Guitar Hero

As Slava Grigoryan gears up for his third Guitar Festival as Artistic Director, the ARIA Award-winning guitarist is excited by new initiatives that will benefit the festival and the state in coming years.

As Slava Grigoryan gears up for his third Guitar Festival as Artistic Director, the ARIA Award-winning guitarist is excited by new initiatives that will benefit the festival and the state in coming years. These projects include a partnership with Spain’s Cordoba Guitar Festival and the launch of the Adelaide International Guitar Orchestra. “I’m really happy with the program and the mix of artists and genres,” Grigoryan explains about the Adelaide International Guitar Festival, which begins on Thursday, July 17. “Each year we try to introduce a few different elements of programming; this year the new changes are the guitar orchestra and the relationship with the Cordoba Guitar Festival.” In previous festivals, Grigoryan introduced initiatives such as the open mic opportunity 15 Minutes of Fame, Meet the Guitar Maker and the prestigious Adelaide International Classical Guitar Competition. The benefits of the relationship with Cordoba will bear fruit in the coming years when the two festivals (which are separated by a couple of weeks) combine to commission new works. “To be able to premiere an amazing new work and have it played at both festivals is a fantastic possibility. It’s [Cordoba] been a real beacon in terms of a guitar festival that celebrates all genres. It’s been around forever. The pool of people Cordoba gets to work with ever year is amazing; knowing that they’re really keen to do this is a real thrill. Having that cultural connection between Australia and Spain – especially Adelaide and South Australia, which is so Spanish in terms of the climate and landscape – is an exciting concept. I’m really looking forward to seeing how it develops in the future with a more involved artist exchange in the years to come. Sending more Aussies over there, presenting more of their people here and, of course, guitar makers as well.” Collaborations between Australian and Spanish artists, as well as the commissioning of new works will be easier with the combined powers of both festivals. An exciting opportunity for young players is the introduction of the Adelaide International Guitar Orchestra, Adelaide’s first guitar orchestra, a collective of 50 local players around high school age. “The concept of larger ensembles for young guitarists is crucial and for Adelaide we’ve got this incredible festival, having an ensemble that develops and continues to grow… we really want it to exist outside of the festival. We’ll certainly help and be part of anything they do outside of the festival. I’m certain that the boost it’s going to give to the younger generations will be obvious. I think in years to come this will be one of the things that’s left its mark on Adelaide – the birth of an orchestra like this.” Grigoryan hopes the guitar orchestra will inspire the next generation of Adelaide guitar players, as something that’s concerned the award-winning classical guitarist is the lack of local entries in the Adelaide International Classical Guitar Competition. “We need to reinvigorate it at a much younger level, and try to inspire the next generation to play really well. I think we’ll see some amazing things in the future.” Juxtaposing this opportunity for young local players is the international focus and reach of the festival. “The word’s really spread, people around the word know about us now, the combination of that [the festival] and the guitar competition, although that’s a very classical thing, has given it a different quality. Young players and teachers from all over the world are talking about it [Classical Guitar Competition].” This year’s program is an exciting mix of tradition and innovation, which includes classical guitarists such as Judicael Perroy and Pepe Romero and Gypsy and Flamenco kings Jose Antonio Rodriguez and Stochelo Rosenberg. Away from the Flamenco and classical streams, highlights of Grigoryan’s 2014 program include guitar shredder Guthrie Govan and the innovative Debashish Bhattacharya, who mixes Indian classical with blues on his homemade slide guitars. “One thing we haven’t covered from my time in the festival is virtuosic guitar playing,” Grigoryan explains. “Internationally speaking, Guthrie Govan, his name just kept coming up everywhere from young players to old players. He’s really one of the pinnacles of this craft. He’s been to Australia before but only as a sideman in other people’s bands, so this will be the first time he’ll be playing his own music here. The concert is selling quickly; we know there’s a lot of excitement about him being here. “Debashish is another guy I’m really excited about having in Australia for the first time. Like Guthrie, he’s on a completely different planet musically, but he’s a name that just kept coming up and you hear about him all over the world. People are in awe of what he’s done for a very long time now. He’s very much an Indian musician, that tradition is the most recognisable one, but he’s designed these incredible slide guitars. You can hear the relationship between blues and Indian music in what he does and he connects a lot of dots. For people interested in a whole range of styles, he’s going to be absolutely mind-blowing.” On his future with the Adelaide International Guitar Festival, Grigoryan says it on a “festival-by-festival” basis. “With the current climate in general in Australia culturally, we don’t really know what’s around the corner but we can only hope and do the best. Hopefully it will continue and I’m certainly very keen to be a part of it ongoing, as well.” Adelaide International Guitar Festival Adelaide Festival Centre Thursday, July 17 to Sunday, July 20  

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