We asked British musician Helen Walker to fill us in a bit on this piece and her career.
I wrote Five Divertissements for Guitar at the invitation of Paul Fowles of the Manchester Guitar Circle. His encouragement and advice, alongside that of classical guitarist Jon Gjylaci, who premiered the work at the Bolton School Arts Centre, Bolton, England, on June 17, 2015, led me to gratefully dedicate it them.
The work was my introduction to composing for solo classical guitar and was primarily inspired by my love of the instrument. However, not having actually owned a classical guitar for 40-plus years, I purchased a neglected secondhand, 3/4–sized instrument that I restored and used to write the pieces on when I came to compose the Divertissements. The guitar has a lovely tone and it was ideal for me to refer to during the process. It cost $10, then I renovated it and it’s now it’s probably worth $11!
I wanted the pieces, although miniature, to be complete journeys in their own right, as well as parts of the whole. They were written to be accessible to students of the guitar and to be an enjoyable experience for the player as much as for the audience.
After the pieces were complete, I asked Paul Fowles and Jon Gjylaci to run their eyes over them for anything that may be unplayable, and then Jon added his fingerings during the rehearsal period leading up to the premiere. I originally met Jon through my husband Mike, who sometimes plays percussion with him in concert. Mike also plays on a couple of tracks—Asturias and Danza Brasilera—on Jon’s latest CD release, Edges of Thought. Jon and Mike opened for Xuefei Yang at the Manchester Guitar Circle’s 70th anniversary concert.
Though they are the first pieces that I’ve written for classical guitar, I’ve been a composer and songwriter for over 30 years. I’ve composed, across genres, for concert, film, television, record releases, ballet, and the stage. I had a few guitar lessons when I was very young, but the instruments I play professionally are piano, organ, and other keyboards. In the songs I write and record with my husband Mike, as the Nearlys, I play electric guitar and bass on some of the tracks, but I wouldn’t dare describe myself as a guitarist—I dabble!
Still, I hope to write more pieces for classical guitar in the near future—maybe longer works—and also collaborate with Jon again.