Rupert Boyd is on a whirlwind tour of India this October. From the 13th till the 17th he’ll be travelling from Kolkata to Chennai via Goa and Bangalore. Here’s an exclusive interview and feature with the Australian guitarist before it all begins
How did the journey with classical guitar begin for you? For most of us in India, classical guitar is not our first choice of instrument. We either start out by playing chords to the songs we like and discover the instrument by chance, and then look for a way to learn. How did your relationship with the instrument start and then grow?
My journey with the classical guitar began when I was 8 years old. While I was in primary school I was taking general music classes taught by teachers from the local School of Music in Canberra, Australia. One day they asked me if I would like to play an instrument, and that very same day my brother came home from high school playing a brand new guitar. I went back to my music teachers the following day and told them that I wanted to play guitar. While I still practice a good 4 to 5 hours a day, my brother gave up after just a few weeks. From my very first lesson I was playing classical guitar, and feel very fortunate to have had great teachers from the beginning. While in high school I got quite heavily into popular music, and for a few years played a lot of electric guitar, trying to imitate the great Jimi Hendrix, and this only increased my love of all styles of music. Nowadays I only perform classical music, but do still enjoy playing some songs by groups like The Beatles, etc. in my spare time.
Who are your musical influences?
I have taken musical inspiration from a lot of sources. I am a big fan of a number of classic rock and roll stars like The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan, etc.. Then western classical composers like J.S. Bach, Brahms, Granados, Manuel de Falla, Leo Brouwer, Philip Glass, etc. are all composers whose music influences me on a daily basis. In terms of classical guitar, I am a huge fan of Julian Bream’s recordings, and feel that as classical guitarists we owe a large debt to Andres Segovia. For me personally too, my teacher in Australia Timothy Kain (who recorded the album Mantis and the Moon with John Williams for the Sony label) has been one of my main influences. I began taking guitar lessons with him while in the last two years of high school, and then continued studying with him for a four year Bachelor of Music degree. Tim Kain had a most profound influence on my guitar playing and approach to music, and I feel lucky to be able to consider him to this day a mentor and close personal friend.
Do you do anything actively to grow as a musician? As guitarists, how do you recommend we develop our musicality?
I think one of the best ways to develop as a musician is to try to play as much chamber music as possible with other musicians, especially those who are not guitarists. As guitarists we practice and perform alone so much of the time, and it’s a wonderful experience to collaborate with fellow musicians. When working with musicians who are not guitarists, we can have our eyes (and ears!) opened to musical ideas that are beyond the technical limitations of our instruments. All musicians have to surmount the technical difficulties posed by their respective instruments, and working with other musicians can put into focus the goals and ideals of music making. I also find it useful to get feedback from musicians other than guitarists, as they can really focus on the music rather than the technique involved.
I also think it very important to listen to as much music, of all different styles, as one can. At its core music is about expressing something – beauty, emotions, experiences, and to listen to the way this can be expressed through various different genres and different instruments is fascinating and informative.
People living in this day and age are so fortunate to be able to experience at one’s fingertips an entire century of recorded music, and to be able to find online tutorials and reference materials for a vast multitude of topics. This allows people throughout the world to be immersed in any form of music that they like, and really opens all of our horizons to culture and art from around the world.
What makes for a good classical guitar programme? When programming a concert is there anything you keep in mind?
I personally really like to programme a concert that has a good variety of repertoire. As classical guitarists we are so lucky to be able to play music from the renaissance through to modern day, and from all around the world. In my concerts on this Indian tour I will be playing a work by the Renaissance lutenist John Dowland, through to contemporary compositions by the Australian composer Phillip Houghton, and works from Scotland, Ireland and Spain, to Hawaii, Argentina and Brazil. Some of the pieces will be known to classical music audiences, while others are more obscure, and with such variety every audience member will have their favourite pieces, and on the off-chance that they don’t like a certain piece, they can rest assured the following piece will be quite different.
