Robert and I were thrilled to see the announcement of Mark and Beverly Davis’ Duo concert on Facebook: Friday August 14th, 2015 at Great Falls Coffeehouse, in Turners Falls in Western Massachusetts. We were in Boston, five years after we first made contact with Mark on Skype from London to book our concert in their home in Connecticut. In planning our road trip, we remembered fondly of their hospitality and their beautiful CD which accompanied us on our long drives in autumn in New England through our five week concert tour that ended in Maui on Thanksgiving Day in 2010.
Google maps estimated a 1.5 hour drive from Newton to Turners Falls without traffic. But a hot August Friday afternoon delayed it to two hours.
Coincidentally my childhood friend Alice worked just across the street from the concert venue. Every May she had driven the same distance to Boston to see Robert’s guitar concerts at the New England Conservatory. It was our turn to go to her neck of the woods. We were so glad to attend the concert together and follow her home afterwards in anticipation of a day of music making with her friends the next morning.
One of my favorite pieces is Vivaldi’s Mandolin Concerto in C major. However, I had never heard a live performance of the mandolin. Thus I was both eager and curious to attend this concert, knowing full well that Mark Davis, who conducts the Providence Mandolin Orchestra, would very likely “whip out” his mandolin at some point.
This 7 pm concert began with two guitars, ending the first set with a trio of guitars, with guest Michael Nix, a composer and guitarist in Greenfield, MA. During the break, we were welcomed to home-grown vegetables and home-made brownies and cakes at the refreshment table, all staffed by volunteers.
The second half opened with Beverly Davis on guitar and Mark Davis on mandolin. At the end, Michael joined them again, this time on a mandolin. In total, the concert featured the following combinations: guitar duo, guitar & mandolin duo, guitar trio, and guitar plus two mandolins.
Mark and Beverly are masters of the personal touch. They took turns introducing the pieces they were about to play, and in the process, gave the audience a feeling of who they were and what they were passionate about. There was no printed program and no need for one either. This personalized narration also gave us a peek into their relationship, the way they communicated with each other in words, in music, and in gestures. We had known them as hosts of a successful house concert series but not as performers on stage. We had listened to their Ayres and Dances CD enough to know their preferred repertoire and warm, intimate interpretation of it.
One piece, in particular, captivated our attention. I daresay, it’s my favorite guitar duo arrangement of all time. I love it so much that I plan to find the sheet music and arrange it for solo piano so that I can play it. Interestingly Robert said, “There’s so much repertoire for piano already. Why are you stealing from our guitar music?”
Mark and Beverly preceded that one piece with another track from their CD – Danza de la Pastora, also one of my favorites. When the Lass of Patey’s Mill came on, I had that deja vu feeling —- what I experienced when Suzanne Vega sang my request “The Queen and the Soldier” at her concert in Utrecht.
As the duo played, I paused for breath, and then let myself sink deeply into the music. It was LIVE. It was what I would have requested before the concert. Lass of Patey’s Mill appears on the 8th track of their CD. Afterwards, Beverly said to me that they’ve played this piece at their wedding and at other family members’ weddings. It’s a favorite.
True, every person’s experience of an event is unique. I can’t say everyone was there for the same goal. I wanted to hear that one piece more than anything else.
As I listened to the Lass of Patey’s Mill, I thought of the five years since our five week concert tour in 2010. I thought of my father who never heard this piece or had the opportunity to see my own duo perform. My eyes welled up. When I glanced at Robert next to me, I saw that he was also deep in thought.
Meanwhile, a few rows in front of us, a grandmother tried to placate her little girl. Behind us, a baby blasted random yelps while his parents looked on. There really should be two concerts: one for those who keep quiet and still and another for those who insist on bringing their uncontrollable children and babies.
The saving grace, for picky audiences like me, was that the children and their respective adults left during the intermission. What joy to finally get the optimal acoustics for this live performance!
The second half was again full of tuneful surprises. Mandolin and guitar is a pleasing combination indeed!