In Review, Athens Guitar Trio, St Louis, MO, March 26, 2011

Unfortunately, I did not attend the concert.  Please let me know if you were there and can add a synopsis.

Athens Guitar Trio are scheduled to perform in St Louis for the St Louis Classical Guitar Society.

When: Saturday, March 26, 2011, 8:00 PM
Where: The Ethical Society, 9001 Clayton Road, St. Louis, MO 63117

“Emergence” CD release available @  CD Baby

Q & A with the Athens Guitar Trio (Dusty Woodruff)

How did the AGT form?  How long have you all been performing together?

The AGT officially formed in the early part of 2005 at the University of Georgia under the direction of John Sutherland.  This year is our seventh year together!   The trio is made up of Rylan Smith, Matt Anderson, and me (Dusty Woodruff).  Interestingly, we were not originally a trio.  Initially–in 2004 I think–Rylan, I, and two other guitarists formed a thrown-together guitar quartet with no name.  We played one recital that featured works by Faure, de Falla, and Domeniconi.  Not long after, one of the members dropped out of school and left town.  Matt, a new graduate student at UGA at the time, filled in and became the missing link.  I think we had one rehearsal as a new quartet before another member left.  At that point we decided to remain a trio.  After about the first year together we realized we had something special and enjoyed playing together, so we decided to try to do it professionally.  We went the standard route for an ensemble name (town + instrument + size!): The Athens Guitar Trio. 

I am listening to your CD ‘Emergence’.  Very nice work.  How did the recording sessions go?  I imagine with 3 guitarists and nerves, the sessions can be tedious.

Thank you for the compliment!  We worked very hard on that CD and we learned so much about ourselves and the recording process in doing so.  It was a tedious process, but we also had a great friend named Greg Brown produce the album and provide guidance.  I think the tediousness came from the fact that each one of us is a perfectionist, and even if a take was played well, it was sometimes scraped because it was lacking something – musically speaking.  It was interesting to work with Greg because he thinks on more of a vocal/choral level (he also composed a set of pieces that are on the first album), and he gave us another, non-guitarist point of view; he ended up catching things in our rehearsals that we never would have thought of on our own.
I cannot remember the exact name of the microphone or anything technical like that, but our recording technicians (and friends), Doug Moore and Will Marlow, practically insisted that we record only using one microphone.  As a result, our CD Emergence does not have an overly “produced” sound.  It does a better job of capturing our real sound:  what you hear is what you get.  For instance, balance issues between instruments can be adjusted post-recording if each player is using a separate microphone to a separate channel.  In our case, with one mic, there was very little we could do for a note that was overplayed or underplayed, etc.  This forced us to really concentrate on perfecting our ensemble during the preparation for the album.  We came out of the sessions a much better ensemble than went in.  Also, the resulting product was one that we were all very happy with and a recording that was a little raw (and, in my opinion, shares hints of having a live recording sound.)  

You are playing in St Louis this weekend.  Are you on ‘tour’?  Are there upcoming concerts scheduled?

We are very excited to play in St. Louis this weekend since we have all heard so much about it.  But none of us has actually been there.  I think the arch and the BBQ are high on my list (and maybe a brewery!).  This concert is the last on our 2010-11 season though.  We have concerts lining up for the 2011-12 season already though.  Just off hand, we have some in Idaho, Oregon, Texas, and Georgia.  Also, our international management has mentioned some feedback in Mexico City, but we’ll see if that leads anywhere!  We will be gearing up for the 2011-12 season over the summer with some new repertoire which . . . leads me to your next question! 

Any new CD releases planned?

As mentioned before, we are working on some new repertoire for a couple new CDs.  We want to perform our works as much as possible before we record so what we record sounds refined both from a technical stand-point and from a musical stand-point.  If we listen to a live recording of something that we played a year or two ago in comparison to the same piece played now, it usually sounds significantly different as we have had more time to get to know the work and tease out the musical nuances that are hidden within.  As a result of this “philosophy,” we have enough new repertoire for at least one and a half new CD’s, but it is a mixed bag of various genres and styles.  We plan to concentrate our efforts on an album that celebrates American composers specifically (some new arrangements are in order – maybe some William Bolcom and some more Joplin to highlight two different sides to ragtime).  Some pieces planned for this album will be on our program in St. Louis, such as Gottschalk’s Banjo and Joplin’s Ragtime Dance. We’ve discussed recording our next 2 CD’s at the same time, since we also have the repertoire to do a “European” album.  But we’ll see…

Finally the name.  Are you all from Athens Georgia?  Because, you gus don’t look Mediterranean.

Yes, we are from the “Classic City” of Athens, Georgia.  Actually, we have been finding that there are a lot of cities with that name here in the US, so specifics are in order!  Only Rylan and I live in Athens.  Matt lives in the Atlanta area.  It is likely that one day all three of us could end up in a surrounding community that is outside of Athens.  But the Athens Guitar Trio name will always remain since we are all very committed to what we are doing, and Athens will always be the name that brought us together.


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