I attended the GFA
Convention [PHOTOS 1]
in October of 2005. My friend Stephen Aron of Oberlin
Conservatory did a wonderful job of organizing a significant
festival. There were a lot of big name players there, and you
could see the talent and why they had big names. However, they
must have been nervous playing in front of each other. There
were a few wrong notes and clinkers just like the rest of us
humans have been known to plonk.
] played an 8-string. It sounded like a normal fine guitar
to me, just an extra bass note here and there. She performed
a quite significant new work called Saeta by the Flemish composer
Wim Hendrickx. This was a wonderful performance. The Bach Chaconne
didn't go quite as well. I liked her performance on a period
1827 Mirecourt 6-string guitar better, featuring works by Mertz,
Legnani and Schubert.
] performed a concert on a Russian 7-string guitar owned
by my friend Matanya Ophee. Yates' performance of the Sor Fantasie
Elegaique on this guitar was one of the best things I have ever
heard. It was performed with near perfect tempo and taste. The
Russian 7- string has a quality I can only describe as pungent,
but I don't know if that communicates much to anyone who hasn't
heard one. The standard tuning for a Russian 7-string is DGBEGBE.
The other pieces on Yates' program were not up to the level of
the Sor in my opinion, but the Sor was memorable. A couple pieces
by the Russian composer Andrei Sychra written for 7-string guitar
performed on lute. I have seen a lot of well-known lutenists.
Barto is perhaps the best technical lute player I have ever seen,
musical too. His lute sounds as loud as a concert guitar, and
actually stays in tune for the most part.
If you really want to get into multistrings, they had Niibori
Ensemble, a Japanese guitar orchestra of about 40 guitars, all
playing in perfect synchrony, down to the physical movements
of each player.
Galbraith [PHOTOS 1
performed. I have seen him before. I have the greatest
respect for Galbraith's quite expansive musical knowledge, and
he is worth listening to for his taste and knowledgeable performances.
I am just not sold on all the contraptions he uses though, the
"cello" bar, the bass box, the 8-strings, the slanted
frets, the jet-fighter seating. Even with all that, he amplified,
when the 6-stringers did not. He's trying to make a perfect guitar.
Problem is, if you go too far perfecting a guitar you get something
that doesn't sound like a guitar anymore, in my opinion. But
by all means see him play and judge for yourself.
Dominic Frasca [PHOTOS 1
| MP4 MOVIE 1] is a phenomenal
creative talent. Every guitarist should see him. He composes
in a minimalist vein, but it sounds human, it has to, on guitar.
He uses a modified 10-string with both steel and nylon strings.
Yet he also plays 6-string. I was amazed to see that his most
significant and complex composition, Deviations, was written
for and performed on a 6-string. Just listening to the CD, I
thought it was a 10-string. Frasca does a lot of percussion on
guitar too, often with the aid of midi/computer devices. Frasca
makes music of this age. Nothing has turned my head around so
much on guitar since I was a teenager and I heard John McLaughlin's
"Dance of Maya." In both cases, it made me think it's
still worth hanging around this sweet swingin' sphere to hear
something that interesting. Frasca doesn't give a shit about
convention either, he tells some off-color jokes and stuff during
Other highlights included Manuel Barrueco. He exhibited some
of the most refined, elegant and effective playing I have ever
heard in pieces by Piazzolla, Granados and a transcription of
a Chick Corea tune. I didn't like some of his other interpretations
quite as much. The Hanser-McLellan Duo was terrific. There were
worthwhile workshops on reducing performance anxiety and other
topics. All the other performers had good spots too. A Canadian
guy with a wonderful beard won the competition, Jerome Ducharme.
He played with consistency and intensity yet evenness, nudging
out the better known Polish player Marcin Dylla. Marcin could
have easily won but it was close.
Next year the GFA will be held near Atlanta. There is talk
of me bringing GFA to Tahoe in 2007, but I don't think it will
happen because we don't have a top-notch performance and convention
facilty here and won't for at least four years.