Classical: A lifelong passion

Guitarist Valerie Hartzell, appearing in Dronfield
Guitarist Valerie Hartzell, appearing in Dronfield

International classical guitar soloist Valerie Hartzell will be performing a recital in Dronfield next week.

American Valerie, who has now settled in Bedfordshire, has performed concerts worldwide, including an extended tour in Alaska.

She took up guitar at the age of two, encouraged by her French mum.

Valerie said: “She started out as a classical guitarist and was studying in Paris.

“She was an American exchange student, which is how she met my father.

“She followed him back to New England and went to the New England Conservatoire in Boston.

“I was on her back when she was playing when I was a baby.

“I begged her for a guitar at two and she said I got serious at three and a half!

“It was something I wanted to do, it was never imposed on me.”

Valerie has appeared with orchestras as a soloist but performs mostly solo or in a duo or with a pianist, Lorraine Banning, performing 19th-century repertoire written for that combination of instruments.

Valerie described next week’s show: “It’s going to be a mix of classical guitar hits such as Asturias and Recuerdos de la Alhambra and Mexican music by Manuel Ponce.

“Part of the programme will be later music like Here, There and Everywhere by The Beatles and Daydream Believer from The Monkees.”

The final piece is Valerie’s arrangement of John Harnell’s Lonely Man, the theme that ended the 1970s show Incredible Hulk.

She originally created the arrangement as part of a jokey farewell to a long-serving local radio presenter.

There is also a world premiere of a piece called Romance by English composer Paul Ibbotson.

Valerie said: “He is an up-and-coming composer. I am really excited about that.”

She is passionate about opening up classical guitar music to new audiences, emphasising how exciting the music can be.

That inspired her to make arrangements of pop music for classical guitar.

She added: “Classical guitar has a lot of room to grow in England. I want to bring it to people who wouldn’t usually come to a guitar concert.”

Valerie said she thinks the guitar is so popular because of its sheer versatility.

“There are so many styles and a range of different instruments.

“We have lot of people composing music for us.”

Valerie says that she also has a passion for music written by women.

“I love going to chamber music concerts and listening to Beethoven but there were a lot of women composers from the past such as Clara Schumann and Lucretia Borgia’s daughter, who wrote a choir piece.

“You don’t hear a lot of women’s names revered in the classical world.

“There is also a woman called Olga Amelkina-Vera, who is a woman composer, originally from Belarus.

“She is now an American student.

“I met her as my student 12 years ago in Houston. She is a published composer and recording artist.

“I’m ending the first half of my programme with a piece by her.”

The show is at the Peel Centre, Thomas Taylor Hall, Dronfield on Saturday, April 8.

Tickets from Valerie Hartzell or pay on the door.