The annual spring student recital was created by Skip Helms, president of the Classical Guitar Society of the Western Carolinas, as a way of enhancing the already successful “Works In Progress” sessions, held every month. By all indications the students who participate in the Society’s programs have benefited, and at the second annual concert, on May 7, they presented a pretty good show, too.

At Blue Ridge Community College in the Patton Auditorium (actually a steeply-raked chemistry lecture hall), six young guitarists representing two local teachers performed two pieces each. A substantial crowd consisting of supportive family, friends, peers, and curious community members listened intently to the various skill levels and varied repertoire.

Jonathon Ellington*, a high school student from Asheville, was first. He performed Heitor Villa-Lobos’ Prelude No. 1 and Domenico Scarlatti’s Sonata in A, K.322. He was followed by nine-year-old Merrit Cole*, of Black Mountain, who played Estudio in A, Op. 60/7, by Matteo Carcassi and the famous Menuet in G major (S.114) by J.S. Bach. The later is thought to be the basis of the 1965 hit “A Lover’s Concerto” by The Toys.

Next came two college-age players. Jackson Fields* of Asheville performed two pieces by Bach – the “Little” Prelude for lute (S.999), here in D minor, followed by the Fuga from the Violin Sonata No. 1 (S.1000). As there are three settings of this same piece (for violin, organ, and lute), sometimes the subtle differences are difficult to distinguish. This particular version sounded more like the one for lute. Tim Ballard*, who recently auditioned for Oberlin, was the next performer. He chose “Faire,” a pop-sounding rondo composed by Los Angeles Guitar Quartet member Andrew York. He concluded with a version of Isaac Albéniz’s famous piano prelude known as “Leyenda.”

The final two players were both from Hendersonville. Ian Adams**, a junior at East High School who recently passed an audition for the NCSA in Winston-Salem, played the first movement (Allegro) from the Sonatina, Op. 71/2, by Mauro Giuliani and the 20th-century Sarabande for guitar by Francis Poulenc. The final player was Wesley Arnold**, a rising junior at Brevard College and a Jack Kent Cook Scholarship winner from BRCC. He performed the Minuet and Trio in C, Op. 25, by Fernando Sor, and then concluded the program as it had begun with a reading of Villa-Lobos’ Prelude No. 1.

Established in 1991 as a non-profit educational corporation, the Society has achieved its initial mission objectives: establishment of a teacher referral network, regular monthly meetings of supporters and students, and production of occasional master classes and concerts.

The Guitar Society meets once per month for “Works In Progress,” an innovative forum where students can perform music they are currently studying in front of a supportive audience. The central objective is a positive, non-judgmental environment for practicing the art of performance and for attempting the performance of new pieces at a neutral location before playing them in public “for real.” The format was created by Past President Mac Nelson and has existed quite successfully for the past seven years. As noted above, in 2005, current President Skip Helms extended the reach of this program by suggesting the goal of a formal spring recital every year, the logical extension of monthly preparation.

The Guitar Society meets the second Sunday of every month. The next meeting will be at 2:00 p.m. Sunday, June 11, in the Student Lounge, Killian Building, Blue Ridge Community College, Flat Rock. The Society will conduct its annual business meeting at the same location immediately following the regular program.

For more information about Guitar Society activities see [inactive 9/07] and click on the link for “Guitar News.”

*Ellington, Cole, Fields, and Ballard are students of Brad Earnhardt.

**Adams is a student of the reviewer, and Arnold works under the reviewer’s supervision at Brevard College.