Interview with Ekachai Jearakul

On April 2nd, 2016, Ekachai Jearakul, GFA Winner 2014, will perform a recital in Vancouver. As always, a short interview for VCGS to acquaint our readers with the visiting artist.

NP: Ekachai, you started guitar studies as a teenager, so it must have been a conscious choice. What drew you to guitar?

EJ: I was first inspired by the music of the King of Thailand. I originally started my musical training on the trumpet but then I heard a friend play an arrangement of Hungry Man Blues on classical guitar, written by the King, and that’s how I knew I wanted to play guitar.
NP: We are very curious about the Thai culture and the Thai musical culture in particular. What can you tell us about it?
EJ: It is quite an eclectic culture. We have our own pop, jazz, and rock n’ roll, and our traditional music as well.
NP: What kind of music did you grow up with?
EJ: I listened quite a lot to the national pop, rock and jazz music, but also to the Beatles and the film composer John Williams, for example.
NP: What national instruments and music style are common for Thailand?
EJ: We have traditional stringed instruments. For example, the grajabpi, which looks like a two-string mandolin or a lute with double strings. We also have the saw duang which is like the Chinese erhu. There are also the native percussion instruments, such as the ranat which reminds a xylophone, and the thon rammana which is a kind of a hand drum.
NP: What is the culture of learning guitar like in Thailand? Is it different from the Western style, and how?
EJ: Guitar education in Thailand is very similar to the West, but there is a lack of activity in terms of classical guitar concerts. I would like to see more festivals and concerts in Thailand.
NP: What was it like competing at the GFA International Concert Artist Competition? How would you describe this experience? What skills and qualities do you think make a winner? What kind of mental training is required for a competition of this calibre?
EJ: The GFA, in my opinion, is the biggest guitar competition with the highest calibre of players internationally. It takes tremendous experience and preparation. I did many competitions before GFA and I knew I had to feel ready before I would even try to compete in it. There is a proper mental discipline that needs to take place, aside from perfecting your repertoire. I did lots of visual practice and tried to experience what I would feel under pressure.
NP: As part of your tour program, you perform a suite written by King of Thailand, His Majesty Bhumibol Adulyadej. Could you tell us more about it? What about the other pieces in your program? How did you pick them, and how do they work together?
EJ: Not only was I looking to represent my country with my program, but to provide a variety of styles as well: the modern style of Brouwer and Goss, the romanticism of Barrios, the drama of Legnani, and the popular/jazz style of the King’s music. The King’s music was arranged by William Kanengeiser and Frederic Hand who treated the style of the music with great care.
NP: What kind of music is written for guitar in Thailand? Is there a lot of interest for classical guitar?
EJ: The guitar is a very popular instrument in Thailand and is taught in many schools. Students learn the classical style from the beginning of their education. However, there aren’t many Thai composers writing for the guitar.
NP: Who was your very first teacher? How was studying at Mahidol University College of Music with Paul Cesarczyk different from studying at the Mozarteum with Marco Tamayo?
EJ: My first teacher was from Thailand. He did not perform much, but was a great teacher and gave me a strong sense of fundamentals. Paul Cesarczyk is an excellent teacher and performer, and from him I learned a lot about technique. Marco Tamayo is a full blown performer , and thanks to him I gained a different perspective on guitar playing.
NP: Now you are your own teacher. How do you work on your repertoire, what is your personal method?
EJ: I try to look for new dimensions in my playing all the time, new possibilities to approach the music in a different way. I record myself a lot.
NP: What is the first thing you would tell a new student about the guitar?
EJ: This is hard to say. I think a student should realize how beautiful the guitar is. Hit a key on the piano and the sound is already there; the guitar is a difficult instrument, but the sound is fascinating somehow. I think I would want to inspire an interest first.
NP: What people or events were your biggest influences and inspiration to bring you where you are now?
EJ: I am inspired by the pianist, Lang Lang. He is a superstar! More so, he represents his country well and has been a huge inspiration for young people approaching classical music.
NP: Being a touring musician means meeting new people non-stop, day after day. How do you handle this constant flow of communication? Do you enjoy being alone and having a quiet time?
EJ: It’s fun for me! I enjoy meeting new people. I think I feel best when interacting with others, and I can get lonely easily.
NP: How do you juggle career and spending time with your family and friends? Do you manage to maintain a balance?
EJ: I keep consistent contact with family; I’m frequently talking and video messaging over the computer! My career is very important to me and I am very grateful that my family and girlfriend understand that.
NP: Do you have a favourite classical composer?
EJ: I love to play the music of Agustin Barrios. His compositions are so beautiful, and he really understood the instrument like Chopin understood the piano.

NP: You perform the world famous Aranjuez Concerto by Joaquin Rodrigo. Why do you think guitarists and audiences love it so much? What makes it a treat for the senses?
EJ: It has so much to offer! The piece has a full range of emotions, everything is there. The melody is very enjoyable, and you see the depth of virtuosity on the guitar – it’s a real spectacle for the audience, and the orchestration is fantastic!
NP: What feelings and emotions do you experience when you play? What does playing the guitar give you?
EJ: I am humbled by the opportunities the guitar has given me: it has taken me around the world, it has taught me discipline, it has made dreams come true for me. It brings me responsibility, it gives me happiness.
NP: Do you enjoy ensemble playing?
EJ: Truthfully, I have not played in many guitar ensembles. I used to play trumpet in a marching band and orchestra, and even played electric bass in some pop ensembles.
NP: What other arts, besides music, do you enjoy?
EJ: I like to cook! I enjoy working with new ingredients. I see a parallel to my guitar playing there: I’m always looking to put interesting elements into my playing and cooking.
NP: What is your message to the audience when you perform?
EJ: My message is to make classical music approachable, to provide variety, something for everyone.

FacebookTwitterGoogle+TumblrLinkedInPinterest

Interview with Celso Machado

Celso Machado is Vancouver’s local treasure. Originally from Brazil, Celso has performed and taught worldwide for over thirty years. He has shared the stage with such guitar legends as the Assad brothers, Yamandu Costa, and Al Di Meola. Celso’s passion and thorough knowledge of traditional music of Brazil and classical guitar are reflected in his unique composition and performance style. His solo and ensemble pieces are well known and loved all over the globe. In addition, Celso is a great communicator and easily connects with audiences of any age and size. Celso performed for VCGS for the first time in 2011, and we are excited and to have him back on February 6th, 2016.

 Natasha Pashchenko, VCGS representative: Celso, you play a multitude of instruments. When I last saw you perform, I believe you played a frying pan. What are some of your favourites?

Celso Machado: Was the frying pan full or empty when I was playing it? (laughs). Classical guitar is my main instrument. I also play the kora, an African string instrument. I play lots of traditional string instruments, a few kinds of flutes including the Middle Eastern bamboo flute called the ney. Some of these flutes require a technique called circular breathing where one has to breathe in through the nose while breathing out through the mouth to keep the sound going.

I play a variety of percussion instruments: drums, tambourines, etc. In particular, I enjoy the big Italian tambourine called the tamburello. It is used for such Italian dances as the tarantella and the tammurriata.  I also play the pandeiro (Brazilian tambourine), which is used for samba and other traditional Brazilian rhythms. For samba I also use surdo, agogô, and various shakers.

Recently I started playing the n’goni, a string instrument from West Africa. Actually, I make sound from anything that finds its way into my hands: a whistle, a rock, a stick…

NP: What household items would make a decent orchestra? Something the whole family can play?

CM: No doubt! Say, you are in the kitchen cooking something, and the side of your stove has such a lovely bass sound. If a Brazilian hears a sound like that, he will search the kitchen for a different, higher sound that would complement it nicely. That’s how you orchestrate. It’s just like cooking a dish – you have to balance the ingredients. You experiment to choose which ones go well together.

NP: Do you think everyone has an intuition for this kind of balance?

CM: Good question. You may not have it naturally, but you can definitely develop it by being in the right environment day by day. In Canada, it may be not so easy. Compare everyday life in Canada to everyday life in Brazil or Cuba, or Spain where you hear flamenco every day. There you will inevitably develop your musical intuition and any relevant skills, because you become part of the musical culture.

NP: What is Canada’s day to day musical culture? What is Canada’s “rhythm” like?

CM: A bit boring sometimes! (laughs) Too much attention is paid to what’s popular, what’s at the top of the charts. I always have a sense of who’s going to appear at the top, and I know it’s unlikely to be me, because that’s not the kind of music I am putting out there. The everyday music culture in Canada are the radio and the TV.  However, the world music category does offer some recognition to artists who don’t play pop music.

One day I went to Penticton and met an amazing acoustic guitarist, amazing. We could easily play and improvise Brazilian music together. Where did he come from, and how is he in Penticton and no one knows him? He discovered his own style and he is a gem, but you are not going to see someone like him in the media or in the charts. That is because people like this don’t try to get attention of the media. And you can discover people like that everywhere you go.

I have a Canadian friend, Liam MacDonald, another outstanding musician who plays Brazilian percussion (pandeiro). He is so dedicated and loves what he does so much that he sounds completely Brazilian.

NP: What was your childhood like? What kind of music did you make?

CM: My childhood was quite nice, I played outside lots. My friends and I pretended that we were in a marching band. We would come out with pot covers and march around practicing the samba rhythm.

We have a samba school in Brazil, which basically means percussion groups on the streets during the carnival playing samba. Every town in Brazil has three or four samba groups that compete during the carnival. This is how I discovered samba. My cousin was the director of a big samba school, so as a seven year old child, I played with them. Even though it’s called a “school”, they don’t really teach you to play. The samba starts, and you just play. No one shows you anything, you have to feel it. And if you don’t, they kick you out. I played the frying pan the whole time while others played shakers. During the rehearsals, I always had to keep my eye on the leader. One must start and end at the same time. If everyone stops and you continue, you are risking your life. You get a strict look at best, or you get kicked out. I had a lot of fun going to the carnival and playing with my samba band. That’s all a child needs, to enjoy and have fun!

I remember also liking to play on my face as a kid. That’s called body percussion.

NP: Did you have traditional guitar education? What teachers did you learn from?

