SIGF I

Went for the opening concert of the International Guitar Festival. “International” is somewhat of a misnomer here, considering the Festival itself is not renowned internationally, just that the performers invited to showcase their repertoires are not from Singapore. Perhaps it should be renamed as the More Foreign Talent Guitar Festival, not because locals cmi, but because locals think locals cmi.

Anyhoo. This festival is typically held in September or December, and by happy coincidence it is held in June this year and I am home. I went with liangze and we both thought tonight’s performance was abysmal. Have you ever attended a professional concert in which the performer in question actually played wrong notes? We only got Category 3 tickets which placed us in the first row of the Circle, spending something like $35 to listen to E. Casoli play. Here were some of the problems:
1. There were no mikes. Classical guitar, for those not in the know, is very soft. With the hum of the giant aircons in the RELC auditorium, the guitarist was basically inaudible in the Circle.
2. Problem 1 was solved by Problem 2: They turned off the aircons for the duration of the concert, turned it on to recharge the cold air in the auditorium during the 15 minute intermission, and then switched it off for the remainder. That is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard. Here we are inviting world class guitarists (well, not her) to Singapore to perform at what they think is a big music extravaganza and the concert hall has no condenser mikes to speak of?
3. The guitarist made technical mistakes. This is completely unacceptable, especially given that her pieces were easy.
4. The guitarist made mistakes of interpretation.
5. The repertoire chosen was not very technically challenging (i.e. not what one would expect for a concert) and could be easily executed by most of the guitar competition contestants. Liangze said it consisted solely of the kind of pieces that are “fillers” between the cadenza type pieces in a real concert.
6. The performer had no real credentials to speak of, had not won any competitions, and her reviews were full of smoke. This was our bad. We did not read the performer credentials meticulously enough and opted to buy tickets for a performer who was little known and who did not manage to fill even 50% of a small auditorium.
7. The programme booklet had an advertisement for a certain brand of strings and it said something like “Today’s biggest names use Savarez strings” and featured three of the four festival guitarists’ pictures; not surprisingly the one guitarist who did not make the cut as a “biggest name” was the performer for tonight. If she bothered to look through the programme booklet it is a really blatant snub.
8. There was a photographer snapping away with a DSLR at the event, during the performance. Being a DSLR, there was the really loud annoying shutter clicking which was really obvious in a large hall. To his credit he did look for crescendos before taking pictures but even the guitar could not cover the clicks.
9. The programme booklet was awful. Translations were not listed as translations but as separate pieces, there was a typo in one of the Italian words (which you think would be submitted properly considering the guitarist is Italian) and the composer for Summertime was listed as Lennon/McCartney. You’re kidding, right?

In all it was really disappointing. We thought it would start with a bang, but it looks like it is up to Muraji to end with a bang. Just flipping through the programme booklet you can tell that tonight’s programme (was the only one that) had no heavyweight pieces, whereas the rest were filled with the great classics and Tarrega and Barrios and Villa-Lobos. I’ll be attending the last performance on Saturday as well, and I think that Japanese performer promises great things. The Japanese always do.

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