Classical Guitar Magazine Interview

In 2003 Roland was interviewed by Tim Panting, Reviews Editor of Classical Guitar Magazine about the Modern Guitar Trio.

This interview was published in the November 2004 issue of Classical Guitar Magazine

Tell me about how the Trio got started.

In 1999/2000 I was putting together the resources I needed for the recording of “The Revealing” and I needed a couple of guitarists for the recording of my guitar trio, “Letter From LA”. Through a mutual friend I met Roland Gallery and as he (strangely) lives just 2 blocks away from me in Ealing, is the same age and was born in the same month and has the same first name with the same spelling – well, he had to be the man! He recommended that I try out Vincent Lindsey-Clark who turned out to be a bit good and for the recording engineer they recommended John Taylor. Being new to the London music scene at that time I had no idea of how much experience these two had but the recording went very well and was done on I think on only two or three rehearsals. It was only later that I heard some recordings of the Segovia Guitar Trio and then I realised who I was dealing with. Once the CD was released came the problem of promoting it and as the English Chamber Orchestra weren’t always available it seemed a good idea to get Roland and Vincent to go out for the odd concert here and there. Eventually we needed more material and I arranged the Three Kisses for Jenny from The Revealing and Vincent mentioned that he’d written a piece called Cymmetry and Roland G produced 2 jazz fusion pieces that he’d penned. Meanwhile I came up with a Song and Dance and for an encore piece I arranged a set of variations I’d written on Yankee Doodle. By this point we were being asked to do full concerts and so with the addition of a solo each we had a full program. It was only later that we realised that we had formed an actual trio and that something special was happening regarding the program we were currently playing and the future direction that a trio of guitarist/composers might take. You see, there a quite a few guitar ensembles that have a resident composer but to have all three of us being composers struck us as being something quite unusual.

Who decides on the repertoire? Is it a fairly democratic unit?

Well so far we only play music that has been written by one or other of the members of the trio and that’s the thing that struck us as being fairly unique about the trio from the get go. There are quite a few guitar ensembles that have a resident composer – Richard Charlton in the Sydney Guitar Trio for example, but we couldn’t think of a group of classical musicians where all of the players are practicing composers. Now I’m sure that there will be many letters to the editor disputing that idea but the point is that based on the information we had at the time the idea of a trio of Classical Guitarist/Composers seemed quite unique and in it’s own way special.

Democratic? More co-operative really. None of us present pieces to the group that we’re not reasonably confident with and when we work on the pieces together there’s a sense of co-operation and genuine support present that is really quite remarkable and rare. There is a genuine respect for each others work and it’s not uncommon to hear one of us say “I wish I’d written that” about one of the others pieces.

You have a lot of original material between the three of you. What are your views on including some more recognisable items of repertoire?

Well I honestly don’t see the point of a group of guitarist/composers including recognisable items of repertoire (if you mean compositions by other composers) unless it’s to give the audience something they know and I think that’s a false premise on which to base a groups programming decisions. I haven’t found that audiences need to be fed a diet of the tried and true. In my experience they want something beautiful, passionate, expressive and a little exciting on the side and that’s where I write from. Audiences aren’t frightened of new music! They’re hungry for new music! but that hunger wont be and wasn’t satisfied by music written from a place of self indulgence and self referential intellectualism. They don’t want to be astonished or interested they want to be moved, touched and inspired and so do I. Programming recognisable items of repertoire is definitely not the answer to regaining the interest and trust of audiences.

The point is that you can’t fake it. The music you hear either is real and a real expression of what it is to be human and the humans listening to it are moved, touched and inspired or they’re not and if they’re not they wont go back to it. The job of the professional musician is to build an audience base that is moved, touched and inspired by what the performer sees as a musical vehicle that contains that true expression. And for me that’s the Modern Guitar Trio. We’re not a covers band.

You are all musicians active in many fields, how often do you get together, say weekly, and what are your plans for the coming months?

Where does the idea that musicians have to educate their audiences come from?! I think it’s incredibly arrogant of musicians and composers who think they are in a position to ‘educate’ their audience. That is not we’re paid to do to and that is definitely not what the audience is asking from us and if you attempt to do that as your primary focus they’ll see through you and never return to your concerts. My guess is that if a musician feels that he/she has to educate their audience they might be a tad insecure about whether or not they or the music they are playing really has anything to say of any significance to other human beings. If music is about what it is to be human and the expression of the human condition then the idea that you have to educate other humans in that condition and expression is ridiculous given of course that they, the audience are already an integral part of that condition and expression. That of course doesn’t discount the idea that audiences cannot acquire a taste for certain styles of music but you can’t ‘teach’ anyone to be moved, touched and inspired by a certain type of music. The either eventually get it or they don’t. Their choice.

I’m not sure about the emotional thing. That’s too big and complex. But we’re certainly concerned about transcendence in so far as one can speak of a concert moving the audience from the level of their daily cares and concerns to a place where they can be said to experience clarity and freedom and hopefully the music you present can be the vehicle which takes them to that place.

I wish we could afford to rehearse weekly but no … we rehearse when we have concerts coming up … which is soon! We’re doing quite a few of the regional Arts Centres in the later part of 2003. In London we’re doing that National Theatre on the South Bank and various Guitar Societies and we’re set to play at Tim Pells’ Guitar Festival at the Colchester Institute. And next year more concerts and hopefully a recording of the new pieces the three of us have come up with.

Well, it seems to me that The Modern Guitar Trio have a truly fresh, ‘modern’ approach to music making and we hope to hear more from you in the near future and wish you all the success for your coming ventures.