UK guitar professor takes concerts to church and invites everyone

In assembling a full program of guitar concerts, Dieter Hennings wanted to send an extended invitation. Since coming to the University of Kentucky in 2009 as an associate professor of guitar, he has sought to present campus performances by world-class artists, student performers and sometimes even himself. But in organizing a full season of shows, he sought a home just slightly removed from UK so Lexington as a whole would feel welcome.

So begins the International Guitar Series, with Maxwell Presbyterian Church the primary stage for eight concerts between now and late April 2018. Two additional performances, with larger student ensembles from UK, will be presented at the Singletary Center for the Arts.

“This was the first year I was able to launch and plan a whole year in advance for concerts,” Hennings said. “Before, I was just presenting concerts per semester to be more in tune with the academic year. But I wanted the series to be more a part of the community, which is also why this is the first year we’re hosting it at Maxwell Pres. It’s such a beautiful space for the guitar, with really great acoustics.”

Outreach is one of Hennings’ goals for the series, as is the stylistic diversity of the performing artists.

“This is part of the service component of my job as a professor at UK,” Hennings said. “It’s not only teaching and performing, but also providing a service to the community. We can now plan a nice arch through the whole series. We have very different types of guitarists coming here, from the very young competition winner Xavier Jara (on Oct. 29) through the Chilean guitarist Romileo Orellana (April 27), who will be closing our series. We also have the European duo Les Freres Meduses, who is made up of French and American/Norwegian guitarists, so we will have a very nice representation of different styles of the guitar.”

Hennings will be the inaugural performer in the series for multiple reasons. It will allow him to talk to the audience about the series’ mission. The concert will also be a fundraiser for Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, which is assisting victims of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, and the September earthquake in Mexico City.

“I’m from Mexico, so I’m glad that people can come listen to good music and also make a little bit of a difference,” Hennings said. “Also, because this is our first time in our new home in Maxwell Pres, I thought I would open the series, because I’m the local part of the project. I want to be able to tell people face to face what we’re going to be doing here.”

Hennings’ concert will be devoted to a pair of 25-minute variations of “La Folia de España” by the early 20th-century composer Manuel Ponce and contemporary composer/conductor Juan Trigos.

“Ponce’s variations go through a whole different variety of ways to showcase the guitar before ending with this beautiful baroque-like fugue that pays tribute to all the different sets of variations that have been written,” Hennings said. “Trigos wrote a piece that essentially pays tribute to the Ponta variations that is much more modern-sounding.

“Maxwell Pres is just a perfect space for this music. It’s outside of UK, but just a block away from campus. That makes it a bridge between both worlds.”

University of Kentucky International Guitar Series

Here is the full lineup for the University of Kentucky’s International Guitar Series. All performances will be held at Maxwell Presbyterian Church, 180 E. Maxwell St., unless otherwise noted. For information, go to or

Dieter Hennings. 7:30 p.m. Oct. 6 (donations accepted).

Xavier Jara. 7:30 p.m. Oct. 29. $10 students, $15 public.

UK Guitar Studio Fall Showcase. 7:30 p.m. Dec. 8. Free.

Stephen Goss: A Concerto of Colors featuring and the UK Wind Ensemble and Dieter Hennings. 7:30 p.m. Feb. 3 at the Singletary Center for the Arts. Free.

UK Guitar Weekend featuring Nicolo Spera. 7:30 p.m. Feb. 16. $10 students, $15 public.

Les Freres Meduses. 7:30 p.m. Feb. 17. $10 students, $15 public.

New Chamber Music with Guitar featuring the UK Guitar Ensemble. 3 p.m. March 25. Free.

Andrew Zohn and Dieter Hennings with the UK Percussion Ensemble. 3 p.m. April 8 at the Singletary Center for the Arts. Free.

UK Guitar Studio Spring Showcase. 7:30 p.m. April 13. Free.

Romilio Orellana. 730 p.m. April 27. $10 students, $15 public.

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