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Bermuda Guitar Festival returns after a long Covid break

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Guitarist Steve Crawford and violist Johanna Pino Gonzalez will perform as part of the Bermuda Guitar Festival on July 2 (Photograph supplied)

The Bermuda Guitar Festival is back after a break forced by the pandemic.

Organiser Steve Crawford hopes that music lovers are as thrilled with the line-up as he is. Grisha Goryachev, Jerremiah Smith and Johanna Pino Gonzalez will join him in the festival, which takes place on June 30 and July 2 at the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute.

“We’re super excited to be back and I just want to encourage the public, who are probably starved of the arts and music after such a long period without. We're really eager and excited to be playing for everyone and feeling a sense of normality again,” he said.

Mr Crawford described Mr Goryachev, who has a solo show on June 30 and will host a workshop the following day, as “the most amazing flamenco guitarist” currently performing.

“On Saturday, July 2, Jerremiah Smith is playing some of his own compositions which are in the Brazilian style and I’m doing the second half of the concert with the violist, Johanna Pino Gonzalez, and the music of Brazil.”

Scottish-born Mr Crawford is the senior guitar teacher at the Bermuda School of Music. He started taking lessons as a teenager but decided on a job in hospitality when it came time to choose a career.

“I was here working as a wine steward at the Sonesta Hotel in the Eighties. I went back home and met my old music teacher and he was a bit stunned when I told them I was in the wine business.”

Once back on the island he began studying with Graham Garton, the music director of the Bermuda Philharmonic Society from 1989 to 2000, who died last year.

“I left for a period to do some study back in the UK and overseas and then I got some qualifications and came back.”

He has taught at BSM for the past 25 years, performing around the island whenever possible.

Bermuda Guitar Festival organiser Steve Crawford describes Grisha Goryachev (pictured) as the most amazing flamenco guitarist” currently performing (Photograph supplied)

“I play classical guitar but I go as a soloist as a fingerstyle guitarist; a lot of pop/jazz arrangements. I've been the artist-in-residence at Rosewood hotel for the last five years at the weekend; so on a Friday and Saturday night I’m at their beach club and previous to that, the Conservatory.”

In 2003 he was “helping and playing” at a cancer fundraiser in London when he came up with the idea of hosting something similar here.

“It would have been my 20th had it not been for Covid. We missed one year just because everything was in lockdown. I'm not too much of a technical wizard so I was a little bit in the dark as to what to do.”

Jerremiah Smith will perform with the Bermuda Guitar Festival on July 2 (Photograph supplied)

Last year he and a former BSM colleague, LaTannia Ellerbe, performed rock/pop pieces for the violin and the guitar before “a smaller audience”, and then posted it on YouTube.

“So again, the genre has changed,” he said. “But trying to resurrect [the festival] has been a big challenge. I'm hoping it will go OK.

“That would be a great feeling, to be back. We're only two years late, but we're back.”

While the piano has been around for about 300 years, the guitar dates back to medieval times, Mr Crawford said.

“It's got a huge history and there's so much diversity – you can play it in a lounge, you can play it in a concert hall. It’s so democratic. With my new musical colleague, Johanna Pino Gonzalez, I’m playing Brazilian music at the concert. Although the music was written with a guitar, we're actually playing for viola and guitar, which really suits.”

Since the first concert in 2004, Mr Crawford said he had been “lucky enough” to find talented musicians who were willing to make the trip here. Many of them he finds while at festivals abroad.

“I just contact them and offer them the possibility of a concert and to do some educational work while they’re here, for the community, and they usually jump at it.

“It’s not like I’m asking them to come to Afghanistan, it's pretty appealing I would imagine. And generally, the people that come really enjoy it and I really enjoy having them.”

The guitarist is a student of Mr Goryachev, the flamenco guitar player who will perform on the first night of the concert.

“I actually started studying with him online during lockdown,” Mr Crawford said. “If you go online and see his playing, he's just incredible. We're really excited about that, that we actually got him here in the first place because he plays all over the place.”

The Bermuda Guitar Festival takes place on June 30 and July 2 at the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute. Tickets are available at ptix.bm and at the Bermuda School of Music. For more information: www.bermudaguitarfestival.com

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Published June 17, 2022 at 8:00 am (Updated June 18, 2022 at 8:13 am)

Bermuda Guitar Festival returns after a long Covid break

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