Conductor Mesut Özgen leads the Santa Cruz Guitar Orchestra Monday, May 21.
The post rock & roll generation needs little convincing that the guitar is an instrument worth its weight in gold. It contains worlds unto itself, but the buzzsaws and the walls-of-sound, the trippy feedback loops and shoegazey swirls which no longer ring false to the modern ear can seem worlds away from the staid conservatism many associate with the world of classical music.
Not so, insists Mesut Özgen, director of the Santa Cruz Guitar Orchestra. “Many people come to the concert not having heard of guitar orchestra, then afterwards they come up and say to me, ‘This was so amazing! I never thought you could this type of sound with this kind of instrument.’” With more than 30 years of experience, the Turkish-born guitarist knows full well the versatility and power of the guitar. “That is the advantage of the instrument,” he says enthusiastically. “It is not one predictable type of sound; you can produce a wide range of sounds and effects. For instance, in one piece we use a particular effect to imitate the sounds of seagulls.”
As SCGO prepares for its annual showcase on May 21, it is prepared to once again rewrite the assumptions people have about both orchestral and guitar music. Özgen, who painstakingly arranges all of the pieces himself, has made sure that the ensemble is prepared with an impressive, almost dizzying, repertoire that includes traditional baroque pieces like Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Art of the Fugue” and Antonio Vivaldi’s “Lute Concerto” and modern, decidedly non-orchestral pieces like Scott Joplin’s “Ragtime” and the Gypsy jazz piece “Tchavolo Swing.”
For the UCSC students and community members who comprise SCGO it is an opportunity to flex their musical muscle in an unorthodox and exciting new way. “Guitar orchestra is a relatively new [type of] ensemble,” explains the director. “That is why guitarists have not had very many opportunities to play in ensembles. It is something that lacks in their education.” When he arrived at UCSC in 1998 Özgen sought to redress this shortcoming and found that the community was an eager partner in his venture. “We had many non-students, teachers, asking for an opportunity like this. Now we have people as far as San Jose coming to join the rehearsals and concerts.”
Santa Cruz Guitar Orchestra
Monday, May 21, 7:30pm
UCSC Recital Hall
Tickets $16-23 at www.santacruztickets.com