[Guest Review] Classical Guitarist, David Russell, Spain – March 12, 2016

David Russell, March 12, 2016, John E. Marlow Guitar Series.

He had me at, “my wife and I have walked the Camino many times.” This is how David Russell, classical guitarist who plays in the stratosphere high above the ordinary crowd, began his introduction to the second work on Saturday’s program, Cantigas de Santiago by Stephen Goss. He also had me before that in his opening Suite Compostelana by Federico Mompou, equally inspired by the famous pilgrimage. David admittedly hasn’t made the 500 mile trek all at once but he lives within a 200 mile shot of the city and has done it enough to have logged in some impressive mileage. His own experience as a pilgrim set the tone for the Cantigas drawn from the earliest of Iberian secular songs and twelfth and thirteenth century collections. In the Goss work, one at times skips along the route and, at others, sits down to give the sandals a rest and reflect on the road behind and ahead. There was even a hint of Moorish influence in one of the movements which added to the complex dimensions of these historically set pieces. Sitting comfortably in the 21st century with lightweight backpacks and gear, it’s hard to imagine how the journey, all those centuries ago, would have been for whole families making their way to the relics of St. James, but this music makes it sound like a breeze, so if you’re planning the adventure, download the Cantigas — they’re sure to please and take the edge off those aching limbs. The Suite Compostelana, Mompou’s only work for the guitar, gave us some impressive, utterly exquisite and impeccably executed passages which left the audience a bit hushed after its hearing. It was the kind of interpretation that lends itself to accolades of “otherworldliness” and “if he’d lived in ancient Rome he’d be a god.” But Spain has already named at least one street after David Russell so it’s easy to understand the esteem in which he’s held there.

Part two of the evening began with the Bach Partita No. 1, BWV 825, transcribed by Gerhard Reichenbach. What a master this great composer is in the hands of another master. Even in the hands of less adept musicians Bach convinces that he’s the king of counterpoint. As I sat dumbstruck by this music, I was keeping time with David as he moved through the seven dances of the Partita. He never missed a beat. He plays with such precision that the airlines could learn a thing or two from his well-defined tempi even in the midst of complex trills here, there, and everywhere. And, as a keyboardist, I can say confidently the guitar demands much more skill to pluck the strings with one hand and place the notes on a narrow neck with the other than it does to depress a key attached to a rod with a hammer. And, it takes more than just a “gifted” musician to finesse a trill out of a wooden box and just six strings to produce an intelligible sound. It may be even more difficult than putting a man on Mars, but I’ll leave that to NASA to evaluate.

By the time we got to Tarrega’s Gran Jota and the first encore, Granados’ Andaluza, the listeners didn’t even bother sitting down. They just stood through it all – well, I do exaggerate a bit, but just a very little bit. You have to give it to the Marlow Series, one is never disappointed. With musicians like David Russell invited to town, we’re extremely fortunate to be the receptacle of a Series so well-conceived; and, it didn’t happen overnight folks. This is the 22nd Season, and with a lot of luck we’ll hear 22 more (hopefully with a lot of David Russell too).

-Deborah Drayer

[Guest Review] Classical Guitarist, XueFei Yang, China – February 20, 2016

XueFei Yang graced us with her refined sense of style and technique last night for a third performance on the Marlow Series in just five short years. It’s not often we’re visited with such frequency by one performer, but a couple come to mind: Pepe Romero and David Russell, so she’s in excellent, established company on the one to ten scale – and, there’s good reason for it.

XFY_medSQSpain, China, France and more…

XueFei Yang graced us with her refined sense of style and technique last night for a third performance on the Marlow Series in just five short years. It’s not often we’re visited with such frequency by one performer, but a couple come to mind: Pepe Romero and David Russell, so she’s in excellent, established company on the one to ten scale – and, there’s good reason for it.

I have said before, I will do so again, the international flavor the Marlow series offers provides a steady glimpse into the culture and history of our interconnected world with artists who share their treasures and introduce us to the infinite range of human expression. When Ms. Yang altered the order of her program to ensure her native Chinese heritage did not stand on its own after intermission, it was an illuminating call. There’s clearly a lot more that shines on the classical guitar than the usual mix of Spanish and Latin American composers – like the Welsh composer, yes, I said Welsh, Stephen Goss’ carefully crafted interpretations of the Book of Songs based on ancient Chinese poetry (a tall task for a non-native). Of the six Songs composed out of a universe of 305 poems, the sweetest was Ms. Yang’s admitted favorite, “Pastoral”, with its “wind blowing in the long grass and trees.” There’s something perfect about the pentatonic influence with which Chinese traditional music is infused. Renaissance composers loved the perfection of the perfect fifth and treated it with great reverence, but its influence came from the Far East. You can’t write traditional Chinese music without the pentatonic scale and this Welshman employed it admirably throughout these lovely pieces. This music is well suited for the guitar which sounds more like an Asian instrument then a western one when plucked as sensitively as rendered by Ms. Yang.

