Marc Regnier will be the first to admit that his days of performing at his peak are coming to an end. “I’m not a spring chicken anymore,” says the classical guitarist. “I’m into my 50s now. To be honest, when instrumentalists get into their 60s, they start losing some of their facility. They can still play, but it’s not quite the same, from the physical wear and tear. So my aim is to get as many recordings out as I can while I’m playing at 100 percent.”
Over the last few years, he’s shifted his efforts from performing on stage to working in studios and libraries, along with teaching classical guitar at the College of Charleston. It’s there that he’ll play host to fellow musicians at the 2012 Guitar Foundation of America Annual Convention, which takes place June 26 through July 2. The nucleus of the convention will be on the first floor of the Cato Center. Guest artists include acclaimed guitarists Juan Carlos Laguna, Dale Kavanagh, the Bandini/Chichiaretta Duo, Roland Dyens, and the Assad Brothers. Most concerts will take place in CofC’s Sottile Theatre.
“[The convention] has changed since it came here in 1999, when it was really thrown upon us,” Regnier says. “It really is very large. We have different people in charge of different events and divisions, so it’s easier for me to host and oversee it.” And you’ll find a lot more than guitars at the convention — there will be dual guitars, percussion, violins, and voice involved in some of the concerts. “It’ll be a lot of fun, and it’ll bring a lot of attention to the college,” Regnier says.
Throughout Regnier’s lengthy academic career, he’s immersed himself in various classical and modern styles based in regions ranging from Eastern Europe to Mexico. He toured for years, playing Bach, Vivaldi, and his favorite Baroque and classic pieces. He loved the standard concert music, but he was increasingly attracted to Latin, tango, and gypsy styles.
“Often when I go home, I put on Brazilian music because it’s positive, happy, and fluid,” he says. “It’s not stiff and academic. There’s a lot more liberty on how one would interpret it. There’s technique required to play the parts and the rhythms. There’s a lot of energy in that music, which I really respond to. I try to instill that energy when I play it.”
His most recent recording, 2010’s Radamés Gnattali: Solo & Chamber Works for Guitar, featured renditions and reworkings of compositions by the Brazilian classical composer, conductor, violinist, and arranger. Regnier performed all of the guitar solo pieces, and he welcomed several local colleagues as guest players, including cellist and fellow CofC professor Natalia Khoma, guitarist Marco Sartor, and flutist Tacy Edwards.
Gnattali wrote concert music in a Neo-Romantic style with elements of jazz and traditional Brazilian folk music. He was most popular in the 1950s and ’60s. Regnier’s research on Gnattali led the CofC professor to Brazil and a meeting with the late composer’s wife, who allowed Regnier access to unpublished works and handwritten sheet music that required transcription. Regnier’s collection of Gnattali pieces received a 2010 Grammy nomination for Best Chamber Performance.
“Gnattali was one of the major composers out of Brazil, but he was really unknown outside of South America,” Regnier says. “I understand that he was responsible for helping bring back the choro style. Using jazz and popular music in a classical setting was very unique. I was always interested in doing a collection of works, and I thought it was the right time to do it. I bought the rights to some of the works I found, and I intend to keep arranging some of them.”
Regnier is currently researching the works of other Brazilian masters, and he plans to continue recording new arrangements over the next few years.
While Regnier still enjoys performing solo and with ensembles on stages, he prefers the studio environment. “I feel like I have more control over the pieces, and I prefer the creative process of reproducing what’s in my head,” he says. “In the studio setting, you have to be a lot more subtle and you have to be able to play with a lot more contrast in sound and more dynamically — and I find that challenging. In the concert setting, you blast away, basically.”