SES­SION SHENANI­GANS

Preis­ner, Poland and er... Per­sonal Growth This month our hero finds him­self in Cra­cow on a scary ses­sion in an un­fin­ished con­cert hall; the leader sacks half the orches­tra but Mitch makes the cut...

Guitar Techniques - - Q&a - Mitch Dal­ton’s

FOR THOSE OF YOU who have never vis­ited Cra­cow, Poland’s un­of­fi­cial cul­tural and artis­tic cap­i­tal (with due re­spect to War­saw), the city is a stun­ning ar­chi­tec­tural master­piece and a des­ig­nated UNESCO World Her­itage Site. For var­i­ous rea­sons, both The Nazis and the ‘lib­er­at­ing’ Rus­sian army de­cided to leave the place in­tact. It has a long his­tory and its re­cent tragic past is in ev­i­dence pretty much in which­ever di­rec­tion one cares to walk.

The pur­pose of my visit was to par­tic­i­pate in the in­au­gu­ral con­certs to mark the open­ing of the su­perb new Cra­cow con­cert hall and ICE con­ven­tion com­plex. The mu­sic had been com­mis­sioned es­pe­cially for the event and con­sisted of about 90 min­utes of new ma­te­rial writ­ten by Zbigniew Preis­ner for orches­tra, choir and soloists - cello, elec­tric cello, key­boards, per­cus­sion, solo voice and er.... Span­ish gui­tar. That is some con­sid­er­able un­der­tak­ing but Preis­ner is some com­poser - you could do a lot worse with your time than check­ing out his web­site.

As th­ese events go, it was a pretty big deal. The first con­cert was packed with an in­vited au­di­ence of Poland’s Great and Good while the sec­ond show sold out in hours. The event was recorded for TV broad­cast and video use. And, as is of­ten the way with th­ese mas­sive gigs, it’s a stress­ful business for all con­cerned.

The mu­si­cal forces were huge. The stag­ing was elab­o­rate. The light­ing was spec­tac­u­lar. The sound mix was com­plex. Oh... and the fu­tur­is­tic 2000-seat con­cert hall turned out not to be an avant garde work of art as I had first as­sumed. They hadn’t fin­ished it! Which made for an al­ter­na­tive re­hearsal ex­pe­ri­ence. Per­son­ally, I thought that the blend of feed­back, drilling, ham­mer­ing and bang­ing blended well with a min­i­mal­ist or­ches­tral mix. How­ever, Preis­ner didn’t quite see it that way. He had sacked most

I thought the blend of drilling, ham­mer­ing and bang­ing blended well with the min­i­mal­ist mix.

of the orches­tra a cou­ple of days be­fore. Fair enough. The re­place­ment band could ac­tu­ally play. Very well in­deed.

As I men­tioned, it’s in­evitably a tense business at th­ese events. No mat­ter. I had my own prac­ti­cal ar­range­ments to make. I had been asked to bring two in­stru­ments, for which two sep­a­rate seats had been pur­chased on the plane, both in the name of Mr Gui­tar. To make the game more en­ter­tain­ing, the out­bound flight had been routed from Heathrow to Cra­cow via a change at War­saw, while the re­turn leg for my­self and The Fab­u­lous Gui­tar Twins in­volved a di­rect flight from Cra­cow. Back to Gatwick. Ho hum.

My first ex­ec­u­tive decision was to per­form the pieces that fea­tured me with but one in­stru­ment, the Takamine ny­lon-string elec­tro that is per­fect for th­ese oc­ca­sions. My next task was to lo­cate the hired AER acous­tic am­pli­fier and gui­tar stands that had been re­quested. Imag­ine my to­tal lack of sur­prise upon dis­cov­er­ing that they were nowhere to be seen and that no one knew any­thing about them. Luck­ily they ar­rived after a cou­ple of hours.

By the end of the first day’s re­hearsal I had or­gan­ised my mod­est con­tri­bu­tion to the pro­ceed­ings. The Takamine sig­nal was split so that a DI box fed the sound to the mix­ing board while I mon­i­tored my stage sound us­ing the acous­tic amp. I used my own head­phones in or­der to follow the click track and the solo voice. And I lis­tened to the orches­tra and choir acous­ti­cally while fol­low­ing Preis­ner’s con­duct­ing.

The fol­low­ing day con­sisted of a full Dress Re­hearsal, cam­era run and then the show. It all seemed to go off very well. Even I was rel­a­tively pleased with my ef­forts. Mr P in­vited me to din­ner at his apart­ment on the first evening. He threw an after show party for us at a de­light­ful restau­rant on the last night. I was well paid. And fed. And ac­com­mo­dated. What’s not to like?

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