Debussy’s La Fille aux Cheveaux de Lin arranged by Julian Bream appropriately followed the Book of Songs hinting at the chinoiserie of Claude’s evolving psyche and by the time de Falla’s Homenaje, pour le tombeau de Debussy brought the first half of the program to a close, Ms. Yang had once again demonstrated how remarkably her delicate digits slide over the frets from one culture to another without a fumble. Both composers would have been impressed.

Granados opened the second half of the concert with Valses Poeticos arranged by Ms. Yang. Granados was not a composer of music for the guitar so if you want to know what this opus should sound like, you might be interested in listening to a recording by Alicia de Larrocha whose passionate playing defines this delightful and alternatingly sentimental work with the fullness it demands. Listen to Alicia and you’ll wonder how anyone else could manage it so well. It’s a difficult one to translate but it was done so with great accomplishment and nerve by Ms. Yang.

The Chinese traditional music was my personal fav on last night’s program. There’s nothing quite as tranquil as listening to the cascading chords of a waterfall in an enchanting garden. This is what it felt like listening to this fluid work as quick and complex as they get but done with the ease of a true professional — so effortless, yet so difficult and astutely realized. Ms. Yang is truly a cut above and the season’s not even over yet!

David Russell on March 12 needs no introduction, so purchase your tickets now, they won’t last long and join us for another remarkable evening unlike any other around this town.

Deborah Drayer

Photos: XueFei Yang, China – February 20, 2016

Sound check!


Pre-Concert Lecture with Professor Larry Snitzler

Intermission: Door Prize Give-Away and Guitar Raffle

Meet-The-Artist wine and cheese Reception


A great Saturday night!

27 Countries!

We just did a tally. Amazing to think of it, isn’t it?

27 Countries represented in the John E. Marlow Guitar Series over the past 22 years ( 6 concerts per year):

54 concerts representing the USA

14 Brasil

19 Spain

9 Paraguay

1 Argentina

3 Venezuela

2 Bulgaria

7 France

6 Cuba

4 UK

5 Australia

2 Greece

2 Belgium

1 Sardinia

2 Scotland

1 Germany

4 Ireland

2 Italy

7 Croatia

1 Canada

3 Israel

1 Turkey

3 Chile

3 China

1 Mexico

2 Poland

1 Taiwan

Review: Classical Guitarist Chia-Wei Lin, Taiwan



Review of the Chia-Wei Lin Classical Guitar performance, World Journal.
(See World Journal here)

English Translation:

“To me, playing the guitar is a way to help people realize the meaning of life…” said the young guitarist, Chia-Wei Lin, from Taiwan following his recital on Nov. 24, 2015. He was invited by the “John E. Marlow Guitar Series” (a program of the International Conservatory of Music), to perform at the acoustically excellent Westmoreland Congregational Church, in Bethesda, Maryland, before a large and appreciative audience, gathered to enjoy Lin’s brilliant performance. He received two standing ovations and played an encore of Brazilian music, amidst phrases from the audience like “…amazing,” and “…remarkable.”

Lin, 27, was born in Kaohsiung, Taiwan and began his study of the guitar with his father when he was 4. He won 1st prize at the national children group’s classical guitar competition in Taiwan when he was 10. He then won his first, 1st place guitar competition on the international stage in Singapore when he was 16. Lin has participated in German’s huge international guitar competition three times, won the second place twice, and finally won the first place last year out of 138 participants.

After graduated from Fong-Shen High School, Lin Chia-Wei received a sponsorship from Mr. Liao Lu-Li, the CEO of Taiwan Radio and Mei-Jing Industrial Corp, which has allowed him to go abroad to study guitar in Germany for his fifth year abroad. Although Lin has been playing guitar for so many years, he is still faithfully practicing guitar for more than six hours every day. His first guitar CD is near completion, and will be for sale soon in Europe, the United States and beyond. Further, Lin will participate in the world’s highest level competition “The International Classical Guitar Competition” in the near future.

The Washington DC performance is Lin’s third one in the United States, following his performance at NYC’s Carnegie Hall (Weill theater) sponsored by the D’Addario Foundation for the Performing Arts.

After the Marlow series performance, many of the audience stayed for Lin’s autograph on their programs and posed for pictures with him. Many were amazed by Lin’s guitar skills especially at such a young age. Lin was extremely pleased and touched by the overwhelming praises, and very movingly noted, “It is a great honor to be invited to perform here” he said afterwards.

The minister from the Republic of China’s embassy, K. C. Lee, was there to show support for Lin’s performance. As a special guest for the evening, Mr. Lee was asked to help in the presentation of his donated prizes for the audience including the phenomenal calendars from the Palace Museum in Taipei for the coming year. Minister Lee stated, “… tonight we feel and see a bright light for Taiwan in Lin’s extraordinary performance”.

Lin Chia-Wei humbly mentioned that “Guitar is the dominant thing in my life, and I am fortunate to have started this career path at a very young age.”

