for Solo Guitar and Orchestra, and it will receive its world premiere at this year’s festival with the internationally acclaimed guitarist Jason Vieaux as the soloist.
“It’s fabulous that Jason is coming out,” Mancina says. “He’s really special.”
It will be Vieaux’s first visit to the Monterey Peninsula, and he is stoked.
“I’ve heard of the area ever since I was a teenager with all the incredible rock ‘n’ roll lore of Monterey Pop and all of that,” Vieaux says. “And I’ve heard of the Carmel Bach Festival ever since college. I’m excited to see and feel all of that, and Mark has written a gorgeous piece.”
Both soloist and conductor agree that the second movement, “Diva,” is particularly stellar.
“It’s really beautiful,” Vieaux says. “It’s deep and melancholy, with lots of tri-tones and modal passages.”
“There’s a fantastic cor anglais (English horn) solo in that movement that is simply stunning,” Goodwin says. “I view introducing new compositions as an essential part of an artistic director’s job.” The goal is to encourage new talent, to enrich the listening experience of the audience, to appeal to youth and – perhaps most importantly – to help create pieces that will help establish the Carmel Bach Festival as an innovator. “I am thrilled that Mark accepted our commission and has written such a beautiful piece,” he adds. “My other main goal for this concert was to surround it with sympathetic sounds and compositions.”
To that end, Goodwin has chosen to open this concert with Gioachino Rossini’s much-belovedWilliam Tell Overture, the English horn and flute duet of which was the musical theme of the television show The Lone Ranger – recognizable to listeners, unlike something brand-new.
Then, in advance of the world premiere, Vieaux will tackle one of the greatest works of the classical guitar canon – Joaquin Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez, the adagio of which went mainstream as the intro to jazz pianist Chick Corea’s suite Spain in 1972.
Following Mancina’s piece, the outing concludes with Beethoven’s overtly ebullient fourth symphony, which is noted for its technically challenging, exuberant finish.
“We’ve been working through a cycle of Beethoven symphonies since 2015 and they have been very well-received,” Goodwin says. “My main programming goal here is to leave our festival audience breathless with Beethoven’s most thrilling finale.”
Santa Barbara-born and now a Carmel Highlands resident, Mancina was just 7 years old when The Beatles played The Ed Sullivan Show for the first time in 1964. Like many of his generation, that TV appearance transformed him.
“That appearance changed everything,” Mancina says. “There was something so liberating in all the girls screaming and in the music itself. Their songs just were not what pop songs were like back then. It was such a new thing, and I never looked back. I knew right then and there that it would be music for me.”
He had been given piano lessons at age 3, but the Sullivan appearance moved him to guitar.
“Acoustic nylon-stringed classical guitar had its big moment in the ’70s,” Mancina says. “There were Julian Bream, Christopher Parkinson, Segovia.”
By high school he was heavily steeped in classical guitar, but he eschewed the concert stage.
“I played right through college,” he says, “but I didn’t have the nerve to be a soloist, so I studied composition.”
All the while, he maintained his considerable keyboard chops, and became proficient on bass, drums and percussion as well, and gradually acquiring a collection of traditional, exotic, and custom instruments from around the world. His scores frequently feature his own performances on these and other instruments.
GUITAR HERO 7:30pm Friday, July 19 and July 26. Sunset Center, San Carlos and Ninth, Carmel. $35-$79. 624-1521, bachfestival.org.