Brazilian Artists Soar at Uppsala International Guitar Festival

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Marco Pereira (left) performs with Miriam Aida at Sweden’s Uppsala International Guitar Festival, held Oct. 11–15.

(Photo: Bob Rose, Official Uppsala International Guitar Festival Photographer)

At the 14th annual Uppsala International Guitar Festival in Sweden, a memorable highlight was the programming on Oct. 13, which featured performances tastefully sandwiched by music from the legendary composer/guitarist Baden Powell (1937–2000). An all-Brazil program, it all started with Brazilian guitar maestro Marco Pereira and ended with the elegant Miriam Aida Ensemble. Pereira returned to the stage to join the group for the two closing encore numbers.

Held in the Big Hall of the Uppsala Konsert & Kongress building, the Brazilian program came at the midway point of the festival, which ran Oct. 11–15. It’s a festival that participant/Los Angeles Guitar Quartet member John Dearman later praised in a note to fest director Klaus Pontvik, saying, “This is my favorite kind of festival; not just classical guitar but an eclectic and stimulating mixture of electric, fingerstyle, Latin American, flamenco—the gamut of the amazing world of music and musicians we all belong to.”

Pereira’s hour-long set was highlighted by medleys, including one that featured rare, early compositions by Antonio Carlos Jobim. “Modinha” and “Luiza” became exquisite examples of Jobim’s romanticism, while Pereira’s Baden Powell medley featured visits to “Consolacao” and “Berimbau.” This material provided Pereira ample opportunity to showcase his delicate yet fierce touch on classical guitar while reminding listeners of Powell’s strengths as a composer.

Swedish singer Aida performed in an ensemble featuring guitarist Mats Andersson and percussionists Ola Bothzen and Finn Bjornulfson. Her bright green dress complemented a vocal style that exuded the beauty of Brazilian samba. Aida gently swayed to and fro between band members, her light, powerful voice conveying deep emotion. When Pereira joined the ensemble for a fiery rendition of “Berimbau” in the encore, it provided the perfect ending to a perfect evening.

Another singer of note was Argentinian Noelia Moncada, who performed on Oct. 15 in the mid-sized Hall B. In trio with guitarist Leonardo Anderssen and bassist Juan Pablo Navarro, her alternately quiet then impassioned vocals created an engaging hybrid that felt like a jazz trio set mixed with a more traditional, romantic Tango outing.

Navarro’s blend of arco and pizzicato naturally meshed with Anderssen’s graceful guitar chords and bluesy single notes. The enthused crowd was brought to its feet as Moncada sang a spirited, humorous “Besame Mucho.” The gift of a hand puppet from fest director Pontvik provided Moncada with a useful prop as she and her singing partner/puppet showcased the surprise ventriloquist in our midst.

Other festival highlights included jazz guitarist Frank Gambale with vocalist Boca in a pop-jazz program in the Big Hall, as well as the festival finale—a flamenco hoedown spotlighting two of Sweden’s great young guitarists, Robert “Robi” Svard and Afra Rubino (also in the Big Hall).

After an opening solo set, Rubino eventually joined Svard’s ensemble of bass, percussion, vocals and a stunning dancer in what was an impressive all-Svard program.

On Oct. 12, the Big Hall was the site for the European premiere of Pat Metheny’s piece Road To The Sun, as performed by the renowned Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, which also played a J.S. Bach segment, as well as a Brazilian medley featuring works by Hermeto Pascoal, Heitor Villa-Lobos and Baden Powell.

The Metheny piece, 25 minutes in length and in six segments, seemed to somehow incorporate Metheny’s voice as a kind of fifth presence. For its encores, the quartet finished with two pieces, including a kind of slapstick unpacking of Pachelbel’s Canon played in a variety of musical styles. The crowd loved it.

On the same evening in the Big Hall, Bosnian guitarist Edin Karamazov and Cuban classical composer/conductor Leo Brouwer delivered a rollout of classical solo guitar followed by works with the Swedish Guitar Orchestra and Indra String Quartet.

The festival also featured vendors, workshops, lectures and master classes. Among them was a revisit to the late guitarist Carl Cress’ jazz guitar duets, and an informative clinic by Gambale, who centered on his signature “sweep picking” technique. Elsewhere, the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet’s Matt Greif offered a lecture titled “Jazz Elements for Classical Guitarists.”

The exhibit George, Eric & Me featured photos by author/photographer Pattie Boyd, who participated in a Q&A session, accompanied by a short film about her work. Fans of classic rock were eager to hear Boyd reminisce about being married to George Harrison (from 1966–’77) and Eric Clapton (from 1979–’89).

The popular International Young Talent Competition, held on the afternoon of Oct. 12, was complemented by original music from a gifted 13-year-old from Croatia named Frano. This competition illustrated that the festival’s outreach to young people and its commitment to music education remains vitally strong.

To read an interview in which Gambale discusses his work as a recording artist and clinician, click here. DB



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