From the Fall 2016 issue of Classical Guitar | Above, Brian Farrell perform the piece
Welcome to the inaugural selection for Classical Guitar’s new “Music to Play” feature— a charming, melodic solo piece called Circle’s End by guitarist, composer, teacher, and longtime CG contributor Steve Marsh.
“Circle’s End was written in late July 1981, about a week after I heard the news that American singer/songwriter Harry Chapin had died in a traffic accident,” Marsh says. “I was, and still am, a huge fan of Harry Chapin—to my mind he wrote some of the finest songs of the 20th century. His song ‘Circle’ was one of the songs I had been listening to when I heard the news of his death; hence the title of this composition.”
A native and current resident of picturesque Derbyshire county in the East Midlands of England, Marsh started writing for guitar in the early ’80s. To date he has written over 300 pieces (for solo guitar, two, three and more guitars, and guitars in combination with various instruments, etc.), with many published internationally and performed and recorded by several guitarists. Since 2000, he has operated Lathkill Music Publishers, which has put out books by many guitarists, but also works for orchestra and string quartet, among others. He runs a successful guitar studio at his home in Bakewell, Derbyshire, where he lives with his wife Nadia (with whom he also plays music regularly).
Circle’s End performance notes from Steve Marsh
The first two bars should be played very quiet, to serve as an introduction to the next four bars, which themselves are the introduction proper. Bars 5 and 6 echo the previous two bars, so should be played accordingly.
When the first melodic phrase enters at bar 7, the upper melody should be projected over the accompanying arpeggio, which should be played quietly in the background. I perform these melody notes with a slight apoyando stroke (rest stroke). Bars 9 and 10 act as a link to the next phrase and the accents in bar 10 should be forced out a little to obtain a 1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2 rhythm.
The awkward transition from the final F# in bar 17 to the B minor chord in bar 18 can be made slightly easier by removing the 7th fret barre towards the end of the bar and replacing finger 1 on the F# by finger 2 and then sliding down along the string to fret three with that finger. The bass notes B, A, G, Eb, and D in bars 18–21 should be slightly emphasized.
In the D minor section reached at bar 27, make sure all the bass notes are held on for their full value and that on the second repeat the final three notes in bar 32 (F#, G, A) are played as a crescendo to finalize at the top B in the second time repeat bar.
When you reach the coda, try to hold all the notes in each chord for as long as possible to let the notes mingle with each other. These final 12 bars should be performed in a “dreamy” manner, ending on a final chord played as quiet as possible.
The piece should be played in a slow, relaxed manner with a certain amount of rubato throughout.