Some fifty hardy souls risked a blustery night in Hampton to venture forth to the Greenwood Centre to hear the Modern Guitar Trio. This was their second visit to this series of concerts arranged by Martin Shaw but unfortunately due to circumstances it was my first experience of them and their playing of their own compositions.
I was certainly not disappointed by the content, the playing and the sheer enthusiasm shown by the three highly polished performers.
Roland Chadwick introduced the three members in a light hearted way before handing over to Vincent Lindsay Clark who introduced his long composition Sonata Melodica a four movement piece lasting approximately twenty minutes.
The Allegretto movement began with an initial introduction of the melody with a strong rhythmic accompaniment. This was followed as the theme was played around with each of the guitarists taking the melody sometimes as a solo and sometimes with two guitars an octave apart and at one stage all three playing the melody in different octaves. A constant rhythm was kept throughout as the movement drew to a satisfactory close.
The Lento movement that followed was very melancholic in feel with a predominant sweet sound being produced by all three guitarists only once moving to a ponticello sound. The effect was almost harp like in places.
The third movement was a definite waltz with the three four time accompaniment starting before the third guitar came in with the first statement of the theme. We had a couple of slight buzzes as the theme was announced for the second time but this is an over harsh judgement as the overall effect as the theme was passed around by all three players with plenty of tonal variety was superb.
The fourth and final movement started almost suddenly with a relentless almost frantic rhythm. After a few minutes we were led to a false ending as the rhythm started to slow down only for the initial strict tempo to be picked up again. Overall a satisfactory ending to this lengthy but interesting piece.
Roland Chadwick then introduced us to his piece The Wendy House which turned out to be somewhat different form the perceived idea of a play house but in fact a commentary on his mother's battle to obtain accommodation for his disabled sister Wendy.
The first movement, Mystified Windows, based on Wendy's description of steamed up windows started with a gentle figure overlaid by a melody played in harmonics. As the piece progressed I was aware of the influences of American Minimalism especially as the movement drew to an end.
The second movement, Stumblers Waltz, started with a discordant waltz rhythm with a disjointed theme coming in. Whilst the movement maintained the somewhat discordant and disjointed theme throughout a steady, almost relentless, waltz rhythm was maintained.
The third movement, Dream, followed a slightly quicker opening than might be expected from a movement called dream but no less rewarding for that. The main theme was a simple sounding melody introduced by Vincent Lindsay Clark and filled out and added to by the other two members of the trio. As the melody was taken over by Roland Chadwick it transformed to a slightly Irish/American Cowboy theme. The theme was taken over onto harmonics as the movement came to a quiet conclusion.
The fourth movement subtitled Intense Direction Home certainly started in an Intense and Dramatic manner with loud rhythmic chords on one guitar another taking the melody and the third following the melody with further loud chords. So much intense sound was being produced that one was left wondering how they kept the gutars in tune for the final movement which was introduced without a break.
This movement or Flutterbyes-Metamorphosis as it is subtitled opened with another lovely slightly gentle theme with just a couple of unfortunate buzzes. The melody was split between all three for a while until it transformed to a duet with tremolo accompaniment dying into the close.
Following the interval Roland Chadwick gave a brief history of the trio and how they had originally played together to perform Letter from LA the piece that was programmed to end the evening.
Next up came Roland Gallery's introduction to his Two Fusion Pieces. The guitar, he told us, can be found in all genres of music and these “fusion” pieces are based on Riffs and chords respectively. The first of them, Chameleon, came to him as he travelled on the underground and he noticed that as people got on and off at various stops the relationships with other travellers changed constantly. The piece is based on a sixteen bar riff which sounded influenced by Richard Thompson but played on a classical guitar rather than Jumbo or Electric. The riff was accompanied by a rocking rhythm and progressed to a more jazzy feel as the rhythm became more syncopated.
The treatment now reminded me of Dave Brubeck's seminal Take Five with a short quote form the theme to Mash as it mellowed into a quiet ending.
The second fusion piece, Fear of the Dark, is not named after the rather brooding key of Bflat minor but, infact, the strange chromatic riff in the middle of the piece which has an eerie feel. The movement started with all three guitarists playing the riff in unison soon to be lost in chaos which was subsequently ordered (Where have I heard that before?) as things were brought to order we heard the opening riff repeated in an almost conventional riff, rhythm and bass sequence before the riff was inverted and then brought back in unison to bring the movement to a satisfactory close.
The final scheduled piece, Letter from LA, that brought the trio together was written by Roland Chadwick whilst living in LA and unable to work.
Los Angels, a reflection on the vast differences in LA society, had an arpeggio opening followed by an interesting “West Coast” melody which was followed by a Syncopated rhythm section before dying to nothing.
The second movement, Santa Monica, named after the Gay community of LA started with echoes of minimalism suddenly disappearing after a bar as a more frenetic section developed with Hispanic undertones various ideas being introduced and disposed of almost at will. Suddenly out of nothing the movement ended.
The third movement, Sunset Strippers, started percussively followed by the two of the performers taking it in turn to play the first theme using just their left hands followed by the third taking the theme to the very highest notes on the guitar. We then had the theme played straight and in harmonics then back to what would be considered normal by other groups. The disjointed rhythm kept a very strict tempo throughout this movement up until its rather sudden end.
The last movement was then introduced by Roland Chadwick who let his flowing locks loose telling us that he had grown the hair and beard to look different only to find people in Glasgow would come up to him and talk to him like an old friend. Being a Sydneysider he claims that he didn't know what they were saying to him but bearing in mind his resemblance to Billy Connolly I think we can get the idea. This movement, he claims,” is the most violent and energetic piece written for the classical guitar” and the loosening of his lock added to the dramatic effect. I will not even attempt to describe the movement but urge you, if you get the chance, to see and hear it for yourself.
The evening was rounded off by an encore of Variations on Yankee Doodle which ended with all three jumping in the air.
All told a thoroughly enjoyable and stimulating night out and a more that adequate alternative to the Eurovision Song Contest.
Sonata Melodica - Vincent Lindsey-Clark
The Wendy House - Roland Chadwick
Two Fusion Pieces - Rolland Gallery
Letter from LA - Roland Chadwick
Roland Chadwick made his Sydney Opera House debut in 1988 and has since built a reputation as one of Australia’s master Guitarist/Composers. Since moving to the UK in 1997 he has appeared as a soloist with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, English Chamber Orchestra, Britten Sinfonia and members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
Roland Gallery: Winner of the prestigious Julian Bream prize at the Royal Academy of Music, Roland has made numerous appearances on TV and Radio in Britain and abroad. He has championed guitar ensemble and the use of the guitar in chamber music and with voice. He is professor of Guitar at Trinity College of Music.
Vincent Linsey-Clark: Before attending the Royal College of Music, Vincent won the Lanchester International Guitar Competition when he was seventeen. He is extensively published as a composer with all the major examining boards using his pieces in their syllabuses. He teaches guitar at London’s Centre for Young Musicians and has recently completed several commissions for guitar ensemble works. Vincent has just recorded a CD of selected compositions he has written for solo guitar over the last 30 years called “Theo’s brother”.