Guitar Trek – A Little Lunch Musical Feast, Rose’s Review

Guitar Trek
Guitar Trek

Established 1987, members of Guitar Trek include Timothy Kain (standard guitar), Minh Le Hoang (standard guitar), Bradley Kunda (standard and 12-string guitars) and Matt Withers (standard, dobro and bass guitars), courtesy artists

Guitar Trek is Australia’s premier guitar quartet and they performed at the final lunchtime concert for the 2016 Sydney City Recital Hall’s A Little Lunch Music program.

These concerts transform lunch time into an opportunity for enjoying and celebrating very fine and diverse musical programs.

Artistic Director Kathryn Selby AM was thrilled to introduce Guitar Trek as she had been patiently waiting several years to have them perform. A variety of acoustic guitars were assembled on stage, enticing and inviting symbols of the musical degustation concert to come.

Guitar Trek

Timothy Kain, Guitar Trek, courtesy artists

The members of Guitar Trek are Timothy Kain (standard guitar), Minh Le Hoang (standard guitar), Bradley Kunda (standard and 12-string guitars) and Matt Withers (standard, dobro and bass guitars).

The group has reinvented the guitar quartet medium by bringing together a unique combination of classically constructed different-sized guitars including four classical guitars, four standard guitars and steel string guitars.

Guitar Trek was pioneered by Timothy Kain in 1987 and they have been thrilling audiences around the world with their compellingly rich and varied repertoire. Their inventive and creative interpretation showcased the colour, texture and acoustic effects of these very fine musicians.

They were definitive in the production of a sound that reflected their musical integrity and commitment to the ensemble.

Guitar Trek

Bradley Kunda, Guitar Trek, courtesy artists

Guitar Trek presented a diverse program of South American, African, classical and contemporary Australian music. They served diverse tasting plates of succulent musical treats.

The concert started with Llanura by Alfonso Montes, typical of much Venezuelan music. Alfonso Montes’s composition was deeply embedded in the Venezuelan tradition.

The music was fast and rhythmic and ended with a flourish. The performance captured the changing light of early evening and the joy of communal sharing and celebrating at the end of the working day.

Timothy Kain spoke reverently about the next piece of music Alfonsina y el mar composed by Ariel Ramirez and arranged by Roland Dyens. The music was dedicated to the memory of an Argentinian poet who committed suicide in 1939.

Grief and sadness wove a melancholic pattern, tears trickled as the notes formed a symbolic epitaph and images of despair pervaded the composition.

The sorrow and truth of loss were mourned with a gentle beauty and a wistful protective tenderness.

Guitar Trek

Matt Withers, Guitar Trek, courtesy artists

Tchaikovsky’s Waltz of the Flowers was a striking contrast and presented a musical twist and new perspective when the arrangement (Los Angeles Guitar Quartet) for four guitars was performed. This novel arrangement was endearing.

The exquisite flowers waltzed with petals dancing as the music meandered, phrased with sensory nuances. The playing was a glorious blossoming of floral imagery and the repeated motif was celebrated with charming accents and a blissful rhythm. Joyous!

As Timothy Kain articulated at the end of this piece “he did know how to write didn’t he?” Another change of style and location, this time to Africa for the haunting Noite Serena (Serene Night) composed by Bau (Rufino Almeida) and arranged by Tim Kain. John Williams recommended the quartet play this composition and it has become the title track of Guitar Trek’s latest CD on ABC classics.

The tempo changed as the serenade echoed unrequited love in the ponderous tonal quality of the music. The presence of perpetual sorrow and miserable resignation was played softly and with a beautiful lilting resonance. This piece was a musical jewel!

Guitar Trek

Minh Le Hoang, Guitar Trek, courtesy artists

The important ingredient of play in creativity was relished in the quartet’s first public performance of Loose Canon by Johann Pachelbel.

Timothy Kain told the story of how the piece came to be arranged by the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet. They were on tour in Tokyo and were a little restless in their hotel so they embarked on this wonderful arrangement that embraced an assortment of musical styles.

Timothy Kain began the piece sedately and softly, a richer sound developed as the other members joined in. A modern variation built up the tempo and tapping the guitar shaped a current beat and added complexity to the contemporary pulse.

A very amusing country music theme followed, then fragments of pop ignited the atmosphere and next the sounds of jazz inserted a new fervour and much appreciated dimension to the composition. A vocal component was added for fun. It was so diverse in form and highly entertaining.

These fabulous musicians were creative and imaginatively improvised to make this piece their own.

The final segment on the program was a work from the much loved Australian composer Nigel Westlake. This composition has six movements and is one of a few musical works dedicated to fish.

Timothy Kain explained that a dobro, a wood-bodied single cone resonator guitar introduced in the 1920’s and a twelve string guitar would be played to extract the colour within this composition.

The opening movement ferried the audience into the ocean where colours were scattered like confetti and the Guitarfish’s elongated body glided and sifted the sand at the bottom of the ocean.

The Sunfish, the heaviest bony fish in the world moved through the tropical waters swirling playfully and exploring the sea in the second lyrical movement.


Guitar Trek plays standard guitars by Greg Smallman, treble guitars by Eugene Philp and Greg Smallman, and baritone and bass guitars by Graham Caldersmith

In the third movement the Spangled Emperor travelled serenely and majestically through deeper waters exploring coral and rocky reefs.

The peculiar Sling-jaw Wrasse aggressively extended its jaw relentless and fast in its search for food. Tapping on the guitar denoted the fish’s single minded determination in the fourth movement.

The long leaf-like protrusions coming from all over the body of the Leafy Sea Dragon were liquid drips that were layered in the guitar notes. Watery sounds trickled from the guitars as waves gently rolled and the effervescence of the crystal clear water gurgled. The camouflaged fish projected the illusion of floating seaweed.

In the final movement, the Flying Fish’s animated, short, sharp explorations were echoed in the guitar playing as underwater scenes conveyed a bubbling clarity and a wondrous beauty. The jumping, cavorting and gliding flight above the water’s surface was propelled in the music.

Guitar TrekGuitar Trek provided a wonderful feast of delicious, tasty, delicate, robust, dulcet seasoned and tender lunch time music. The concert was a judicious conclusion to the A Little Lunch Music 2016 glorious program.

I look forward to the eclectic mix the 2017 season of music at lunchtime in Sydney, to be announced on 31 October, 2016.

Rose Niland, NSW Special Features, The Culture Concept Circle, 2016

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