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New Mexico Classical Guitar Festival features Andrew York

Cuban maestro Rene Izquierdo will perform on Friday.

Cuban maestro Rene Izquierdo will perform on Friday.

When classical guitarist Andrew York was growing up in Virginia, he’d play air guitar at family sing-alongs.

Classical guitarist Andrew York will play the concluding concert in the New Mexico Classical Guitar Festival on Saturday.

Classical guitarist Andrew York will play the concluding concert in the New Mexico Classical Guitar Festival on Saturday.

“One day they looked – I was about 6 – and I was playing the chords,” York said in a telephone interview from Los Angeles.

The New Mexico Classical Guitar Festival will showcase York’s grown-up fretboard wizardry in Keller Hall at the University of New Mexico next weekend.

York is part of a lineup featuring the Brazilian-born Santa Fe guitarist Roberto Capocchi and Cuban maestro Rene Izquierdo. The festival includes a series of workshops, lectures and master classes.

At 1 p.m. Sunday, students will perform “Playground,” a piece the festival commissioned York to write specifically for the event.

York’s 7-year-old daughter provided the inspiration for the four-part suite.

“She likes to climb around and stuff,” he said. “I can’t wait to hear it and conduct it.”

Both of his parents were musicians. His father played guitar; his mother sang in jazz clubs. His own style borrows from multiple genres: the Beatles, Bernstein and Bach. Add Joni Mitchell for some exotic tunings.

Post-family sing-alongs, York began studying classical guitar at 8. “Once the hormones kicked in, I switched to rock ‘n’ roll,” he said. “I wanted to become Joe Walsh or John McLaughlin. I loved really lyrical players.”

The first time he heard the Air Force’s big band play in Washington, D.C., he switched to jazz. He moved to L.A. to become a studio player.

He earned a Grammy Award as a 16-year member of the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet. But he soon returned to his classical roots.

“It’s the most interesting” form, he said. “Obviously, I had the chops and I studied. In my music that I write I draw from everything I know – Renaissance structure, counterpoint; I draw from the possibilities of classical music.”

His Albuquerque program will include original compositions as well as selections from Bach’s Fifth Cello Suite in C minor. To duplicate the original sound, he tunes his guitar like a cello.

Brazilian-born Santa Fe guitarist Roberto Capocchi opens the New Mexico Classical Guitar Festival on Thursday night.

Brazilian-born Santa Fe guitarist Roberto Capocchi opens the New Mexico Classical Guitar Festival on Thursday night.

“I love Bach,” he said. “He was probably the greatest musical genius of all time. I’m playing it exactly like the cello would.”

His opening piece, “Glimmerings,” was written in a lute tuning.

“It’s the same turning they used in the Renaissance,” he said. “The five movements are all in slightly different styles.”

“Centerpeace” is an arrangement of a piece he performed with guitarist Andy Summers.

“The Equations of Beauty” is the working title of a new suite.

“It’s harp-like and ethereal,” he said. “The styles are all over the place.”

His most recent solo recording “Yamour” was released on vinyl as a double LP and took the number one spot in Acoustic Guitar Magazine’s “Essential Recordings of 2012.”

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