The making of a classical guitarist

Aaron Aguila in concert. A full recital after his last one in Japan a year ago. Photo by Floyd Evangelista Flores.

“Lean your body forward slightly to support the guitar against your chest, for the poetry of the music should resound in your heart.” -- Andres Segovia

A look at how closely Aaron Aguila connects with classical guitar may be seen in a video of him playing a version of L’hymne a l’amour, an Edith Piaf favorite arranged by Roland Dyens.

It is one beautiful piece that easily brings one down memory lane as it is popular in its Brenda Lee version as If You Love Me (Really Love Me).

But this special arrangement for classical guitar takes the cake. The sentiment remains but purified in its distinct form by the arranger. Listen how it ends with some slow but haunting plucking of the strings. It leaves you taking a long breath and taking stock of your past. Iloilo-based artist Rock Drilon was close to doing a standing ovation on his own upon hearing it on FB.

The Edith Piaf favorite is one of the attractions in the October 29 recital of Aguila at the Alliance Francoise de Manille.

In more ways than one, the recital is a form of artistic self-appraisal for the artist who is a former first prize winner of the Jakarta ASEAN Classical Guitar Festival and the National Music Competition for Young Artists.

He has taken his music to the provinces in a Bicol island called Catanduanes with colleague Sting Asistores and always, the jury’s verdict is confirmed by islanders whose diet of classical guitar music is limited to merrymaking and serenading maidens in the countryside.

Aaron Aguila by the sea after a concert. Photo by Floyd Evangelista Flores.

To be sure, his last recital was a year ago in Japan during a concert tour. Between winning competitions, teaching and lately studying for his master’s degree, he thought a recital would reflect his choice of music at this phase of his life as a performing artist.

He points out: “A recital signifies growth of a musician, not just technically but more on your state of maturity as a person. Planning a repertoire allows you to reflect on how you relate to the music. And so you choose pieces not just to impress people but to be able to convey something to your audience in the best way you can. Part of the growth is your purpose every time you perform. For me now, a recital is a very personal and intimate experience. I see it now beyond and more than just a show. I do it for the glory of God and to touch something pure and deep in my audiences.”

The October 29 program is really a mixture of old and new pieces. But piecing them together to find a unifying frame is a challenge and for him, the process is nothing but enjoyable. “Somehow I found a way to blend new pieces with my standard pieces close to my heart. It takes a good process to present them together in one concert setting. It is a good blend of the old and the new in your creative process,” he said.

He is sure a piece like Piazzolla’s tango called Invierno Porteno will easily appeal to followers of classical guitar.

Aaron Aguila's October 29 concert poster.

Aguila remains optimistic about the future of classical guitar especially in the onset of the social media. “In the past, you have to buy recordings to get in touch with the masters of classical guitar. With social media, they are just YouTube away. You can actually befriend some of them. But watching videos of masterclasses is another bonus. I just saw Sting (Asistores) playing something in the masterclass of Judicael Perroy. I am happy to say that colleagues in this calling are actually doing very well. Yes, technology has hastened appreciation for classical guitar. We just need to use it to our advantage.”

Yes, he sees a good future for classical guitar in this country. “One distinct development is the growing number of participants in the category B of the National Music Competition for Young Artists. They bode well for the future of this instrument.”

For his October 29 recital, Aguila is using an Andrea Tacchi guitar lent by Guitar Galleria. “It projects very well and it has balanced tones. I am dreaming of having one in the future.”

(Aaron Aguila’s October 29 program includes Bach’s Prelude, Fugue, Allegro BWV 998, Ponce’s Sonatina Meridional, Piazzolla’s Invierno Porteno, De Falla’s Danza Del Molinero and L’hymne a l’amour Edith Piaf as arranged by Roland Dyens. Alliance Francaise de Manille is located at 209 Nicanor Garcia Street, Bel-Air II, Makati City. For tickets, call (02) 895 7585.)

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