CM: Everyone in my family plays guitar. My father was a musician and my eldest brother is a guitarist. My eldest brother Benedito taught the others. The next eldest brother didn’t become a musician but a soccer coach. The third brother is a percussionist. The one closest to me by age is Filo Machado. He currently plays with his grandson Felipe Machado, and they do some amazing things together! I recommend you to look them up online. Filo taught me some chords on the guitar, and I taught my youngest brother Carlinhos Machado.  Six brothers, and five are musicians! My mother could play percussion too, by the way.

NP: Did you ever have a teacher that was a non-family member who taught you technique, harmony etc.?

CM: Yes, and more than one teacher. When I was starting to play classical guitar, I played everything with the right hand thumb and didn’t use any fingers. And all of a sudden I was told I could use all my fingers! I played the famous Spanish Romance, it was my big hit. I used to listen to records and learn music by ear, because I didn’t know how to read music. That was when I lived in the interior of Brazil. When I moved to São Paulo, I started to read little by little. My teacher there was Oscar Magalhães Guerra. He made me begin from level zero and was very rigid about technique. I always had to play the melody apoyando (rest stroke) for clarity. And he never let me change my hand position. Also I remember that he had a student of the same age as me, an amazing classical guitarist. That student became a pilot in the end, but for me he was the best classical guitarist.

By the way, my teacher Oscar was a great fan of Barrios. He left me some of his manuscripts in a book that no one had seen before.  He was truly an expert on Barrios, and he knew someone in São Paulo who had quite a few manuscripts and eventually gave them to a publisher in São Paulo. Those were artist approved manuscripts on special paper.

My other teachers were Luis Brandini and Watson Brito.

NP: Did you practice every day?

CM: Yes, about eight hours a day! All day long, really. Everything was new and exciting to me, and I liked discovering things. At some point I remember playing everything very fast. And this is the trend I am noticing nowadays as well, and it is happening globally. Important things are missing from many guitarists’ playing. A lot of them have amazing technique but I am missing so much the heart and the beautiful sound that are characteristic of Brazilian pieces, for example. That’s the sound of the guitar for me, and I rarely hear it nowadays. I hear a lot of rushing and technique.

NP: And how do we address this issue?

CM: Good question. I guess it’s up to you once you graduate, to choose what kind of guitarist and musician you want to be when you put yourself out in the big world.

The young generation goes to concerts to specifically see how fast you can play a piece, because they saw this kind of thing on Youtube and now want to compare. A lot of performers nowadays trade grace and beauty for speed.

It’s important to pick your repertoire carefully and responsibly. You can choose any style, folk or classical, etc., but it’s important that you don’t play too much of the same thing. Villa-Lobos is a wonderful composer, but playing a whole concert of only Villa-Lobos won’t do your audience any good. Build your program in a balanced way, so there are pieces of contrasting characters and tempos.

You come on the stage and look at the audience. Who do you see? A variety of people: kids, the elderly, your grandmother, your neighbour. You don’t need to worry about pleasing them with speed. Your grandma doesn’t care how fast you are, she has come to enjoy the music. My neighbour is an electrician and I invite him to come to the concert. What does he want to hear? Some beautiful music! Are you going to show off by being a virtuoso? You want to go out there and share your heart and music with every single person in the audience.

Coming back to the issue of speed – such composers as Barrios, Albeniz, Granados, are now being played much faster than it is intended. That’s why when I write music, I put in metronome markings in addition to the term denoting the tempo. If I simply put Allegro, for example, some players will take it at Prestissimo (fastest possible), because it is their perceived Allegro. Otherwise, I never put too much information on my music in order to leave space for the player’s interpretation and creativity.

To play someone’s composition is like driving a car. All the road signs are there: stop here, slow down here, school zone there. If you don’t follow the signs, you get a ticket!

NP: In your opinion, what is Canadian guitar education like? What do you think about its academic standards in the field of music?

CM: It is true that the Canadian music education system is very strongly developed academically. Examinations, diplomas, degrees. I think that in the first place, students must consider the audience they intend to play for. Not the examiner, surely! For the great Leo Brouwer, perhaps? At the exam, one must play everything technically appropriately in order to pass, and often this kind of attitude dominates over musical emotion and phrasing. But a student’s attitude and learning style depend largely on the teacher. Some teachers are incredibly strict in their demands and expectations and are unbelievably subjective. Once I was showing a piece of mine, Parazula, to someone of that mentality. Instead of tuning down the 6th string from E to D, I tuned down the 1st string to D, because the music required it. He asked me who I thought was going to play that, and advised to return to the traditional tuning in order not to confuse the performer. I wonder what he would say to Domeniconi’s pieces where all six strings are tuned differently from normal!

So I always encourage students and teachers to be open to new techniques and methods, especially if you know what you want to achieve in a piece. It is great to do research about different instruments and styles, and develop your own individual style.

NP: How can we help musicians open their minds? Do you think improvisation is important?

CM: Improvisation – not necessarily. Not everyone is good at improvising, and we don’t have to be! All you need to do is come up with beautiful repertoire that the public will understand and appreciate. There are so many lovely South American pieces from Brazil, Venezuela, Argentina, Peru:  Cardoso, Barrios, Lauro – huge repertoire for classical guitar. No show off there, just play from your heart.

To add regarding guitar education, I think there is currently far too much pressure on music students due to increasingly high requirements for technique and volume of musical material, in order to get into a school or earn a diploma or a degree. For example, to enter the Paris Conservatoire is incredibly difficult, because there are not many spots available. Trying to get to study with their pedagogue of choice, the students work insanely hard, and often the musicality suffers because of that. They forget what it was that made them want to learn guitar in the first place. Do they want to teach at a certain school? Do they want a certain job? I didn’t go to a formal guitar school, and I believe that playing the guitar must bring joy, excitement, and inspiration. This is something so personal and emotional when you have an instrument under your fingers. This connection is delicate and cannot be developed by force. If you neglect this connection, various physical and emotional issues may occur, such as muscle injuries or depression.

NP: What are you working on right now? Are you planning a new CD in the near future?

Yes, I am constantly recording new pieces in my studio. I have a software that allows me to make multi-track recordingss. I take my time and do things slowly, learning to master my own music. I use lots of percussion, and I love to write for guitar, guitar with voice, and other instruments. There is also a piece that I composed where I try to imitate the kora on the guitar. For that I use a right hand position that looks like a bit like the lute hand position. If you use the standard classical position you can’t achieve the proper kora sound.

When I compose for flute or violin, I like it when the musician is beside me. You need to know the articulation of the instrument you are using and you need to be able to explain to the musician what articulation and phrasing you need in your piece. I don’t play violin or silver flute, trumpet or piano, but I know how they articulate in order to phrase my music.

NP: What inspires you to compose? How do ideas come to you?

CM: Ideas come to me all the time and everywhere. Normally, I need an instrument with me to start composing, but not necessarily. Sometimes I will hum a tune while walking, but what’s really important is to write down or record at least the beginning as soon as I can. Often I record a phrase and later change and modify it, and develop new ideas out of it.

Nature inspires me a lot, and I love it here in Canada where nature is so beautiful.

NP: What is your teaching style like?

CM: I normally teach groups of approximately the same level and never mix levels. It is important to me that all the participants are comfortable and can enjoy making the music together. I don’t like the idea of a master class where you are alone in front of everyone – it is very intimidating! Besides, the audience can’t take part in the process.

I teach adults and kids the same way, adults are just a little faster learning the notes. But rhythms are what’s really important.  I don’t use music notation in my workshops. I have my own system of symbols for bass notes, top notes of the chords, and rests. It’s very simple and works very well for everyone. I teach the participants a couple of chord shapes, and then they easily read the rhythms I put on the board.

Teaching children is tricky, especially when their everyday culture is full of distractions and leaves little room for learning an instrument. In Brazil or Spain it is barely an issue. Learning melodies and songs and playing for everyone out there is a normal thing, a lifestyle. As you are sitting on the veranda playing and singing, anyone from the street can come up and ask you to play a song, or even half a song. Something like this is unlikely to happen in Canada.

Being a guitarist nowadays is a lonely path. You are normally alone on stage and alone when you are learning. It is true that you can discover so many things when you are lonely, it brings up a lot of your problems but at the same time, solitude is great for inspiration and composing. Being lonely a lot is hard, that’s why learning guitar in a group with other people is more exciting.

NP: Are your own kids pursuing musical studies? Is it natural for them to sing and play at home?

CM: My fourteen year old daughter loves to dance among other things, and my sixteen year old son plays a bit of bass guitar and also likes soccer and making videos.

NP: What are your favourite music styles prior to 20th century?

CM: I love the Renaissance style as well as Baroque. Most of all, I like John Dowland, because I feel connected with his music. I also much respect and enjoy Narvaez, Luiz Milan, and the Italian and French Baroque composers. This music takes you away and gives you exactly what you need at the moment. If you are broken-hearted or lonely, it gives you consolation. Your partner would be jealous of this music, because it is able to give you so much and help you understand yourself. It truly is with you like a kind companion, and it really puts you in touch with your feelings. So, if you are ever feeling down, Dowland is the recipe.

JS Bach, for example, is much more complex and contrapuntal, and requires much more skill. To execute a certain piece can be hard due to its length. But Bach stays with you for life once you understand his music. However, I feel more connected with the Renaissance. There is more freedom of interpretation.

NP: What culture or cultures of the world do you feel most connected to, besides your own?

CM: Definitely France and Italy, Morocco and many parts of the African continent. In Europe in general the architecture, the art style, the history, are the things that speak to me. You can discover so much when you are travelling, especially in small places, the countryside.  I love the landscapes of the countryside and its people, they are so inspiring. No one is rushing anywhere, and changes happen very slowly. It’s a trend now to destroy things to make room for new things. I like it when I can see the history.  I speak French and Italian and spend most of my time there; for me France is the centre of Europe. There I find so many things I can relate to; it’s my home as well, part of my life.

The Canadian culture is a delicate topic, because it’s hard to pinpoint what the culture is here, with the native people and all those people who come to Canada from all over the world. It’s an impressive mixture. I suspect that even the Canadians themselves are not sure what their culture is. I love Canada and the beautiful Gibsons where I live. I love the people here, and I love to share a part of me with them. When I am in Canada, I am definitely Canadian.

NP: What are the most important skills for a musician to have? What different audiences have you encountered as a performing artist? And what is the purpose of music in general, in your view?

