Hamilton International Guitar Festival & Competition

Below is a review of the 2014 Hamilton Festival in Ontario, Canada. But first, some info on 2015:

2015 Hamilton International Guitar Festival & Competition
June 19-21, 2015

Concerts:  Gaelle Solal (France), Rene Izquierdo (Cuba), Miodrag Zerdoner (Canada), Will Douglas (USA).  Additional faculty: Jeff McFadden (Canada), Drew Henderson (Canada), Kevin Manderville (USA), Tuba Akkaya (Turkey), Tim Phelan (Canada), Michael Hardy (USA), Emma Rush (Canada).

Each festival participant receives two lessons, access to all concerts, two workshops, vendor showcase. Full details and registration at www.guitarhamilton.com.

2014 Hamilton International Guitar Festival & Competition

This is a guest post by guitarist Michael Ibsen of Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Photo credits: Johannes Moller and Hugo Acosta by Terry Asma. All others by Ying Jiang.

The fourth annual Hamilton International Guitar Festival and Competition was an inspiring and formative event for the guitarists and audience members in attendance. The event took place from June 20th to June 22nd of 2014 at the Hamilton Conservatory for the Arts, and included a smorgasbord of delicious classical guitar related activities. Attendees could sign up to attend the festival (which included instruction from the brilliant faculty), compete in the competition, or do both. Concerts, masterclasses, and the competition were supplemented by seminar classes, the vendor fair, and informal festivities and conversation at the ‘Cat’n’Fiddle’ restaurant, just a few blocks from the conservatory. The festival faculty included Johannes Moller, Jeffrey Mcfadden, Jérôme Ducharme, Gohar Vardanyan, Cem Celiksirt, Will Douglas, Hugo Acosta, Kevin Manderville, Shawn Pickup, and Evan Drummond. The attendees at the festival included students from Ontario itself, as well as those who traveled from across Canada and the United States.

In true Guitar Hamilton fashion the weekend began with an open invitation on Thursday evening to gather at Guitar Hamilton Director Emma Rush’s house to meet and chat with some of the faculty and other students and enjoy refreshments. The first round of the competition was held Friday, with masterclasses and lessons running throughout the day. The first of the concerts was on Friday evening with Jérôme Ducharme from Montreal performing a blisteringly impressive program of primarily 20th century and new music, with a short and sweet taste of Fernando Sor included. Jerome’s performance of Quebec composer Maxime Mckinley’s ‘Mandala’ was especially impressive, alongside his interpretation of works by Takemitsu and Castelnuovo-tedesco.

Saturday continued with more masterclasses and lessons in the morning, and Gohar Vardanyan led an exciting and informative workshop on guitar technique, warming up, and development of speed and accuracy. The second round of the competition took place that day, as well as an afternoon concert by Turkish guitarist Cem Celiksirt. The concert was Cem’s debut performance in North America, and he played a beautiful transcription of Bach’s ‘Ich ruf’ zu dir Herr Jesu Christ’, alongside wonderful performances of works by Joaquin Rodrigo and Antonio Jose. In the evening, Johannes Moller performed a moving program consisting of a mixture of romantic standards of the repertoire, as well as his own compositions. Besides performing his already well-known works such as ‘Song to the Mother’ and ‘A Star in the Sky, a Universe Within’ Johannes performed a selection of preludes he had newly composed, alongside a wonderful nocturne he wrote which he had put the finishing touches on the night before his performance. At the intermission of Johannes’ concert the finalists of the competition were announced for the following day.

Sunday contained yet more lessons and masterclasses, along with a brilliant workshop by Will Douglas on trills and ornamentation. In the afternoon Hugo Acosta from Mexico performed a concert of his own transcriptions of the music of the Mexican composers Antonio Gomezanda and Apolonio Moreno. Hugo’s transcriptions brought the music of these composers to life, and the audience thoroughly enjoyed being introduced to it. The final performance of the weekend was the competition final round, in which Josh Moore, Matt Mclaughlin, Daniel Ramjattan, and Adam Batstone competed. Each of the finalists played a convincing and powerful program, and the competition concluded with Adam Batstone winning first prize, with his performance of Rodrigo’s ‘Junto al Generalife’, the second and third movments of Bogdanovic’s ‘Cafe Suite’, and ‘Fantasia Op. 19’ by Legnani. Josh Moore took second place, Mark Mclaughlin took third, and Daniel Ramjattan took fourth place.

In addition to all the wonderful concerts, masterclasses, lessons, workshops, and the competition, the festival featured a camaraderie and atmosphere which made for an inspiring weekend. Alongside all the concerts and masterclasses there was the vendor fair, featuring Musical Lives Inc (courtesy of Ying Jiang), and various recordings, method books, and scores of the faculty. The ‘Cat’n’Fiddle’ pub and restaurant also reserved an area for attendees of the festival each evening after the concerts, and offered a 10% discount on food for all festival attendees throughout the weekend. Having a dedicated place to gather for drinks, food, and conversation allowed for the development of great friendships, and more opportunities to learn from other students and faculty members.

The 2014 Hamilton International Guitar Festival and Competition offered everything that a classical guitarist should look for in a festival and competition. Attendance of this festival is sure to provide formative development for students of the classical guitar. The competition is fierce, and preparation to compete at Hamilton is guaranteed to encourage talent both locally and outside of the Canadian border. In addition to the chance to perform for an audience, the friendships and guitar fellowship enjoyed is even more incentive to come to Hamilton for the fifth annual festival in 2015. Emma Rush was incredibly helpful, informative, welcoming, and well-organized. It is without a doubt that she and all those involved with Guitar Hamilton have begun a wonderful tradition with this festival that is sure to continue to build the presence of excellent classical guitar performance and education both in Canada and the international guitar community. Until next time, Hamilton!

Review by guitarist Michael Ibsen, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Full details and registration for 2015 at www.guitarhamilton.com.

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