Space Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre, Sun 14 Aug.
The first part of the program features guitar students currently studying at the Elder Conservatorium, in solo and ensemble pieces, several of which were premiers, including the final two pieces. The musicianship was inspiring – clearly plenty of talent in this city of ours, not all of which, in student terms, is home-grown. The first of the ‘all in’ ensemble pieces, for instance, is the composition of a South Korean student within the group. The piece had a lot to commend it, some interesting variations on nursery rhymes (one critique might be that a western audience needs less than ten seconds to get the original melodies, no point to labour that, rather to move more quickly into the interesting variations).
The other ensemble piece was by Stephen Whittington, who upon being asked to consider such a piece, quickly understood that there is plenty of beautiful music for guitar ensembles and so set about writing something reflective of some of the more modern strains of the orchestral style (i.e. with dissonance, discord and the like). In this he has succeeded completely and the students did a great job delivering it. I would expect with such a different take on guitar ensemble composition this will become a popular piece of repertoire.
However, the main focus of the gig was Melbourne-based musicologist Ken Murray, who set about to take us on a journey of much of the world, from early Catalana with moorish influences and sounds you’d swear were from an Oud, to re-arranged folk pieces from Brazil and China. This performance featured plenty of his own compositions as well. Given the nature of musicology, Ken’s understanding of the various styles and genres seems to be cemented by his writing of a pieces in a particular style, or with an ear out to use some of the techniques and sounds. Ken was quite adept at displaying the versatility of guitar – making it mimic various sounds along the way.
This is one guitar festival gig that would have benefited from a written program, so the audience, at least those of us with poorer memories for so many details (i.e. me), might be able to consider the various styles, personalities and composers that Ken introduced us to in this whirlwind world tour. Not that he didn’t do a good job at introducing us.
The audience were treated to a great Sunday afternoon of music, a wide variety of styles and some interesting insight into guitar music and composition. I would jump at the chance to hear Ken interviewed or to give a public lecture on his study of musicology and the friends he has made along the way.
Image courtesy of Paul West