CM: To understand that performance is about the people and know how to communicate it. For me it is definitely about the people and not even so much about Brazilian music. Do you know the word saudade? It is thought of as sadness, but it isn’t sadness. It’s a longing, like when you are missing someone. I try to bring my saudade to the people I play for. The music is about them, about my neighbour, anyone in the world. I always encourage my audience to make music with me, to sing along. They don’t need to sit and do nothing.

I have a friend who is a French artist, a comedian. He says that on some nights, the audience has no talent! Some nights you do everything you possibly can, and they still don’t respond. You can even dance in front of them, but if they don’t want to do it, they don’t want to do it. The audience can be a bit lazy at first: someone will sit in the front row, legs crossed, taking a nap. Many are very shy in the beginning, but by the end they usually warm up and even want an encore.

It is also very important to understand the venue and the atmosphere you are playing in and choose the style and the program accordingly. In a club full of people drinking I wouldn’t risk playing a prelude by Villa-Lobos.

The purpose of music is in the emotion you bring to the people, in how you make them feel. It is being connected to your body, to your instrument. It is the joy of being yourself and sharing the music you love with people around you. Every time I play for an audience, I have huge fun!

FacebookTwitterGoogle+TumblrLinkedInPinterest

Interview with Carlo Marchione

On October 31st, the Vancouver audience will have a chance to hear and see the great Italian master of classical guitar Carlo Marchione. As a VCGS tradition, we are publishing a short interview on our website. We sincerely thank Carlo for taking the time to answer our questions.

Welcome, Carlo! We are honoured to have you perform here in Vancouver. Could you talk a bit about your upcoming concert program? 

Among others, I will present three pieces which are possibly even unknown amongst guitarists. First, the Vassiliev which is unpublished and dedicated to me, it’s a wonderful elaboration of themes from the second piano concerto by Scriabin. I’ve played it for a year and people are restlessly enthusiastic about it. It’s a complex but easy to comprehend musical language that has lots of expressivity. I chose these pieces because….well, it’s like saying, why did you choose that menu for a date with a girl? You try to do something well and pick something that you think will work well, it’s a sort of ‘soul mate’ feeling. I also really want to play pieces that are unjustly unknown because they don’t yet belong to the grand ‘tradition’ of the guitar repertoire. It was always the point with this programme to play these pieces and through doing so inspire friends, students, and colleagues to play these composers which they hadn’t heard of previously. The rest of the programme will be the Luis Zea’s Lyrical Variations, which is an enormously expressive and powerful piece. It reminds me of the mood of the Mompou variations on a theme by Chopin for piano. Also I will play Ferdinand Rebay’s Sonata in A minor, an amazingly unknown composer who wrote over 600 works for and with guitar which have been discovered and published through the admirable work of Gonzalo Noqué from Eudora Music. I will also perform Fantasia Elegiaque Op. 59 by Sor, one of the greatest works ever.

Is there a difference between what you choose to present on stage and what you would play for your own enjoyment? 

No difference. When I play on stage I actually play better than just for myself. The only pieces I don’t perform on stage are some strange transcriptions I sometimes do for myself or for knowledge of the piece.

Does your close circle of friends mostly include musicians?

Not necessarily, but unavoidably the majority are. We have a job in music and we love to talk about our job. My best friends are basically my students here in Maastricht.

How do you memorize your repertoire? 

Well, at least the musical area of my brain is still quite fit: I can memorize pieces quite fast even if I can’t remember what to wear in the morning.

I had very good harmony and analysis teachers, so I can memorize a piece for a performance just by reading through it: it is easier for me to memorize the music by harmonic analysis, not the finger positions.

Do you have any tips for students to improve focus and efficiency in learning pieces?

In my early youth, I was constantly motivated by a friend to read scores and play for him. I was sight reading like a maniac. This connected with my natural gift and allowed me to learn new music quite fast. So my suggestion is: read as much music as you can now, and it’s better if it isn’t guitar music.

Are you content with being a touring performing artist and a teacher? Is this what you wanted to be? 

I think for many it could be a heavy load, but for me it’s just a question of organization, knowing where you have to be at what time. I try not to travel too much around student’s exams and student concerts in order to help them. I think the two activities are strongly complimentary and mutually enriching.

Do you have interests that are not guitar related? 

I love soccer, and a passion of mine is to go to Vienna and spend money at the Muzikverein listening to concerts. And besides, it’s funny but as a musician you are still busy with music in your free time. It’s a paid hobby, so in my free time I love to learn about music, read books about music etc. Obviously I’m a social animal so I like to spend a nice evening in the local pub as well. But not every evening. (laughs)

If you enjoy reading, who are your literary favourites and do you think music influences your choices in literature or vice versa?

I love textbooks which are interdisciplinary. For instance, I’m just finishing a book about the relationship between the music of Mompou and the architecture of Gaudi: the sense of colour in both. I like all kinds of books though; I try to unify what has been separated by modern culture on the unity of arts, within my reading. I also love science fiction.

If you had to choose one other profession, what would it be?

Let me think… that’s an interesting question. I don’t know which profession specifically, but it would be one that allows me to help people in some way – something like a doctor or a vet, or a therapist… But I’m also very easily involved in emotional situations, so perhaps a musician is best for my character; as a doctor I’d get too involved. Being a musician is like being a priest: you don’t do it for money. When I see how easily some friends of mine earn money, I think that is not my thing. I wouldn’t know how to spend my money! I would be depressed. My thing is to simply make music…or theatre or some other kind of an artistic profession.

Which do you prefer: solo performance, chamber group, guitar ensemble, or solo with orchestra?

To tell you the truth, after many years of experience I prefer to play solo for one simple reason. Besides many wonderful colleagues and orchestras which I had the honour to play with, I have also had the misfortune to work in some nasty situations, with not quite professionally prepared orchestras etc. Thus I prefer just to be responsible for what I do and to be the owner of my own mistakes.

What is your main energy source when you are on stage? How do you get into the ‘zone’?

I think it’s the same energy a warrior has when he goes to war, but in another field. Personally I have no rituals, no specific way to enter ‘the zone’. Often, I’m indifferent until one minute before going on stage and then only I sink into ‘the black hole’ (Carlo’s version of ‘the zone’). Sometimes it happens days in advance, which makes private life interesting. I can’t find a pattern in my concert activity; sometimes I arrive three minutes in advance and play better than when arriving three days in advance. I think it has a lot to do with what the Spanish call el duende: the positive demon that inspires you. It also often depends on your partner or good news or bad news – there is really no pattern, and sometimes you just feel indifferent without any clear reason. The strongest motivation to perform well is to be worthy of the composers.

What do you think are the most important things to teach about classical guitar, the great truths, so to say?

I don’t see it as a collection of great truths but rather as a dynamic process with a multitude of variable elements in it: personality, shape of hands, etc. Obviously, I could say that technique is important, but the technique without giving meaning to it is pointless. This is a tricky question, because it’s all about the process: having a good harmony and analysis teacher, going to concerts, reading lots about music. For example, it is important to stay informed about what’s been happening in the past 20 years in the field of interpretation of old music, etc. Listening to good music and bad music, just to know the difference; find a nice girl, getting dumped – all this makes you a human not just a biological object. Technique then becomes more than just an exercise but a medium to express this accumulated amount of humanity.

We ask all of our visiting artists about their favourite tour memories. What are some of yours?

Surely the tour in Russia in 1997.  However, there are many others: 99.9% of the festivals I go to have a gorgeous atmosphere. I’m very happy with the guitar world – I can never feel the sense of competition or antagonism which seems to plague other fields.

How do you take care of your nails?

Well, I don’t chew them! As I kid I played without nails for the first three years, and finally my mother understood the problem and decided to start feeding me (laughs). That’s where my love for Fernando Sor comes from: childhood experience of playing without nails. I think nail care is very personal. In my case, I have very fragile nails, so every time I practice I put protective lacquer on them to avoid scratches and chips the nail that may and do compromise tone. Otherwise, I’m lucky because I’m left handed, so many things which could be dangerous for the nails for me are not.

If there something else you would like our readers to learn about yourself or about the guitar, please speak freely!

I would really like to thank my friend Peter Powell, for giving me the possibility to come to Canada for the first time. Here in Europe, Canada is a kind of Utopia. It seems that everything in this country is great: there are no criminals in the streets at night, the health system is so good that the Americans cross the border to see it. I’m a fan of John Locke’s book Utopia, so I’d like to see the country where things seem to work.

Carlo Marchione website: www.carlo-marchione.com

 

FacebookTwitterGoogle+TumblrLinkedInPinterest

Interview with Anton Baranov

A question asked of every one of our visiting artists: what led you to guitar? Did you start with classical training or, as many do, with electric or rock guitar?

I started playing guitar when I was 9-10 years old. I am afraid that I won’t be able to recall all the details of the beginning of this process and the way I felt. We had a few non-expensive factory made guitars, and my father played and could read music a bit. I just wanted to learn to play, and that’s it! Of course, like most teenagers, I was into rock and pop music, along with learning classical. An important moment here is when one realizes that rock is just a “high”, and classical guitar is something different, something to commit to in all earnestness. The realization of this difference came to me around the age of 14-15.

Establishing oneself as a professional musician requires large amounts of time and effort, as well as incredible focus. What motivated you to fulfill these requirements through practicing?

All that you have listed is true. I personally always liked the process of conquering a challenge in practicing guitar. I have always experienced, up until this moment, the feeling of inner satisfaction when I see that something that was difficult or impossible to accomplish before has now been mastered.

Where did you study and how did you get to take part in the GFA International Artist Competition?

I had gone through all the steps of Russian music education: music school, college, and finally the St. Petersburg Conservatory, the oldest Russian institution of higher music education that is recognized internationally, including Canada and USA.  I started doing competitions quite early, beginning with smaller local and regional ones. Later I started travelling to Europe for more serious competitions. Of course, I took plenty of time to prepare for the GFA: I followed the mandatory pieces on the website, analyzed the recorded performances of GFA winners.  By the time when I applied to take part in the competition I had had ample experience of how to prepare, how to select pieces and build the program, how to work on the mandatory pieces. All in all, I wouldn’t say that my GFA victory came to me by “sweat and blood”!

Your victory at the GFA has allowed you to start a world tour. Where have you had a chance to perform, what have  been your experiences?

