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Guitar geek nirvana: two trios for the price of one

By: Anna Borowiecki

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Feb 05, 2014 06:00 am

DOUBLE TRIOS – The California Guitar Trio and Montreal Guitar Trio team up to deliver a blend of pop and classical sounds.
DOUBLE TRIOS – The California Guitar Trio and Montreal Guitar Trio team up to deliver a blend of pop and classical sounds.
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California Guitar Trio & Montreal Guitar Trio
Saturday, Feb. 8 at 7:30 p.m.
Arden Theatre
5 St. Anne Street
Tickets: $40 Call 780-459-1542 or purchase online at

Fate. Destiny. Kismet. It’s so easy to pooh-pooh this intangible element. And yet that is exactly what brought two of North America’s most virtuosic guitar trios together.

California Guitar Trio (CGT) and Montreal Guitar Trio (MG3), now at the tail end of a massive Alaskan tour, are set to drop by the Arden Theatre on Saturday, Feb. 8 before returning to the mainland USA.

Their appearance will feature six nimble instrumentalists from four countries (Canada, Japan, Belgium and United States) blending over 40 years of experience. While CGT comes from a progressive rock background favouring steel string guitars, MG3 studied in the classical tradition with nylon-string guitars.

Together these technical wizards duel on stage with each other’s original compositions and new spicy arrangements of classical, jazz, world and progressive rock.

And although they only started touring together in 2009, their popularity has soared. They are frequently co-billed in North America from Iridium in New York City to the Montreal Jazz Festival to Napa Valley Opera and ever-increasing venues in between.

The six musicians initially met at the Arts Norwest Conference in Eugene, Oregon as part of a showcase. They struck up a conversation and caught each other’s act. Their musical vision and personal chemistry gelled. In conversation someone suggested a co-production with unanimous approval.

“The day after the conference, we discovered both groups had booked on the same flight and we both stopped in Chicago for a layover. We went for a drink and set everything up,” said MG3’s spokesperson Marc Morin along with Sébastien Dufour and Glenn Levesque.

At the time, neither group knew if the pairing would work.

“But we sat down in Montreal, organized the repertoire and after five minutes we knew the music was there and it would stay a while. Now it’s been four years and it’s just the beginning of our artistic possibilities.”

Initially both groups had very different sounds and very diverse approaches. For instance, CGT comprised of Bert Lams, Hidyeo Moriya and Paul Richards, first met as participants in Robert Fripp’s 1987 Guitar Craft Course. Fripp was a front-line guitarist for progressive rock band King Crimson.

The trio first toured together as part of Fripp’s League of Crafty Musicians, an orchestra of acoustic players that were major exponents of King Crimson’s compositions and performances.

In 1991, they founded California Guitar Trio opening for acts such as King Crimson, John McLaughlin and David Sylain.

Montreal Guitar Trio has spent the last 15 years establishing themselves in what CBC describes as “the hottest guitar ensemble in Canada.”

Their classical technique, eclectic arrangements and creative, dynamic stage presence combined with a warm wit are instrumental in winning applause around the world.

“Our influences are very different and our sounds are very different, but they are also complementary. It’s the same principle as having an oboe and a double bass in an orchestra. You combine the different themes and you have different possibilities,” Moran notes.

Embracing new forms of music worked in their favour. As a sextet, they have one law.

“We always play what we enjoy. We don’t like to be pigeonholed. We don’t have walls.”

Moran is quick to point out that their multi-generational shows attract guitar geeks of every ilk.

“Everybody likes guitars. They are pleasing for everyone. It’s not a serious show. It’s about pleasure and we communicate a lot with the audience. It’s fun and there is always something to catch your attention.”


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