The new season just announced at the Three Stages performing arts complex in Folsom solidifies the venue as a top-flight destination for classical guitar in the region.
The 2-year-old center is now home base for the Sacramento Guitar Society's lineup of concerts, which last year brought some deeply talented and up-and-coming classical guitarists to the region.
In 2012-13, that lineup will include the outstanding and innovative guitarist Paul Galbraith, who will perform in March. Galbraith has made a name for himself with the eight-string guitar.
Other offerings, which have a decidedly international flavor, include the Beijing Guitar Duo on April 7, Swedish guitarist Johannes Möller Oct. 6 and 7, French guitarist Thibault Cauvin on Nov. 3 and 4, and Russian classical and flamenco guitarist Grisha Goryachev next February.
Getting Galbraith to perform this year was a coup for the society. Few guitarists have chosen to go down the same path as Galbraith with his eight-string guitar an instrument he calls the "Brahms guitar" as it allows him to perform music Brahms intended for the piano.
One of the most unusual things about Galbraith is the manner in which he holds the guitar he cradles it as if it were a small cello. The guitar neck is positioned in an almost upright position, and the guitar rests on the ground with the use of an end pin.
Although it can be argued that Galbraith is evolving guitar performance practice, he bristles at that notion.
"I didn't change my playing style and instrument in order to revolutionize the guitar world," he said. "And, in fact, I dislike the idea of forcing one's ideas on others."
"Whenever you develop something, to the extent that it becomes 100 percent personal and fulfills your own needs then there's every likelihood it will also be of benefit to others too," Galbraith said. "Whether all that translates into an evolution is another question."
In music, such developments happen at a crawl or in sudden bursts, and often are driven by new technologies. In Galbraith's case it is in an organic evolution.
"I think guitar technique at its root could be realigned with the interpretive technique of other instruments like using natural resources of free movement, for example," Galbraith said. "And of course, we all still want to see the development of a more substantial repertoire for the guitar, which is something the eight-string guitar can help open up, hopefully inspiring composers also."
Whether or how the guitar will evolve and become popular as an eight-string instrument is unclear. What is certain is that classical guitar is more popular now than at any recent time.
"It seems that, from the mid-20th century on, the guitar has attracted a wide audience, bridging both the generation gap and the genre gap," Galbraith said. "I think people relax when it comes to the guitar, and so you tend to see a wider cross-section of society at a guitar concert than you might at, say, a classical piano recital, or string quartet recital unless you live in Russia, maybe."
This all is good news for the Sacramento Guitar Society, a 2-year-old nonprofit with an older history as a social and support organization for guitarists in the region that dates back to the 1960s.
Sacramento Guitar Society executive director Daniel Roest said that when the Three Stages performing arts complex opened and the society chose to base its presenting there, it never was a given that an audience would be found.
"There was an element of risk," Roest said. "Our goal was to grow an audience for classical guitar."
After its first season last year, it became evident that an audience existed. The nonprofit sold 95 percent of its seats last season and six of the nine concerts it presented were sold out, Roest said.
And that has allowed the series to expand with Sunday concerts.
"The real test will be how to sustain this high attendance into next season," Roest said. "As far as the quality of what we're offered, I don't think this kind of thing has ever been done in the region yet. Until now, the offerings have been thin."
Being known for classical guitar is an offshoot of the acoustics at the 95-seat Scott-Skillman Recital Hall at Three Stages, said its executive director, David Pier.
"I think it is definitely the case that we're becoming known now for presenting the classical guitar," said Pier. "The Sacramento Guitar Society is doing a fine job of bringing top-tier people from all over the world, and at the same time it's taking advantage of the uniqueness of the recital hall."
The international bent of the offerings that characterizes the guitar series is in keeping with the arc of the 2012-13 season at Three Stages, Pier said.
These include the French jazz and gypsy music master Lulo Reinhardt on Oct. 11 and an international guitar night in January that includes Martin Taylor and Guinga, one of Brazil's foremost guitarists.
Ticket sales for the guitar series and all of the 2012-13 season offerings at Three Stages performing arts complex are now on sale.
THREE STAGES AT FOLSOM LAKE COLLEGE
2012-13 season highlights:
Madeleine Peyroux, Aug. 23
In the Footsteps of Django with Lulo Reinhardt, Oct. 11
Vienna Boys Choir, Oct. 26
Inti-Illimani, Oct. 27
Imperial Science: Una Opera Muerta, Oct. 28
Chucho Valdés Quintet, Nov. 13
E:Motion Dance Ensemble presents "Cash: The Life and Music of an American Legend," Nov. 30-Dec. 1
Clint Black, Jan. 26
The Actors' Gang: Moliere's "Tartuffe," Jan. 29
Paco Peña, Feb. 25
Beijing Guitar Duo, April 7
Information: (916) 608-6888; www.ThreeStages.net