I have seen North America only, for the most part. However, the value of winning the GFA is, apart from the monetary prize and a concert tour, is obtaining publicity. People from all over the world find out about you and start inviting to play. At the present moment, I have quite a few concert offers worldwide.

Are you colleagues or friends with your compatriots Dimitri Illarionov, Vladimir Gorbach, and Rovshan Mamedkuliev, all GFA winners from previous years? They have all visited the Vancouver stage in the past five years.

Yes, we have all known each other for a long time. Moreover, we even performed as a quartet last spring at a guitar festival in Kaluga.

Do you play in an ensemble?

Rather rarely lately. However, I have done quite a bit of ensemble playing in my student years, and it brought great joy and was very useful for me musically. In general, guitarists ought to play in ensembles as it is a unique experience that is irreplaceable.

Could you talk about your teaching experience?

I began teaching privately quite early, around the age of 15. Much later I started working at the conservatory. My perspective on pedagogy may seem strange. I observe that for many, teaching is just another way of making a living. There are few good pedagogues who really know their skill and are able to engage a student. For active performers, teaching is interesting in that the performer himself starts to analyze his own playing more deeply and ideally, is able to develop a more individual approach to teaching.

Do you think that, for a fulfilling professional life and musical career, one needs strict discipline, a sports routine, a diet, perhaps? How does one maintain balance being under constant stress of performing, learning new repertoire, rehearsals, etc?

One does need a certain routine, I believe. At the same time, the creative process has a searching quality and is difficult to combine with study plans, daily routine, etc. The choice of routine is rather an individual one.

Do you dream about playing guitar or hearing unknown music?

Unfortunately, I barely ever remember my dreams!

 

FacebookTwitterGoogle+TumblrLinkedInPinterest

Interview with Thibault Cauvin


Welcome to Vancouver, Thibault! We
 are looking forward to your performance on March 13th at the beautiful Pyatt Hall. In the meantime, we have come up with a few questions to give our audience a chance to meet you at a more personal level.

Hi! Thank you, and I’d like to say that I’m very excited to play in Vancouver for the first time.

How did you pick guitar? Was it your parents’ choice or your own?

All my family entourage is into music, and my father is a “crazy addict” guitar player. He just lives with his guitar, playing all day long. I was so strongly immersed in this musical atmosphere that when I turned 5, I thought that all the kids in the world played music, that playing guitar was like learning how to walk and talk…and therefore, that all this was very natural.

What was your practicing like as a child? What was your main motivating force to learn and play?

I was practicing a lot as a child, but I started working really hard from the age of 13. From that age on, I did a lot of guitar competitions and enjoyed this kind of life very much. I was traveling all over the world to compete with the best players of multiple countries. I learned a lot, and this sport/music life was very exciting and motivating to me. So my life as a teenager was only music, trying to improve every little detail, as a top level athlete would do.

What are your brightest memories from the Conservatories where you studied?

I started to play with my father and then I studied at the Bordeaux Conservatory, my hometown, before moving to Paris to enter the prestigious Paris Superior Conservatory. This school is just amazing, but I was very young compared to most of the students there and already very much into the guitar competition life, always abroad. Also, because of my initial success in those competitions, I started getting many concert engagements. So I have to say that I was not the most studious pupil of the school and didn’t take the best advantage of the opportunities it provided. Every subject we studied was interesting to me in a way, but I always just wanted to be with my guitar and play. My teachers were very understanding of my lifestyle and supported me a lot.

As an adult learner, how did you shape your identity as a musician?

When I turned 20, I had won 13 first prizes in major international guitar competitions. It is still a record to break. Because of this success, I started getting multiple tour engagements and decided to stop doing competitions. Competition and music are not the best couple, but as young classical guitar players we have to enter this world to make a career. I was lucky to have enjoyed it very much, but musically it is not the most blossoming thing. After stopping competitions at 20 years old, I developed a lot of my personality, working passionately. Until this day, this remains the way I work: always searching, experiencing, and trying – with love.

Do you have a structured practice routine now? How do you prepare your concert pieces?

I’m have been on tour since I was 10. I’m traveling non-stop playing concerts, and this endless journey has taken me to more than 1000 stages in 120 countries. This nomadic life, full of discoveries and encounters, has really influenced my playing and my personality. While I am on tour, it is difficult to have a specific practice routine. You prepare things in your head, you plan, you arrange ideas, etc. I also ask my team for several small breaks a year to spend practicing in a calm atmosphere in order to give birth to mental and philosophical preparations. Usually, I go to inspiring places where I like to surf: Morocco, Spain, South of France…to spend time with the guitar and the surfboard.

Enthusiastic guitar students often dream of becoming concert artists. We know that this title involves a fair deal of planning, organizing, communicating with multiple people, and dealing with high levels of stress. Do you enjoy touring the world performing? How do you deal with stress?

I am very conscious of the great luck I have had to be able to live this life. I must say that I am quite a strong person: I don’t sleep much, I’m never sick, jet-lags don’t affect me at all, and I can rest in planes, trains, cars… One could say that I’m made for this life. Of course, sometimes it becomes a little too much and I might have a rare down moment. But then I remember the luck I have had so far and that I’m living the life I dreamed of as a child, and the power comes right back!

After continuously practicing and performing a concert program, every musician has experienced the feeling of a piece gone “stale”. Giving a concert night after night, week after week – what do you do to keep your music fresh?

I always select pieces that allow for freedom of expression in performance. Then I practice those pieces in a way that gives me different musical options to employ on stage. Also, every piece I play in concert has to be so well-prepared that when I perform, I can forget all about the practicing I did. This way,  on each concert night it feels like every single piece I play is being composed and improvised in real time, influenced by the audience, the acoustics of the hall, my feeling on that day, etc.

What kinds of music, in your opinion, are hardest to perform on the guitar?

Every single piece, even the easiest one, can be difficult to play if you want to create something, to make it magical.

Do you have a favourite style of music?

I like many different styles and eras. For example, my last album is about the music of Albéniz and the previous one is about the music of Scarlatti. Also, I consider classical guitar to be a young instrument in the classical music world and as a player of this young instrument, I think it is a priority to develop it by collaborating with makers, composers, etc… So I enjoy very much playing recently composed pieces.

What are your feelings about art, besides the art of music?

I like very much all kind of arts. And as I have this great chance to travel all over the world, it is interesting and inspiring to learn about all the different cultures, to be one day in Rio, the next day in Vienna, then in Beijing… to see and sometimes meet great artists, but also just to experience the daily art of living in every city I go to.

As a highly creative being, do you get creative in all aspects of your life? E.g. do you enjoy cooking as a creative process?

I must admit that I don’t even know how to boil water to cook pasta… So even if I’m French, I’m not creative at all in cooking… But I do love to eat! My passion is surfing, and this sport can be very artistic: you feel like a dancer sometimes, waiting for the perfect wave, in a union with nature, with the unique power and energy of the ocean…It’s really something that I love. And as years go by, I increasingly enjoy being surrounded by nature. When I was younger, I was a city guy, and now I’m very happy in the countryside. The landscapes and the peaceful atmosphere appeal to me more and more.

Are you a person who loves risks of various sorts?

Yes… Very much!

You must have listened to a lot of guitar concerts (on those few days of your life when you were not on stage yourself) . Could you talk about the difference of experiences between performing and listening?

I think a composer needs the power to create a work of art that goes through the years, and a performer needs the power to create magic in an instant. These are actually two different ways of making music, and they are tightly connected with and depend on each other. As a listener, I like to be taken by the enchantment of the performer, I need to have the feeling of living a unique instant that makes me forget about everything. When a concert is good, this is what happens, I think. When I manage to create this magical instant, during a concert, I feel the audience and myself together taken somewhere by some notes…

What is your take on faith in oneself and self-doubt? How to foster a strong positive in one’s own personal and professional potential in our busy world of sometimes aggressive competition? How to keep oneself inspired when the conditions around aren’t always rosy?

I think the best way to maintain faith is to always follow your heart and philosophy. This way you are never disappointed. If you do anything expecting something back, you take a risk…of being disappointed. If people like you and follow you for the things you love to do, you can only be happy; but if people like you for something which is not quite you – this kind of success has a strange taste… So being yourself, working to improve your ideas and share them is the best way to be happy and fulfilled…I think.  Also, we need a bit of luck. So be prepared for the lucky opportunities!

FacebookTwitterGoogle+TumblrLinkedInPinterest

Interview with Jeffrey McFadden

Welcome back to Vancouver, Jeffrey! It is good to see you here again, and we are looking forward to your performance on January 31st.

Did you always know you wanted to be a musician? What has influenced you to become the established professional that you are?

Yes, I pretty much always dreamed about being a performing musician, perhaps as early as 10 years of age. But my interest in the guitar bubbled up much earlier even than that; I was about 4 years old when I became enthralled with the guitar – I’m not sure why! Before and during my undergraduate degree in music I was also very interested in medicine and came very close to switching professions over that period.

Did you grow up in a music-filled environment?

There were no musicians in my immediate family, but there was always recorded music playing at my house, and there was a lot of singing at gatherings of my maternal grandparents, who were Italian immigrants. I’m sure that because of these environments, the richness of harmony and the bel canto ethos seeped into my mind and cemented itself in my musical perception in a way that it otherwise never would or could have.

What was your path like as a student? What motivated/inspired you to practice before you decided on guitar as a professional career?

Pretty simply, it was a fascination with the guitar. I played rock, folk and jazz music as a youngster and I found it thrilling to try to emulate what I heard on recordings of the great rock guitarists of the day like Jimmy Page or Steve Howe. I also had excellent and highly structured early lessons on the electric guitar from a local teacher.

What style of music speaks to you most? What repertoire are you most inspired to play and why?

Although I love all the styles of music that we play on the guitar, I’ve always been drawn to 19th century music above all others.  Because it’s a product of the Enlightenment, 19th C music has a profound simplicity and elegance, and a sophisticated, kind of ‘literate’ quality, which I love and is why, I think, it’s so hard for young players of today to internalize. In a way, we are living in a diametrically opposite kind of culture.

How do you construct your solo recital program? Is there a particular way that appeals to you and why?

I try to make it suit the audience that I’m playing for, but always build it around music that I love.

How do you establish contact with your audience?

I talk to the audience rather a lot in performances, but I hope it is through the clarity of my interpretation…

What is the process of preparing a recital like for you? Is it as enjoyable and satisfying as the performance itself? What advice could you give about focused and mindful practice?

