Sunday, 23 September 2007

Guitars; two Rolands and a Vincent

I’ve loved classical/Spanish guitar music since I was four and half and my parents bought their first ever (small, black & white) telly – with a bulging green screen in a walnut-effect casing, and balanced precariously on spindly splayed stainless steel legs (probably a design classic now). One of my favourite programmes in the Watch With Mother series, which came on just after lunch, was Tales of the Riverbank, in which a cast of live guinea-pigs, hamsters and rats were filmed improbably driving small boats and landrovers in the leafy environs of the Riverbank while Johnny Morris narrated their adventures.

What captivated me, however, wasn’t so much the escapades of the rodenty chums as the signature tune and other evocative guitar music. It was a sound that was new to me, and one which I found completely enchanting, and I’ve never really lost that fascination (though strangely it never inspired me to take up the instrument myself). So that was how the early Sixties affected my life. While those a few years older were thrilling to the guitar playing of the Fab Four, I was sitting on my little wooden chair at home, watching a hamster suspended in a small wicker basket beneath a balloon which gently rose above the reeds and rushes to the accompaniment of what was, to me, the most beautiful music in all the world.

Well, all the above is mainly to explain why, on Friday, My Boy (astonishingly, abandoning his chance to watch the Ireland v France Rugby match) and I betook ourselves to the Muddy Island’s Cultural Mecca for an evening with the decidedly brilliant Modern Guitar Trio.

A quick look at their website had been enough to persuade me that this was a concert not to be missed, but I had not expected an evening of such sustained enjoyment. The charismatic Australian Roland Chadwick is the trio’s leader and spokesman – there’s a lot of chatting to the audience between pieces – and the other members are Vincent Lindsey-Clark and Roland Gallery. All three are composers as well as consummate performers in their own right, and a feature of the Trio is that they play only their own compositions.

You can hear some of their music on iTunes, or go to Roland Chadwick’s website, where diverse clips play continuously. I came away with a couple of their CDs, which I’m listening to now. But a recording simply can’t convey anything of the engaging thrill of watching these three musicians playing together. That all the music is their own makes their performance personal and intense. Classically trained, they seem equally at home incorporating blues, jazz, and folk music into their compositions, and appear to be masters of every technique and genre known to guitar playing – at times my son feared for the safety of their instruments as they slapped and drummed them with fierce percussiveness. There’s a review on the ‘Critics’ page of Roland Chadwick’s site by Steve Marsh in Classical Guitar Magazine which really can’t be bettered:

‘. . . As well as all three of them being virtuoso guitarists, they also just happen to be extremely good composers in the own right . . . their compositions are of the highest quality and are never less than entertaining . . . The four-movement Sonata Melodica by Lindsey-Clark opens up proceedings in . . . very lyrical fashion . . . . tunes abound from every corner of this brilliant and exciting piece whether it be in the bright, vivacious sections or in the darker, moodier passages. It is altogether a highly rewarding work to listen to with a clear and uncomplicated texture concluding with a spirited Finale of uninhibited fun. Roland Gallery’s contribution to this programme uses the word ‘fusion’ in the title due to the two works combining the elements from rock, jazz, classical and world music . . . 'Chameleon' is an eight-minute work of varying moods and pace and cleverly uses the same thematic material in different guises . . . 'Fear of the Dark' utilises the ‘jazz’ sound a little more than its counterpart and makes for another entertaining work. . . . [P]ride of place must go to Roland Chadwick’s emotive composition The Wendy House . . . a piece I have returned to time and again for further listenings . . . [it] contains some of the most beautifully evocative writing for guitar ensemble this reviewer has heard in many a day. . . . I defy anyone not to be moved by the sheer poetry of this writing . . . the composer shows his very real talent for composing extraordinarily attractive music. There is no overstatement, no pomposity or grand empty gestures; it is simply music for music’s sake . . . Virtuosity, power and sensitivity are matched by all three artists . . . So here are three extremely rewarding and out-of-the-mainstream works done with style in every department in a recording which is uniformly good and clear. . . . . I strongly recommend this brilliant new release.

If, like me, you enjoy listening to musicians who cross, defy or simply ignore traditional 'boundaries', do go and see them if you ever get the chance.

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