28 July 2023

Dr Harold Gretton is introducing Aussies to classical guitar one gig at a time

| Chris Roe
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Harold Gretton

Dr Harold Gretton enjoys introducing people to classical guitar music. Photo: Chris Roe.

Dr Harold Gretton from the Riverina Conservatorium of Music says it’s “an exciting thing” to be a classical guitarist in Australia.

“The classical guitar is just not something that people are really aware of here,” he said.

“Every time I go into an open mic event at a local cafe or gallery, people are used to singer-songwriters and solo guitarists and poets and everything. But when I get up and play something classical, there’s always someone in the audience who’s never ever heard a nylon string classical guitar plucked with fingers, and they love it!

“If I can share that joy, that’s fine by me!”

Dr Gretton has just launched a new solo album, In Flight, that has been several years in the making.

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It follows two years of creating programs for the Melbourne Guitar Festival and includes a variety of compositions, including some of his own that were inspired by local birdlife.

“I actually recorded in 2019 with a London-based technician named John Taylor whose approach is to find a beautiful acoustic and to record the reverb which occurs naturally rather than add it in a studio later, and that really appeals to me,” Dr Gretton said.

“We went into this almost 1000-year-old church outside of London, and we sat there for two and a half days and we recorded that program.

“I’m really happy now to finally bring it out with Move Records in Melbourne who have done an amazing job on the design work and just bringing it all together.”

Dr Harold Gretton has just launched a new solo album

Dr Harold Gretton has just launched a new solo album In Flight. Photo: Supplied.

Originally from Canberra, Dr Gretton learned to play at the ANU School of Music before moving overseas to further his study in Strasburg and returned to Australia after almost a decade to join the RCM where he is now the associate director.

After relocating from the crumbling CSU South Campus in February to the refurbished government building on Simmons Street, Dr Gretton said the new facility had allowed them to raise the bar.

“A building is just a building, but what I enjoy here is people’s reaction to the building. You see the kids’ eyes light up and they’re looking around and everything’s beautiful and exciting and geared towards music,” he said.

“With these performance spaces, the student recitals are now better attended than ever and we’re doing them weekly instead of fortnightly, and it’s because people want to play – people want to use these facilities.”

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Dr Gretton’s love of music, and particularly the guitar, is infectious.”

“It’s a very exciting instrument. It’s a very intimate instrument and it’s very simple,” he says.

“You’ve just got your finger, which pushes on the string and activates the soundboard and that’s it. There’s no mechanism, it’s a visceral thing and I never get bored of it.

“It’s something that draws people in and because it’s quiet, you’ve got to really listen, and then you’re rewarded when you do.”

Assai Quartet features Dr Harold Gretton, Karra Williams, Brett Thompson and Rhiannon Xeros

Assai Quartet features Dr Harold Gretton, Karra Williams, Brett Thompson and Rhiannon Xeros. Photo: Riverina Conservatorium of Music.

With In Flight finally available, Dr Gretton is already looking to release his next Riverina music project as part of the Assai Quartet.

The foursome comprises Brett Thompson on flute, Rhiannon Xeros on violin, Kara Williams on bassoon and Dr Gretton on guitar.

With a grant from Riverina Water to compose three original pieces, and support from Wagga City Council to record, the Assai Quartet hopes to release in the coming weeks.

“Everything had to be connected to place, so all of these pieces are connected to the Riverina in some way or another,” Dr Gretton said.

“It’s a really exciting project.”

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