The Happy Valley Guitar Orchestra is an avant-garde community music ensemble made up of 18 electric, acoustic, classical and bass guitars based in Western Massachusetts. The orchestra is led by Artistic Director Joseph Ricker who creates the one-of-a-kind arrangements which form their repertoire – a body of music that is as unusual and revelatory as the ensemble itself. The ensemble is populated by both amateur and professional musicians from the local community brought together by their passion for the guitar and for fearlessly exploring an array of music which no other single ensemble can encompass. The HVGO will again be joined by NYC/Florence-based drummer Richie Barshay.
This year, the HVGO will premiere several new and innovative arrangements of compositions by Igor Stravinsky and Domenico Scarlatti alongside folkloric music from South America and a surf-guitar inspired version of Aram Khachaturian’s “Sabre Dance”. The program will also feature the kind of works that only an orchestra of guitars could attempt: an original work by Artistic Director Joseph Ricker in the form of a 12-part double canon (with a rhythm section) and a grandiose reimagining of the Beatles’ “Dear Prudence”. The group will also revisit highlights from past seasons including Stereolab’s “Rainbo Conversation”. A video of this song from the orchestra’s 2022 performance at Bombyx can be heard here.
Part garage band, part formal large ensemble, the Happy Valley Guitar Orchestra was founded in 2009 by Peter Blanchette whose innovative spirit and uncompromising artistry still inspires their current direction. The HVGO has been thrilling and surprising audiences with annual performances at the Northampton Center for the Arts, First Night Northampton and other regional venues as far afield as Jordan Hall in Boston.