An Orchestra You Can Carry

Guitarists Bring Rich, Versatile Instrument to Kansas City

The guitar is a small orchestra,” the late Andrés Segoviaonce said. “It is polyphonic. Every string is a different color, a different voice.”

The acclaimed Spanish musician Segovia is one of many great guitarists who have brought their “orchestras” to Kansas City by invitation from the Harriman-Jewell Series over the years.

Other stellar guitarists who have made appearances on the Series include Julian Bream, Christopher Parkening, Sharon Isbin and, most recently, Jiji.

“I love the guitar,” said Clark Morris, executive and artistic director of the Harriman-Jewell Series. “My brother was a guitarist. We shared a room, so I grew up listening to him play guitar. A lot of times, I would fall asleep listening to him play.
I’ve always loved the instrument.”

Morris said that Richard Harriman, the late founder of the Harriman-Jewell Series, had fondly recalled Segovia’s 1974 performance.

“Segovia was the world’s greatest classical guitarist,” Morris said. “He was considered the master, a once-in-a-generation kind of talent. We just presented him one time, but that is part of the history of the Series. I’m really proud of that fact.”

Along with Segovia, British guitarist Julian Bream is considered one of the finest guitarists of the 20th century. Bream, who died last August at the age of 87, appeared on the Harriman-Jewell Series in 1969, 1974 and 1983.

“Richard was really proud to have presented these two great masters,” Morris said. “I think it shows the breadth of the type of artists the Series was able to present.”

Morris recalled that as a student at William Jewell College, he was able to attend a very memorable guitar recital in 1991.

“I got to see Christopher Parkening, who is one of the greatest American classical guitarists and such an engaging personality,” Morris said. “He really connected with his audience.”

Standing on the shoulders of these musical legends is Jiji, a brilliant and charismatic guitarist who offers a fresh perspective to the classical tradition. South Korean-born Jiji (Ji Yeon Kim) played a livestream concert for the Harriman-Jewell Series on Feb. 20 at Kansas City’s 1900 Building.

“Jiji is a classically trained guitarist but has a broad repertoire,” Morris said. “In fact, she’s just done a new commissioned project with composers from around the world. She played both acoustic classical guitar and electric guitar for our concert in February. She really is quite modern in her approach to repertoire and being willing to stretch the boundaries.”

Segovia and Bream were noted for commissioning and performing new works, and that’s also a central focus for Jiji. Many acclaimed composers, such as Riho Maimets, Krists Auznieks and Farnood HaghaniPour have written works for her. Jiji is also an accomplished composer and performed two of her works on electric guitar for her Kansas City performance.

The 28-year-old guitarist has put down roots in Tempe, Arizona, and was just featured by The Washington Post as one of “21 composers and performers who sound like tomorrow.”

The February concert by Jiji is the latest of three livestream concerts presented by the Harriman-Jewell Series since October that were performed at the 1900 Building without in-person audiences. All three concerts are available to watch for free online at www.hjseries.org.

“Part of the reason the 1900 Building works so well for us is that it has incredible technology built into the performance spaces,” Morris said. “It really gives us a leg up on being able to produce a highly effective online streaming performance.”

Morris says that it’s important for the Harriman-Jewell Series to livestream its concerts from Kansas City for a variety of reasons.

“It aligns with our mission to bring artists here to our community,” Morris said. “It also gives us the ability to control the quality of the production. We want to produce a very high-quality product. We also think there’s something special about knowing the artist is in your community, that they’re just down the block, maybe in a space you’ve been to before.”

Morris says the Series is also happy to offer an outlet for musicians during the pandemic.

“We are pleased to provide resources for performing artists, particularly young artists, at a time when having meaningful work is so difficult,” he said. “Making it possible for them to travel also kind of gets their juices flowing because this is what their craft is, this is what their career is. When they’ve been trapped in their community and unable to travel and unable to perform, I think this is very satisfying to them.”

For more information about the Harriman-Jewell Series and its upcoming performances, or to watch free concerts online, visit www.hjseries.org.

–Patrick Neas

About The Author: Contributing Writer

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