Lin admitted that classical guitar is not very well known in Asia or the world, though it is highly regarded in Taiwan. To him, learning the classical guitar not only can introduce the instrument to many others, but also can showcase the exquisite oriental music on the international stage. That was the reason for his choice of “Tango Tomorrow” and “I Am My Lover’s”, two classical works written recently by the famous violinist and composer, Dr. Chien-Tai Chen, who lives in the DC metro area. Lin expressed his desire to let more people understand Taiwan through this and other music for the guitar.

-Danny Hsueh and Tim Healy


林家瑋 用吉他奏出人生路
December 2, 2015, 6:05 am 299 次

「吉他於我的意義,不如說是我藉由吉他讓更多人找到生命的意義」。來自台灣的青年吉他演奏家林家瑋,日前應美國吉他協會「John E. Marlow Guitar Series」邀請,在馬里蘭州貝薩斯達(Bethesda)的「Westmoreland Congregational」大教堂演奏。逾千名聽眾為他精湛的琴聲陶醉,自發起立鼓掌之餘,還頻頻驚嘆「Amazing」。





不過林家瑋坦言,古典吉他不管是在亞洲還是在其他音樂圈,都算比較邊緣的樂器。而他學吉他,一方面是讓更多人認識到古典吉他,另一方面也希望把「東方人的音樂展現在國際舞台上,表演給外國人聽」。這也是為何他在當晚曾演奏「Tango Tomorrow」、「I am My Lover’s」,均出自華府著名小提琴家、作曲家陳建台之手。林家瑋表示,希望能用音樂,讓更多人認識台灣。


《《 回上一頁閱讀前文……此次來大華府地區表演,是林家瑋第三次來美公開演奏。表演結束後,熱情的聽眾紛紛拉著他合影、簽名,並盛讚他小小年紀就有如此技藝。成功演出也令林家瑋既感激又興奮,他說:「第一次獲得這樣熱烈掌聲,能受邀來表演十分高興」。



不過林家瑋坦言,古典吉他不管是在亞洲還是在其他音樂圈,都算比較邊緣的樂器。而他學吉他,一方面是讓更多人認識到古典吉他,另一方面也希望把「東方人的音樂展現在國際舞台上,表演給外國人聽」。這也是為何他在當晚曾演奏「Tango Tomorrow」、「I am My Lover’s」,均出自華府著名小提琴家、作曲家陳建台之手。林家瑋表示,希望能用音樂,讓更多人認識台灣。


December Fun!

© 2015 Meagan Healy - Two Guitarists
© 2015 Meagan Healy – Two Guitarists

It’s December and it’s cold, chilly, it gets dark at 4pm and EVERYONE is having parties on the SAME day. Sometimes, it would be nice to just sit back and RELAX.

Had a conversation recently with one of our Board Members, Duane Morse.

What was the last movie you saw?

“I’ve been watching a lot of music related documentaries, lately”.

Really! Which ones?

We loved the list of ideas, so we crowd-sourced a few other Board Members and Directors and came up with a nice assortment of documentaries, movies, and shows that represent all kinds of music, not only classical.

We will be posting the titles, one-a-day on our Facebook and Twitter accounts, for as long as the list lasts, starting tomorrow, Thursday, December 10th.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on these :

  • Have you seen them?
  • What did you think?
  • Do you have one that you would definitely recommend and why?
  • Did they offer any insights into the music business for you?

Will create a blog post with the entire list at the end of December, including 2 Andrés Segovia documentaries (available for online streaming) as a treat.

Warm up, stay warm, and enjoy the recommendations!

Meagan Healy (Social Media for John E. Marlow Guitar Series)

Outreach: Marco Socias, Classical Guitarist from Spain – Hagerstown, MD

On Friday October 23, 2015, internationally renowned guitarist Marco Socias visited the Barbara Ingram School for the Arts in Hagerstown, Maryland, where he shared stories and played selections from Spanish guitar repertoire for over 100 attentive students. The mission of the Barbara Ingram School for the Arts is to provide every student with a rigorous, comprehensive, college preparatory curriculum rooted in intense, pre-professional training in the arts that encourages excellence and success in their personal development as students, artists and cultural leaders. 1

Mr. Socias’ visit supported this mission by showcasing a world-class level of classical guitar performance to an audience of students from various arts disciplines. He shared his expertise about effective practice habits,discussed his lifestyle and extensive travels as a professional performing artist,and offered the opportunity for high school students to engage in a session of questions and answers. In addition to his remarkable musicianship, Mr. Socias’ warm personality and enthusiasm contributed to the positive response from the students, faculty and administration in attendance. For at least one pupil majoring in guitar studies, Mr. Socias’ performance was her first experience hearing live, classical guitar outside of the practice room.

Candice Mowbray

1 Retrieved from http://wcpsmd.com/schools/high-schools/barbara-ingram-school-arts/about, December 9, 2015.