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The First 50 Podcast — Episode 7: Slava Grigoryan

Wednesday, 05 July 2023
40 min listen
Libby O Donovan and Slava Grigoryan

In episode 7 of The First 50, Adelaide Guitar Festival Artistic Director, Slava Grigoryan, talks about his family’s musical history, his journey to Australia and how he navigated success at a young age. 

I’ve never been much of a collector of guitars; I’ve got maybe four or five classical guitars that I have and actually use in different contexts that have a different sound. Some are better for contemporary music or others have an extra fret that I might need or something like that.  

I play a baritone guitar, which is a completely different sounding instrument that allows me to play a lot of different music. I’ve got a bunch of electric guitars that I adore and will never get rid of. I play with them and on them regularly at home. And whenever I get the chance in public as well.

— Slava Grigoryan

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Slava Grigoryan

Artistic Director, Adelaide Guitar Festival

Regarded as a ‘wizard’ of the guitar, Slava has forged a prolific reputation as a classical guitar virtuoso. Grigoryan was born in Kazakhstan and immigrated with his family to Australia in 1981. He began studying the guitar with his violinist father Edward at the age of 6. By the time he was 17 he was signed to the Sony Classical Label. His relationship with Sony Classical, ABC Classics in Australia, ECM in Germany and his own label Which Way Music has led to the release of over 30 solo and collaborative albums spanning a vast range of musical genres. 

At the age of 18, his first tour was with guitar legends Paco Pena and Leo Kottke. Since then he has travelled the world as a soloist in recitals and with orchestras in Europe, Asia and North America. Appearances with orchestras have included the London Philharmonic, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, the Halle, the Dresden Radio Orchestra, the Israel Symphony and the Hong Kong Sinfonietta. He has performed at dozens of national and international arts festivals and guitar festivals. He has won four ARIA awards for Best Classical Album and performs regularly as a soloist with all of Australia’s symphony orchestras. He has had three critically acclaimed tours with the Australian Chamber Orchestra, and internationally his performances have taken him to some of the world’s leading venues. From numerous appearances in London’s Wigmore Hall and Royal Festival Hall, to New York’s Carnegie Hall, Vienna’s Konzerthaus, and Tokyo’s Sumida Triphony Hall, Slava Grigoryan has developed a talent for bewitching his audiences. 

Collaborations have played a huge part in Grigoryan’s career, most notably the guitar duo with Leonard Grigoryan. Together they have released more than ten duo albums and appeared on many others. Their touring has seen them perform throughout Europe, America, Asia, Russia and the Middle East. From 2017 to 2019, they played to sell-out audiences in Australia, the US, the UK and Ireland as part of k.d. lang’s Ingénue Redux tour, making their debuts in iconic venues such as the Beacon Theatre in New York City, the Hammersmith Apollo in London, Birmingham’s Symphony Hall and the National Concert Hall in Dublin amongst many others. 

Grigoryan’s other collaborations in the classical sphere have been with ensembles including the Goldner, Flinders and Australian String Quartets in Australia, and the Endellion, Skampa and Chilingirian Quartets in Europe. He regularly performs with the Southern Cross Soloists and has worked extensively with pianist Michael Kieran Harvey and baritone José Carbó, and was a founding member of Saffire, the Australian guitar quartet. He has also collaborated with numerous composers and premiered many new works, significantly with composers William Lovelady, Nigel Westlake and Shaun Rigney. 

Outside the classical world Grigoryan has had long term collaborations with MGT – a guitar trio featuring jazz icons Ralph Towner and Wolfgang Muthspiel – and a duo with Austrian electric bassist Al Slavik. Alongside the Australian String Quartet he has recorded quintets by Muthspiel, Towner and Iain Grandage. With Leonard Grigoryan and with Joseph and James Tawadros he has formed Band of Brothers, performing a fusion of contemporary jazz, classical and Middle-Eastern music. For the last six years his duo with cellist (and wife) Sharon Grigoryan has become another productive and meaningful collaboration in a full musical life. Since 2010, Grigoryan has been the Artistic Director of the Adelaide Guitar Festival. 

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Libby O'Donovan

Host, The First 50 podcast

Libby O'Donovan is a powerful and sassy performer (Sydney Morning Herald), renowned for her nuanced interpretations and extraordinary voice. She is a critically acclaimed jazz and cabaret performer and an award-winning Musical Director. Libby has entertained audiences the world-over with her unique talents, performing in New York, Tokyo and Toronto as well as Australia-wide. Equally at home in small ensemble acts as well as solo performances, she has been a proud member of ARIA nominated Cocos Lunch, Flat on Your Bacharach, and Women With Standards, for which she won a Green Room Award for Musical Direction. 

Highly regarded as a solo artist, Libby has performed seasons for the Adelaide Festival of Arts, Edinburgh Fringe, Sydney Spring Festival, Perth International Arts Festival, the International Jazz Educators Convention, Adelaide Cabaret Festival (including working with Broadway composers Jason Robert-Brown and Andrew Lippa), Melbourne Fringe, Adelaide Fringe, Feast Festival, and the Wangaratta Jazz Festival. 

Her theatre credits include Matthew Robinsons Metro Street, Doppio Parallelos DJ Squat, Contaminations Lab and The Last Child, Vitalstatistixs Way Dead Cool and Patch Theatre Companys Sharon Keep Ya Hair On! Libbys recent body of work in Cabaret includes The Story of Meredith Crocksley, Some of My Best Friends Are Single, Gady La La: Songs for the Sophisticated Fag Hag, Kate Leigh: The Worst Woman, UNSUNG and The Cowgirl and The Showgirl. 

As a recording artist she has featured on numerous Jazz and Cabaret albums, as well as her critically acclaimed self-penned albums The Complication, Home to You and Back to Broken Hill

Libby is also highly in demand as a composer, arranger and musical director. 

Libby was the recipient of Adelaide Cabaret Festival's Icon Award in 2022. 

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About The First 50 Podcast

Hosted by the powerful and sassy Libby O'Donovan, The First 50 podcast series will provide 12 snapshot moments that cover the Centre's 50-year history. Hear stories, anecdotes and memories by those who have had their lives touched by the theatre: performers, artistic directors, ushers, and Walk of Fame-ers. 

The 12 episodes within the series will be published monthly across 2023. Be sure to follow for monthly drops. 

Adelaide Guitar Festival

Join us from 1-16 July '23 for a world-class celebration of the guitar.

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