Helen Avakian

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What a Week! Day 7 Pete Huttlinger!
October 1, 2014

As  mentioned at the end of the Day 6 blog, Pete Huttlinger invited me to join him at his 12 noon set on stage 3 at the Walnut Valley Festival. We met around 11:00 am to rehearse a bit. I arrived extra early of course. Pete suggested I play one tune on my own then we would play a couple together. I wanted to play Monaghan Jig which is one of my favorite Pete Huttlinger pieces. He arranged a traditional Irish fiddle tune in a beautifully inventive manner. The intro and outro have more modern chords than often heard in Irish traditional music like major 7ths and power chords, plus he has a percussive part that I just love. Pete put a lot of of open cross strings in the tune itself. Often one plays a higher note on a lower string then a lower note on a higher open string which gives a very full and legato sound. When I learned how to play this piece, the cross string part was so hard to read for me because of the disorientation of playing so many lower notes on higher strings that it basically forced me to memorize the music right away. The music is available in The Pete Huttlinger Collection Volume 1 c. 2004 Instar Records. I first arranged it for my Dutchess Community College Guitar Performance Ensemble and Classical Guitar Class. We had a lot of fun (and challenge) putting it together for a spring guitar party. Then I started performing the piece solo.

Pete was agreeable to playing Managhan Jig (yay!) so we rehearsed that. Since I was playing it as written with a few embellishments I added at the end Pete made up another part on the spot to go with it. Two times through and we were ready. I asked him to play with me on the title track from my album "I Love the Moon." The first time through I was in musical nirvana! His playing supported my playing and voice in a manner that brought the song to life for me in a way I had not heard or felt before! Pete Huttlinger was John Denver's guitarist in the last years of Denver's life, and he also plays with Lee Ann Rimes. I immediately heard and felt why they would love to have Pete in their band. We ran the song  2 or 3 times. It felt better and better, as I said true musical nirvana form the get go for me!

Then Pete went onstage and started his set. He said he would call me onstage later in the show. I practiced and listened backstage until he said my name and introduced me as the new 2014 International Fingerstyle Guitar Champion. It was a packed audience. I performed Zambra which went well and went over well. Then we played Monaghan Jig together which was a major thrill as you can probably imagine. Pete jokingly said "What do you do with a musician who plays your music? Keep them around!" Before we played he asked if I ever played Stage 3 before. I said I had due to winning the NewSongs Contest in the past. I said I finally played all 4 Winfield stages because I had made it to Stage 1 for the winners performance. I said "I finally made a grand slam!" So Pete said that line in the show (I was honored.) He said "It took me years to play all 4 stages. I said it took me years as well!" 9 to be exact. Then we performed "I Love the Moon," and that was one of my top most happy experiences ever on stage. I hope I can record that and Monaghan Jig with Pete someday not too far away....

After the show Pete asked me if I would like to join him for another show that evening on Stage 3 with Mark Sganga (International Fingerstyle Champion 2009 and my touring buddy a few times) and Tim Thompson IFSC 2009 for some Beatles songs so we would have a performance with 4 champions onstage. Well, yeah, I would love to! Pete invited us up at the end of his set and we played While My Guitar Gently Weeps and When I Saw Here Standing There. Amazing experience!!! It was the most incredible way to wrap up a most wonderful week in my guitar and personal life. I could not have planned something so perfect if I tried. Huge gratitude for this week of wonder! Yeah, What a Week!!!



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