Saturday evening we attended a Coolwater Ranch House Concert in the nearby town of Nipinnawassee, a series of musical performances held in the house of a former ranch guest, Robin Ralston. It’s such a neat idea, having top-notch performers appear in her large living room before an audience sitting on folding chairs she brought in from the nearby Oakhurst Community Center. Although the house wasn’t designed for acoustic performances, her pro-quality sound system and the fact that there were about 70 bodies there to absorb any echoes made for a perfect experience. I overheard at least two attendees saying they came all the way from Los Angeles since this was tonight’s performer’s only California appearance this year.
The guitarist, Michael Chapdelaine, was simply awesome. His mastery of classical guitar was so complete—he totally “owned” that instrument. He has won top international awards with his fingering and did more with a guitar than I ever thought possible, at times making it sound as if a small ensemble was backing him up. His rapport with the audience made the performance that much better. Three hours of playing, with an intermission so he could mingle with the crowd, was so deeply satisfying I doubt I’ll ever attend a better concert.
The audience sat transfixed. About halfway through the performance, I realized that nobody had coughed. Of course then someone coughed.
Throughout the evening, he kept us smiling and laughing. He told the story of one piece he wrote where he imagined himself on top of a mesa in New Mexico, where he teaches music at the University of New Mexico. He said he looked down and saw some Indians performing a rain dance. “Of course,” he said drily, “it didn’t rain.” Then some of the younger Indians asked their elders if they could give it a try. Their updated version of the dance, of course, brought rain. Lots of rain. And more rain. It was too much rain, and the elders told them to make it stop. So the younger Indians told the elders to do their old rain dance. “Of course, then the rain stopped.”
During the intermission, I asked him about his guitar. He told me the name of its maker, a custom designer whom I don’t know. He said he was trying out some of the man’s instruments, and played this one. “I want this one,” he said. “No, that’s my lab guitar; I use it to compare the others to,” the maker said. “I want this one,” Michael repeated. “It’s not for sale. I can make one like it for you.” “I want this one.”
Several months later, he got this one.
More on Michael Chapdelaine here.
Robin has a Web site that tells of upcoming concerts. She also lists links to some very interesting sites that I’ll talk about in another entry.