MACHU PICCHU and Luxor are probably the only important destinations that remain on his bucket list. For globe-trotting Terrence Farrell, who has played classical guitar on every continent except Antarctica and on every ocean except the Arctic and Southern, that betells a tale. The original wanderlust began in childhood, forced on him and his two older brothers by their father’s military career. This explains why Terry, as he was called growing up, was born in Salzburg just after the end of World War II. “But I was conceived in Vienna,” he adds.
Farrell’s first memory of music, around age three, was from under the piano while his mother played. “She studied with a student of Walter Gieseking.” Even though he was a relatively late bloomer with classical guitar, music was always a major theme of his life, and of the family. He tells an anecdote about his brother. “When he was eight he went for lessons at the Mozarteum. He came back dejected, saying ‘Mozart started when he was five. I’ll never catch up.’”
When the itinerant family arrived at Ft. Lewis, Washington, Farrell was still in elementary school. During a show-and-tell, a boy appeared in a Hawaiian shirt and played Hawaiian guitar. “I wanted to do that too. So my mom took me downtown to buy a guitar and a lesson, which quickly led to disappointment. I knew it was going to take longer than a week,” he says. He was eight years old. In the fourth grade he joined the school orchestra playing string bass. Then his father was reassigned to a base in Arizona. Now in the fifth grade, at a school with no orchestra, Farrell joined the marching band, and added the Sousaphone to his instrumental repertoire. “I remember marching in 100 degrees, dressed in a wool uniform, with a shako hat and this heavy tuba wrapped around my body.” He continued with the string bass playing in the jazz band and, by himself, plectrum guitar. As a teen he got into athletics—swimming gave him an out from marching band—and at age 14 he began his serious love affair with the classical guitar. As a sophomore, his parents gave him a birthday present. “A year of guitar lessons,” he says. “I still use those books when I teach.”
By 1966, Farrell was in Seattle, at the University of Washington. “I wanted to become an actor,” he says, “hoping to go to London to study at the Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA). But youthful dreams proved feckless, and during the last two summers at university he wound up managing a swimming pool and living in a trailer in somebody’s back yard. “Guitar was my solace, I had no TV, and plenty of time to practice,” he says.
That was when his life’s path became clear. “I wanted to play the guitar and see the world.” And he also recognized that he needed better training. “I looked for college guitar programs, and went to the College of the Desert in Palm Desert. “It was endowed by the widow of Rudolf Bing, the longtime manager of the Metropolitan Opera.” There he was mentored by Joe Whiteford, who had been a president of the Aeolian-Skinner Organ Company. “Through him, I met E. Power Biggs, Lily Pons and Frederick Loewe,” Farrell says. His guitar instructor was Manuel San Miguel, a Latin band master and jazz player. “Study went really well,” he says. “It was an amazing community college for music majors.” Along with guitar he studied theory and voice, but now highly motivated and at school at Claremont, “I was running through teachers quickly.” That was where he met Guy Horn who took him as a student. Horn moved to Carmel, with Farrell right behind in 1973. “I studied with him for ten years.”
Farrell first played in Monterey at Gallatin’s Restaurant. This was after Gallatin Powers had died and the late David Walton (1926-2013) was the manager. (It was Walton who convinced Farrell to use Terrence in place of Terry.) At the time, Farrell was subbing for the touring Flamenco guitarist Peter Evans, and needed more work. Walton engaged him as assistant maître d’ the year he met his soul mate Sandy. The two went on two dates and have been together ever since. (They celebrated their fifth anniversary by getting married, at a venue better known for other functions: Carmel’s Sunset Center.)
From 1982 to the mid-’90s, his career entered its richest performing period. He was contracted by Royal Viking Cruises as a featured entertainer with all manner of perks, “not like the regular musicians who were considered members of the crew.” He could practice all day pursuant to playing one hour a week. He did many cruises with Royal Viking, some as long as four months at a time. Sandy was able to join him for parts of several of them.
Then, quite fortuitously, he met the regional representative for Community Concerts, the now defunct concert presenters that put on subscription series all over the US. That entrée gave him the opportunity to play for all the regional reps across the country in the Carnegie Recital Hall in New York. “I pulled the brass ring,” he says. He could have played seven days a week, but made it a condition of his contract the he would only do six. He gives one example: leaving Monterey by car, “I drove 8,000 miles through every state west of Colorado, including British Columbia, and played 22 concerts.” Not only did his skills improve dramatically, but he also refined his patter with audiences that included some of the personal anecdotes that appear here. “If that’s all you do, you have no life. But those two hours with audiences were absolutely fantastic.” Sandy, who was employed at City Hall in Carmel-by-the-Sea, would join him for a week now and then, and when the driving was especially grueling, he would hire his brother to share the long-distance travel. Ultimately, he would play in every state except North Dakota and Mississippi. “I performed hundreds of concerts for Community Concerts Association,” he says. “Driving a car from Minnesota to Texas in the middle of winter is not as exotic as cruising the high seas,” he adds.
Farrell ultimately visited 34 countries, doing what he had always prioritized. “The guitar did exactly what I wanted it to do…I became a world-traveler.”
Highlights of Farrell’s career include touring for the US State Department, playing for President Gerald Ford, serving as director of the International Classical Guitar Seminars of Bavaria for nine years, and being a featured performer on Cunard’s QEII world cruise. To date, he has performed over 1,000 concerts worldwide.
Farrell began making recordings in the ‘70s and went into self-production in 1980 as Troubadour Recordings. He’s released dozens of CDs, several DVDs and published a music book as well.
Having concentrated on classical, romantic and Spanish guitar repertoire, he became drawn to Flamenco. He accompanies Flamenco dancer Alicia Morena di Palma and studies the dance from her. In 2012, the Farrells went to Jerez de la Frontera and Granada, Spain, to further study Flamenco dance. In the cave school at Granada, Carmen de las Cuevas, “I learned the hard way that if I raised my arms too high I would scrape my knuckles on the ceiling.”
Farrell plays regularly in Monterey Peninsula restaurants and hotels. He continues to teach and, when in the mood, creates new recordings which can be found where CDs are sold, including restaurants and wine-tasting rooms. Every third Sunday, from noon to 1pm, he plays for Flamenco dancers at Mando’s Restaurant on Fountain Avenue near Central in Pacific Grove. And, as the photo shows, he sometime dances as well.
Moreover, his travels have amassed a huge library of photographs. He studies photography with well-known Monterey professionals Fernando Batista and Barbara Moon Batista, continues to shoot images and has grown a cottage industry of selling his work. At any given time he has half a dozen students, private and in a class at CSU Monterey Bay, where he also teaches introduction classes to theater arts and music.
His collection of guitars numbers 10, half of them antiques that decorate the walls of his Monterey home. His favorite concert instrument, once owned by Flamenco artist Carlos Montoya, was made by Marcelo Barbero in Madrid. The most versatile of his guitars was made by Kenny Hill. “It includes a pickup for amplification if needed, and the upper bout is narrower,” making it more comfortable to play standing. “Kenny and I agree that the future of classical guitar is going to need some kind of amplification component so it can hold its own against a noisy world.”