As a young musician in Regina, Saskatchewan, Adrian Verdejo led an undeniably contradictory existence. By day, he studied the classical guitar; at night, he played the electric six-string with punk and metal bands. Now 32 and a Vancouver resident, he still can’t decide between nylon and steel strings—but he’s managing to integrate both into our city’s burgeoning new-music scene. Local composers and chamber ensembles have a number of options when they need an acoustic soloist, but when a score demands the electric touch, Verdejo’s increasingly who they’ll call.
Consider his performance schedule for this fall. On October 27, he’ll make his debut with the hyper-accomplished Turning Point Ensemble, albeit on banjo, playing Kurt Weill’s Little Threepenny Music at SFU Woodward’s. On November 17, playing seven-string electric with amplified violist Marcus Takizawa in his Duo Verdejo, he’ll premiere a new work from Victoria’s Wolf Edwards as part of the Redshift Music Society’s daylong Chambercon event at the Orpheum Annex. A little later in the fall he’ll join Redshift’s in-house band Negative Zed for a program of miniatures and new-music ringtones. And in the midst of all that, he’ll release his debut solo album, a nearly all-Canadian program that he’s calling Modern Hearts.
Verdejo’s work ethic is ferocious—and it might have to be, for the electric guitar remains the orphan child of the orchestral world.
This might be changing, however, or at least that’s Verdejo’s considered opinion. “It’s not a part of the traditional symphonic format, of course,” he admits on the line from his home, “but certainly there have been some interesting pieces in the last few years written for full orchestral forces with solo electric guitars, and multiple guitars as well. I recently published a work by Christian Marais for two electric guitars and orchestra; as well, there’s a great guitarist in Seattle, Michael Nicolella, who’s done a number of his own compositions for orchestra and electric guitar.
“Moreover,” he adds, “you’re finding that composers are seeing the pros and cons of both the classical guitar and the electric guitar. The obvious advantage of the electric guitar is the issue of projection—being able to step up to the projection level of brass instruments, wind instruments, and other stringed instruments. Whereas the classical guitar is traditionally used in more intimate, smaller chamber settings, the electric guitar, especially with added effects, extends the colouristic palette available to the composer.”
As of yet, there’s no word of when Verdejo will make his debut with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, but we’re willing to bet it will happen sooner than later. For now, the guitarist’s star continues to rise thanks to his ability to inject new ideas, seasoned virtuosity, and, yes, a dash of amped-up energy into the local contemporary-music scene.