The 2008 EGTA conference was held at Morley Retreat in Derbyshire from 28th – 30th July.
Jamie Akers started things rolling with a talk about the art of ornamentation. He argues that the player should do what feels right expressively. He noted that ornaments such as trills can be devices to prolong a note that might otherwise decay, especially a dissonant note. He talked about the national styles of ornamentation in France and Italy, noting that whilst France leaned towards inégalité and a sonorous and impressionist sound, in Italy things were much clearer cut. In practise there were the main choices of gracing or divisioning. The gracing was really a shake in which two notes are alternated in shapes and phrases, rather than being oscillated as fast as possible. The division was the splitting of perhaps a crotchet into a run of semiquavers around the original written note. Jamie argues we should look for clues in the composer’s writing to better inform our ornaments but offered a few simple guideline rules such as: start on the note when it is not a dissonance but on the note above when it is a dissonance; dominants are always stronger than tonics; avoid rubato in dance movements; we should never use cross-string trills.
Following dinner we were treated to a virtuoso display of playing from the Italian master Giulio Tampalini who mixed 19th and 20th century Italian composers with Rodrigo. Giulio daringly elected to allow the audience to choose his concert programme for him, by presenting them with a choice of two or three pieces and taking a vote on it!
This year’s Annual general meeting was significant for embracing a new constitution which is now available for members to inspect in the members section of the web site. This new constitution has been the key to EGTA been granted charitable status which will be the fruition of many months of tenacious discussion with the Charities Commission. A new committee was elected at the meeting and several new initiatives were launched: Alastair Gambling is going to lobby members about a web presence through this site and Neil Preston will start to speak to advertisers with a view to publishing Guitar Forum 3 in two year’s time.
In the light of what EGTA sees as institutionalised indifference to the quality of teaching of guitar in many music services, EGTA has undertaken to audit the state of play across the country before entering into negotiations with central bodies about ways the malaise can be attacked.
Steve Griffiths came along to demonstrate not only a lovely new guitar of his own, but also the standards to be expected from the student guitar in a variety of price ranges.
Giulio gave us a talk on Italian Guitar Music and emphasised the close relationship between opera and the solo guitar. The bel canto cantabile line and the dramatic orchestral effects which composers habitually included in their guitar pieces was testament to this association. He then outlined an education system which seemed rigorous and co-ordinated throughout Italy – something we can only at envy in the UK.
Richard Wright and Peter Batchelar have for several years now been co-ordinating the assembly of a new approach to exams, one which has necessitated the need for many new arrangements and compositions to be especially created. This has now culminated in a new ABRSM syllabus in which EGTA has had a central role to play. As well as the new pieces, new sight reading tests and new scale books have needed to be written. The size of the undertaking belies the modest membership of EGTA and we should all be proud of such a fantastic achievement. Richard and Peter contextualised where we are now by explaining that talks with the ABRSM started back in 1993. Over time the ABRSM have come to see the need to concede to a root and branch revision of the guitar syllabus. The new syllabus which starts in 2009 generally lowers the expectations of each grade and in so doing, parity with other instruments has been achieved. There is a much closer relationship now between the scales, arpeggios, and pieces and composers central to the guitar repertoire, such as Ponce and Brouwer, have been offered a more central place in the new exams. The new publications include a new Solo Now Preparatory book from EGTA, two time line publications and two new Weiss and Scarlatti books from the ABRSM, new books from the publishing houses of Steve Gordon and Steve Kenyon, and a new edition of the 1st four Bach Cello Suites to be published by Cadenza. A new departure for the guitar is that all the pieces have been recorded.
Laura Snowden, a pupil of Richard’s at the Yehudi Menuhin school of Music, gave her first full length public recital. Her rendition of Albeniz’ Asturias and Richard Rodney Bennett’s Impromptus suggest she could become a fine professional performer.
Neil Preston illustrated his approach in Germany to working with entire classes under the wider opportunities umbrella. His main argument was that teachers need to be flexible rather than dogmatic in lessons and to keep up a high energy level and pace so that children’s attention is maintained throughout the one hour lessons.
Gary Southwell talked about the Panormo family of Guitar Makers and his talk was illustrated by Chris Susans and Wendy Jackson playing a Carulli duet on Panormo instruments restored by Gary to their original pristine condition.
Conference closed with a Library session led by Chris Susans, in which pieces by Ray Love, James Eisner were included to the pleasure of the delegates.
Winners of the EGTA(UK) raffle 29th July 2008.
A big thank you to all who bought and sold tickets for the raffle in aid of NYGE. It has been an impressive effort and we raised £730 for NYGE. The raffle was drawn at this years EGTA conference by recitalist Laura Snowden.
First Prize Winner of Prodencio Sáez Model G3 Classical Guitar and case.