Every now and then, we are reminded that quite a few global A-list musicians have come to call Charleston home, especially over the past decade. Many are associated with the College of Charleston's rapidly expanding School of the Arts, which can now claim some international-level artists among its faculty. The latest instance is the recent Grammy nomination of classical guitarist and associate professor Marc Regnier for his album, Gnattali: Solo & Chamber Works for Guitar, a survey of Brazilian composer Radames Gnattali. The nomination is in the highly competitive Best Chamber Performance category; winners will be announced on Feb. 13.
While Regnier performs all of the album's guitar solo pieces, he was joined by three other distinguished local musicians in the chamber works. World-renowned cellist and fellow CofC professor Natalia Khoma collaborated in a chamber sonata for cello and guitar. Marco Sartor, Regnier's former CofC student and winner of several top international guitar competitions, joined him in delivering a four-movement work for guitar duet. Then there's flutist supreme Tacy Edwards, who performed a sonatina for flute and guitar with him. Incidentally (and ironically), Edwards is one of the outstanding musicians who recently lost their jobs under the terms of the Charleston Symphony Orchestra's new contract.
The musicians honor Gnattali, a prolific composer who also excelled as a pianist, conductor, and arranger. Long revered in his native Brazil, he has remained relatively obscure elsewhere until fairly recently, when the Assad brothers, the internationally acclaimed Brazilian guitar duo, began recording his works. He is considered a classical composer, though his works are strongly influenced by the rich Brazilian folk and jazz styles. Regnier spoke enthusiastically of him, describing his music as, "Very well-crafted and engaging. I've been planning this recording of his works for some years now and hope to do others in the future."
The album was recorded at the fabled Skywalker Sound Studios north of San Francisco at the ranch that houses media mogul George Lucas' digs. "We stayed at the ranch there, and it's an amazing place," says Regnier. "I made several trips there with my various collaborators to record the different works." The musicians were fortunate to work with some of the very best record producers in the business, Marina and Victor Ledin, four-time Grammy nominees themselves. Leslie Ann Jones, the recording engineer, is a previous Grammy winner. Regnier adds, "Ms. Jones and the Ledins, who have access to some of the world's best musicians, were very impressed with the College of Charleston team. I am so proud to be a faculty member and to be surrounded by so many talented people."
Regnier described his excitement upon getting the news: "On the night of the Grammy nomination announcements, I received a call around midnight, which to me meant only one thing. My producers verified that indeed, we had been nominated for a Grammy in one of the toughest categories, and in a year when the Recording Academy received more Grammy entries than ever before." The album was competing against several multi-Grammy award-winning stars for the nomination. "I felt we had a good product, but to compete with such musicians ... not in my wildest dreams!"
Regnier's excitement was, of course, shared by his fellow artists, who pointed out other promising aspects of their collaboration. "Following my competition successes," says fellow guitarist Sartor, "I'm at a stage in my career where I need to be seeking out more concert and recording opportunities. And I'm particularly delighted that this project opens the door for future projects, working with some of the best in the business."
Flutist Edwards was bowled over by the recording process itself. "I can't imagine a better recording environment," she says. "The incredible quality of the Skywalker facilities and the absolute professionalism of our production and recording team created a very relaxing atmosphere that greatly enhanced the process of creative music-making."
"Right from the start, I had a really great feeling about this project," says cellist Khoma. "I really like this composer's music, and I had never worked in such a remarkable studio before. When we heard the quality of the final recording edit, I knew — we all knew — that we had accomplished something very special."
So all that remains is the waiting. Many will be holding their breath and crossing their fingers until February. Win or lose, it goes without saying that making the Grammy short list is a rare and exalted honor. And it stands as a tremendous source of pride to both CofC and Charleston's performing arts community.