After four years away from collective performance, the Victoria Guitar Trio is back—but with a new face among them.
Gone is Bradford Werner, who has moved on to other projects after co-founding the band roughly a decade and a half ago. Taking his place is fellow Canadian classical musician Michael Kolk, who has nine albums and extensive international performing experience under his belt. Several of his songs are frequently heard on American and Canadian radio stations, and he has for years partnered with Drew Henderson as the HK Guitar Duo.
Kolk will soon join founding members Adrian Verdejo and Michael Dias for a Nov. 19 concert at the Maury Young Arts Centre in partnership with the Whistler Chamber Music Society (WCMS).
Verdejo has been described as a “go-to guy for new music featuring guitar” by the Vancouver Sun, focusing on contemporary music with equal proficiency on both classical and electric guitars.
Dias, a former biology major, changed his career focus in university and has since earned his PhD in musicology. He has taught undergraduate courses in music theory and history at the University of Victoria in addition to his performance pursuits.
When most of us think about guitars, we might imagine rock concerts, country music festivals or the timeless act of strumming and singing around a campfire. We’re not all familiar with classical guitars and how their nylon strings deliver a more mellow sound than the steel strings of their acoustic counterparts. However, the classical guitar is the Victoria trio’s instrument of choice.
Verdejo and his cohorts plan to bring a diverse repertoire to the Sea to Sky. The European tradition will be well-represented by a section of the Pope Marcellus Mass as well as works by Spain’s Isaac Albéniz and Roland Dyens of France. There will also be Canadian content from Patrick Roux and Jordan Nobles—Roux is one of Verdejo’s former teachers who draws inspiration from Latin genres, while Nobles is a fellow British Columbian who has previously worked with the trio.
To ring the holidays, the band will additionally showcase an arrangement of “Fantasia on Greensleeves” set by Dave Burnett to the melody of a traditional Christmas carol, “What Child Is This”.
“We're very excited to be re-forming the group and adding Michael [Kolk], who's a wonderful musician and guitarist,” says Verdejo. “This concert will be a return to the performance mode for us.”
The Victoria Guitar Trio first came together in 2007. Verdejo, Dias and Werner were all teaching at the Victoria Conservatory of Music back then, and they joined forces officially after putting on some performances at campus and in the community. Doing so has allowed them to branch out and experience new aspects of the music industry.
“One thing about the traditional path for guitarists is that there’s been a lot of emphasis on solo playing,” Verdejo says. “If you study in a university or if you develop a career as a guitarist, there's a lot of repertoire to learn. I think we have less opportunities than the conventional orchestral musician to play in groups: be it orchestras or smaller chamber settings.
“For us, [we appreciate] the experience and the opportunity to collaborate in more and larger works together, and really just taking part in the social experience of music-making—which is something I really try to impart to my developing guitar students. There's a lot of music out there, and a lot of the time, playing different collaborations with various musicians will help in the long run to develop your abilities.”
Verdejo knows this firsthand, having collaborated with flutist Mark Takeshi McGregor, the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, the Vancouver Intercultural Orchestra, Turning Point and Aventa Ensemble in his career. These days, he teaches at Douglas College and Vancouver Community College, as well as privately, outside of his performing gigs.
Verdejo’s first show in Whistler came roughly four or five years ago alongside McGregor, and he’s eager to return with Dias and Kolk in tow.
“I definitely noticed and appreciated that the audience was very receptive, very warm, and very friendly,” recalls the Vancouver resident. “In the concert [McGregor and I] played previously, there was a good variety of works and I think that went over very well.
“Whistler, obviously, is a beautiful location and a destination spot. We didn't have as much time to hang out or visit some of the locations there last time, but the scenery is always very inspiring and I do look forward to seeing a little bit more of the town this time, if possible.”
Find tickets and more information on the upcoming Victoria Guitar Trio concert at https://www.whistlerchambermusic.ca