And as the artiste, what makes for a successful concert performance?
I find it so interesting how every concert that I play is different. Even when playing the same programme several nights in a row, each concert is a unique experience. The atmosphere and acoustics of a concert venue can make a large difference, but also at least as important is the audience. I don’t know that audiences realise how much impact they can have upon the performer, but with a live concert experience it is always an interplay between audience and performer. The energy that the audience brings can have such a large impact on the energy levels of the performer, and the absolute best experiences that I have had as either a performer or audience member, are when one can feel that collective experience of a group of people all focussed together in the moment witnessing a work of art.
Obviously too what makes for a successful concert performance is the preparation, whether that be the months of study and practice on the pieces being performed, through to the preparation on the day of the concert including whether we got enough sleep the night before, to what we had to eat on the day of the concert, and for us as classical guitarists we are uniquely influenced by the shape and length of our fingernails. A lot of these things we can prepare as well as we can, then there are a number of other factors which are beyond our control no matter how much we prepare, and which we have to accept and deal with as best we can.
What are you expecting from your tour in India?
While I have never performed in India before, about three years ago I spent a month traveling the country, which has been one of the few times in my life that I have travelled purely for tourism and enjoyment. I found India an enthralling and exciting place, and am very much looking forward to returning. I am expecting it to be an interesting time, with a few adventures along the way, though with 5 concerts in 4 different cities, in just 6 days, I feel that there won’t be much spare time for anything but playing and preparing for the concerts, and getting from one place to the next.
Australian guitarist Rupert Boyd is acclaimed as one of the most talented guitarists of his generation. He has been described by The Washington Post as “truly evocative”, and by Classical Guitar Magazine as “a player who deserves to be heard.” He has performed across four continents, from New York’s Carnegie Hall, to festivals in Europe, China, the Philippines and Australia. His solo CD Valses Poéticos received the following review in Soundboard, the quarterly publication of Guitar Foundation of America: “Boyd’s playing is beautifully refined, with gorgeous tone… musically and technically flawless… [the Granados is] one of the best recorded performances of this work on guitar.”
The concert tour
Kolkata – in association with the Calcutta Classical Guitar Society
Masterclass: Space Music School, C521 Lake Gardens, Jodhpur Gardens, Lake Gardens, Kolkata
Concert: Kolkata Alliance Francaise du Bengale, 7.30pm
57A Park Street, Park Mansions Gate 3, Flat 15,
Opposite Fluyrs, Kolkata, West Bengal 700016
Goa – Art Chamber, 7:30pm
Castelo Vermelho 115a
Gauravaddo, Calangute, Goa
Goa – Menezes Braganza Hall, 7pm
Presented by Pro Musica.
Bangalore – Alliance Francaise, Bangalore; 7:30pm
Presented by The Bangalore School of Music.
The Concert Programme
Kinkachoo, I Love You
from “God of the Northern Forest”
Phillip Houghton (b. 1954)
4 Celtic Songs
– Loch Leven Castle
– Skye Boat Song
– Cherish the Ladies
– Neil Gow’s Lament
Traditional (arr. David Russell)
Fantasy on a Hawaiian Lullaby
Byron Yasui (b. 1940)
Prélude op. 13
A. Fornerod (1890-1965)
Étude No. 9: Tres Peu Anime
H. Villa-Lobos (1887-1959)
Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992) (arr. S. Assad)
John Dowland (1563-1626)
Fantasy in A minor, op. 19
Luigi Legnani (1790-1877)
– De el “Homenaje a Falla”
– De unfragmento instrumental
– Sobre un canto de Bulgaria
Leo Brouwer (b. 1939)
Pantomima (arr. R. Boyd)
The Miller’s Dance (arr. T. Kain)
Manuel de Falla (1876-1946)
Fantasia on La Traviata
Francisco Tárrega (1852-1909)