Guitar Circle Of Italy Q&A with Ken Lawton + in-house Performance for invited guests

Friday 16 – Sunday 18, June 2006

L’Ottava, Rome, Italy



A report by Alessandro Bruno.

Friday the 16th

Filippo called me in the morning to say that he got the bug and couldn’t make it. I immediately felt unsafe and saw the whole thing falling apart since Filippo is the best player among us.

We all met by the entrance of the music school which is hosting us: http://www.centrottava.it and at 20:00 we were all in, ready to rehearse. Short warming up followed by an overview of the repertoire.

Quite some time ago we choose only few pieces for this performance, to be sure that everybody could have a real chance to practice them properly, but the Bach circulation (Prelude 1), already critical for Filippo was missing (Adriano playing also Filippo’s notes), looked out of reach since few of us didn’t learn their notes. At that point I’ve been pretty tough with the team; maybe it was needed, maybe I put some extra toughness on top which was coming from my own disappointment… They looked all pretty impressed though, I think they never really saw me like that.

But we kept working until midnight; then in the cars and to the flats (4 in Roberto’s fat and 3 in mine); inflatable mats, sleeping bags…

Saturday the 17th

Sitting (everybody) at 8:00 in my flat, then breakfast at the bar up the street (cappuccino + croissant); then we drove to the Centrottava again, we got the room I choose for the performance; we begun setting it up and by 10 o’clock I hit the tuning fork on my knee.

We worked intensively, with a break at 11:30, until 13:30; then lunch break (pizza slices in a diner down the road), and at 14:30 we were back on until 16:00; at that point all the pieces had been processed, then, after a break, at 17:00 we had a run through:

Circulation C Maj
Day Break
Funeral March For A Marionette
Circulation C Harm min.
The Eye Of The Needle
Gymnopedie #1
Prelude #1
Music For A Found Harmonium
Hope (in the pocket)

Few things sounded still a bit edgy but we managed to play the repertoire as it was originally planned.

I felt very tired, and the others too I believe.

The next half hour was spent setting up the room while Paola (Roberto’s partner) went to pick up Ken at the hotel.

We considered the option of playing in a whole circle surrounding the audience but we felt it was going to be odd for the room was too big, not regularly shaped, and with a big pillar not quite in the centre; after few attempts we went back to the classic semi-circle. We put 2 carpets within the horseshoe and few chairs behind them; switched off the neon lights and borrowed 4 lamps producing a warmer light.

Ken arrived at 18:00 and we begun a Q&A session with him: very interesting, but out of contest for this report.

The original plan was Q&A with Ken from 18:00 to 20:00, half hour break, and then 20:30 performance time. But at 19:20 I saw that the session was getting to its natural conclusion and Ken looked tired (he’s over 80!) and willing to go back at the hotel where his family was waiting for him. So we changed our plan and played a short set straight away for him and few other people who attended the Q&A like Antonio De Honestis, Paola and Luisa: an opportunity to double check the Bach circulation…

He was very pleased, and said we made him think to the CGT when we played the Bach circulation.

While Paola was taking him back to the hotel we made few slight changes in the room and get dressed while few invited people was gathering there.

We went for the classic standard mode: collecting in the green room and then walking on stage in a snake shape. I made it a little looser by saying something to the audience (about 15-20 people) straight away. The first circulation went off pretty well, not the most amazing flow but no big gaps and no wrong notes. On the first transition of Day Break the basses made an unintentional shift and played the whole section an eight note earlier, the leads understood and compensated the shift when we got to the next transition: it would have been a masterpiece if we didn’t show what was going on with our faces… Marionette was a bit too fast but, as we hoped, it brought a breath of fresh air and fun, probably also because it’s a very well known piece being the signature tune for all the Hitchcock TV movies. With TEOTN, as sometimes happens, the whole performance had a lift and we were all left in a suspension of silence. Then I talked again saying that we are at the beginning of a project, that one of us couldn’t make it and so we had to work hard to rearrange the set without him, I finally asked if a member of the audience would take Filippo’s seat for a free circulation; it turned into a little joke as we on stage discussed if it would have been better to have someone with some experience or an absolute beginner with the guitar; hesitation for a while, then, with my great surprise, Luisa stood up, we gave her our pare guitar and add a chair between the two Robertos. After the first two rounds of notes she understood that being concerned with the notes was very distracting and went for the open strings; her attention was deeply engaged, like a cat, it has been the best and clearest demonstration of what we do or aim to do when we play a circulation.

If we managed to establish a direct communication with the audience, from that moment there was no separation, except for the carpets: nobody choose to sit on the floor so they were all beyond them, therefore the carpets became a physical gap between us and them and I failed to invite them to come closer, (I realised this only after the performance).

The rest of the music came about pretty fluently and with a higher intensity; the finale of the Bach circulation needs more work (as we suddenly play two notes each, we tend to jump one on top of the other); Thrak was sharp and Harmonium was a killer for we handled the dynamics very wisely having headroom for the crescendo until the very end.

We went back on stage to play Hope, my right hand in the beginning went a bit all over the places; Antonio was crying despite my bummers (or maybe because of them).

After we packed we all went to a local restaurant for dinner and afterwards to bed.

Sunday, the 19th

Sitting in my apartment at 08:30, breakfast at the same bar, and at 10:00 to talk about the project, the performance, and the future.

Among all the elements we went through (Luisa’s contribution, the carpets and so on), we noticed that the whole weekend was, although the people from the school was very supportive, quite dispersing with all the driving from one place to another, from one flat to another, bars, diners, and so on. We then reckoned 2 options for the future: use the same format but giving particular attention

to energy dispersion, or find a place (a house) where we can live, work and perform; we need to decide.

Next full group (but without A. Papa who will be already in S Cugat for his L3) weekend meeting is July 21st/23rd.