by Brian Clarey
I asked him in the car on the way over if he was going to ditch me as soon as we got there.
“Probably not,” he said. But I never put too much stock in the words of teenage boys, who are prone to all sorts of fallacies in their thinking. And sure enough, not three seconds after we entered the Moon Room on Guilford College’s campus, his doofy pals from the guitar program waved him over, leaving me by my lonesome at the end of a pew with maybe enough charge on my phone to get a couple Words With Friends in and perhaps one snarky Facebook comment.
No matter. The guitarist, Johannes Möller, pulled off the road by the Piedmont Classic Guitar Society for the gig, carried the evening with consummate virtuosity.
Möller used all 10 fingers and every inch of the neck of his Martinez on a slate of original music, the most interesting of which he based on five Chinese idioms that he picked up while wandering through that wide country. One of them had to do with flowers, their petals swirling through the air like snow; another attempted to convey the joy of the farmer who grows many types of grapes. Or maybe it was “grains”?
Möller’s tremolo, his dynamic and the purity of his appearance — the guy looks like he was sculpted from butter — were enough to capture most of the 20 or so guitar students on our end of the room; of those I saw, just one was completely checked out and possibly asleep, reminding me more than a little bit of myself in high school.
I tell myself that times were different then, our archetypes shaped more by The Breakfast Club and Fast Times at Ridgemont High than guys like Möller, whose hands moved like dancing birds under the lights in the small performance space. My high school experience was as mainstream as it got: pep rallies, football and basketball games, the big spring dance. I remember a lot of it, but very few of those memories take place in a classroom. And there was no classical guitar.
Maybe 100 had made it out that night, on the front end of a rainy weekend, to fall under the guitarist’s spell, share a moment of pure beauty before the first cold front rolled in. It was the best homework assignment I’ve ever been a part of.
We reconstructed the performance in the car on the ride home: the impossible runs, the notes that seemed to spring from nowhere, the potential utility of a properly trained pinkie finger, the strange life of the wandering classical guitarist.
After we got home, I heard the strains of a guitar coming from his room, just a couple minutes of practice before bed.