As a break from their regular circuit of Hong Kong restaurants, Australian youth guitarists Saxon and Jarvis Whittaker performed a set at an annual guitar convention in Nashville, Tennesse over their school summer holidays, all the while hanging out with guitarist greats— who were equally impressed with their talent as the rest of us in DB.
It all started in May of this year, when eminent Australian guitarist Tommy Emmanuel came to Hong Kong to play a concert. The boys, in tribute to Tommy’s late brother Phillip, a famous guitarist in his own right, sent a video to Tommy of them playing a very important piece of music to the Emmanuel brothers. Saxon explains that the piece was “a re-arrangement of Mozart’s ‘Rondo Alla Turca’ that the Emmanuel brothers had put together themselves. This means they took the music that you would play on the piano and re-wrote it so it could be played by two guitars.”
Next thing the boys knew, they were invited by Tommy to meet him backstage before his show. According to their mother Gillian, they “hung out, and played a few tunes for him,” including the Rondo again, and Tommy gave them tips on their playing. “During the conversation,” says Gillian, “the boys told Tommy they would be in the USA over the summer and he then said, ‘You’ve got to come to Nashville – you’ll blow people away!'”
The Nashville event the boys attended was the annual Chet Atkins Appreciation Society (CAAS) Convention. Atkins was another great guitarist who pioneered a particular strumming technique. Jarvis explains that Atkins’ technique involves “using your thumb on the bass, and then using your fingers on the melody.” All of the players that are a part of CAAS use this technique when playing. The Convention runs over four days and people travel from as Italy and Japan to attend. “It was a bit of a process to make sure the boys got to play at the convention,” mentions Gillian. “You have to be a member of CAAS to attend, so the now the boys are members.”
Over the four days, the boys attended workshops, performed at open-mic sessions, and had their own 30-minute set where they were introduced to the audience by Tommy. There, they again performed the Rondo. “After the set, people came up to us and asked us how old we were, where we were from and about our story,” says Saxon. Jarvis adds that “in Hong Kong, we usually play rock songs in restaurants that people know, but at CAAS we sang less and played more ‘finger-style pieces.'”
‘Finger-style’ is a guitar technique, as well as a sort of genre of guitar music, where the players do not use picks, and the music is arranged accordingly. It is a common style in American folk and country music.
Of the whole experience, Saxon opines that “it was really great to try out something different and we loved the response we got from it.”
The boys have updated their Instagram and Facebook accounts with pictures from the convention. Follow @saxonandjarvis and like Saxon and Jarvis Whittaker – Guitar Duo to see clips of the boys playing here in Hong Kong and at CAAS.
To watch the boys’ Nashville performance of the Rondo, a piece you may not have known the title of but definitely know the tune, have a look at this video from their Facebook page.
Photo Credit: ‘Saxon and Jarvis Whittaker – Guitar Duo’ Facebook page