Tommy Emmanuel

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Worldwide there is no other instrument more recognisable, even just by it’s silhouette, than the guitar.

The guitar’s popularity across the globe stems from its versatility in regards to sounds, genre and culture. For some players, like Peter Northcote, it even has a spiritual connection that is unrivalled.

“The guitar is connected to you, it’s an appendage, it’s a very personal thing. A piano is ‘out there’ away from, so is a drum kit, whereas the guitar resonates with you physically and spiritually.”

Beginning today Sydney will be overrun by both masters of the instrument alongside casual players as they come together for Sydney’s premier guitar event celebrating the diverse instrument’s rich history and exciting future.

For guitar maestro Peter Northcote the Sydney Guitar Festival is so important simply because, “there are so many fucking guitar players, there’s millions of us!”

From the viewpoint of the organisers the event is an incredible opportunity for local guitarists to witness and learn from the artists at the top of their field as they continue to push the boundaries of the instrument.

“The festival is focussed on the live show performance aspect across a wide range of genres rather than being a typical ‘trade’ show,” explained festival coordinator Adrian Leighton. “The event is quite inspiring for players who may not have seen some of these artists before, which wouldn’t be happening otherwise.”

Headlining the festival this year is one of Australia’s finest guitarists in Tommy Emmanuel, one of only five guitarists worldwide to be given the Chet Atkins ‘Certified Guitar Player’ stamp of approval.

Receiving that particular accolade from one of his heroes was a surprise for Emmanuel, but one which felt incredibly special. With this acknowledgement Emmanuel now feels a responsibility to hand down his knowledge and experience to the next generation of guitarists, something which he will be doing during the festival through both his performances and a series of special workshops.

Tommy Emmanuel’s experience harks all the way bay to his days as a baby. “When I was a baby my cot was next to the record player and from then on I was totally into music, in fact my first words were ‘turn it over’ referring to the record,” Tommy recalls. Whilst this obviously led Emmanuel to initially pick up the guitar it wasn’t easy sailing from there on, to get to where he is today has required years of dedication and hard-work.

For Emmanuel his workshops are the perfect opportunity to convey that message to a younger generation. 

“I always approach my workshops from the perspective of myself being an example of someone who makes a living playing the guitar. I can tell you how difficult it is and what it entails to get somewhere in the business.”

Originally Tommy Emmanuel was set to be reunited with his brother Phil for the Sydney Guitar Festival but sadly with the recent sudden and unexpected passing of Phil that is no longer a possibility. For Tommy though there was never any question about whether to go ahead with this show or not.

“Phil wouldn’t want me to do anything but what I’m supposed to be doing,” he said. “It’s even more important now that while I can I get out there and do what I’m supposed to. I’ll play a tribute to him and tell some stories on stage to honour him as well.”

The Sydney Guitar Festival is not just about honouring and showcasing the great Australian guitarists though, Purple Haze: The Jimi Hendrix Tribute will also shine a light on one of the international greats of the instrument.

Purple Haze: The Jimi Hendrix Tribute is a tribute concert which brings together an all-star line-up of Australia’s musical guitar greats each performing their two favourite Hendrix songs, with a couple of surprise duets.

According to Peter Northcote the Hendrix Tribute is a, “great experience because it’s 10 guitarists playing their asses off with some of the best rock music, from one of the best rock guitar players in history.”

Throughout the show the artists don’t simply recreate Hendrix’s music, “nobody is ever going to play like Hendrix,” but rather they use his music as a foundation to create their own interpretations and provide the audience with a truely unique experience.

For the guitarists on the lineup the Sydney Guitar Festival is also a rare opportunity for them to come together.

“The best thing about this show is getting to hang out with a bunch of other guitarists because usually there is only one guitarist booked on a gig. When we’re all together it’s such a laugh,” said Northcote.

Until Aug 19. Various Venues & Prices. Tickets & Info: www.sydneyguitarfestival.com.au