There’s music in the air this beautiful Thursday, July 27, 2017 evening in pastoral Ocean Grove, NJ.
Near the historic Great Auditorium, we hear the happy strains of John Philip Sousa’s “Washington Post” march on bells emanating from a church tower.
As we walk down Pitman Ave. towards the beach, we hear the sound of a recording of Dave Brubeck’s Voice of the Holy Spirits wafting from an open window.
On the boardwalk, we stop to listen to an acoustic guitarist, Dan from Bayville, his guitar case propped open with a homemade cardboard sign asking for donations to help feed the needy and the poor.
Pouring his heart out into his performance of a contemporary religious piece, we applaud and make our own small contribution to the cause.
Afterwards, we chat with Dan about his motivation for performing on the boardwalk here tonight. According to Dan — a retired school music teacher — for him, it’s simply an offering for the love of God.
Dan thought it would be an opportune evening to raise money for charity in Ocean Grove as he is already in town to attend tonight’s concert at The Great Auditorium featuring classical guitarist Chaconne Klaverenga.
Klaverenga, 25, began studying piano at the age of two and learning to play the guitar at the age of six with her parents, both professional musicians in Indiana.
Chaconne was named for Johann Sebastian Bach’s piece, Chaconne BWV 1004, and it is now one of her favorite pieces of music to play.
Klaverenga began competing in international guitar competitions and performing solo concerts at the age of 14; she holds 13 national and international championship titles in junior, senior, and collegiate divisions.
About her tastes as a young classical musician, Klaverenga has stated, “I liked fast, flashy music. I liked Bach Allegros and the fast Spanish music most guitarists would play.”
That notwithstanding, Klaverenga has also revealed, “As a pianist at the time, I also really liked pieces from composers like Rachmaninoff and Liszt. I enjoyed anything that would get me excited!”
Following years of study with several notable teachers, in 2010, Klaverenga was honored in her home state by the Indiana House of Representatives for her accomplishments in the world of classical guitar. Moreover, in 2012, she was invited to perform the world premiere of Schiffer’s Guitar Concerto in A Minor with the Lafayette Symphony Orchestra in Lafayette, Indiana, a piece written especially for her.
Klaverenga has gone on to record several albums of classical guitar music including her debut album, Chaconne Klaverenga, in addition to her sophomore effort, Chaconne plays the Chaconne and Spanish Favorites, and her latest recording, Scarlatti, Regondi, Bach, which features several pieces on tonight’s program at The Great Auditorium.
As the house lights flash, director of the Summer Series of Music at The Great Auditorium, organist Gordon Turk, takes the stage and welcomes the audience to this beautiful theater, a venue which is capable of holding worship services for up to 7000 congregants.
Introducing Ms. Klaverenga’s first piece, Douze Etudes, by Heitor Villa-Lobos, Turk explains that Chaconne will begin tonight’s concert by performing a series of 12 etudes — each a short musical composition specifically designed by the composer as an exercise to improve the technique or demonstrate the skill of a player.
The audience smiles knowingly when Turk reminds them that, during the performance of this unique concert piece, “If you want to clap, sit on your hands, and save it for the end!”
The audience applauds when Ms. Klaverenga takes the stage.
Dressed in her black floor-length gown, Klaverenga explains to the crowd, “I performed this set of pieces for my last degree recital.”
Revealing, “Before the concert, my teacher asked me, ‘Are you sure you want to do that?’”
“But after it worked out ok, he said, ‘So why don’t you take it on the road?,’ and that’s exactly what I did.”
As Klaverenga begins to play the first movement of the Douze Etudes, the fingers of her left hand fly across the fingerboard as the fingers of her right hand flutter in time.
As the music radiates from her custom classical guitar through to the rafters of The Great Auditorium, audience members stare intently at the technique of this up-and-coming young musician.
Others listen with their eyes closed, taking in the spectacular sonic ambience of this 148-year-old religiously-oriented listening space.
Preceeded by the brisk strum of a final chord, at the end of the piece, the entire audience bursts into spontaneous applause!
