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Patrick Rafferty on chord-inating education and performance at a guitar history recital

Guitarist and professor Patrick Rafferty gives combined lectures and concerts on the history of the guitar, using period-accurate instruments.
Patrick Rafferty Guitar
Guitarist and professor Patrick Rafferty gives combined lectures and concerts on the history of the guitar, using period-accurate instruments.

Patrick Rafferty is a Missouri guitarist and professor. On March 2, he performed a combined lecture and concert on the history of the guitar at the University of Missouri. Classical 90.5’s Kiana Fernandes spoke with him about the history of the guitar and the benefits of combining performance with education.

Kiana Fernandes: Could you briefly go over the content you’re covering tomorrow?

Patrick Rafferty: So, I’ll be giving a presentation at the Budds Center for American Music Studies, and my presentation will lay out the history of the guitar from its beginnings in the Renaissance period to kind of the arrival of the modern guitar around 1800.

And I’ll conclude with a look at America’s first guitar hero and a native of St. Louis, William Foden, who was actively performing in America from about 1880 to about 1930, 1940.

Kiana Fernandes: When did the guitar first end up in Missouri?

Patrick Rafferty: Well, I mean, the earliest connections we probably have would be via Spanish explorers, maybe as early as the mid-sixteenth century. We don’t have any concrete evidence, but we certainly know that Spanish explorers knew the guitar.

And once Spanish explorers started bringing colonists over via Mexico and, you know, the American Southwest, and probably exploring some areas of southern Missouri. I think it’s safe to say the colonists likely had guitars with them. There are accounts of missionaries teaching the early Baroque guitar in the 17th century to Native Americans in the Southwest.

Kiana Fernandes: How did you get into this line of research?

Patrick Rafferty: I’ve been playing guitar for a very long time. And initially, I was kind of working professionally as a classical guitarist, and that work was great. But I started to explore early music, probably about 10 years ago. And the work in early music is, or, rather, affords, a lot of research because there actually is a lot of evidence to go through as you’re kind of learning the techniques and learning the repertoire.

And that interest in early music expanded into early versions of the guitar. And then the thought that, you know, this actually might be something that an audience would be interested in. And I’ve started kind of doing these history of the guitar type concerts where members of the audience get to not only hear interesting instruments, but they get to hear the music that was written for them.

Kiana Fernandes: So, do you have a collection of older instruments that you bring out?

Patrick Rafferty: I usually have somewhere between four and seven guitars. Some of the very early ones are replicas that have been built by luthiers more recently. But I have 3 nineteenth century guitars that are authentic nineteenth century instruments.

Kiana Fernandes: How did you go about developing this program?

Patrick Rafferty: I guess the development process just is my attempt to try and more or less just cherry pick some repertoire that would have been written for each instrument. And then along with me playing these pieces, I also try to talk about them in a way that’s informative, but hopefully also entertaining. And then just kind of chronologically traveling through from the earliest instrument to where we arrive with an instrument that was built around 1890.

Kiana Fernandes: What is the benefit of doing this sort of lecture-concert combination?

Patrick Rafferty: I have always been a strong proponent of play more and talk less. But I can honestly say that I’ve given a lot of solo concerts that are pretty much strictly music, and I always have people ask me, or mention that, you know, it would be nice if you would talk a little bit about the pieces. And I kind of have been dragging my feet on that. But in the last year or so when I‘ve really kind of started preparing to speak along with the pieces and really thinking about what I want to say and trying to say things that are pertinent and all that, the response has been really positive.

And, you know, the other thing about it is that, while the guitar is a very familiar instrument, a lot of the music that was composed for the guitar is not familiar music. It’s only familiar to people who seriously studied the guitar. So, it’s helpful for a general audience to have that background information, something to connect to as they hear the music.

Kiana Fernandes is a senior at the Missouri School of Journalism - studying cross-platform editing and producing.
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