I’ll answer this and the previous question as one, because, as you cleverly point out, it is all about mindful practice. As a professional musician, time is at a real premium, and so practising becomes a process of trying to never repeat an error, and developing a habit of sustained concentration. As such, a lot of very constructive practice can be done strictly by visualization. Of course, you must run your fingers through the music as part of the practice, to make sure your hands, arms shoulders, etc., are fit will have the required stamina.

Your book Fretboard Harmony is quite well-known among guitarists. Are you currently working on more publications?

Yes, we are putting the finishing touches on the complete Bach Cello Suites arranged for guitar with Clear Note, and I’m also doing a performance edition with notes of the major concert works of Napoleon Coste with Alfred Music.

Do you travel a lot as a soloist and with your duo partner, Andrew Zohn? Where are your best memories from?

Andrew and I are are not playing together any longer, so I’m a soloist once again. Overall, the great thing about touring is visiting places you’ve never been or places that you are very fond of, like Vancouver, and meeting all the great folks in the guitar network. 

You teach at University of Toronto. Do you only teach guitar or any academic courses as well? What is the student contingent like?

I teach private guitar lessons and courses in pedagogy, fretboard harmony and guitar literature. I also have several DMA students and I supervise their research. I think we have an extraordinary body of students at UofT, made up of about 20 undergrads, and 10 grad students.  I’m not exaggerating very much when I say it is one the strongest guitar programs in the world and I’m very lucky and to be Head of Guitar Studies, overseeing the education of such a fantastic array of talent.

Do you enjoy arranging?

Yes, I do. It’s  natural outgrowth of my interest in fretboard harmony and I’m confident I have something new to contribute even when I’m arranging works that have been arranged before.

You name is behind the RCM guitar program requirements. Could you talk about the criteria you use to determine these requirements? What changes are made from year to year? Are those primarily changes in repertoire, including modern composers, or are there any adjustments to technique as well?

There are rather a lot of specific criteria that have a part in determining how the RCM repertoire and repertoire books are comprised. The syllabus/curriculum and the series is revised every 7 years and the RCM usually requires us (Robert Hamilton and myself) to make significant changes in updating the repertoire. So we take into account which pieces seem to be effective pedagogically, which are preferred by young players and teachers, how the piece fits into the stylistic balance of the particular grade, whether the piece is technically appropriate, whether can we get permission to reprint, etc., etc. We always re-examine the technical elements as well, from fingering of the scales to the inclusion of arpeggios, to tempi, and so on. I’m sure we will have a close look at all of this again in the coming edition!

You had the opportunity to work with the outstanding composer Pierre Boulez. Could you tell us about that experience and share the wisdom you gained from him?

Well, our ensemble was playing pieces by Boulez as part of the celebration when he received the Glenn Gould Prize in 2002. The ensemble wasn’t expecting him to conduct, and it was pretty amazing to see a gang of experienced, grizzled Toronto session musicians snap to tip-toe when he decided to take the podium!  Boulez’ music is the height of abstraction – almost impossible to comprehend on the first listening even for the most highly trained musical ear. He knew the score to a breathtaking level of precision, one time admonishing a percussion player who had entered merely one 16th note early. In his mind, the music was as clear as day. It was a very impressive occasion for me.

FacebookTwitterGoogle+TumblrLinkedInPinterest

Interview with Roland Dyens

The French guitarist Roland Dyens has been astonishing audiences around the world for decades with his approach to classical and jazz music . His creativity on a delicate six-string instrument, once seen and heard, is unforgettable. A performer, composer, arranger, a teacher, he connects seamlessly with audiences of any age or culture. He communicates clearly and gently. Mutual understanding is guaranteed.

This September the guitar magician Roland Dyens will finally make his way to Vancouver, where he  is eagerly awaited by the local guitar community.  In anticipation of his visit, Vancouver Classic Guitar Society has approached Roland with some questions that may interest music lovers of all levels.

 Dear Roland,

Welcome to Vancouver! You are what one calls a musician’s musician. What musical influences did you have from family members? What composers and performers were your inspiration?

My family was not “musical” professionally, but both my grandmothers sang quite well.  However, my father was a painter and my uncle a renowned sculptor who was awarded the 1st Grand Prix de Rome in 1963. The rest of my family have always been in a strong proximity with arts in general. As a matter of fact, both my sons are musicians and my oldest daughter is a theatre actress.

As far as I remember, my very first inspiration came from pop songs of the 50’s and Brazilian popular music, as well as Django Reinhardt.

You always have such natural musical expression combined with fascinating technical effortlessness. For a lot of us, learning a musical skill can be a struggle sometimes, especially at the beginning. Did you have the intuition and ease when you first started learning guitar or did those come later in the process?

Yes, I did have both the intuition and ease for the guitar as I started to study it. I surprised my first teacher with my fast progress and also by beginning to compose quite soon. The guitar was my instrument indeed, as it fits perfectly with my personality. In fact, the guitar “made” me as a man, the individual I am now.

You are a prominent and sought-after composer of our time. What was the first piece you wrote, and what inspired you?

My very first so-called composition was a Barcarolle. Quite an original name, isn’t it? It was entitled Baracarolle actually. I was ten or eleven years old then.

You have a special interest in Brazilian music, among other styles. What sparked it?

The soundtrack of a movie called Black Orpheus. This movie became quite famous after it was awarded the Palme d’Or (Golden Palm) at one of the world’s most prestigious festivals, Festival de Cannes in France, in 1959. Some know that it was a French film based on the myth about Orpheus, telling a love story which took place during the Carnival of Rio. And a handful of people also know that the soundtrack to the movie was composed by Luis Bonfa and a certain Antonio Carlos Jobim (Felicidade came from this movie). This was definitely something that sparked my passion for Brazilian music. I was four years old when Black Orpheus was shown in the cinema.

You are a great communicator on stage and connect with audiences instantly; it is obvious that you love your instrument and are extremely delicate with it. Who or what do you play for when you are on stage? What are your sensations? 

I definitely play for my audience. The sensations are not exactly describable, to be honest – they are somewhat too intimate. It could sometimes be a “painful pleasure” or an “enjoyable pain” to play on stage. It’s an unique feeling anyway, and all performers would agree with this description.

What runs through my brain when I’m performing? All kinds of things, including the wonderful NY Steak I’m going to devour after the concert. We can’t be poets 100% of the time!

You teach at the Paris Conservatory and have given numerous master classes in many countries. What values do you instil in your students?

Both regular students of mine in Paris or an occasional one at a master class anywhere in the world will receive the exact same advice from me: patience, accuracy, honesty and to be demanding of themselves. Then I will try to “infuse” their Body and Soul with these same values. I love teaching. 

What, in your view, makes a true musician?

The essentials, the foundation must be present, of course. That is, even before the student begins to learn a piece. But what happens after is another story. Work, work, work.  And work, no doubt. This is an unavoidable element. However, even when the above is meticulously done, one doesn’t automatically become a “true musician,” as you call it. I personally know non-professionals who are more “true musicians” than some professionals. In other words, there are quite well-identified “recipes” for making an outstanding instrumentalist, but no recipe for making a true musician. If I believed in God, I would say that being a true musician would have something to do with Him. Maybe…

The classical guitar circles, both professional and amateur, are quite narrow in the global modern society – compared to other instruments and styles. How, would you suggest, does one spark interest and educate an audience about classical guitar?

There isn’t a “recipe” for that either. Whether it is sparking interest for classical guitar or jazz trombone, it depends solely on the charisma and the “sense of public” of the one who is on stage. Public relations, literally! To me, Leonard Bernstein remains the best illustration for that so far.

Roland, you are known for a vast repertoire of arranged music. Who are your favourite non-guitar composers?

There are a lot I love among the “normal” (non-guitar, that is) composers. First rank are Bach and Chopin, and then most of the others (Granados, Albeniz, Ravel etc.).

Do you have a special connection with any composer for the guitar?

I have always felt extremely close to Miguel Llobet, a famous Catalan composer, arranger and soloist of the early 20th century.  History conceals whether he was an improviser or not, but I’m convinced that he was. I share many of his dynamics, fingerings, and musical options – as if they were my own. As a matter of fact, there are two composers for the guitar I never “touch” the music scores of: Miguel Llobet and Fernando Sor. On the other hand, I “touch” many other composers’ scores, changing either their fingerings or dynamics, and even their notes sometimes!

I also have a connection with some of my contemporaries – my “colleagues”. Sergio Assad and Nikita Koshkin are in my thoughts about that. An adopted Vancouverite and originally Brazilian, Celso Machado is on that list as well.

Does anyone else in your family currently play music, compose,  or pursue music as a career?

My eldest son, Emmanuel (Manu) Dyens, 26, is now an outstanding and famous young drummer playing in various well-known French bands. In addition to this, he is a gifted song-writer, singer, and video maker. You can find his videos on Youtube (Manu Dyens se coupe en 4, Un été avec Manu Dyens).

What does it take, in your opinion, to establish a fulfilling musical career?

I think there is a possibility for many musicians to establish a fulfilling musical career. Especially if “fulfilling” means being happy with music on your side. The fame – I mean, the real fame – is not a condition for that, in my opinion. Nowadays, classical guitarists have the chance to play in a duo, quartet, or an even bigger ensemble (be it with other guitarists or not), and there is plenty of teaching work if they choose to teach. I know a lot of people who are quite happy with that kind of balance in their life. They may not be outstanding solo players, but they have numerous opportunities to play with others and make the public happy, as well as to make their students happy by being great pedagogues.

On the other hand – I’m sorry to take my own example but it’s the one I know best at this moment – I do have the feeling that my musical career is fulfilled. I am at the same time a soloist, a composer/arranger, and a teacher in one of the most prestigious conservatories in the world. Moreover, my music is played a lot all over the world and is the most recorded today, among the living composers. Would it be indecent to complain about such a destiny? I’m blessed but most importantly, I am aware of this blessing. And even when I use the word “blessed,” I owe much of this to being a hard worker. Magic wands don’t have anything to do with that.

Would you say that being a musician is a way of life, a culture, a religion – rather than a profession?

I agree that the being a musician is a “way of life”. I would add to it the word “philosophy,” but even more so,  the idea of a “mission.” It is absolutely not a profession, in my opinion. But maybe the fact that I am a composer, in addition to being an interpreter, makes me emphasize the concept of “mission” in my mind.

