8 years ago

Volume 19 Issue 9 - June/July/August 2014

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  • Jazz
  • Toronto
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CLASSICAL COMEBACK: continued from page 8“While I loved rock music, I alwayscame back to classical guitar.”Michael KolkTake Michael Kolk, for example: it’s easy to regard him as a purelyclassical guitarist, but while completely understandable, it would bea mistake. Although he started with classical guitar at a very youngage (“around six,” he thinks) and now has the classical technical andinterpretive skills to match any player I’ve seen – and that includesJulian Bream, John Williams and Segovia – he didn’t restrict himself toplaying classical guitar in his teens, teaching himself rock songs andviewing Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page and particularly Jimi Hendrix (“arevelation for me”) as influences.The different styles certainly didn’t create a conflict, though. “WhileI loved rock music,” Kolk told me, “I always came back to classicalguitar.” There were several reasons. He could play a complete piece ofmusic without a band; practising alone was more fulfilling; there wasmore of a challenge in classical music; he was inspired by seeing histeacher play the pieces. And last but not least, “Classical guitar wasdifferent; I didn’t know anyone else at my school who played it, so Iliked having that unique identity.”Kolk has remained flexible ever since, often working with musiciansfrom quite different backgrounds; moreover, he feels that thisexploration of different styles of playing, together with learning toimprovise and play electric guitar, has not only made him becomemore versatile but has also informed his classical playing. It has alsomade it more open-ended as a career; he admits that, depending onthe opportunities that present themselves, he could end up going inother, completely different, directions in the future. “One thing I’velearned,” he says, “ is that things never turn out exactly how youthink, so I try to be open to opportunities and do what feels right andmusically fulfilling at the time.”He also notes that while there are more outstanding classical playersnow than ever before, there is probably a smaller audience – at leastin the traditional concert attendance sense – than in the days whenSegovia, Bream and Williams were touring. This is in part due to ourability to access music in so many different ways these days withoutever leaving home, and it’s not just classical guitarists who are facedwith the challenge of finding good performance opportunities, whateverthe size of the venue.Having the worldwide commercial exposure that Milós Karadaglićenjoys clearly makes that less of an issue, but surmounting that challengeat any level brings its own rewards, as it enables you to keep thepersonal connection and interaction through the music that is – forboth performer and audience – such an essential and gratifying part ofa live performance.And that leads us back to the CD launch and the hugely appreciativebut sparse audience of 30, although admittedly attendance wasby invitation only. I had already received and played a review copy ofthe Mosaic CD before the launch event, and when we arrived I toldDavid Perlman that I was eager to see if Michael Kolk was as astonishinglygood live as he was on the CD. At the end of the evening, Davidturned to me and said “Well, now you’ll have to go back and see if he’sas good on the CD as he is live!”The good news is that yes, he is.The even better news is that the classical guitar is clearly alive andwell, adapting to the challenges of contemporary performance andactually thriving on the various influences and different opportunitiesthat may, at first sight, have seemed to present a growing threat.With a player like Michael Kolk on our doorstep, the proof is therefor all to hear.You can hear Michael Kolk in a recital of music by Bach, Debussy,Barrios, Hétu and Gerhard at the Heliconian Hall, 35 Hazleton Avenue,Toronto, on Monday, June 23 at 8pm. Presented by Alma Records.Tickets are at the door.Calum Graham is another Western Canada native, like MichaelKolk, now resident in Toronto, and he’s quickly making a name forhimself as one of the best finger-style guitarists around. In 2010, whilestill in his teens, he took first place in that category at the CanadianGuitar Festival, the first teenager ever to do so.Graham provides another example of the value of classical guitartraining and the contribution it can make if you explore differentplaying styles. His early teen years saw him playing acoustic, heavymetal and punk music, but a growing awareness of the possiblephysical problems that could result from a poor technique led him todecide to study classical guitar to ensure that he had a solid foundationfor his future.He was about to enter the Masters Classical Guitar programat Calgary’s Mount Royal University when he pulled out at the lastmoment; he did, however, go on to study privately with the sameteachers. While he later decided to concentrate on finger-styleacoustic guitar he still enjoys playing classical, and is quick to acknowledgethe contribution his classical studies made, calling it the besttraining he’s ever had and openly admitting that he wouldn’t be theplayer he is without it.And what a player he is! He’s still only 22, but his technique is quiteastonishing. Just check out Phoenix Rising and The Channel (the latterclearly showing the influence of his classical training) on his websiteor on YouTube. Watching him play brings to mind a comment I onceheard about Lenny Breau – that if you told him something was impossibleon the guitar, he would go off and try to work out how to do it.And usually succeed.Watching Calum Graham, you get the same feeling.Calum Graham will be opening for guitarists Andy McKee and DonRoss on June 12 at the Randolph Theatre, 736 Bathurst Street, at 7pm,and on June 14 at the Trinity College Auditorium in Port Hope.Toronto’s Summer Music in the Garden concert series will presentAn Evening with Calum Graham at the Harbourfront Centre, 475Queen’s Quay West, Toronto, on Thursday, July 17. The performancetime was not available at press time; call 416-973-4000 closerto the event.Admission to the outdoor hour-long, family-friendly performancesis free. Limited park bench seating is available; guests are encouragedto bring their own lawn chairs.Milós Karadaglić will also be performing in Toronto this summer,giving a recital of music by Bach, Sor, Granados, Rodrigo and de Fallaon Friday, August 8 at 7:30pm at Koerner Hall as part of the TorontoSummer Music Festival. Tickets start at .Terry Robbins writes the Strings Attached column in theDISCoveries section of The WholeNote. He has played guitar innearly 50 different Broadway musicals in community musicaltheatre productions in the GTA over the last 30 years.86 | June 1, 2014 – Sept 7, 2014

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