The Bad Boy of Chamber Music?

Craig Ogden will add to the diversity of the program for the 2017 Australian Festival of Chamber Music IMAGE: Supplied.

Australian-born, UK-based classical guitarist Craig Ogden is joining the talented line-up of musicians performing acrross Townsville for this year’s Australian Festival of Chamber Music (AFCM). Craig is one of the world’s most recorded classical guitarists with all five of his albums reaching #1 on the UK’s Classical charts.

We caught up with Craig to learn where the guitar – a new instrument by classical standards – fits into AFCM and why he’s happy for you to hate his music.

Where does the guitar fit into the Chamber Music world?
The Guitar is a bit of a niche instrument compared to the more mainstream violin, cello, piano, viola combinations; so [AFCM] is using me in some interesting ways with interesting repertoire that sort of gives the Chamber Music Festival an ever greater diversity that it would have had  not been here. If you’re talking about core Chamber Music repertoire, you’d be talking about music written down the centuries for those instruments – violin, viola, cello, piano and some of the more mainstream wood instruments and singers as well. But the guitar is more of a 20th Century instrument, so the repertoire for it tends to be written since then. The music I’m playing doesn’t form part of the core Chamber Music repertoire people would think about. There’s one piece I’m playing by a contemporary British composer called Peter Hope for the guitar, violin, viola and piano; there’s another piece by Boccherini, that’s a very historical piece; and another that was original written for me and by a very famous British quartet – The Brodsky Quartet – by Ian Grandage, who’s a very successful young Australian composer. It means playing a bit of different music and the guitar creates a different sound world compared with the other instruments.

Does that make you the Bad Boy of Chamber Music?
Ha! No-one’s ever described me as that. I’m a little bit too squeaky clean, but I’ll go with that. Absolutely!

Do you find the presence of the guitar divides audiences between the purists and the more contemporary?
No, it’s all Classical music at the end of the day. You came across people who love the guitar and live for it and some… well you can’t please everybody. The guitar is not to everyone’s taste but really it’s an instrument that has enough broad appeal, whether you’re talking about it in its more popular incarnations – electric, steel, acoustic – but classical guitar has a very well-established place in the world as well.

Where might people have heard classical guitar without realising it?
If you’re talking to people about classical guitar they’ll most notably remember Andre Sogavia, the Spanish guitarist from the earlier part of the 20th Century and more recently John Williams (arguably Hollywood’s most famed score composer) and Julian Bream were the two guitarists that dominated the global scene and now on the shoulders of those guys there is a massive proliferation of guitarists everywhere including some wonderful Australian guitarists.

What is the significance of having a iconic event such as the Australian Festival of Chamber Music in a regional location like Townsville?
Well it puts Townsville on the map. It’s like the Edinburgh Festival in Scotland, that’s one of the biggest Festivals in the world and people flock there from everywhere. I know something like 60 per cent of the audience in concerts for AFCM come from outside of Townsville and that has to be good for the town. It shows that with the will and the enthusiasm and the drive, you can make amazing things happen, even in a place where you have to fly in the bulk of the artists and the audience. Really, in serious music-making terms, it puts Townsville on the global map. I have nothing but admiration for what has been achieved here.

What would you say to those locals who mightn’t have developed an appreciation for Chamber Music, but want to know more?
Just come along and I think keep your mind as open as possible, and relax and enjoy the amazing thing that live music is. Particularly with the online distribution of music, we hear so much recorded music or we watch stuff on YouTube, but to actually see and hear music made love is a completely unique experience. The only bad response is apathy. If you’ve heard something and you hate it then great, at least you have a strong opinion about it. If you’ve loved it even better! But the crucial thing is to get out and go – the essence of being human is making music live and going to see it live.

Craig Ogden will perform at five concerts within the the 2017 Australian Festival of Chamber Music Program. For details, click here.


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