Red Maids’ Performing Arts Centre
Saturday 19th November 2022
Among the sizeable crowd that filed into the Redmaids’ Performing Arts Centre on a recent November evening, one would imagine that there was no shortage of knowledge and experience of the classical guitar. However, it’s unlikely that any had seen anything quite like the performance to which Laura Snowden treated us.
A rapidly rising figure in the six-string world, Snowden mixes tradition with daring innovation. Her programme for BCGS included some of the most renowned and challenging repertoire for our instrument, opening with none other than Sor’s Introduction and Variations on a Theme by Mozart before taking on the entirety of Villa-Lobos’ Five Preludes. These were exquisitely played, her precision and range of timbres a real treat for the audience.
She then showed her proficiency as a composer and arranger, and how freely she moves in and out of convention. It may have come as news to many present that she is a fine vocalist as well as a fantastic guitarist, and in pieces such as her own The Changing Sky she makes use of her voice as a means of accompanying the guitar-playing – it’s rare in any genre to see it done that way around! Another composition The Watering Can employs poetry and spoken word, while her arrangement of the well-known Irish song Carrickfergus begins with a beautiful vocal rendition of the opening verse before evolving into a complex and sophisticated guitar piece.
Her passion for Celtic folk music was prominent throughout the second half of the concert, and she spoke about how she had performed in this style separately to her classical work before later seeking to bring them together. Other arrangements in this style included The Parting Glass and Robert Burns’ Breton Fantasy on Ye Jacobites.
Two particularly touching inclusions were her Song for Maria, a piece written by Snowden in dedication to her younger sister, and Home, a composition inspired by the ambience of her old teacher’s house. This particular teacher was none other than the late great Julian Bream, so it is entirely fitting that his legacy continues to be honoured in the wonderful playing and compositions of his student.
Snowden has a relaxed and engaging manner on stage, and converses with the audience with genuine warmth and humour. She thanked the audience very profoundly for their reception, complimenting them on their positive energy, and even made the effort to thank several concert volunteers by first name – a touch of class which not every concert performer of her calibre might show.
The concert was superbly bookended with classical guitar staples, the first half ending with Mertz’s Tarantelle and Barrios’ Vals Op. 8 No. 4 appearing near the end of the night. All in all, it was a superb evening’s entertainment and BCGS can only thank Laura Snowden for her unique and mesmerising performance. We would also like to thank Redmaids’ for hosting, and most importantly all those who came out that night to attend. We hope to see you at future events!
Review by Ciarán Elster