The Saskatchewan, Canada–based guitarist, composer, and teacher fills us in a bit on his career and this issue’s piece:
I love classical music, but I also have a background in popular music, as many guitar players do. For that reason, I enjoy playing and arranging popular, jazz, and world music, both as a soloist and in collaboration with other musicians, including my daughter, Melanie, who plays hand percussion.
After playing in a rock band during my teen years, I began practicing classical guitar in earnest, and eventually obtained a bachelor’s degree from the University of Saskatchewan and an ARCT (Associate of the Royal Conservatory of Toronto) in classical guitar. I went on to teach guitar in my own studio and in the University of Saskatchewan music department (1982–2001) before branching out to other types of teaching in arts education. I’ve played concertos with the Prairie Virtuosi Orchestra and the Amati String Quartet, who play 17th century instruments crafted by the Amati family in Cremona, Italy. I’ve arranged some of the pieces I’ve played with these groups.
Farewell was included on my first album, Sunburst, and has also appeared in a short film documentary. The piece has been described as having “true spirit and form,” and expresses feelings of empathy, longing, comfort, and hope. It is three minutes long, follows a standard song structure, and is in G major, which is a great key for guitar—not only for its sonority but for its use of the open 2nd, 3rd, and 4th strings. There are some left-hand fingerings that may challenge the player, along with stretches, but these are necessary for the correct voicing of the melody. The middle section has a series of calls and responses that echo the melody and evoke a sense of distance.
The piece also has a number of leggero arpeggios raked with i and p that require a very light and relaxed touch; the thumbnail must be shaped in such a way that it can glide over the strings without resistance. There are also quite a few ornaments, including single and double grace notes, portamenti, and a turn that appears twice in the verse, which along with the raked glissandi lends the piece a bit of sophistication and expressive nuance.
A video of this piece and tips for playing it, as well as a tabbed version and additional pieces and arrangements, can be found above and on my website: benschenstead.com.