The music of Michael Chapdelaine had made a cameo appearance in Adam Holzman’s encore, but nothing could have prepared us for the arrival of the man himself. A time-served classical guitarist who, in his own words, ‘used to have a tuxedo’, Chapdelaine has now reinvented himself as a ponytailed fingerstyle rocker, who performs on a metal-strung acoustic hooked up to powerful amplification while grooving around the stage to the beat of his own potent compositions. It’s well-known that, when classical guitarists attempt to cross the divide, the bridge usually breaks halfway, assuming they even get that far. But Michael Chapdelaine has built his own bridge on his own terms and has grown from being a highly competent classical guitarist (as demonstrated on a superb retrospective CD titled The DBX Reels) into one of the most dynamic and free-thinking live performers you’ll see anywhere on any instrument. Most astonishing of all was his wild reworking of Saudade No.3, in which an all-new central quasi-improvisation travelled from Stephen Foster to the Drifters (twice) and to Mungo Jerry(!) before finally returning to Dyens. But there’s also a serious side to Chapdelaine, the excerpts from his own Homage to the American Indian, all of which were performed seated, revealing a capacity to create the most delicate and imaginative pictures in sound.

So ended an international gathering in which Greece’s burgeoning guitar culture joined forces with some of America’s finest. My warmest thanks to the all concerned, and will the next person checking into Room 421 please cancel the sandwiches.” Classical Guitar Magazine (August 2003)

“As carelessly as the word “virtuoso” gets tossed around these days, it still only characterizes a minuscule percentage of artists. New Mexico-based guitarist Michael Chapdelaine is one of the chosen few. . And Michael Chapdelaine is a consummate live performer whose passion bleeds from his fingertips.” Weekly Alibi

So there he was at Daniel’s house, barefoot and wearing a blue Hawaiian shirt, standing with a Yamaha steel-string on a shoulder strap, fiddling with his Yamaha AG-StompBox with his toes, insulting the audience (“a bunch of geezers”) telling jokes about classical musicians, and generally displaying an irreverent attitude the subtext of which was, “I have tenure so I can play the kazoo in pink pajamas if I want to, Yah-hoo-oo!”

Michael didn’t bother wasting his time establishing his credentials by playing “Leyenda” and “Recuerdos” first (I have heard Muriel Anderson and Sharon Isbin both do exactly that, but Michael is beyond giving the proverbial flying fig). He gave us a solid 40 or 50 minutes of arrangements of classic pop tunes, with 2 or 3 originals in the mix. The first three tunes were remarkable primarily for showcasing the “rock-n-roll Golpe”, a trick of thumping relentlessly on the bass strings with the side of the thumb on the back-beat ( 1 – foomp – 3 – foomp etc.) It’s very effective for creating the illusion of a rhythm section and solves that “empty sounding” problem that solo-guitar pop tune arrangements sometimes have. Also, it’s a very comforting sound if you happen to miss sitting in traffic next to someone with sub-woofers in the trunk of the car. Later he changed the patch on the AG-Stomp and it mellowed out a little bit, or else yours truly just forgot about it because of the truly awesome guitar playing which was going on over the top of it.

About the fourth song in, we were treated to the surf classic “Wipe Out!” (groan) but this is where the audience surrendered and said, “OK, we admit it, you’re great!”. It was the classic shtick of “Watch how many things I can do at once!” – the bass, the drums, the complete famous drum solo. We wondered if this might have been what he won the Winfield contest with, but forgot to inquire. After this there was one more truly cheesy number, the theme from “Secret Agent Man” – but it was perfect. Michael had completely recreated being a 13-year-old with an electric guitar in the 60’s and thereby attracted the envy of every geezer in the room.

“At this point our guitarist shifted gears (changing the patch in the AG-Stomp, although the difference was too subtle for me) and explained that he had arrived at a point in life (but what he meant was a point in the set) when he realized that he would rather play music to impress beautiful women than to wow teenage boys, and proceeded to play some gorgeous arrangements of love songs. The highlight of these was George Harrison’s “Something in the way she moves”. (On the light gauge steel strings Michael could do all of Harrison’s guitar work note for note, with string bends and all, in a way that is impossible on nylon strings.) We, the audience, surrendered to pure musical beauty for the rest of the set. Sorry the rest of you didn’t make it!” John Pearse

“The music of Michael Chapdelaine was something completely different at the International Guitar Workshop, but he was also one of the world’s finest guitarists performing some of the world’s finest music.” The Deland Beacon

“I saw Michael at the 1996 Guitar Foundation of America Competition. I was impressed by his beautiful tone, easy manner on stage and thoroughlypolished performance. Most of all I enjoyed the balanced mixture offlawlessly interpreted classical works and lighter, popular modern works byhimself and other guitarist-composers. This is an unexpected treat and an opportunity to hear one of the world’s most original guitarists. ” ACGS Ovations, Newsletter of the Austin Classical Guitar Society

“Remember those old Venn diagrams from math classes? Two circles sharing a small common area. The teacher would ask what elements were in each circle & whether there were any “common elments” shared by both circles. Suppose there was a diagram of champion guitarists. Circle “A” contains all Guitar Foundation of America classical guitar champions. Circle “B” contains all National Fingerstyle Champions. The intersection or common area of Circles A&B would contain all guitarists who have won both GFA Championship& National Fingerstyle Championship. Question: How many guitarists are in the intersection or common area of Circles A&B?Answer:

As the Venn diagram above shows, a grand total of1 guitarist has won both GFA & National Fingerstyle Championships: Michael Chapdelaine. Currently a Professor of Guitar at the University of New Mexico, Michael’s newest release “Grapevine” is what happens when the only combined GFA & National Fingerstyle Champion turns his considerable skills & talents to “Pop” music. The result is a very, very cool CD! Appropriately, “Grapevine” begins with a Motown classic “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”. Trust me, Motown music was never like this; 1 man & 1 guitar & an interpretation that really draws the listener in. Motown music lovers will be thrilled to find “Spanish Rose of Harlem” played like no one else could play it.

