Peter and Then Some: The Happy Valley Guitar Orchestra (2011)

Happy Valley Guitar Orchestra is a large, all-guitar ensemble based in Northampton, Massachusetts. The group is led by guitarist, composer, and professional musician Peter Blanchette. The group was born after Peter moved to Northampton. A unique and special town, Northampton contains countless amateur musicians – more specifically, tons of amateur guitar players. Before Happy Valley existed, there wasn’t a space in which amateur guitarists could get together for the purpose of playing with other guitarists. Peter recognized this lack, and began putting his idea to work. Today, the group is fully functional, in its very distinct way. Peter is the musical director of the group, choosing and arranging music, conducting the orchestra, and guiding the guitarists through the music. Happy Valley is his vision. The rest of the ensemble, however, is of equal importance. The group is incredibly dedicated to the music, coming together for rehearsals twice a week. The orchestra is a collective group of musicians. Some are older, some are younger. Some are more experienced players, some less. This is part of the attraction of Happy Valley – it is a truly community-based group that doesn’t discriminate. Additionally, the group couldn’t function without the aid of Madeline, Peter’s wife. Madeline is in charge of the business side of the group, i.e. letting the world know what Happy Valley is.

Though the process of fine tuning the pieces that Happy Valley plays is an intricate one, molding together the thick texture of twenty-plus guitars, when it all comes together their sound is immensely powerful. And ultimately, the group is able to create some truly special-sounding music.