Guitar Concert Impresario Richard Patterson celebrates 40 years of creative programming

BY BLAIR JACKSON

2021 was meant to be a celebratory year for concert producer Richard Patterson and his San Francisco-based Omni Foundation for the Arts, which has become one of the classical guitar world’s most successful series regulars since. 40 years. And as proof of Patterson’s ingenuity, skill and resilience, 2021 has been a hugely impressive landmark year – but not in the way he had imagined.

Rather than performing his usual series of classic and steel-string Dynamite Guitars concerts at various cool venues around San Francisco, the COVID-19 crisis has forced him to get creative and work with people around the world. worldwide he managed to produce spectacular concerts by some of the best classical guitar players, captured in a multitude of exotic locations that made each one truly special, and presented online for free – and also produced a whole host of other more near their place. What a lie!

“When we were forced to cancel all performances from March 6, 2020 until the end of season ’19-’20 – our 39th – I assumed we would be fine for our 40th season, ’20-‘ 21”, the soft-spoken and affable says Patterson. “Brochures were printed, contracts were finalized and advertising was in place to kick off the season. As the summer progressed, we realized the pandemic was changing everything and live performances were not is going to happen, so we have canceled the upcoming season.

“We watched large organizations come online with different types of performances and I decided to film live performances at one of our regular venues. We called it Live From St. Mark’s. We presented talented local artists or gamers who may have come to San Francisco. We released five of these live performances between October 2020 and March 2021. The series has been so loved and watched by an ever-expanding online audience around the world .

“We wanted to continue to provide high-quality online concerts, but traveling to San Francisco was difficult and dangerous. I had a call with the great guitarist David Russell who has been quarantined at his home in Spain. We were thinking of ways to present a David concert and he mentioned the possibility of having access to a 12th century church near his home. And so the Omni On Location—Concerts From Historic Sites series was born.

“I knew brilliant Chinese guitarist Xuefei Yang was quarantined in Beijing, and one of my favorite young players, Marko Topchii, was locked up in Kyiv. [Ukraine]. Both artists were intrigued by the project and were able to arrange to record in fantastic locations. I was thrilled with the results of both series, Live From St. Mark’s and Omni On Location. These eight concerts have received over 2,300,000 views to date! It was the result of our 40th season and I couldn’t be happier.

“We have decided to continue offering online concerts with David Russell performing the complete works for lute by JS Bach from monasteries, churches and baroque palaces in Spain. And we have also continued our Live From St . Mark’s into 2021 and beyond. With the millions of views of our 40th season series, it’s obvious that we’ve entered a new era of presentations. I get daily requests from around the world to keep sharing our concerts online.

“Our videos capture the sound and the feeling of being there thanks to the great work of our cameraman, Matthew Washburn of Washburn Imagery. People feel like they’re having a frontline experience. The sound, which is recorded on four channels using AKG mics and Zoom Audio mics, is mastered in post-production by Sienna Digital’s Rainer Gembalczyk, and the sound quality of these recordings was exceptional.

Indeed, it did, and the visuals are exceptional as well. Spectators were treated to one beautiful and majestic concert site after the next, including the 18th-century St. Andrew’s Cathedral in Kiev, Ukraine (Topchii), the 15th-century ZhiZhu Temple in Beijing (Yang); and an assortment of churches and monasteries in Spain and Portugal as David Russell traveled through JS Bach’s four lute suites, one at a time.

St. Mark’s in SF is also a wonderful concert setting and in the past and current season has hosted performances by established and still-young guitarists such as Tengyue Zhang, recently crowned Guitar Competition champion Ana Vidovic Foundation of America Bokyung Byun, LAGQ stalwart Scott Tennant, Eliot Fisk, Beijing Guitar Duo virtuoso Meng Su and others. This winter and spring will also see plenty of action in San Francisco at St. Mark’s and the larger and more magnificent Herbst Theater, starting with a concert by “Next Generation” players Emilia Diaz Delgado, Elle Davisson, Jack Davisson, Reade Park and Eric Wang (January 29, 2022); the Dublin Guitar Quartet (March 26); British sensation Laura Snowden (March 26); the aforementioned giant David Russell (April 2); the always spectacular Romero Quartet (April 8); Brazilian phenomenon (and Omni regular) Yamandu Costa, with Richard Scofano (April 16); and, again, because San Francisco loves her, Ana Vidovic (April 23).

Also over the years, Patterson’s Dynamite Guitars series has also featured some of the world’s finest steel-string guitar players, including Leo Kottke, Tommy Emmanuel and others.

Patterson has managed to succeed for four decades in the volatile world of concert production through a combination of clever bookings – he truly follows the classical guitar world as much as anyone else, building lasting relationships with guitarists, whom he practically treats like family – and the opportunity to secure funding for the OmniFoundation and its guitar series. He is quick to praise the many individual donors who regularly support Omni and, of course, the corporate partners who keep the wheel turning, even during the pandemic. He told us recently, “We are so fortunate to have the support of the City of San Francisco, the D’Addario Foundation and a partnership with San Francisco Performances since 1984.”

This undoubtedly helps Patterson immeasurably as he was (and is) a gamer himself, understands what it takes to be a great musician, and knows how to make the artists he delivers feel like they belong. comfortable and confident. I asked him to tell me a bit about what led him to this career.


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“Although I always had music in my life as a child, the idea of ​​a career in music never crossed my mind,” he says. “My mother was a soprano soloist in our church choir and played the piano. I turned to blues and rock in high school. Then came one of the major upheavals in my life, the Vietnam War.

“I was drafted into the army at the age of 19 and had my 21st birthday in the jungles of South Vietnam. I spent a year in a base camp in the Mekong Delta where we came under fire from the Viet Cong almost every night. I was sent back to Hawaii and took my Gibson guitar with me. The Gibson had shrapnel holes in its top from an attack. I remember the exact moment I was sitting by the ocean picking blues when I made the decision to become a musician I decided to do something that wasn’t destructive but that would be positive and bring something good and healthy to the world. From then on, I didn’t do anything that had nothing to do with music: study, teach, play, record, compose, arrange, produce. It has never been easy but what a satisfying adventure!

“In music, I have always emphasized performance,” he continues. “When I returned from musical studies in Spain [where he studied with the esteemed José Tomas] to go to graduate school in San Francisco, I took a job helping to run a small music club [south of San Francisco] called the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society. The crusty old beatnik who owned the place, Pete Douglas, took me under his wing and constantly lectured me on what could be achieved through a performance by a masterful performer in an intimate space: mystery and the transformative power of a true musical experience. So that’s what we look for in a player and in a performance.

“After presenting chamber music and recitals of all genres, I focused on classical guitar and constantly sought out musicians who could offer this kind of experience. I have attended booking conferences, guitar festivals, music conventions and guitar competitions all over the world looking for those special players. When you find one, you do everything to support them, encourage them, and give them a stage to show off their talents.

“There always seems to be a few very special talents emerging in every generation – artists who have superior talent, charismatic presence, vision and who work harder and at a level that normal people can’t understand. “They work so hard because they have to. They’re inspired. They’re the artists we’re looking for.”

You can find out more about the Omni Foundation, upcoming concerts, or view past concerts for free at omniconcerts.com.

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