During our stay here in Dubrovnik, we have befriended a family from Zagreb we met on the beach: Damil and Zorka Kalogjera and their two daughters Vida (age 6) and Gaja (age 2). Since our daughters are the same age, it only seems fitting we would have a lot in common (especially running after out two-year-olds when they are in precarious places). It turns out that Damil is the official photographer for the Dubrovnik Summer Festival which means he photographs each nightly event. It also means he knows event organizers. One evening over coffee at a local cafe in Stari Grad (Old City), we got talking about the festival and Damil asked if we planned to attend any of the events. We said no because of the kids and, quite frankly, we really didn’t know who was performing. At that, Damil pulled out a schedule and asked if we might be interested in anything. Straight away, my eye caught the Friday night concert; classical guitarist John Williams and jazz fusion guitarist John Etheridge
Having studied classical guitar briefly in high school, I was very familiar with John Williams as one of the premiere classical guitarist of the day and was very excited at the opportunity to attend his concert. Damil came through and handed us the tickets on Friday afternoon over coffee. So that night, Jasmina and I made arrangements for a babysitter and were off to the Revelin Fortress.
Originally to be on the roof of the 16th century fortress, the venue was forced inside due to rain which caused about a 30 minute delay since equipment and chairs needed to be moved. Although we did not have the chance to listen to the music under the stars, the fortress wall acoustics and high arched ceiling more than surfeit the experience.
Not knowing what to expect from such two different musical styles, I found myself very impressed with the way they accompanied each other, especially the African compositions the duo performed, including “Malinke Guitars.” One of the more lively pieces, “Sangara“, exemplifies how Williams held the harmony, while Etheridge carried the melody with jazzy runs. After the intermission, each performed solos beginning with Etheridge who played a rendition of “Stormy Weather” (Arlen) and “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat” (Mingus). Williams played a couple South American pieces, including “La Ultima Cancion” (Barrios) and Tarrega’s (in my opinion) masterpiece, “Recuerdos de la Alhambra” without error.
To see Williams play was a thrill; such a virtuoso. I was extremely impressed with the fluidity of his playing as he perched in the classical guitar sitting position – guitar nestled in his lap like a babe in mother’s arms with the left leg propped on the folding stool. It was truly awe inspiring the way his plucking hand remained still, yet his fingers were in continual “rapid fire” mode. Mind you, Etheridge is no slouch either using both acoustic and electric guitars interchangeably during the concert as well as both plectrum and finger picking to create the right affect. The program even states that Eric Clapton paid him a compliment by saying: “You’re not a great blues player, but you are a great guitarist.”
The duet ended the night with Ethridge’s “Places Between” (which I mistakenly thought to be Rodgers’ “Favorite Things” from “Sound of Music”) and part 2 & 3 of “Peace, Love and Guitars” by Benjamin Verdery which totaled more than 10 minutes. Unfortunately, one of the plastic patio chairs used for the audience snapped (presumable because of weight) during the last song which was somewhat of a disruption as both Johns glanced in the area of the incident and at each other in bewilderment, but continued without missing a note. Apparently, the plastic chairs were used due to the staff having to scramble for last minute indoor seating (luckily, Jasmina and I were on the wooden chairs). Damil told me the next day that three chairs actually broke during the night (I think I heard one during the intermission) and that someone’s head was going to roll. Ouch!
After an encore piece by the duo encouraged from the audience’s resounding applause, my lady and I were off for home, discussing our thoughs of the concert as we passed through the Old City with gutiar melodies dancing in our heads. Such a cool night that shant be forgotten anytime soon.