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Three guitars, one great show

By: Anna Borowiecki

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Mar 12, 2014 06:00 am

MASTER NOTES – Known to acoustic music fans as Edmonton Guitar Trio, from left to right Trevor Sanders, Ernst Birss and David Grainger Brown wil play Don's Piano Showroom March 15.
MASTER NOTES – Known to acoustic music fans as Edmonton Guitar Trio, from left to right Trevor Sanders, Ernst Birss and David Grainger Brown wil play Don's Piano Showroom March 15.
Supplied photo

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Edmonton Guitar Trio
With special guest Sebastian Robles
St. Albert Music Recital Series
Saturday, March 15 at 7:30 p.m.
Don’s Piano Showroom
8 Riel Drive
Tickets: $25/adults; $20/students, seniors. Call 780-459-5525

Acoustic guitar duos are fairly widespread. There is a great deal of repertoire written for twosomes. They dual against each other brilliantly and improvise effectively with little or no rehearsal.

Trios, not so much.

In theory there are more harmonic possibilities, but there is also less music composed for threesomes. Trios also require more disciplined rehearsals so players can avoid tripping over each other’s chords.

But there are some successful local examples. In between solo projects, three Edmonton-based guitarists have collaborated on and off for the last decade.

Known to acoustic music fans as Edmonton Guitar Trio, Trevor Sanders, Ernst Birss and David Grainger Brown will showcase their virtuosic playing on Saturday, March 15 at Don’s Piano Showroom.

Their spirited program breathes with diversity.

“It’s actually a nice combination and the music covers quite a bit of territory from 17th century Antonio Vivaldi’s Concerto in A Minor, Opus 3 No. 9 to Laurindo Almeida’s 20th century Brazilliance,” says Brown.

Sandwiched in between is Takashi Ogawa’s Genshirin, a lively, four-movement piece that depicts a rainforest, and Igor Rogaliov’s Times of the Miraculous detailing six snippets of fairytales.

The three classical musicians get equal billing. However, Brown is the spokesperson for this event. He was president of the Edmonton Classical Guitar Society (ECGS), and with 30 years experience has performed both as a soloist and group musician.

Sanders is a guitar instructor at MacEwan University’s Alberta College Conservatory of Music. He is also a founding member of the University of Alberta guitar quartet and has performed as a soloist for Alberta Baroque Orchestra.

Rounding off the trio, Birss is a private classical guitar teacher with some robust accomplishments. Since 1995, he has contributed to ECGS as vice-president and is a first place recipient of the Northwest Guitar Competition, a prestigious event open to all classical guitarists in Western Canada and the American Pacific Northwest.

As musicians, each guitarist displays subtle differences. Birss reveals a sublime quality, Sanders plays a solid game and Brown is the left-handed guitarist with expressive chops.

“As soloists we all have idiosyncrasies, little gestures that are different. When we get together to play, we are not soloists and treat everything as one. We come up with a plan and present unified phrases,” says Brown.

But at the end of the day, it’s the music that dictates their direction.

Opening the concert is 12-year-old Sebastian Robles, a classical guitarist who started his studies at the age of four. An award winner of numerous competitions, Robles was awarded the Rose Bowl at the 2012 Sherwood Park Music Festival and placed first at the Canadian Music Competition that same year.

Robles opens the evening with Astor Piazzolla’s sizzling tango Otono Portno (Autumn).

Robles chose the piece because, “It’s fast and sounded fun with lots of gliding. It’s really upbeat.”

He lovingly performs it on a guitar built by St. Albert luthier Michael Lazar. The Edmonton Guitar Trio is also playing their entire program on three Lazar hand-built guitars.

Lazar, who receives the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Mayor’s Celebration of the Arts Gala on Friday, March 14, will also attend the guitar concert.

For more concert information visit


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