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Festival for string fellows

Tessa Ziegler, guitarist/ Photograph: CHRIS ADLAM

Tessa Ziegler, guitarist/ Photograph: CHRIS ADLAM

Published Apr 26, 2011


Did you know that 320 guitar pieces have been composed by 72 South African composers since 1947?

While researching her Master’s thesis at UCT in 2009, guitarist Avril Kinsey discovered evidence of notated classical music composition for all forms of the guitar which suggested there are many more local composers than she’d imagined.

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She thought she’d find about 30, but “to eventually find double that, plus more, was phenomenal,” said Kinsey.

Her research forms the basis of a talk she will deliver at Cape Town’s inaugural International Guitar Festival, which takes place at the beginning of July at Groot Constantia wine estate.

The festival will run alongside the Avril Kinsey Guitar Competition. Entries are open until May 1. Log on to for entry forms.

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Auditions take place at the Hugo Lamprecht Music Centre in Parow on June 11 and those unable to make the live audition can send in a YouTube link. Some inter-national entries from Spain and China have already been received via YouTube.

The final rounds of the competition will take place at the Simon’s Conference Hall at Groot Constantia, as part of the guitar festival.

The competition itself is open to all and beginners are being encouraged to enter regardless of how much formal training they’ve had – talent is the key.

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The R180 to R350 entry fee includes a general weekend pass to 11 events (excluding the formal concerts). Entrants from the “up to age 12” category receive a certificate no matter where they are placed in the competition. Guitarists can enter in three categories:

l Up to 12.

l Aged 13 to 19.

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l 20 and older.

In addition, Kinsey has received funding from The Arts & Culture Trust (ACT) to sponsor festival entries for 25 teenagers from peri-urban and township areas.

“They’re sponsoring their entry fees to the festival, accommo-dation, travel costs and 25 guitars from Paul Bothners.

“We’re still busy with that project. We need to spread it quite widely.

“They don’t have to be guitarists yet; we want talent and passion,” said Kinsey.

Entrants will play a free choice composition in the first round; the semi-finals require two pieces from different periods; and finalists can play a composition by a South African composer (recommended) or opt for a favourite piece.

The prizes include scholarships to the Cape Town Academy of Music, Trinity College Guildhall exam entry fees, Hannabach strings, CD recordings by [email protected] and Art Music, as well as cash and much more.

Bothners have contributed two guitars: one to a young guitarist from a previously disadvantaged community, who is part of a recognised arts project, and a Cort guitar to the winner of the 12 and younger category.

Performing at the prestigious Nederburg concert series in Paarl on July 3 is what the victor of the adult category can look forward to.

This is the second guitar competition in South Africa; the first was held in 1989.

“I’m not sure what exactly motivated me at that time, to be honest,” said Kinsey.

“I suppose because there were a lot of guitarists who didn’t really have an outlet to work towards excellence.”

Doing her Master’s and making contact with several international guitarists gave her the contacts to restart the idea of a competition and an international guitar festival.

Los Angeles-based duo Gregory Newton (president of the American Guitar Society) and David Grimes (head of California’s Fullerton University guitar programme) will join local guitarist Tessa Ziegler, composer Hendrik Hofmeyr, Abri Jordaan, lecturer at the University of Pretoria, and Rudi Bower, teacher, performer and musicologist from Port Elizabeth, to make up the judging team.

On the festival side, people can expect three formal concerts. Opening night on Friday, July 1 boasts a wine tasting and four international artists: Newton and Grimes, with the Netherlands’ Verso Duo (Matthijs Koen and Stefan Gerritsen) on pan flute and guitar alongside Kinsey and Ziegler.

“Tessa’s coming from Joburg. I thought it would be really nice because a lot of people know her name and she’s been the backbone of classical guitar in South Africa for many years.

“Granted, she isn’t doing that much performing any more, but it will be really special to see her.

“Verso Duo will do a short thing because they’ll have their own concert,” said Kinsey.

Verso Duo and local flamenco guitarist Saudiq Khan will feature in two separate concerts on Sunday, July 3.

“Verso Duo will play a lot of their own material, but also some (Astor) Piazollo. I asked if they could give us a broad programme – one or two originals and some well- known composers – so I think they’re going to present a really nice programme.”

There’ll be a platform to feature guitar teachers and a platform for aspiring guitarists who may not have made it through to the finals or performers wanting to showcase other forms of acoustic playing.

“As long as it’s not electric, they can put their names down to perform on the open platform.”

There’s a beginners’ guitar workshop which will provide newbies with a sample of different styles of guitar playing and three master classes for performers.

If you want to participate in the workshops and master classes, you need to indicate your preference when booking a ticket or entering the competition.

Anyone can come and listen to the workshops, but those interested in taking part should register and take along their guitars.

South African luthier Marc Mainguard of Scarborough will also offer a talk/workshop on how to build a guitar.

l General festival weekend pass for 11 events is R150, while R350 includes three formal concerts. Students and scholars can get a discount.

More information and entry forms can be completed online or downloaded from

Call Ann Coltham on 082 414 4771 for details.

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