“For this muso, second string is first class” – Canberra Times

This article by Ron Cerabona appeared in the Canberra Times on 19 December 2008.

Canberra guitarist Harold Gretton finished off a distinguished year of competitions with a creditable second place in the Tokyo International Guitar Competition last weekend. One of six finalists from around the world, he came second to Andras Csaki, of Hungary. “Any of the six could’ve been winners: it depends on the taste of the judges on the day,” he said. Gretton played the set piece, Mutsuo Shishido’s Prelude and Toccata and then a program of his own choice, featuring Bach’s Prelude BWV 998, Napoleon Coste’s Concert Rondo, and Antonio Jose’s Sonata in Four Movements. He performed on an Australian instrument made by Greg Smallman.

As well as a trophy, he received a cash prize of 100,000 yen ($A1600) and a handmade Nobe classical guitar. Gretton, 24, is completing a doctorate in guitar at the Australian National University School of Music. His particular area of research is early 19th century guitar music. He and fellow Canberra guitarist John Couch were selected this year to go to Japan after their first-round auditions. Last year’s winner in Tokyo, Minh Le Hoang, was also from Canberra.  Both he and Gretton, along with ANU’s head of guitar studies, Tim Kain, are members of the ensemble Guitar Trek.

Earlier this year, Gretton won first prize in the Sernancelhe International Guitar Competition in Portugal, the Transylvania International Guitar Competition and the Ciudad de Coria International Guitar Festival. He said that when he completed his doctorate next year he intended to go to Europe to perform and study for a year. “I’d like to come back to Canberra, but on the other hand, I’ll go where the opportunities are,” he said. “Ultimately I’m interested in teaching and performing.” Gretton began studying guitar at the age of seven. “Originally I wanted drums but my parents thought they were too noisy and suggested guitar as a compromise. I expected it to be electric guitar but it ended up being classical.” Not that he minded. “The good thing about classical guitar is you get to perform such a wide array of music, from very recent to Renaissance stuff.”

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