You have played concerts all over the globe, for all kinds of audiences. Do you have any special memories about the cultural diversity of audiences in the countries you have visited?

Two cultures, the Slavonic and the Hispanic, have left the biggest trace in my memory as a musician.

The Venezuelan and Chilean public were so warm and excited that, as I came on stage, they were the first ever to give me the incredible feeling of the concert being already over. Standing ovations are supposed to come at the end of a performance, right ? And usually if you deserve them. But not in these countries and with this audience. The “not very good” thing about this is that it puts huge pressure on your shoulders! You then have two sets to be as good as the level of the applause! Quite challenging, it was.

The other thing that had me overwhelmed happened in Moscow. In Russia, performers are normally used to receiving a bouquet of flowers at the end of the performance. And even if you didn’t play fantastically – well…the flowers got purchased anyway and are waiting for you. 

But I never experienced receiving bouquets of flowers throughout the concert, every two or three pieces I played! Therefore, I received about six or seven different bouquets playing at the famous Tchaikovsky Hall! And not only from guitar fans but from “normal” people as well! How rewarding this recognition was for an artist like me!

Et voilà! See you in Vancouver!

Roland Dyens

 

 

FacebookTwitterGoogle+TumblrLinkedInPinterest

Interview with Duo Melis

February 16th, 2014

How did you meet? What brought you together as performers?

It was in 1996 at the Guitar Festival of Gran Canarias (Spain). We became a couple first and began playing together three years later. It wasn’t a conscious decision from the beginning. We started playing duos for fun, and for some time we played both as soloists and in duo. Eventually, we realized that we both enjoyed everything much more when it had to do with duo playing: the challenge of transcribing, the possibilities of a wider repertoire, working on the music together, as well as being together on stage and traveling together.

Why Duo “Melis”? Where does this name come from?

“Melis” was the name of a famous “kithara” player who lived in Athens during the 5th century B.C. The “kithara” was like a small harp and is the old ancestor of the modern guitar (which in Modern Greek keeps the same name, guitar is called “kithara”). We both liked the name and the fact that there was a professional “guitarist” so many centuries ago. “Melis” is also part of the ancient word “Melisma”, which means ‘musical ornament’.

What was the first piece you performed together?

It was the Fantasia Op. 54 bis by Fernando Sor.

Do you perform in chamber ensembles with other instruments and with orchestras?

We play very often with orchestras the concertos for two guitars by J. Rodrigo, M. Castelnuovo-Tedesco, A. Vivaldi or the Concerto Polacco by M. Pasieczny dedicated to our duo. We also like to collaborate with other guitarists or musicians and find it really inspiring and refreshing.

What, in your opinion, are the main benefits of performing as a duo, as opposed to solo performances? Do you each perform solo as well?

We both played solo for many years and at the beginning of our career as Duo Melis we combined both activities. We both felt more comfortable eventually playing together on stage, as well as working and travelling together.

How long does it take to establish a good rapport between duo partners? How does work in an ensemble affect your relationships with people? Do you find you are more sensitive to others’ feelings and emotions?

It’s hard to put a timetable of when a duo starts sounding good. What we can say is that it needs a lot of hard work and it never gets really easy to make two guitars sound like one.

Playing in an ensemble teaches you many things that have to do with social behavior (like in any team, you learn to sacrifice your own ego for the good of the group). However, we would like to think that performing and listening to music should make us more sensitive to other people’s feelings.

Do you teach as a duo?

Sometimes we do teach together when working with ensembles; however we prefer to work separately with solo players. At the Strasbourg Music University, where we both work, each one us has a separate group of students .

What language do you communicate in (besides the language of music)?

We both speak Greek and Spanish fluently, and lately we have been using a mixture of both languages that nobody else would probably understand…

You have performed a vast repertoire of Spanish music. What is your next musical territory to explore? Anything experimental?

We have in mind to record a CD with transcriptions of French Baroque Music by lesser known composers as Balbaster, Forqueray, Le Roy, etc. At the same time, we are exploring and researching the repertoire for guitar duo written by the classical French composer A. de Lhoyer on period instruments.

Do you make your own arrangements for two guitars of solo guitar pieces and pieces for other instruments?

We always prefer to play our own transcriptions, even from works that have been transcribed in the past by others. The process gives us a better understanding of the work and, more importantly, we can adapt it to our technical abilities and to our musical concept of the piece. We mainly transcribe music that we really love and would like to perform on stage.

******************************

Review and comments on the Richmond Music Festival 2014 by this year’s adjudicator Don Hlus, Chair of Music Department and guitar instructor at Kwantlen Polytechnic University.

I was very impressed with not only the organization of the Richmond Music Festival; I was even more impressed by the high calibre of the student performances. It was great to see such a wonderfully broad range of ages and levels. It was an honour and privilege to work with them all.

Best of all, it is awesome to see the Vancouver Classic Guitar Society taking a leadership role in supporting young artists throughout the lower mainland. Of equal importance, the VCGS’s activities in hosting concerts of world-class artists and community events for guitar enthusiasts of all ages, it has matured into being an integral part of the Vancouver music scene. To the executive and all the volunteers that have made this happen, I applaud your on-going commitment to the art and promotion of the classical guitar.

My only hope or wish is that more students, regardless of age, would take advantage and participate in these events.

 

Interview with classical guitarist Marc Teicholz

With Marc’s recital coming up on November 2nd, we thought our followers would be interested to take a look inside the personality of our visiting artist. Marc kindly agreed to answer a few questions – enjoy!

The question we ask every visiting artist: how did it all start? How did you find your way to the guitar?

I have always had a strong reaction to music. My parents took me to concerts. I played piano and clarinet before I learned the guitar and I sang a lot in school. My interest in guitar started from my love of folk music, singing around campfires, and enjoying Pete Seeger records. When I asked for folk guitar lessons, the teacher at the local music store in Berkeley, CA suggested that I learn classical guitar as well. I didn’t know what that was but as soon as she played a little bit for me, I was immediately hooked.

Some love classical guitar for its beautiful tone and colour, some for repertoire, some for its intimate nature. What is your favourite thing about the guitar?

I think it is a physical reaction to the sound and to the process of producing the sound with your hands. My ears have always perked up whenever I heard that plucked sound. I just liked being near it. And the feeling of holding the instrument and the tactile sensation of the strings under the fingers is very addictive.

What works have you performed with as a soloist with the orchestra? Can you tell us about such an experience?

I have played both Rodrigo solo concerti as well as his duo concerto (the Madrigal). Other concerti include ones written by Giuliani, Brouwer, Ponce, Tedesco, Sierra, Vivaldi as well as a premiere by Lee Actor. Clarice Assad is writing me a new concerto for next year. I guess the best story I have is that I played the Rodrigo Aranjuez concerto in Khabarovsk, Russia where my I met my future wife. She was sitting in the audience! So I am very grateful to that piece.

How is it to play piano compositions on the guitar? For example, Chopin – have you played the same pieces on the piano? What are the differences in experience?

To put it simply, piano pieces are very difficult to play on the guitar. The piano can play many more notes than the guitar can, so the arranger has to decide which notes must be left out. Many people think it is in poor taste even to try but one of the most famous pieces in the guitar repertoire is a piano piece by the Spanish composer Albeniz (called Asturias) and it is more famous on the guitar than it is on the piano. Perhaps it is more controversial when arranging great non-Spanish composers like Chopin and Schubert, but I do it just because I love the music and it is an exciting challenge. Besides, I have never claimed to have good taste.

What do you think about Bach transcriptions for guitar? There is a wide range of opinions of how well suited his music is to our instrument, especially knowing that there is no clear evidence of Bach writing for plucked instruments.

I think there is pretty good evidence that Bach wrote for the lute or at least for a keyboard instrument that sounded like a lute. But I don’t understand why historical arguments should be more important than aesthetic ones. The guitar seems very well made for Bach because it can do a fair amount of counterpoint (have more than one independent voice play at the same time) like a keyboard but it also has the vibrato and variety of color like a stringed instrument. Is it any surprise that I think it is the ideal instrument! But I speak not as an expert, or scholar (if that isn’t already obvious), merely as an enthusiast.

Tell us about performing modern/”new music” on the guitar. Does it feel like a whole different world? What are some things to listen for in this kind of music, for an ear, tuned to traditionally ordered sounds?

This is a big question! One of biggest pleasures of playing new music is that the player often gets the chance to spend time with the composer. It can be thrilling to get a close up view of someone’s musical/ emotional/ imaginative world. That kind of experience will change you as a musician. As far as advice goes, I would offer one thought: Many people derive comfort in hearing music that feels familiar. That is a very profound and important pleasure but I would also say that it is very invigorating to explore the unfamiliar. If you feel the music is confusing or weird, just relax and try to enjoy the strangeness of it. We are very strange creatures and it makes some sense that music should reflect this. I think it keeps one’s ears fresh to listen to as much variety as possible. That all being said, I wish that more contemporary composers would place a greater value on melody. Perhaps I am a conservative…

Do you have a favourite composer to play on the guitar?

Not really. It may be a cliche to mention Bach but he is really is unique in his ability to combine deep emotional and intellectual power.

Tell us a little bit about your soon-to-be-released music recordings of E. Nazareth and Clarice Assad. What is special about these works?

What is special is my chance to work with members of the incredible Assad family. In the case of the Nazareth recording, Sergio Assad arranged all of the works and produced the recording. He taught me to play these beautiful pieces and to better understand their style. His kindness and support have been beyond description. His daughter Clarice is a brilliant and successful composer, arranger, pianist and singer in her own right. She is writing a concerto based on a Brazilian folkloric character named Saci. Saci is a one-legged trouble maker with holes in his hands. Sometimes he turns into a bird who sings a sad song. The music is going to be alternately funny, sad and menacing. I am incredibly excited to hear what she finally comes up with.

Being an instructor at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and California State University East Bay, you must have quite a flow of students. What are the students like these days? Can you share an interesting story?

Teaching is a central part of my life. The fact that each student is so completely unique and different from one another makes teaching endlessly fascinating. I think for a young person to choose to devote themselves to music makes them more idealistic and passionate than most other students their age. The students bring so much intensity and curiosity to our lessons. They also seem very supportive of rather than competitive with each other. The most interesting “story” is just to watch them develop their talents, interests and individuality. It never ceases to amaze me how fervently people want to make music.

