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Guitar duo charms village Society

by John Smyth
Two male guitarists with instruments.

Barwon Heads Fine Music Society is a post-SeaChange initiative to preserve the community spirit of the former “Village by The Sea”. Starting initially in private homes, then moving to the Anglican Church (and occasionally the Community Hall), it is the result of work by a small group of music enthusiasts to connect a local audience with a wide variety of music performers, with an emphasis on talent located on the Bellarine Peninsula.  Within the City of Greater Geelong arts community, it is regarded as having achieved extraordinary success.

With around 10 performances a year, smaller groups dominate – local soloists, small jazz ensembles and chamber groups.  Larger groups may come from Melbourne including, I recall, a visit from the Concordia Mandolin and Guitar Ensemble (in the Community Hall, on this occasion). The Church venue is small (maximum about 70) and therefore intimate, musically friendly (warm but dry acoustic), and possessed of an above-average well-maintained piano.

The most recent performance was by the guitar duo Ziggy and Miles Johnston.  A capacity crowd was able to hear the performance in an environment where the tone and detail of the two guitars could be enjoyed to the full.  The program was bookended by works  for two guitars from two Argentinians (the ubiquitous Astor Piazzolla and an equally prolific disciple, guitarist and composer Maximo Diego Pujol) encasing works by three Australian composers: the late Phillip Houghton, Richard Charlton and Nigel Westlake, each offering distinctive showcasing of the musical possibilities. The concert was rounded off by an encore featuring Cuban composer Leo Brouwer’s arrangement for two guitars of the Lennon/McCartney song “The Fool on the Hill”.  The audience responded enthusiastically to the diversity of the program, and to the rhythmic precision, technical proficiency and romantic dynamics of the performance (some of which may have been lost in a larger venue). Audience and performers were delighted with the result.

Ziggy and Miles’ parents were guitar enthusiasts (though didn’t perform in public) and the brothers both started learning at an early age.  Both as a duo and as solo artists, they have travelled widely and received recognition in a variety of competitions.  They have a CD of works for two guitars (recorded in 2014 with Slava Grigoryan as producer) and this year will appear at the Melbourne Recital Centre as part of the ‘Local Heroes’ series on 18 April and 9th July.  After that, they are aiming to spend some time in New York undertaking further development at Juilliard.  They are talented, they are dedicated, and they deserve success.

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