Guitar festival opening an enriched experience
The first night of the 16th Bermuda Guitar Festival was a sell-out on Thursday.
Presented by the Bermuda School of Music at Daylesford Theatre was filled with an enthusiastic and appreciative audience to hear Steve Crawford on guitar and LaTannia Ellerbe on violin’s interpretations of an eclectic gathering of music ranging from the 1960s to the present.
Both musicians are highly qualified, technically perfect, and content to have the unadorned, unamplified natural beauty of their instruments speak directly to us.
At the same time, both musicians invest a large measure of emotion in the music, which enriches our experience of it.
Standout interpretations included Clapton’s 1970s Layla, which featured Ellerbe playing expert tabla-like riffs on the soundboard of the violin using the back of her right-hand fingers, and the use of pizzicato violin/guitar riffs in close unison.
There was a lively Beatles medley and the haunting 1987 Fragile by Sting, which featured highly emotive guitar solo work punctuated with furious dual instrument rasgueado — which Steve quite rightly pointed out owes a lot to Rodrigo’s 1939 Concierto de Aranjuez.
The second half included numbers by Bon Jovi, David Bowie, Queen, Kansas and HER.
I find that, however well played or interpreted, the music from the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s has a certain melodic sameness about it, perhaps just because of the musical conventions and expectations of the time, perhaps because of the way we all remember it. Offsetting this trend, Steve and LaTannia ventured further afield to give us two completely different musical experiences.
First, an extract from Charles Gounod’s 1859 opera, Faust, which features a setting of the canticle Ave Maria played as a melody over the arpeggios of the first prelude of Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier. The piece enabled both musicians to showcase technical and emotional depth in fusing Protestant intellectuality (Steve) with Catholic emotion (LaTannia).
Second, Steve morphed into Django Reinhardt and LaTannia into Stéfane Grappelli for a tribute to depression-era gypsy jazz, Reinhardt’s 1940 composition, Nuages. Deservedly, a standing ovation was the response from the audience.