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Montreal Guitar Trio strings out North Okanagan Community Concert Association's 60th year
There are certain guitar concerts that stick out in the collective consciousness of those lucky enough to have witnessed them.
Friday Night in San Francisco, captured in a live 1981 album by string wizards Al Di Meola, John McLaughlin and the recently deceased Paco de Lucía, is one of them.
Last year, Vernon witnessed the same kind of magic when the Montréal Guitar Trio (MG3) performed for the North Okanagan Community Concert Association.
With percussive taps, rapid lightning finger picking, up-the-neck chord progressions, and even whistling along to Ennio Morricone’s A Fistful of Dollars, MG3 showed audiences what a guitar can do when it’s in the right hands – make that three sets of hands.
So when the NOCCA polled its members on what musicians they would like to see in Vernon for the association’s 60th season, a resounding amount of people said they’d like to see the Montréal Guitar Trio return.
Their wish is coming true when MG3 returns to the Vernon Performing Arts Centre April 25.
Trio member Marc Morin (the one with the hair; his compatriots Sébastien Dufour and Glenn Lévesque have less in that department) promises the group will play a few of those favourites from last year, including more Morricone, and George Harrison’s While My Guitar Gentry Weeps, but there are some new surprises in the mix, which appear on MG3’s latest album Der Prinz.
“When we think of the last 15 years since we have been doing this, we are most proud for putting a twist on modern music,” said Morin, a multi-instrumentalist who on occasion brings out his accordion on stage. “Although we admire those who donate to jazz, classical and rock, we can’t imagine a career playing just one style of music. It’s just not us.”
Der Prinz is proof of that.
The trio’s sixth studio album features a number of original songs penned by Dufour and Lévesque, with arrangements by Morin, and also pays acoustic ode to a diverse range of artists, from Rush (Tom Sawyer) to Radiohead (Weird Fishes) to an arrangement of French-Canadian singer and cellist Jorane Pelletier (Mr. Piment).
“The covers are tributes to the styles, music and groups that have influenced us, such as Rush and Radiohead. Ten years ago, we wouldn’t have gone there,” said Morin. “We like to change things up on every album. It’s why we are still passionate after 16 years, and we always have a different way of recording.
“The last album we did (Cambria), all the parts were recorded separately like pop and rock music and it was recorded in a church by the woods. For this album we went to downtown Montréal with an engineer and added more layers.”
The half-way song on Der Prinz (German for the prince) also holds special significance. The quiet, percussive song, entitled Le renard (the fox), was written by Nick Naffin, whom the album is named after.
“He was an old friend, who we met at the beginning of our career 16 years ago. He was a German-born guitarist who lived in Toronto and passed away last year,” said Morin. “He was always eclectic, and we thought of him as the fox in The Little Prince. He wrote a song around the character of the fox, which we did a version of the song as an elegy to him and dedicated the album to him. That’s why there is a fox wearing a crown on the album cover.”
The album also features a piece by a composer whom MG3 always goes back to, in this case the love theme from the film Cinema Paradiso.
“Ennio Morricone is our mentor. In 16 years, we have never performed once without playing his music,” said Morin, adding the North Okanagan community concert will definitely feature a Morricone piece. “We’re proud of that man, and we hope to meet him one day.”
That day could be soon as MG3 is also touring the U.S. (where Morricone is currently touring) with their oft. collaborator/touring partners, the California Guitar Trio.
“We started paying together over five years ago. We think it’s good and we have been impressed with the reaction of the audience... They seem to want more,” said Morin. “Having seven on tour, with the sound engineer, is a great way to share the experience. We also influence each other a lot. Having a sextet keeps you alive, you don’t get bored. And if it ain’t broke, why fix it.”
The Montréal Guitar Trio performs the last concert of the NOCCA’s 60th anniversary season at the Vernon Performing Arts Centre Friday, April 25 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $35/adult and $17.50/student at the Ticket Seller, 250-549-7469, www.ticketseller.ca.