Guitar Night Eclectic Range of Sounds

Sean McGowan brings dynamic sounds to the King Center. photo: Sarai Nissan • CU Denver Sentry


There are few other places where a faculty Guitar Night would even be possible. “Every college in Colorado and all the surrounding states might have one part-time guitar teacher there. We have seven,” said Guitar Program Director Sean McGowan. “Guitar Night is fun for me because it’s an opportunity to showcase our faculty.” On April 7, four Guitar Program faculty members filled the King Center Recital Hall with an eclectic range of sounds for the sixth CU Denver Guitar Night.

“What’s really cool about the program here, not just the guitar program, but the music program in general, is that it’s not myopic,” McGowan said. He believes that the Guitar Night helps show that off, both to current students and prospective ones. “It’s like a little sampler plate,” he continued. “If you come, you’re going to see the largest and most diverse guitar program in the entire region.”

McGowan was the first act, as well as the evening’s genial MC. He first performed two arrangements from My Fair Lady, which, because of his effortlessly dexterous performance, seemed accompanied. However, in the latter two songs he performed, his seeming one-man ensemble was augmented by Greg Garrison and Todd Reid—both CU Denver professors as well—on bass and drums, respectively.

Though those two never quite stole the show, they added a lot to it, coming in and out as needed for the entire evening, switching out techniques and, in Reid’s case, sticks to fit each song.

Sean McGowan brings dynamic sounds to the King Center. photo: Sarai Nissan • CU Denver Sentry
Sean McGowan brings dynamic sounds to the King Center.
photo: Sarai Nissan • CU Denver Sentry

Following McGowan was Michael Lancaster who, in addition to being a lecturer on guitar, is also a world-class bagpipe player. He took the night in a more experimental direction, using pedals to loop and distort his pieces, something relatively new to Lancaster, who is better-known for his acoustic and finger-style work.

After Lancaster’s technologically sophisticated performance came a stripped-down, classical performance from faculty member Doug Phillips.

The second of Phillips’ two pieces featured Erin Hackel, a CU Denver voice professor and ensemble director. “I’m happy to be here representing the instrumentless,” Hackel said. She also provided some context on the piece they performed, “Bachianas No. 5,” which came from its composer’s attempt to blend Bach with Brazilian folk music.

Hackel’s second aria presented her with a unique challenge: It is meant to be hummed, rather than sung. “I have a lot of experience singing with my mouth open, not a lot with my mouth closed, so wish me luck,” Hackel said. With the complementary sound of Phillips’ skillful playing, she managed it.

The final performance was from Bill Kopper, whom McGowan had met years before either of them taught, in a hastily assembled one-time band. When Mc- Gowan came to head the Guitar program, Kopper was one of his recruits.

Kopper’s energetic jazz performance proved a satisfying conclusion to the evening. It brought the show full circle, from McGowan’s initial performance of Broadway standards to Kopper’s performance of Chick Corea’s jazz standards.

Though the range of styles presented seemed purposeful, McGowan explained that it arose naturally from the faculty performers. “I leave it wide open for them,” McGowan said. “However you want to express yourself creatively is great, and everybody always comes up with really fresh, innovative ideas.”

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