Grigoryan Brothers Are Locked Into Their Live Performances

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  • Monday, 11 March 2019 15:17
Slava and Leonard Grigoryan play Redland Performing Arts Centre (Brisbane) in March. Slava and Leonard Grigoryan play Redland Performing Arts Centre (Brisbane) in March.

Grigoryan Brothers, Slava and Leonard, are revered musicians both at home here in Australia and abroad, commanding a broad repertoire as master guitarists.

This year the Grigoryan Brothers release their 12th studio album, a collection of Handel keyboard suites that have been arranged by their father.

This March, Slava and Leonard stop by Redland Performing Arts Centre as part of a tour for their 2017 album 'Songs Without Words', which saw the brothers return to their classical roots.

We spoke with Slava and Leonard ahead of the performance to discuss new music, old music and what else they have planned for the year.

How have you two been enjoying the tour so far?
This is the first show on this tour. These days, we prefer to do lots of brief tours spread throughout the year rather than protracted tours over a number of weeks. We love travelling around Australia visiting regional towns and playing in smaller, more intimate venues rather than the larger concert halls in capital cities. It gives us a real connection to audiences.

It seems Slava had some troubles with a lock in Melbourne?
That was a first and very funny. The lock on the bathroom door in the dressing room of the Melbourne Recital Centre jammed. It took 20 minutes for staff to get Slava out; they ended up kicking the door in – it ended up being a 40-minute interval. The audience was most understanding.

You're on tour for 2017 album 'Songs Without Words'; what can audiences expect from these live shows?
We always play a selection including works from our most recent release as well as stuff from our back catalogue. On this tour we’re also playing new arrangements from our forthcoming album to be recorded later this year and a selection from the movie 'A Boy Called Sailboat' to which we wrote and recorded the soundtrack – so it’s quite an eclectic repertoire.

Are the live arrangements the same as they are on the album or are they tweaked for performance?
The arrangements are the same. However, the more we play a piece, the more we we feel comfortable about making subtle changes to keep it interesting for us as well as keeping each other on our toes. Music is an organic art form, which changes depending on the mood of the performer, the mood of the audience, the acoustics of the room and more.

So to put it simply, the written note may be the same but no two performances are ever the same. Also, we always include pieces that allow space of improvisation

Did composing songs for the 'A Boy Called Sailboat' soundtrack differ to composing your own work?
This was a really exciting project as it allowed us to delve into new ways of creating music. Most of the music on the recording is re-working of traditional or well-known songs, but we had to rearrange them to suit the tenor of the movie. A movie is a combination of visuals and dialogue.

So the music, no matter what it is, must complement and enhance what the audience is seeing and hearing while never getting in the way or detracting from the director’s intent. It was a great responsibility, which we thoroughly enjoyed.

You have a new album coming out this year, what can you tell us about the release?
It is an album of Handel keyboard suites rearranged for us by our father Edward. Dad is the silent third member of our duo (or is it trio?). He has arranged the music on most of our albums. Because he taught us he understands intimately about the guitar and us. Sometimes this can be a burden because he can write some really challenging stuff.

While it may cause us moments of grief, we also know that without his incredible arranging skills, the music we play would not sound anywhere near as good. We are so grateful for all he has done and continues to do for us.

You're both masters of your instrument, but have you ever come across a piece of music you couldn't play?
We’ve come across lots of challenging music and music that we haven’t connected to. Given enough time and practice most music can be played....perhaps not as well as we hope, but hopefully well enough to be performed publicly.

As brothers, is there a sense of competition between you when learning/playing a song?
We are very lucky in that nether of us are competitive. We also respect each other as people and musicians, so the concept of ‘competition’ doesn’t enter into what we do. Really.

Similarly, at this stage of your careers are there any works by classical composers you find intimidating or challenging to perform?
Intimidating and challenging? Absolutely. But that is also what we love.

What else is keeping you two busy this year?
Both of us became fathers last year. Len for the first time and Slava for the third time. That in itself creates its own wonderful busyness. Then there are the recording projects, local tours, commissions and 3 international tours in the next 11 months.

Are either of you working on solo projects you'd like to tell us about?
While the duo is our main focus, we both collaborate with other musicians. For example, Slava is touring and recording with his wife Sharon who is the cellist in the Australian String Quartet. Len is writing and recording with his good friend Luke Howard who is an incredible pianist/composer based in Melbourne and is creating a name for himself here and overseas.

Grigoryan Brothers play Redland Performing Arts Centre (Brisbane) 28 March, Lake Kawana Community Centre (Sunshine Coast) 29 March and Ipswich Civic Centre 30 March.


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