ARTS: A Guitarist in God's Court

Christopher Parkening's music is dedicated to the glory of God alone.

"My music and my commitment to Christ are so intertwined that I can't separate the two," says Christopher Parkening, the deeply devout and critically acclaimed classical guitarist who probably would not even be playing today were it not for his sudden conversion 15 years ago. Hailed by the Washington Post as "the leading guitar virtuoso of our day," Parkening is a warm and approachable man whose humility conceals the fact that he is a bona fide superstar. He has recorded 15 albums, played more than a thousand concerts, entertained millions, and performed on two televised Grammy Awards shows. The album he made with soprano Kathleen Battle, "The Pleasures of Their Company," was nominated for a Grammy in 1986.

Parkening's concerts routinely sell out and throw music reviewers into paroxysms of praise. Among the many adjectives they use are "brilliant," "gorgeous," "astonishing," "eloquent," and "flawless." At 47, he still has the boyish good looks he had during his teens, when he was first hailed as a prodigy and heir to the mantle of his legendary teacher, Andres Segovia.

Parkening was 11 when he first picked up the guitar. Originally inclined toward popular music, he took the advice of a relative who told him to study classical guitar first. He never looked back.

He was 19 when EMI Classics made the unusual move of simultaneously releasing two debut recordings—to resounding critical and popular acclaim. But by age 30, Parkening was burned out by the incessant worldwide touring that had him performing as many as 90 concerts a year. He kissed his career good-bye and embraced "the good life" by disappearing to a ranch in Montana and fly fishing to his heart's content.

A nominal Christian who had attended Presbyterian and Methodist ...

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