‘Immaculate’ guitar duo delight

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Autumn series lunchtime concert

‘Variety is the spice of life’ and recent lunchtime concerts have certainly provided it in abundance.

The latest to entertain at St George’s United Reformed Church was a concert by James Birkett and Bradley Johnston.

The pair form a guitar duo and performed a heady mix of jazz and classical compositions by composers of the last 100 years.

James is based at the Sage, Gateshead, where he is currently study leader for jazz and related music.

He has performed with many of the finest soloists from the UK and USA, and he continues to work with a variety of jazz ensembles, including the very popular virtuoso jazz trio.

Bradley is an emerging new talent.

He is a final year student at the Sage, on the B Mus degree course.

He has performed at major venues in the UK and USA alongside numerous jazz artists.

And over the last two years has undertaken concerts with James.

Their programme was varied, with a mix of jazz, cinema music and classical compositions.

The two extracts from the cinema, Emmanuel by Colombier and the love them from the Cinema Paradiso by Morricone, both have beautiful themes.

These were played with great feeling, with a lovely rich tone and gorgeous, deep moving chords, which were a delight to the ear.

Two blues pieces, Stringing the Blues by Lang and Blues for BL, a composition by James dedicated to his young fellow guitarist, were both polished.

They were exhilarating in their presentation and rhythmic movement.

The Wave by Jobin was languid and reflected the gentle movement of a calm sea.

And this contrasted strongly with the Gypsy style of the 30’s in Fisco Place, by Lagrene, which was a fast and energetic work, with well defined rhythms.

The Days of Wine and Roses, by Mancini, provided a reminder of gentler days.

However, two classical compositions provided the highlights.

Trois Gymnopédies by Satie proved a popular choice with its lovely theme.

This was enhanced by free flowing and rich chords, particularly in the bass notes.

The final composition, Spain, proved a fitting conclusion.

The first part was the haunting theme from Rodrigo’s Concerto De Aranjuez, which was played superbly, with much feeling and intensity.

And the conclusion by Corea provided typical Spanish music, full of colour, with rapid movement and vibrant chords.

Altogether, the concert provided a superb exhibition of guitar playing by two very talented performers.

Two quote from a previous concert: “The whole audience was completely lost in the music and the immaculate guitar playing.”