Omni hosts 30 years of guitars

The Omni Foundation, the longest-running and most extensive guitar concert series in the United States, launches its 30th season today with a performance by the great Eliot Fisk.

Respected worldwide as one of the most daring guitarists in the classical music world, Fisk’s appearance kicks off the 11-performance series of unprecedented excellence.

“We’re now known to be the finest, most extensive series in the U.S. and one of the leading series in the world,” says Richard Patterson, who founded the series. “I began studying the guitar when I was a kid. While I was fighting in Vietnam, I kept my old Gibson guitar with me. We were attacked every night for a year. One day, I discovered that my guitar had shrapnel holes in its face. It may have saved my life.”

One morning, as Patterson was transitioning to a more peaceful, post-Vietnam life, he decided to dedicate his life to the guitar.

He traveled to Spain to study Segovia’s approach to the guitar, which transforms the instrument into a small orchestra.

“With six strings and a box, and no electronics, you can paint this beautiful portrait,”  Patterson says. “When I returned home, I began inviting people to hear how the guitar was played there. The series began at my home, then at the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society in Half Moon Bay.”

These days, Omni sometimes partners with San Francisco Performances in Herbst Theatre, as well as with San Francisco
Conservatory of Music.

When Fisk performs at SFCOM, he’ll be on the same turf as famed guitar faculty members David Tanenbaum and Sergio Assad, whose presence further helps make the Bay Area one of the major centers for classical guitar in the U.S.

“A lot of people still haven’t been introduced to the higher echelons of classical guitar performance,” Patterson says. “The new generations of guitarists are on a much higher technical level, and it helps push the guitar forward among audiences.” 

He calls Fisk “an extremely knowledgeable, intelligent, brilliant guy. He’s an adventurous player who is not afraid to take risks. That makes him an exciting performer. He’s one of the first guitarists we presented 30 years ago, and he has the same energy he had then.”

So, it seems, do John Williams (Oct. 11) and David Russell (April 22).

But even players and ensembles less well-known deserve attention. Patterson calls the Brasil Guitar Duo of Joao Luiz and Douglas Lora (Nov. 13), for example, the “leading guitarists of Brazil.”

IF YOU GO

Eliot Fisk

Presented by Omni Foundation

Where: S.F. Conservatory of Music, 50 Oak St., San Francisco

When: 8 p.m. today

Tickets: $38

Contact: (415) 242-4500, www.omniconcerts.com

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