Review: World famous guitarist opens Music in Quiet Places concert series

Simon Thacker
Simon Thacker
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The opening concert in the annual ‘Music in Quiet Places’ concert series was held in St Michael and All Angels Church in Uffington, given by the guitarist and composer, Simon Thacker.

Thacker is the most interesting classical guitarist working in the United Kingdom today, and from a quiet and peaceful village in South-west Lincolnshire he flew us around the world of the guitar, starting in Brazil, going to Köthen in Germany, then to Pakistan, Spain and Paris, and finally India and Argentina. It was only in the encore that Thacker took us to his native Scotland with ‘Wild Mountain Thyme (Will ye go,lassie, go?)’.

Thacker began with Villa-Lobos’s Five Preludes, written for Segovia. The resonance of his guitar filled the fine acoustic of the beautiful church – it was an ideal setting for the pieces. Second he played J.S. Bach’s Sonata for Solo Violin, BWV 1001. Bach’s music for solo strings is now central to the guitar repertoire, and Thacker pointed out the advantages of both instruments.

In particular, a guitarist can sustain counterpoint more easily than a violinist, and this he amply demonstrated in the sonata. The second movement fugue might have been written for the guitar; with each note being plucked individually, one heard the Bach anew, in a pure, clear light.

After the interval, during which we were most generously served wine and canapés by the local church congregation, Thacker played his first piece from Asia, an improvisation from his composition for guitar and cello, Kamana. Thacker is well known for his work combining Western jazz and classical music with South Asian music, in particular his reimagining of the pop song Dil Dil Pakistan which he wrote in memory of the 145 victims of the Peshawar massacre in November last year. The song was written by the group ‘Vital Signs’ in 1987 as a reaction against General Zia’s campaign against Western culture in Pakistan. Ironically Thacker has reimagined the song with classical Hindustani influences, so taking the raw materials and returning them to the subcontinent.

His third Asian piece, again of his own composition, was Nirjanavana for guitar with digital delay. This was extraordinary in the acoustic of the church as the digital delay acted like a three-fold echo, so Thacker could build sounds into dense textures that were at once complex and yet limpid.

These pieces were interspersed with Dionisio Aguado y Garcia’s Andante and Rondo (Op. 2, No. 2). There were many highlights in this concert, but it was a privilege to hear this wonderful piece played by one of the country’s greatest classical guitarists. Thacker’s superbly accurate fingering, both delicate and strong, was a rare pleasure to hear.

The final piece, Alberto Ginastera’s Sonata for Guitar, Opus 47, is a tour de force in twentieth century guitar music, combining as it does Argentinian criollo with modern guitar technique.

Thacker played the ingenious special effects in the first two movements with light-hearted aplomb, and the finale malambo with all the machismo and swagger of a gaucho.

The concert was enjoyed by a large and appreciative audience. The next concerts in the series take place on Thursday, June 18, at Corby Glen, and Thursday, July 2, at Ropsley, and contrast The Carnival Band and Trio Anima. The Carnival Band plays music of all types, from the mediaeval to contemporary Cajun, whereas Trio Anima play classical music for flute, harp and viola.

This is the beauty of the Music in Quiet Place series, we hear an extraordinary range of different styles of music

in the glorious churches of South Kesteven, while the sun sets and swifts and jackdaws call in the summer sky.

For full details see www.stamfordartscentre.com or www.guildhallartscentre.com, or phone the box offices on 01780 763203 or 01476 406158.