I have been a big fan of Cape Town guitarist James Grace since I saw him play with the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra a few years ago. I subsequently bought his CD, Granada, and It fast became one of my favourite albums to listen to while driving long distances. The serene Spanish music soothes the soul and settles the nerves, and seems to shorten the distance.
Nothing I heard at this concert at the Witness Hilton Arts Festival detracted from my fondness and admiration for the guitar playing of James Grace. In a concert of mainly contemporary music James produced a sublime performance of mesmerising skill and beauty.
The concert was held in the Art Block at Hilton College. This venue is an old converted workshop and, although fairly rustic, worked well for an intimate show such as this as the performer sits very close to the audience.
Grace explained that the theme for his concert was love and emotions, and started off with two standards, Let There Be Love and Just The Way You Are. Norah Jones with her simple and beautiful style is one of James’s favourite artists and he played solo guitar adaptations of three of her songs, Come Away with Me, I Don’t Know Why and The Nearness Of You. This was followed by Abdulla Ibrahim’s Wedding and, much to the audience’s pleasure, a medley of Beatles songs to celebrate the 50th anniversary since they recorded their first hit Love Me Do.
The final two items on the programme were the exquisite Granada by Isaac Albeniz and Recuerdos de la Alhambra by Francisco Tarrega. The latter not been played so before the audience received a brief lesson in how to play the tremolo effect required in the music. Yeah. Sure. Now we all know how to do it!
All in all, this was a breathtaking and captivating concert performed by South Africa’s foremost classical guitarist.
Review of the concert at the 2012 Hilton Art Festival
– by Keith Millaruo