What are the dates and venues for this year’s Adelaide Guitar Festival?
The AGF’s main stage program takes place from Thursday August 11 to Sunday August 14, and this year, we’ll have events in the Adelaide Town Hall and Her Majesty’s Theatre, as well as a lot of activity at the Adelaide Festival Centre, including concerts, late night gigs, workshops, free talks and displays. In the month leading up, we’ve a brand new open access program stream called ‘Guitars in Bars (and other places)’, which is happening from July 15 in venues all over Adelaide and in regional South Australia.
When was the festival inaugurated and what was the motivation?
- The vision was to bring a new music festival to the city specifically to celebrate the most widely played instrument in the world, across all kinds of genres.
Apart from putting an emphasis on guitar music, what differentiates the AGF from other festivals?
So many of the players we feature cross musical boundaries … they can’t really be categorised. One of this year’s stars, Béla Fleck, has won Grammys in more categories than any other musician in the Award’s history.
With Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn and Noam Pikelny (Punch Brothers) among the headline acts, there seems to be something of an emphasis on banjo this year. Do you run the risk of irking guitar purists?
We’ve always seen this festival as being about guitar and related instruments. We’ve featured fantastic ukulele, mandolin and bass players over the years. There’s so much to enjoy and learn from amazing banjo players like Noam, Béla and Abigail. Their technique and musicality is just magnificent.
What has been your finest achievement as the AGF’s Artistic Director?
There’s so much that I’m proud of. It’s not my own personal achievements; it’s much more about what the whole thing has become. A particular project that I think is really important is our Adelaide Guitar Festival Orchestra. This year, it also included a Summer School. Gathering 80 young and emerging players from all over the state and having them practice hard and seeing them really develop both as individual players and as an ensemble is a great experience. This year, we’re also working on a new program called ‘Resonance’, which takes the festival into hospitals and aged-care facilities. I’m deeply proud that the festival is extending out in that direction and I hope to see it grow.
What performers have you enjoyed most at past AGFs?
There have been so many amazing performances by so many of the world’s greatest players that it’s impossible to pick favourites. Some moments went beyond what I expected, such as when the curtain was raised on Brisbane’s Aurora Guitar Ensemble in 2014, and the audience audibly gasped. In 2012, I was watching Tasmanian Cary Lewincamp from backstage, and his music and his spirit was so moving I felt like all the cells in my body were realigning.
Will you be performing this year and, if so, does that exert undue personal pressure?
I’ve played at every Adelaide Guitar Festival so far, and I will be performing this year with the Australian String Quartet — a piece by Ralph Towner. There’s always a kind of pressure, and a different headspace for performance than the rest of the festival, but I wouldn’t call it undue.
Which acts are you most looking forward to seeing at this year’s festival?
I’m really excited that the Punch Brothers are coming back, and I’m so pleased that Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn will be here. It’s such a privilege to have all those guys on the bill. Seeing Zane Banks tear it up rockabilly style with The Cruisin’ Deuces will also be great, and I’m really looking forward to him premiering an electric guitar concerto with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra. Another world premiere scheduled that night is a piece we’ve commissioned for guitar and chamber orchestra by one of the world’s greatest living composers for guitar, Leo Brouwer. I’m also really looking forward to Wolfgang Muthspiel’s jazz trio with Brian Blade and Larry Grenadier. Also to Gen Chadwick, a great songwriter and player from NSW’s south coast. And, especially, to the Australian premiere of the film about the late flamenco maestro Paco de Lucia that his son made, and will be here to present.
What are the top five things to see and do?
- The Guitar Makers’ Expo in the Dunstan Playhouse foyer
- The free artist talks and workshops
- The Classical Guitar Competition Final, during which you can see amazing young players FOC
- The ‘15 Minutes Of Fame’ spots around the festival
- Seeing an artist you’ve never heard of — festivals are a great way to discover music.
RESPONDENT: AGF’S ARTISTIC DIRECTOR DIRECTOR SLAVA GRIGORYAN / INTERVIEWER: TONY HILLIER