Following a short intermission, Klaverenga retakes the stage.
She tells the audience a little bit about her custom instrument — designed by a master luthier from Cape Cod, MA — before performing the lovely composition, Caprichio Arabe, by Francisco Tarrega.
Haunting at times, the beautiful melody of the Caprichio is performed softly and expressively by Klaverenga, whose impressive fingerpicking style gets the attention of many patrons in the crowd.
Moving on to two pieces originally composed for harpsichord by Domenico Scarlatti, Klaverenga reveals, “I try to play both of these pieces to the best of my ability, as close to the original harpsichord arrangements as possible.”
Her guitar sounding somewhat reminiscent of a harpsichord, Klaverenga performs the first of the two Scarlatti pieces, Sonata K. 512, complete with trills in a quick and joyful manner.
Segueing into the second piece, Sonata K. 213, she captivates the audience with her expressive interpretation of the flowing melody and unified accompaniment on this composition which is slower and sadder than the first.
Following avid applause, Klaverenga comments, “Enjoy this last piece. I hope I have the strength to get through it!”
Here, she performs the lovely Introduction et Caprice by Giulio Regondi, a virtuoso Italian guitarist.
Her instrument alternating between sounding like a harp and a jazz guitar, Klaverenga gives an impeccable and expressive performance, her right hand improbably sliding up and down the fingerboard while the fingers of her left hand work deftly work with precision.
The audience rewards Ms. Klaverenga’s wonderful rendition of the Caprice with a standing ovation as they cheer, “Bravo! Bravo!”
Guitar in hand, Klaverenga takes a bow and then returns to the stage to perform her encore, Una Limosna Por el Amor de Dios, by Agustín Barrios — a sensitive and beautiful piece which sounds like a prayer — for which she receives yet a second standing ovation.
As we exit the Great Auditorium, we take a moment to chat with musician Dan from Bayville, whom we’d met earlier in the evening playing his guitar on the boardwalk.
With regards to Chaconne Klavarenga’s performance, Dan states, “She is excellent. She has excellent technique, she’s very musical, and even on pieces which have a very high degree of difficulty, she plays from the heart.”
We also chat with Summer Series musical director Gordon Turk who says, “The wonderful thing about the series of music we have this season at The Great Auditorium is that we can present something so eloquent as a classical guitar concert one week and then, the following week, something as exuberant as a 65-piece orchestra — all right here in the very same space.”
Going on to add, “I loved this concert,” Turk additionally reveals, “It appears that everybody in the Auditorium tonight had a real empathy for Chaconne Klaverenga’s wonderful performance.”
Next, we have an opportunity to chat with Chaconne Klaverenga herself, who tells us that although she’s originally from Indiana, she’s now a resident of New Jersey, living directly across from New York City in neighboring Jersey City.
Revealing that this is her very first concert in the Garden State, Klaverenga calls performing here in the Great Auditorium a “really nice experience,” disclosing, “I’ve never played in a place like this before,” and adding, “I really loved how the audience was so responsive.”
Noting how she practices “five to six hours every day before a concert like this” — compared to a typical practice schedule which usually only consists of three to four hours of practice — Klaverenga tells us that while she is performing for her audiences, she does not only think about technical and expressive elements of the music she is playing, but also consistently tries to think “about the feelings the music is expressing.”
Following our chat with Ms. Klaverenga, we also take a moment to chat with her husband, Ning, a pianist.
Says Ning about his wife’s New Jersey debut concert, “She was great!” going on to add, “I’ve heard Chaconne play, for example, her encore piece — Una Limosna Por el Amor de Dios — a million times, and every time it is different. But tonight at The Great Auditorium, it was especially beautiful in this spiritual setting.”
And just how does the title of Klaverenga’s final piece — Una Limosna Por el Amor de Dio — translate to English?
An Offering for the Love of God.
To learn more about Chaconne Klaverenga, please go to chaconneklaverenga.com. For information on upcoming performances at The Great Auditorium — including Neil Sedaka on August 12 and The Beach Boys on August 19 — please click on oceangrove.org.Photos by Love Imagery
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