The Eagle’s track, “Best of My Love”, captures the true spirit, intimacy & pain of the original. Somehow, Michael’s version is even more soulful than the Eagles’ original. “Drift Away”, an old tune that most will associate with Rod Stewart’s re-recording in his post-Ron Wood/Faces incarnations another soft tune that becomes poetry in Michael’s hands. MC, as he is sometimes know, plays Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower” with a little Tom Petty “Breakdown” seamlessly incorporated. Eric Clapton’s “Wonderful Tonight” will make you realize EC’s genius in writing it & MC’s genius in playing it.

No genre goes “uncovered” (pun intended) on “Grapevine” .J.S. Bach’s “Jesu Joy of Man’s Desire”, the traditional Irish tune “Danny Boy” and the Roland Dyens’ tribute in “Saudade” highlight MC’s diverse musical tastes &his uncanny ability to play songs of any style. The other two songs on the CD are the old McCoy’s (remember them) “Hang on Sloopy” and “Mr. Bojangles” written by Jerry Jeff Walker in 1966 and recorded by the likes of The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, John Denver, Neil Diamond and Sammy Davis, Jr.

“Hang On Sloopy” is pure, unadulterated 1960’sFUN; and that is FUN in capital letters. “Mr. Bojangles” is an emotional end for a CD that ends all too quickly. This is an excellent “feel-good” CD; you will find yourself singing along and humming the songs long after taking “Grapevine” out of the player. After listening to this CD a lot, I would sure like to get my hands on the person who originally said “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach”. They OBVIOUSLY never heard Michael Chapdelaine!” Rating: Excellent

“Unexpected pleasures are often the best. Although Chapdelaine was previously unknown to me, I have seldom heard a more superb album. Other young guitarists have excellent technique, but few have such style and musicality, and Chapdelaine’s tone is the nearest to Segovia’s that I can recall. It’s rash, of course, to go overboard on the basis of a single album, but if I were marooned on a desert island with a limited selection of recordings, this one would be among my choices.” Acoustic Guitar Magazine

“I was expecting something hokey or maudlin, but instead was impressed by an impressionistic, gently modal work, melancholy, but never depressing, which used parallel fourths, bent notes, glissandi, and other devices to evoke rather than imitate Native American music……an ambitious and original work (Red Sand, Homage to the American Indian); Chapdelaine is as formidable a composer as he is a guitarist. ” Soundboard

“Chapdelaine’s absolutely tasteful and stylish phrasing and the sensitivity of his playing, even at the beginning, were striking…And when he performs etudes and preludes by Villa-Lobos, with breathtaking technique, the Segovia student is hardly to be beat.” Elmshorner Nachrichten (Germany)

“Chapdelaine performed an understated but deeply engaging program…demanded of Chapdelaine contrapuntal independance ,rhythmic fluidity, sustained energy and concentration, and received same..What was ultimately so satisfying about Chapdelaine’s performance was the ability to work with in the confines of an instrument so severely limited dynamically and expressively, and even transform those limitations into virtues.” Kansas City Star

“superb” Denver Post

“Chapdelaine is much admired for his sensitive, even soulful performances.” Guitar Review Magazine

“His playing was orderly, neatly structured and full of energy. He opened up the lines to let things bloom and breath.” Charlotte Observer

“Bravo…It is easy to get carried away with a limpid and debonair mood in Chapdelaine’s playing…Chapdelaine played with a graceful vitality, presenting the music as a luminous arch and delivering it with stunning control of dynamics…Dare we ask for much more?” Baton Rouge Morning Advocate

“Michael Chapdelaine played with great sensitivity, producing a controlled delicate sound.” Guitarra Magazine

“An exciting performer, Michael plays an incredible program of classical compositions.” Guitar Player Magazine

“Michael Chapdelaine played these pieces brilliantly, with great colour, insight and conviction. Here one could hear new, interesting pieces and an outstanding performance.” Dagbladid-Visir (Iceland)

“Both the old and young were equally mesmerized by the exquisite sounds Chapdelaine elicited with amazing skill. Chapdelaine’s hands ran up and down the instrument with a grace and fluidity that left the listeners awed.” News Tribune

“Everything about (his performance) spoke of discipline, unforced technique and the ability to perceive and shape the design of complex pieces.” Kansas City Star

” Chapdelaine played a monstrously difficult program…pulled out all the aggressive and dramatic stops possible…the performance, in spite of the work’s complexity, was beautiful.” Soundboard

“Mr. Chapdelaine Warms Audience (headline)…The variety and complexity of Chapdelaine’s program enabled him to display his natural intuition for style as well as his admirable technical skill.” Jefferson Times

“What we heard was a sturdy reading with propulsive vigor.” Los Alamos Monitor