Not that there weren’t quirks—his playing had a feel reminiscent of a Bob Dylan or a Glen Gould. Profundity sometimes involves departure from accepted standards, of any kind. Great gifts aren’t ubiquitous, and they aren’t always understood. Often they are cultivated in seclusion, like an Emily Dickinson or a Henry Thoreau. Ultimately, though, the secret’s out. This is Peter Fletcher. I’ll try to illustrate.
Picture nature in its intricate forms and try to hear the voice of God in it. Notice the whisper in the silence. Friday night helped me hear that. I think many of us felt that way.
The stage was bare except for a black padded chair and chromed foot rest, alone signaling the event to occur. I sat with a friend in the right balcony, that was otherwise unoccupied, wondering if my normal perch was too distant for an hour or so of music from an unamplified classical guitar. It was going to be a quiet TGIF concert, the lights dimming against the black drapery deep in the back as the greeting and introduction were made. Then a figure in black emerged from the dark turning stage entry into an art form.
That image of vigor and serene confidence assured us we were really in for something. The journey through an exquisite program began with Michael Praetorius, a Lutheran church organist of the Renaissance who wrote prolifically, but most of his works were unpublished and lost. Here, then, was a genius who evidentally barely missed obscurity. He died February 15, 1621…on his fiftieth birthday! Fletcher choose three pieces from “Terpisichore”: “Courante”, “Ballet” and “Volte”.
Written for organ, the transcriptions lost nothing at all of the deep connection to pastoral life and nature, and uncomplicated humanity. The music is uplifting, and Fletcher, eyes fixed on the fret board for the most part, seemed in a dance or conversation. (He used a guitar with a spruce top for the early and Bach pieces and one with a cedar top for the Romantic.) Instrument and artist were a picture of complete association and purpose, sweeping us out of ourselves and into their intimacy…as though we, too, were the music.
Interestingly, on stage Fletcher didn’t wear the glasses he had on afterwards in the foyer. To him, the audience he had engaged so successfully had been a blur. This he confirmed.
The last piece of the concert wasn’t on the program, waiting for an audience ready for it…the encore; I believe the meaning. It’s an ancient shepherd embracing a clear, unfettered existence beneath the myriad stars echoing unremmitting paeons to the glory they reflect. It summed up the evening.
The piece is “Koyunbaba” (The Shepherd) by Carlo Domeniconi, born in 1947 in Italy but resident most of his life in Istanbul. Its subject is a shepherd living in Turkey in the fifteenth century who became sainted. We could guess he may have been a casualty of war during the fall of Constantinople and the Eastern Church in 1453, the “shepherd” being a reference in all probability to Christ, as well.
It’s really poignant! It’s Anaheim Stadium. California. 1997. Christopher Parkening is the classical guitarist of the day and he’s in a nighttime rally called “Harvest Festival”, playing to a full house of evangelicals. The piece, you guessed it! It’s “Koyunbaba”. He explained the middle eastern style and tuning to C# minor, and that this was a sound Christ would have known. This was the bright lights and a great player.
He would have given anything to have been Peter Fletcher at TFAC Friday night!