What are the most important things you teach to your students?

You would have to ask them. The most important thing is to learn that playing the guitar can be an endless source of intense stimulation and pleasure for a lifetime.

What are your thoughts about international guitar competitions and how they have changed over time?

I don’t follow competitions very much anymore. I think it is unquestionable that competitions have improved the overall technical level of the field. There are countless players now who play at a very high virtuosic level and I am pretty certain that competitions have had a lot to do with that. I personally don’t enjoy competition and I don’t think of music as a competitive endeavor so I wish we didn’t have competitions. Sometimes I worry that guitar playing is dominated more by a sports culture than a humanistic one but I know that it is an unrealistic opinion. It is even hypocritical in my case because winning the GFA (Guitar Foundation of America) competition helped me a great deal and I am very grateful to that organization.

What do you think about when you are on stage? Can you give a tip to student music wizards about how to “let go” on stage and immerse yourself in music completely?

Being on stage can be a roller coaster ride for me. At its rare best, it is a very quiet, relaxed, focused, intense and spontaneous sensation- more an experience of listening and feeling (in both senses of the word) rather than doing. But I get in my own way all the time and my “brain” starts chattering, making judgments, and just stinking up my head. I think this issue of concentration is very complicated and difficult for me. I don’t have too many tips. A sense of humor can sometimes help, as well as just a lot of perseverance. I think it is helpful to try not to be too much in control and just be open and curious to see what happens. My happiest moments on stage are when I am surprised.

Do you enjoy other guitar styles, and what are they?

I love listening to great steel string players like Leo Kottke, Peppino D’Agostino, Tuck, and Tommy Emmanuel. I love listening to blues, folk and jazz.

 

 

 

VCGS Open Mic and Jazz Clinic with Mason Razavi – April 21st, 2013

April 21st was an eventful day. It started with an Open Mic themed “Jazz/Pop/Folk Arrangements & Own choices”…

…and was followed by an exciting Jazz Clinic led by guitarist Mason Razavi. The workshop was much enjoyed by all the participants.

Daniel’s Observations on Summer 2012 Guitar Events

First the picnic-
Was a nice event, great fun hanging out, meeting for board members, veteran guitarists such as Ivan, Galina, Steven (with his new German guitar) Peter Zaenker (accompanied by his lovely daughter) and new comers such as the new guys studying at UBC and Capilano College – read more

GFA Convention and Competition 2012, Jun 26th to Jul 1st

What an exciting week in Charleston, SC it was! The expected tropical storm Debbie had passed by unnoticed, leaving us with seven sunny, hot and very humid days. Taking pictures outside was a challenge, as camera lenses would get foggy in a matter of seconds.

The College of Charleston is located on both side of St. Phillip Street, one side modern, one historical.

Our busy schedule spanned from 9am workshops and lectures to late-night concerts daily – it wasn’t always easy to wake up the next day!

Workshops

Technique workshops led by Dale Kavanagh, Marco Tamayo, Odair Assad and others, gathered about 20 to 30 guitarists of all levels, hungry for new exercises and practice methods. Dale introduced basic right and left hand exercises for building strength and coordination development: hammer-on slurs, arpeggios, stretches. Marco Tamayo discussed the 8 natural hand movements used in guitar playing and stressed that everyone can play without tension as long as they are aware of the naturalness of these movements.

Technique workshops with Dale Kavanagh (left) and Marco Tamayo (right)

 

Masterclasses

We were lucky to have attended Roland Dyens’ and Sergio Assad’s masterclasses. Both maestros put an accent on musical playing: melody leading, sound quality, art of expanding and contracting time as the phrase unwinds etc. Pieces performed in masterclass were from intermediate to highly advanced levels.

One of the YIC participants performed Dyens’ Hommage a Villa-Lobos, a piece requiring impeccable technique and boldness to perform tricks such as retuning a string during playing with the risk of it remaining out of tune for the rest of the piece. “What kind of crazy person wrote such a thing?!” – Dyens turned to the audience with a disturbed face. – “I don’t know, I don’t know…” After the next student had played a Bach gigue, we spent some time voting which note sounds better, F or F-sharp, in the ambiguous spot where both are possible. If you ever have the opportunity to play in his masterclass, do!

Roland Dyens with Woo Tak Kim

I only caught the final student at the Sergio Assad masterclass, who was playing the Jose sonata, 2nd movement. Assad talked about the form, switching moods and being aware of these changes at all times, i.e. always with the “big picture” in mind.

Lectures

A morning coffee substitute on June 28th, there was a refreshing video lecture by Brian Jeffery on Sor’s Spanish songs, followed by vibrant live soprano and tenor performances. On the same day, Victoria’s own Alexander Dunn gave a lecture on “Beethoven Songs with Guitar” which consisted of an excellent visual presentation and live performances of the songs with a local tenor. Enjoyed very much was the thick, dark sound of the guitar blended with tender vocal lines. Top quality – no surprise there!

Yoga for guitarists – a great torture device for those not enough tortured. Helene Rottenberg demonstrated various stretches for fingers, wrists, necks, backs and shoulders. Every now and then a pitiful moan would fill the room – the sound of someone unable to get out of the “downward facing cow”. Jokes aside, stretching works.

image taken from GFA WordPress Blog

Concerts

There was no lack of listening material – solo and duo concerts were presented daily at 4pm and later at 8pm. Among attended and greatly enjoyed were performances by Dale Kavanagh, Bandini/Chiachiaretta duo, Roland Dyens, Assad brothers, and Marco Tamayo.

Roland Dyens playing an encore with Gaëlle Solal (left); Marco Tamayo (right)

Bandini (guitar) and Chiachiaretta (bandoneon), italianos veros, sent quite an energy whirlpool into the hall with their tango melodies. Extremely sensitive and engaging playing. Something like…

For those with a starving intellect, who have seen and heard it all, plenty of new music was available from off the concert stage. Additional details on those concerts is available on the GFA website.

The omnipresent Roland Dyens would appear unexpectedly behind our backs joking and giving out generous hugs to all creatures big and small. At the concert, a true snake charmer, he would put the audience into complete silence with his utterly delicate yet colourful sound, full of loving emotion and warmth towards all and everything, projecting something all of us dream about – the ultimate, multi-dimensional freedom on the guitar.

Vendor expo

The vendor expo presented a bouquet of music publishers (including Matanya Ophee and Mel Bay), guitar accessories vendors (such as StringsByMail and Oasis), multiple CD recordings, and luthiers (Kenny Hill, Jean Rompre, Steven Walter, Wood Ring Guitars, and others). We got to take home free strings!

Orchestra and Opera

Pieces for guitar orchestra this year were, apparently, less difficult and much more enjoyable, as per the orchestra participants. Some light I. Albeniz and C. Machado – not entirely together but definitely with feeling!

A lovely musical surprise was Mozart’s comic mini-opera Bastien and Bastienna arranged for three guitars (+voice) by Timothy Walker. Very well staged, lots of expression and well-projected mood.

Competitions

Both the youth and adult competitions confirmed once again that the level of playing is only climbing up each year. Most of the kids-finalists are previous winners of multiple competitions as well as experienced performers, including performing with symphony orchestras. The Junior division (under 14) 1st prize was taken by Kevin Loh (Singapore), and the Senior division 1st prize by Huaicong Mu (China). Both played with great technical mastery and musical sensitivity, even surpassing some of the adult competitors!

Our local guitarist and VCGS member, Liel Amdour, took part in the Youth competition along with 38 young guitarists from all over the world, and had the great opportunity to absorb wisdom from such guitar masters as Marco Tamayo, Sergio Assad, Gaëlle Solal, and Giampaolo Bandini. Cheers for Liel!

Liel Amdour

Clash of the titans in the final round involved everyone performing a mandatory piece, Andrew York’s How Funky Are You this time, and a free choice program. You really had to soundpaint in York’s piece which was extremely easy to play flat and gray. First prize was taken home by the Russian performer Rovshan Mamedkuliev. Celil Kaya (Turkey) came in 2nd, Silviu Ciulei (Romania/USA) 3rd, and Ivan Sanchez Flores (Mexico) 4th. Here they are!

Encounters

We happened to meet a local Charleston guitarist and composer, Ulyana Machneva, who was also taking part in the Adult competition. Originally from the Ukraine, Ulyana has performed and composed since an early age. Blessed by one of the most prominent Soviet (and now Russian) composers Nikita Koshkin, Ulyana has since created an abundant repertoire of guitar works, for solo and ensemble performance, for all ages and levels. She is currently teaching at the Charleston Academy of Music as well as continuing her guitar studies with Marc Regnier at the College of Charleston.

Food

Apart from the soul and intellectual food consumed non-stop, we enjoyed the Caviar&Bananas café on George St. as well as Asian cuisine on King St. Ashamed to admit, it didn’t get to trying ice-cream.

Verdict

The convention felt much like a long-awaited family gathering which, according to Martha Masters, signifies ‘mission accomplished’ for this year.

Thoughts

Watching the masters and competitors on stage, I was convinced once again of two things.

1. For some, playing guitar is like performing a surgery: one wrong move, and the patient is dead. You pronounce him dead and yet continue on with the surgery.

2. For others, playing guitar is like telling a story or painting a picture that’s been forming in the mind for years – in which case, stopping for breath or putting an accidental stroke in won’t hinder the forward motion of the plot or minimize richness of the colours.

It has probably been written and said before.

Some more pictures of the beautiful Charleston.

More information on the GFA 2012 Convention and Competition is available through the GFA WordPress Blog

 

Hello and Welcome to VCGS Website

Hello, lovers of music! It is time to get inspired to practice those scales, arpeggios and tremolos.

This piece has been called one of the most musically satisfying classical guitar works ever written. Inspiration guaranteed, or your money back!

The very same Giulio Regondi wrote beautiful pieces for the concertina. Here is one performed on an accordion.

And a concertina looks like this:

Hopelessly sensitive and romantic, Regondi was.

