Next generation of composer steps up in competition

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IF Canberra classical guitarist Matthew Withers has anything to do with it, it’s time for the next generation of young guitarists to step up.

Withers performs before the view, photo Peter Hislop
Withers rehearses before the view, photo Peter Hislop

Withers, who now heads up guitar studies at the University of Canberra, is not exactly old himself, but as part of Australia’s guitar ensembles, The Brew Guitar Duo and Guitar Trek, he is in a sense a veteran, just back from enjoying a travelling fellowship provided the Canberra Versailles Association that took him into France and Sweden.

More relevant to the subject of generational change is his decision to run the inaugural Matt Withers Young Australian Music Composition Competition with the idea of giving another avenue of support for emerging Australian composers. Any current or graduated music student under the age of 34 across Australia was eligible to submit work for solo guitar or guitar and ‘delay’.

Withers says the pieces were judged on criteria including compositional and musical techniques, guitar writing knowledge, score, presentation and the story behind the works.

In scorching temperatures at the intimate Margaret Whitlam Pavilion in the National Arboretum yesterday, Withers announced the winners and performed their works, surrounding them with accessible guitar classics by composers like Tarregas, Albeniz and Barrios, a popular number by Rodgers and Hart number and in conclusion, an invigorating performance of ‘Cuban dance’ by Pernambuco.

All three winners in the inaugural competition won this performance and a recording.

l. Matt Withers, r. Jack Frerer, photo Peter Hislop
l. Matt Withers, r. Jack Frerer, photo Peter Hislop

First place and $500 went to 19-year-old Jack Frerer, a Sydney guitarist presently studying at the Sydney Conservatorium, for his work. “House away from home.” Though primarily a jazz guitarist, Frerer has been powerfully influenced by Nigel Westlake’ s “The Hinchinbrook Riffs” in his use of digital delay. The resulting composition produced a powerful sense of drive and momentum.

Second place went to Canberra composer Chloe Hobbs, whose work “Insect reflection” was matched by a poem of her own. This challenging composition utilised the notes from Graeme Koehne’s “Elevator” music to play with intervals.

Third place went to Clare Johnston from Melbourne for her work “Leaving”, inspired, she wrote, by the different emotions people experience when someone they care about is ‘leaving’ their life and reflecting in guitar music that was at times agitated, flowing and lilting.

“Music with a view” was the title Withers chose to give to this quiet and reflective concert focusing on a competition which drew many entrants from talented students from around Australia.

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