Strumming all the way from Paris
Classical guitarist Simon Schembri will be performing during the Malta Arts Festival together with the Parisii Quartet. He tells Alexander Vella Gregory that, despite living most of his time in France, he still considers himself a child of Malta.
Simon Schembri is nowadays synonymous with the classical guitar. His performances have won him acclaim the world over and he is renowned for his meticulous playing.
Even though he has lived in France for most of his adult life, he still considers himself a “child of Malta”.
Schembri started playing the guitar at the tender age of six; the choice of instrument came naturally to him. By the time he was in his teens he found himself in the Conservatoire Nationale Superiéur de Musique in Paris. It was there that he studied with Alexandre Lagoya, one of the foremost guitarists of his generation. It was him who encouraged Simon to stay in France even after finishing his studies.
Even though he has not lived in Malta for many years, he has been returning regularly as a performer, and he is back again this summer for the Arts Festival.
He will be joining forces with the Parisii Quartet for an eclectic programme in the courtyard of the Auberge de Castille.
The programme promises to be a showcase of music for string quartet and guitar alike, with a lot of different styles represented.
Given the guitar’s notorious reputation for being a very ‘weak’ instrument, I wonder whether he has any misgivings about the venue.
“Lagoya’s school specialises in the projection of tone and I have learnt from him that a strong projection on the guitar is possible with the right technique. I always play for ‘the last row’, so to speak. I also avoid amplification as much as I can, although some of the larger spaces might require it.”
Surprisingly, he is a keen jazz lover, a style that is very free and fluid. However, despite being a big follower of jazz, he never really dabbled in the genre.
“I understood early on that classical music spoke to me more directly than jazz, and thus I chose not to pursue it.”
Whatever he pursues, he remains firmly tied to his grassroots.
“I am, and always will be, a child of Malta. It is here that I was born and raised, and I want to be part of this island’s cultural milieu.”
Simon Schembri will play with the Parisii Quartet at the Auberge de Castille Courtyard, Valletta, on Tuesday at 9 p.m. Entrance is free but tickets are required.