How did you first hear about the festival, and what made you want to get involved?
I have known Adam Levin for close to ten years and have immense respect for his artistic vision and integrity. I am honored that he asked us to participate in his festival and I look forward to meeting all the participants and hearing the unusual concerts. I’m a big believer in chamber music and alternative approaches to the classical guitar - Adam is delving deeply in that direction in this edition of the URI Festival.
What sort of music will you be playing, and what will you cover in any master workshops, classes and/or lectures?
I will be joined by my longtime partner Nancy Knowles, mezzo-soprano, for this concert. We have played together for four decades now and over the past twenty years have focused on creating new works together for voice and guitar. Nancy has largely either written or collected poems for songs and I have done the compositions. This is an ancient art form, voice with plucked strings, and one that we cherish and are proud to preserve and project. We will be presenting 8 songs that we have developed together with words by Nancy, and a few other rather prestigious writers: Theodore Roethke, Garcia Lorca and Charles Dickens. As a teacher of guitar, I bring my years of experience both singing myself and working intimately with that art. It has influenced both my playing and teaching tremendously, so it is wonderful to have an opportunity to share my insights with new students.
What are you most looking forward to?
Of course, it is still a thrill to walk on stage, and this will be a particular delight since Nancy will be returning to the stage as a singer after a hiatus she has taken to write and perform a one-woman show. At Adam’s suggestion, we decided that this is a great time to revive our duo, so we will perform several of our favorite selections for the first time in a few years. I’m also very excited about hearing South African guitarist Derek Gripper and Adam’s mandolin and guitar concert.
What advice do you have for aspiring musicians?
We live in a curious time when the arts are both thriving and threatened. There are certainly more highly trained and inspired artists of all genres on the planet now than ever. But it is still a difficult path to follow. Love and a spiritual connection to your art is the only way to make it work. It is indeed a calling to be an artist and it is a profoundly important one.
Is there anything else you would like readers to know about you or your work, ahead of the festival?
I maintain a very rich website for my compositions called gyremusic.com. Folks can explore my work, or read up about the songs we’ll be presenting there: The Chimes, Woman of the Water, Ovejita and Mi Jardín de Calla. Time will be short in the performance so we won’t have a chance to discuss the works as much as we’d like. For example, Mi Jardín was written by Nancy about a very personal experience and meditation while we were on tour in Peru -- 40 years after she had lived there for 2 years. It’s a deeply layered experience.