Young Artist Interview: the Vickers Bovey Guitar Duo
Vickers Bovey Guitar Duo (Julian Vickers and Daniel Bovey) are a London based duo whose award-winning success includes a Musicians’ Company Maisie Lewis Award, RAM Club Prize, the GFA International Ensemble Competition and International Festival de Guitarra Braga Ensemble. Widely acclaimed for their exquisite, harmonious playing inspired by both the contemporary and classical worlds, the duo regularly perform across the UK and abroad and have commissioned and premiered a number of new works. Here Julian (JV) and Daniel (DB) tell the Company how they met, what inspires them and why commissioning new works means so much.
When and where did you meet?
JV: We first met ten years ago when we were both members of the National Youth Guitar Ensemble, but it wasn’t until two years later when we both joined the undergraduate course at Birmingham Conservatoire that we met properly and started playing guitar duets.
What inspires your music?
JV: We are inspired by the shared collective experience of our music, both between us and the audience but also between the two of us as an ensemble.
Describe your music in five words.
JV: Delicate, thunderous, impish, whimsical & chic.
How do you connect with an audience?
JV: We have always been drawn to programmatic music and love sharing our interpretation with an audience. Recently we have been performing pieces from Rameau’s Pièces de Clavecin which are full of motives which imitate nature and part of the fun is encouraging an audience to listen for the sounds of hens in La Poule and to hear the conversation between two birds in Le Rappel des Oiseaux.
Festival stage, concert hall, church – which type of venue do you most enjoy playing?
DB: It is hard to beat the feeling of playing in a grand concert hall when you have a great acoustic which lets the guitar sing and you feel the buzz of playing to a large audience. However, we have had some wonderful experiences for totally different reasons playing in much smaller venues, such as living rooms! The guitar is a very intimate and nuanced instrument so you could possibly say it is best heard up close. When your audience is crowded in almost up to your knees while you are playing, you feel free to play as sensitively as possible knowing that they will hear every articulation and subtlety of tone colour.
Why is commissioning new works important to you?
DB: Once we got started it’s hard to stop! Every composer we have worked with has written something completely unique; it’s inspiring for us to get to work on brand new music which has been written by such imaginative colleagues. We feel it’s important for us to have our own unique voice in the musical world and part of that is having an original programme, but also it’s a programme that includes music which was written with us in mind and which we connect with personally.
Tell us about your debut album Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji
DB: Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji is a piece written by Ryan Probert, who is an important musical colleague of the duo and a great friend. It took four years from the very start of the compositional process to the resultant recording being released. We began performing the pieces before all movements were even written and instantly found the music enchanting and beautiful. It’s a very personal work, both for the composer and for us, initially prompted by Ryan’s feeling of nostalgia about his visit to Japan in 2011. On the surface, the pieces appear to be simple and easy to play, but we found them surprisingly challenging – the sparse notes are incredibly hard to play perfectly together and capturing the beauty and poise of the music requires intense attention to detail. The piece taught us a lot about how to play intricately as a duo and it only felt right to make it our debut recording.
Any standout moments from this year?
DB: It’s hard to name any particular moments, but the best thing about this year for us as a duo is that music has literally taken us places! We have competed in Portugal, done a mini tour of the Netherlands as guest artists with Studenten Gitaar Ensemble Nederland, and within the UK, we played our first ever concerts in Cornwall and the Lake District. Very recently, we performed a new work The Best Parks in Birmingham by Michael Hughes at a concert in Birmingham. It was heartwarming to return to the city in which we formed the duo and to be playing new pieces in the place where we first discovered our passion for contemporary music.
What are your future plans?
JV: In February we will be returning to Birmingham once more to perform at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Guitar Festival, sharing the stage with David Russell, Milos Karadaglic, Xuefei Yang and the VIDA Quartet. We are continuing to champion new music for guitar duo and are delighted to be premiering two new works in Birmingham by Paul Norman and Ryan Probert. We are also extremely excited to play our first concerts in France later in the year as resident artists in Combret Musiques’ Les Balades Musicales 2019 festival and in Spain for the Festival de Guitarra Girona Costa Brava.
You can find out more about the Vickers Bovey Guitar duo at: