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The Dartmouth
April 14, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

The Dublin Guitar Quartet performs pieces from contemporary composers

The group performed at Dartmouth as a part of the Hopkins Center's commitment to inviting international artists to campus.

Dublin Guitar Quartet

The Dublin Guitar Quartet performed at the Church of Christ at Dartmouth College on Tuesday evening, as one of many performance events held at alternative venues during the Hopkins Center renovation. The quartet, composed of Brian Bolger, Pat Brunnock, Chien Buggle and Tomas O'Durcain, performed a 120 minute program of works from contemporary composers. 

Described as a “quartet with a difference” by the Irish Times, the group is currently touring in at least 11 cities in the U.S. The group has previously toured Columbia and North America and has performed at Wigmore Hall in London, as well as at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival.

Interestingly, very little music is written for a guitar quartet — it is up to the four members to transcribe their music themselves. Rather than stick to classical guitar pieces, the group transcribes pieces from contemporary composers, which are typically written for string ensembles. The group is also known for their use of eight- and 11-string guitars, contributing to the complexity and depth of sound the quartet is able to produce. 

Tuesday night's program consisted of works from seven different contemporary composers from various countries. The program included Piano Etudes by Phillip Glass and the piece Gongon by William Kanengiser, which aims to imitate the sound of Indonesian Gamelan players. Orawa by Wojciech Kilar, the Polish film composer of Bram Stoker's Dracula and The Pianist, was also included in the program — it is an homage to the Orawa region of northern Slovakia and southern Poland. 

Other pieces in Tuesday night's repertoire included excerpts from Bryce Dessner's Aheym, Rachel Grimes’ Book of Leaves and Gyory Ligerti's Inaktelki nóták and Mátraszentimrei Dalok. The final piece, Ninkasi, is an homage to beer. Composed by Marc Mellits, Ninkasi is the Mesopotamian goddess of beer and brewery, explained Bolger.

The performance was well attended by students, faculty, staff and other members of the Dartmouth and Hanover communities. The program was followed by a Q&A session, facilitated by Dartmouth Music Department Jazz Guitar faculty Jason Ennis. The Q&A session allowed the quartet to answer questions from the audience, who inquired about some of their early inspiration for learning the guitar — Frank Zappa and Metallica, among others — the process of choosing a repertoire, as well as transcribing the music for guitar quartet and certain techniques for clean, clear sound. 

In addition to the concert on Tuesday night, the quartet also visited classes in Dartmouth's Music Department and at the Upper Valley Music Center. The group visited Dr. Rowland Moseley’s class MUS 23: “Timbre and Form,” a class focusing on instrumental arrangement. 

Dr. Mosesly said that the class focuses mainly on arranging string and wind quartets, so the opportunity to learn about guitar arrangement — and from a professional performance quartet — offered a slightly different approach to the course.

At the concert, the Dublin Guitar Quartet also discussed the importance of their collaborative effort, calling attention to the key need to keep in time together and work as a group to produce the best sound. The quartet works to create music together through small gestures while performing — including head nods as the designated “metronome,” as well as through breathing techniques. 

Ennis described the group’s “unified sound” as “impressive,” sharing his appreciation for the strength of the group's cohesion.

“It never seemed very showy,” Ennis said. “There weren’t moments where one player stood out as being this ‘monstrous’ technician or doing anything flashy, though there was constantly high quality craft happening there. It was very much in the service of what they were going for musically.” 

The group has been playing together for nearly eight years, which has fostered a close connection between the quartet, and has allowed the guitarists to learn each other's habits and patterns as musicians. 

Asmaa Abdallah, the communications manager for the Hopkins Center, explained how the Dublin Guitar Quartet is an example of the Hop's dedication to inviting international artists to campus. 

“The main reason we invited them is because of our commitment to inviting international artists to the Hopkins Center, to kind of bring that city life and all the cultural options and artists’ projects to Dartmouth, the community and the Upper Valley,” Abdallah said. “[The Hopkins Center aims to] create that cultural hub here for people to access and to support artists like the Dublin Guitar Quartet.”

The Quartet was originally scheduled to perform at the College last year, but their performance was delayed due to the pandemic. 

Other international artists that the Hop has recently invited to campus have included Midori and Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Intimo Flamenco and the Manchester Collective, all of whom performed in the fall of 2022. 

“It's a big priority for us to have international artists and their different perspectives, artistry and techniques,” Abdallah added.