The Webster University Orchestra played the concerto for two guitars with a full string orchestra in a grant theatre hall. This was the way composter Jorge Morel meant the music to be played.
On Nov. 2, Paul Davis conducted the first rehearsal of a never-before-heard concerto, titled “Aquarelle Latino.” It was performed by the Webster University Orchestra and guitarist John McClellan.
McClellan, Davis and everyone else in the auditorium that night became the first people in history to hear Argentinian composer Jorge Morel’s concerto for two guitars the way it was always meant to be heard: played by a full string orchestra in a grand theatre hall.
“Mr. McClellan and Mr. Morel go way back and have been friends for a long, long time,” Davis said. “This is an opportunity for us to have a world premiere, and for John, it’s a personal thing because it’s a tribute to his friend and his mentor, Jorge Morel.”
Davis, along with guitarists McClellan and Kirk Hanser and the Webster University Orchestra, officially debuted Morel’s concerto on Nov. 14 at 7 p.m. in the Community Music School Concert Hall.
McClellan has been teaching guitar at Webster University since 2005. He said he was the best of friends with Morel. In fact, the two were so close that Morel wrote this concerto specifically for McClellan’s expertise with the strings. This piece, which has been waiting to be played since 2006, was always meant to be played by a symphony of strings with McClellan’s guitar at the forefront.
Being the world premiere of a concerto is not the only unique thing about this piece.
“It’s really exciting getting to hear guitars with the sounds of the orchestra because that is not something I’ve ever experienced or even heard done by other people,” Webster University Orchestra violist Anja Waugh said.
Morel was a prolific composer and practiced classical guitarist. He has been praised for pushing the boundaries of what composing for classical guitar can be through his knowledge of the instrument itself and the technical aspects of music theory.
Morel, however, died on Feb. 10, 2021, making the debut of his concerto for two guitars at Webster all the more sentimental and bittersweet for McClellan.
“It’s indescribable, really, having the opportunity to create something from scratch,” Davis said.
Being the conductor of a debuting piece, Davis is responsible for translating Morel’s work on the page to physical sound and performance for the very first time. His job is to interpret the music.
“Doesn’t matter whether it’s Mozart – who’s been passed on for hundreds of years – or it’s Jorge Morel or it’s a living composer today; every time that composer writes something, it’s a gift. And, that gift is given to all mankind, and we get the opportunity to be the first to bring it to life.”
The gravitas of debuting Morel’s concerto is not lost on the orchestra members themselves. Each and every one of the instrumentalists were part of the very first rehearsals for the first playing of this new piece. Each of their instruments were, well, instrumental, in the creation of the music.