With roughly 50 people in attendance, the spacious Weill Hall was dramatically unoccupied, yet the excitement for the Sonoma State guitar ensemble was evident.
Once the performance began, the absolute attention of everyone in attendance was directed toward the middle of the stage.
The first half of the program listed 10 solo and duet pieces by members of the Sonoma State guitar ensemble featuring guest musicians on a few songs.
Senior Kenny Campbell and junior Patricia Castaneda opened the show with a duet entitled “Romance,” arranged by Celedonio Romero. “Embrace the Darkness,” an original composition by Shawn Kelley, a junior at Sonoma State, was next. Bach-style influences were clearly present within the piece, and the methodically changing paces kept the relatively short piece interesting.
Freshman Nora Griffin was the guest vocalist for a duet with senior Cody Martin on “Bachians Brasileras #5.” This mesmerizing aria had modulations in Portuguese by Griffin. Guest artist Keri Bailey on violin joined Kenny Campbell for “Cantabile.” This piece was joyous and upbeat. The piece had long violin notes and short, staccato guitar chords. Each performer accented the song with smiles that lightened the audience.
The next piece, titled “Invention No. 13,” written by Johann Sebastian Bach and performed in Weill Hall by Henry Alonzo and Patricia Castaneda was a short performance. The two guitars complemented each other with alternating complex lines. Alonzo also played the next piece, “Carnavalito from Suite del Recuerdo,” a fast-paced solo piece filled with trills and triplets.
The first half of the program closed with a solo piece performed by Cody Martin, “Vals Op. 8 No.4” an energetic and upbeat song. Martin’s enthusiasm was readily evident in his facial expressions, which included dramatic, sarcastic smiles and jerky movements of the neck that kept him dancing in his seat for the entire piece.
After a short intermission, the entire 11-piece ensemble took the stage for a relatively small set consisting of four pieces. Director Eric Cabalo introduced the second act and talked about the pieces, giving background information on the composers and the story behind each song.
Their first piece, “Cancion,” utilized the ensemble’s size coming together in a cheery, Spanish-style product. Cabalo took the microphone again and described the background of the composer of the next two pieces, Stepan Rak.
Cabalo explained that Rak was born in 1945 and abandoned by his mother in Ukraine. Russian soldiers then brought him to Prague where his foster parents adopted him. Rak went on to study at the Prague conservatory and now teaches at the Prague Academy of Musical Arts. He is well known around the world for his unusual five-finger technique.
Rak composed two of the ensemble’s four song set, “Rumba” and “Aria di Bohemia.” “Rumba” featured a rapidly moving pace with players using their instruments as percussion, tapping and keeping time with their palms and fingers. “Aria di Bohemia” included passionate trills and a more serious tone than the previous piece.
Cabalo displayed enthusiasm in the finale “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Being a Queen fan was evident, as Cabalo expressed a passionate description of the song’s history, calling it one of the most wildly original rock compositions ever.
Freddie Mercury began working on the piece in the late 60s. He had everything written and planned out before the rest of the band even laid a hand on it. The 11-piece ensemble did the legendary rock song justice including perfect harmonies; every word was easily interpreted as the classical guitars rang out the legendary lyrics.
“I had an amazing time tonight, the performers are so talented,” said freshman music major Haruko Matsuda. “It was a very entertaining show.”
As the song ended the crowd rose and filled the hall with whistles and applause. As patrons exited the building, hums of the closing piece could be heard all the way to the parking lot.