Classical Guitar magazine described one of Mark Jennings’ performances as ‘exquisite’. This former London College of Music student has performed on the BBC and Classic FM. And now he’s bringing his concert, The Art of the Guitar – Virtuoso Classics, to a smaller audience for a more intimate performance at Shaftesbury Arts Centre on Saturday, 1st September.
This is a rare opportunity to see Mark in this part of the world. It’ll be the first time he’s ever been to Shaftesbury and he is only performing twenty dates in this concert series, because he chooses not to perform all the time.
“I like to have a bit of variety in my life so I don’t like to do too much performing,” Mark explained. “I like to get the balance right. Each concert is exciting for me as well as for everybody else.”
So is performing Mark’s passion rather than his profession? “It is both,” Mark replied. “There is a danger of the professional side of it – having to make a living. It can eat into the passion. I’ve seen it on so many occasions with different musicians. Very few musicians make a living from just performance. They have to teach as well and I just see them getting worn down by that routine.”
Mark is in a unique position. He can play for the pleasure of it, rather than relying on his skills to pay all of his bills. “When I left music college, I mostly played ensemble music. I then went on to an academic degree in history and philosophy. In those days, we would get grants. I was lucky enough to be able to continue with performance and also study philosophy and history. I went on to do a postgraduate degree in philosophy. I was able to do as much practice as a professional musician. That enabled me to teach philosophy to earn extra income.”
Mark will perform Spanish classical pieces alongside the work of a German baroque composer during his concert. “JS Bach transcribes so well on the guitar. He wrote a lot for the lute, the predecessor of the guitar. There will be a mixture of Bach, which some members of the audience may not have heard before, but I am convinced, based on past experience, that they will love. I hope it will be a revelation,” said Mark.
“I play the famous Adagio from Rodrigo’s Guitar Concerto. I have it arranged for the solo guitar. And I play Cavatina, the theme from The Deerhunter. It’s a mixture of well-known and less well-known.”
Mark says he will play some complex pieces that should impress experienced musicians. “I’m going to perform a suite by Torroba. I will also be playing a couple of largish pieces by JS Bach. They are very complex. The classical guitar is very difficult anyway, even where some of the pieces don’t seem to be so busy.”
“I’m going to do two sets. The first set will be 35 to 40 minutes long. If it is 40 minutes it’ll be because I am chatting between pieces! Then we will have an interval of 15 or 20 minutes when people can get a drink. I’ll finish up with a 35 minute session,” said Mark.
Although Mark has received some high praise from critics, he says that the feedback of his audience means the most to him. “People come back after the show and tell me how moved they were and how glad they were that they came. That means everything.”
Mark Jennings’ show will be in Shaftesbury Arts Centre’s Phoenix Room at 7pm on 1st September. Tickets are £10, or £9 pounds for members, and they can be bought from Shaftesbury Tourist Information Centre or online at ShaftesburyArtsCentre.org.uk.