WE’VE heard a lot – of music – from guitarist Matt Withers in the last couple of years.
Music lovers will know him as a member of Guitar Trek and, with Bradley Kunda, Brew Guitar Duo, but these days he’s also head of guitar at the University of Canberra.
Withers is about to cap a busy year with a rare solo concert, where he’ll perform classical guitar favourites by Spanish composer Francisco Tárrega and Paraguayan Agustin Barrios, along with contemporary works by Russia’s Nikita Koshkin, Parisian guitar teacher Francis Kleynjans and a piece commissioned by Withers from Canberra-trained composer, Samuel Smith.
Withers is that rare individual, a music communicator, and therefore planning to explain the stories behind the works.
He hardly needs to explain Tárrega’s “Recuerdos de la Alhambra”, which was adapted for the soundtrack of the film “The Killing Fields”, or “La Catedral” by Barrios, but when it comes to the modern works, he’ll definitely have some talking to do.
Of Koshkin’s 1980 suite, “The Prince’s Toys” and Kleynjans’ “Dawn for the Final Day”, he says: “Both pieces tell interesting stories – that adds character to the performance.”
The Koskin is straightforward, telling of the toy soldier and the doll with the blinking eyes, but Kleynjans’ challenging work is about a man on death row. Withers will explain how the guitar is used to sound like turning keys in a lock, or like a man on his final walk to the gallows.
“You have to come to the concert to hear if he survives or not,” Withers tells me.
The special treat of the evening will be Samuel Smith’s “Phrases, Fragments, Fading Lines”, premièred toward the end of last year at the NGA.
When I caught up with Withers, he’d just performed with Guitar Trek in Wollongong. This year he’s also performed in Bendigo’s Capital Theatre, Adelaide’s Elder Hall concert series, in a classy boutique music festival at Tyalgum in northern NSW and in Mackay.
Meantime, the UC’s music courses are really taking off under director Rasa Daukus and Withers expects guitar to become a minor elective soon.
Best of all, he reports: “This will be my last solo concert as a single man.” Withers is marrying in March and a couple of his arrangements will be played during the ceremony – by somebody else.
Matt Withers in concert, Wesley Music Centre, Forrest, 7.30pm, Friday November 15, tickets at the door, under 12 free.