FacebookTwitterGoogle+TumblrLinkedInPinterest

Daniel’s observations on summer guitar events

First the picnic-
Was a nice event, great fun hanging out, meeting for board members, veteran guitarists such as Ivan, Galina,  Steven (with his new German guitar) Peter Zaenker (accompanied by his lovely daughter) and new comers such as the new guys studying at UBC and Capilano College – Alec Pearson (incoming MMus student at UBC), Luis Angel Medina and Alban de Vaucorbeil. The wife of Sean Wang  provided amazing BBQ creations, and there was much happy hanging out playing and sight reading ensemble.

The MusicFest was a great start to what I’d love to see turning into an annual summer guitar festival. This year there were at least five classical guitar concerts in the span of a few days (Sunday throu Tuesday) featuring the Oberon trio from Calgary, Celso Machado, Ed Henderson,  Daniel Bolshoy with Ariel Barnes (cello), Daniel Bolshoy with the Borealis string quartet and Duo Brazil from Ottawa, featuring Andrew Mah on guitar and soprano Donna Brown.

Guitar day got off to a great start with an original and entertaining program from the Oberon trio, featuring music by living guitar composers. The music of William Beauvais was a particular delight, with the Calypso inspired by a Dowland Fantasy and other moment of whimsy. The perfect acoustics of Pyatt hall at the newly built VSO School of music were enhanced by a slide projection to illustrate moods in the music the trio played.

Ed Henderson and Celso Machado heated things up with a Latin jazz concert at 1 pm. Ed is a master of the acoustic guitar, having played in numerous bands in an amazing range of styles. He connected beautifully with the amazingly versatile Celso Machado who can make music happen with any instrument, or with no instrument at all, and is an absolute magician on the guitar. The audience loved them and they finished with a great duo version of One Note Samba by Jobim, which brought the house down.

The day ended with the 3 pm concert of Cellist Ariel Barnes and guitarist Daniel Bolshoy (who also created the guitar day event for MusicFest Vancouver). This concert, called Brasileiras, was sold out well in advance of the concert and had a long waiting list of people who were hoping to get in in lieu of any last minute no-shows… Maybe someone else can describe the actual concert… Clive Langley was there, as were a few other eloquent society members.
The success of the Brasileiras has lead to a concert reprise on September 23 at Christ Church Cathedral, another chance to hear Daniel Bolshoy and Ari Barnes in case you are one of the people who didn’t get in to hear them at guitar day. Please see the MusicFest Vancouver website for details.

Guitar day was just the start of the guitar participation at MusicFest, on Monday morning, following the Sunday afternoon cello and guitar duo concert, Daniel put together a quintet concert with the Borealis string quartet. This concert took place in the much larger Christ church cathedral which was promptly filled to capacity despite the concert taking place on a Monday morning at 10am! Many Vancouverites made the right choice to skip work and come hear the Castelnuovo-Tedesco quintet, a masterpiece of chamber music with guitar, dedicated to Segovia. Also on the program, the fun 100 Greatest Dance Hits by Aaron Jay Kernis, which featured the musicians using their instruments as drums, as well as vocal percussion (hip-hop style) and a most where sand blocks, bongos and a triangle replaced the string instruments while the guitar was wailing away on a Latin groove… Although this was new music, the audience loved this piece and its many melodious moments, but of course no quintets concert would be complete without Boccherini’s famous Fandango, which was played at the end, castanets included!

And finally Duo Brazil played on Tuesday afternoon. Sadly I was already in Calgary, teaching and playing at GuitarFestWest so someone else would have to comment on this concert.

For information on the upcoming MusicFest reprise concert which takes place Sept. 23 please visit: www.musicfestvancouver.ca

FacebookTwitterGoogle+TumblrLinkedInPinterest

GFA Convention and Competition 2012, Jun 26th to Jul 1st

What an exciting week in Charleston, SC it was! The expected tropical storm Debbie had passed by unnoticed, leaving us with seven sunny, hot and very humid days. Taking pictures outside was a challenge, as camera lenses would get foggy in a matter of seconds.

Foggy camera eye

 

 

 

 

 

 

The College of Charleston is located on both side of St. Phillip Street, one side modern, one historical.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our busy schedule spanned from 9am workshops and lectures to late-night concerts daily – it wasn’t always easy to wake up the next day!

Workshops

Technique workshops led by Dale Kavanagh, Marco Tamayo, Odair Assad and others, gathered about 20 to 30 guitarists of all levels, hungry for new exercises and practice methods. Dale introduced basic right and left hand exercises for building strength and coordination development: hammer-on slurs, arpeggios, stretches. Marco Tamayo discussed the 8 natural hand movements used in guitar playing and stressed that everyone can play without tension as long as they are aware of the naturalness of these movements.

Technique workshops with Dale Kavanagh (left) and Marco Tamayo (right)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Masterclasses

We were lucky to have attended Roland Dyens’ and Sergio Assad’s masterclasses. Both maestros put an accent on musical playing: melody leading, sound quality, art of expanding and contracting time as the phrase unwinds etc. Pieces performed in masterclass were from intermediate to highly advanced levels.

Roland Dyens with Woo Tak Kim

One of the YIC participants performed Dyens’ Hommage a Villa-Lobos, a piece requiring impeccable technique and boldness to perform tricks such as retuning a string during playing with the risk of it remaining out of tune for the rest of the piece. “What kind of crazy person wrote such a thing?!” – Dyens turned to the audience with a disturbed face. – “I don’t know, I don’t know…” After the next student had played a Bach gigue, we spent some time voting which note sounds better, F or F-sharp, in the ambiguous spot where both are possible. If you ever have the opportunity to play in his masterclass, do!

 

 

 

I only caught the final student at the Sergio Assad masterclass, who was playing the Jose sonata, 2nd movement. Assad talked about the form, switching moods and being aware of these changes at all times, i.e. always with the “big picture” in mind.

Lectures

A morning coffee substitute on June 28th, there was a refreshing video lecture by Brian Jeffery on Sor’s Spanish songs, followed by vibrant live soprano and tenor performances. On the same day, Victoria’s own Alexander Dunn gave a lecture on “Beethoven Songs with Guitar” which consisted of an excellent visual presentation and live performances of the songs with a local tenor. Enjoyed very much was the thick, dark sound of the guitar blended with tender vocal lines. Top quality – no surprise there!

Yoga for guitarists (image taken from GFA WordPress blog)

Yoga for guitarists – a great torture device for those not enough tortured. Helene Rottenberg demonstrated various stretches for fingers, wrists, necks, backs and shoulders. Every now and then a pitiful moan would fill the room – the sound of someone unable to get out of the “downward facing cow”. Jokes aside, stretching works.

 

 

 

 

 

Concerts 

Sottile Theatre where the concerts and finals were held

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There was no lack of listening material – solo and duo concerts were presented daily at 4pm and later at 8pm. Among attended and greatly enjoyed were performances by Dale Kavanagh, Bandini/Chiachiaretta duo, Roland Dyens, Assad brothers, and Marco Tamayo.

Roland Dyens playing an encore with Gaelle Solal (left); Marco Tamayo (right)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bandini (guitar) and Chiachiaretta (bandoneon), italianos veros, sent quite an energy whirlpool into the hall with their tango melodies. Extremely sensitive and engaging playing. Something like…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For those with a starving intellect, who have seen and heard it all, plenty of new music was available from off the concert stage. Additional details on those concerts is available on the GFA website.

The omnipresent Roland Dyens would appear unexpectedly behind our backs joking and giving out generous hugs to all creatures big and small. At the concert, a true snake charmer, he would put the audience into complete silence with his utterly delicate yet colourful sound, full of loving emotion and warmth towards all and everything, projecting something all of us dream about – the ultimate, multi-dimensional freedom on the guitar.

Roland Dyens giving a soulful hug to Galina

Roland Dyens in concert

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vendor expo

The vendor expo presented a bouquet of music publishers (including Matanya Ophee and Mel Bay), guitar accessories vendors (such as StringsByMail and Oasis), multiple CD recordings, and luthiers (Kenny Hill, Jean Rompre, Steven Walter, Wood Ring Guitars, and others). We got to take home free strings!

Competitions

Both the youth and adult competitions confirmed once again that the level of playing is only climbing up each year. Most of the kids-finalists are previous winners of multiple competitions as well as experienced performers, including performing with symphony orchestras. The Junior division (under 14) 1st prize was taken by Kevin Loh (Singapore), and the Senior division 1st prize by Huaicong Mu (China). Both played with great technical mastery and musical sensitivity, even surpassing some of the adult competitors!

Clash of the titans in the final round involved everyone performing a mandatory piece, Andrew York’s How Funky Are You this time, and a free choice program. You really had to soundpaint in York’s piece which was extremely easy to play flat and gray. First prize was taken home by the Russian performer Rovshan Mamedkuliev. Celil Kaya (Turkey) came in 2nd, Silviu Ciulei (Romania/USA) 3rd, and Ivan Sanchez Flores (Mexico) 4th. Here they are!

GFA 2012 Finalists

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Encounters

Ulyana Machneva

We happened to meet a local Charleston guitarist and composer, Ulyana Machneva, who was also taking part in the Adult competition. Originally from the Ukraine, Ulyana has performed and composed since an early age. Blessed by one of the most prominent Soviet (and now Russian) composers Nikita Koshkin, Ulyana has since created an abundant repertoire of guitar works, for solo and ensemble performance, for all ages and levels. She is currently teaching at the Charleston Academy of Music as well as continuing her guitar studies with Marc Regnier at the College of Charleston.

 

 

 

 

Food

Apart from the soul and intellectual food consumed non-stop, we enjoyed the Caviar&Bananas café on George St. as well as Asian cuisine on King St. Ashamed to admit, it didn’t get to trying ice-cream.

Verdict

The convention felt much like a long-awaited family gathering which, according to Martha Masters, signifies ‘mission accomplished’ for this year.

Thoughts

Watching the masters and competitors on stage, I was convinced once again of two things.

1. For some, playing guitar is like performing a surgery: one wrong move, and the patient is dead. You pronounce him dead and yet continue on with the surgery.

2. For others, playing guitar is like telling a story or painting a picture that’s been forming in the mind for years – in which case, stopping for breath or putting an accidental stroke in won’t hinder the forward motion of the plot or minimize richness of the colours.

It has probably been written and said before.

Some more pictures of the beautiful Charleston.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More information on the GFA 2012 Convention and Competition is available through the GFA WordPress Blog

 

FacebookTwitterGoogle+TumblrLinkedInPinterest