From left: David Sinclair, Keith Bennett, John Gilliat and Rossi Tzonkov are headlining the 21st annual Fraser Valley Acoustic Guitar Festival. Submitted photos

VIDEO: Guitar festival welcomes world renowned duos

David Sinclair, Keith Bennett, John Gilliat and Rossi Tzonkov headline Langley event

Several years ago, a North Delta high school teacher presented Don Hlus with a lofty challenge: One up yourself.

Hlus, organizer of the Fraser Valley Acoustic Guitar Festival, had just finished hosting a successful show with some top tier artists, but he knew if the festival was to continue and grow, he needed to take Philip Ayers’ words to heart.

“Phil would come by shaking his head and say, ‘That’s amazing, where do you find these guys? What are you going to do next year?’” laughed Hlus, who is also chair of the music department at Kwantlen Polytechnic University.

“He’s been retired for well over 15 years now, but I still have his voice in the back of mind saying, ‘Well, what are you going to do next year?’”

Heading into his 21st annual guitar festival next month, Hlus has, admittedly, outdone himself again, this time bringing two high profile guitar duos to Langley.

On Saturday, Feb. 17, musicians David Sinclair, Keith Bennett, John Gilliat and Rossi Tzonkov will take the stage at KPU’s Langley campus for an evening of “very eclectic” music.

As part of the festival, which is hosted by KPU, these artists will first participate in workshops with high school and university music students, before playing an intimate public performance.

“I basically have three missions. One, obviously, is for the KPU music students to have an opportunity to learn from internationally renowned players, and then also to give perspective high school students the opportunity to see what’s possible,” explained Hlus.

“And then, of course, to give people in the community an opportunity to hear world class artists in their own backyard.”

Performing together will be Sinclair and Bennett, followed by Gilliat and Tzonkov.

Sinclair is the former guitarist for k.d. lang and Sarah McLachlan, and has performed with many other big names, including Michael Buble, Daniel Powter, Bachman Turner Overdrive and Bryan Adams. He’s toured across North America and Europe and has appeared on several TV shows, including Jay Leno, David Letterman, Conan O’Brien, Saturday Night Live, the Grammy Awards show and the Juno Awards show.

Bennett is one of the top rated harmonica players in the world, and an accomplished guitarist and singer. He has performed live with Supertramp, the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, and was Harmonica Man at Vancouver Canucks games for almost 10 years.

Gilliat, a Langley native, is a Rumba Flamenco and Latin jazz player. He has toured throughout North America and Japan and represented Canada at Japan’s 2005 Expo, performed at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics and performed for former Prime Minister Jean Chretien.

Vancouver’s Tzonkov specializes in Spanish guitar, Caribbean steel drum and vocals. He’s created his own “contemporary Caribbean fusion” by blending styles from Spanish Rumbas, Nuevo Flamenco, Brazilian jazz and Calypso.

“One of the things I strive for is to introduce different things, not only to the audiences we have coming out to the feature concerts, but also to the students here at the university as well as prospective high school students,” Hlus said.

BRIDGING A GAP

Hlus began the guitar festival after a number of high school teachers complained there was a gap in local music opportunities for guitar students. They would take their jazz bands to Idaho for a music festival, their choirs to Whistler and their concert bands to Vancouver, but there was nothing for guitar.

“After about the 10th time of hearing this, I kind of thought, ‘OK, I can host something,’” Hlus said.

In the last two decades, the festival has grown from 88 students to 300, with the concert portion selling out for the last five years in a row.

“One of the biggest challenges I’ve had, for several years, is a lot of people didn’t know about the artists I was bringing in, even though they were internationally acclaimed artists,” Hlus said.

“And there was a lot of suspicion. They would think, OK, if they are internationally renowned, why are they coming to Langley? The other part was, well, if they are coming to Langley they must not be that good … or if they were in Vancouver then you wouldn’t go into Vancouver to hear them because it was too far.”

But that seldom happens anymore.

One of Hlus’ favourite stories to tell — and perhaps, the first measure of the festival’s success — involves an elderly lady who approached him during intermission one year to explain how her friends dragged her to the show.

“She said, ‘You know, my friends brought me to the festival five or six years ago, and I have to confess, I didn’t want to come. I was thinking this is going to be sort of substandard or amateurish,’” Hlus recalled.

“And then she said, ‘That’s one of the best concerts I’ve ever heard in my entire life. I’ve come every year ever since. I have no idea who you are bringing, but it’s been fabulous.’

“And she just walked away. That’s kind of why I do this. Giving people an opportunity — whether they’re high school students or university students or people in the community — to hear some great music by world class artists. That’s been very satisfying.”

Advance tickets are $25 for adults ($35 at the door) or $20 for students/ seniors ($30 at the door). Purchase online at brownpapertickets.com or at all KPU Bookstores.

The feature concert begins at 7:30 p.m. at the KPU Langley auditorium, 20901 Langley Bypass.

For more information, visit www.kpu.ca.



entertainment@langleytimes.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A reminder to students at Surrey’s Strawberry Hill Elementary to physically distance during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo: Lauren Collins)
Five Surrey schools reporting COVID-19 exposures, including another at Panorama Ridge

INTERACTIVE TABLE: Search for schools, organize by exposure dates

Surrey firefighters battle a house fire near the 70A Avenue and 126A Street intersection early Sunday morning. According to a witness, it appears that the occupants were able to get out without injury. (Shane MacKichan photos)
PHOTOS: Fire causes extensive damage to Surrey home

Occupants able to escape without injury: witness

NDP headquarters on election night, Oct. 24, 2020. (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
ELECTION 2020: Live blog from B.C. party headquarters

BC NDP projected to win majority government – but celebrations will look different this election

B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau outlines her party's climate action platform at Nanaimo's Vancouver Island Conference Centre earlier this month. (News Bulletin file photo)
Green leader Furstenau declared victor in her home riding on Vancouver Island

Cowichan Valley voters elect freshly minted party leader for her second term

John Horgan has been re-elected the MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca. (File-Black Press)
Horgan trounces challengers to be re-elected in his Vancouver Island riding

MLA has represented constituency of Langford-Juan de Fuca and its predecessors since 2005

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan celebrates projected majority NDP government, but no deadline for $1,000 deposit

Premier-elect says majority government will allow him to tackle issues across all of B.C.

FILE – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets Premier John Horgan during a press conference at the BC Transit corporate office following an announcement about new investments to improve transit for citizens in the province while in Victoria on Thursday, July 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Trudeau congratulates Horgan on NDP’s election victory in British Columbia

Final count won’t be available for three weeks due to the record number of 525,000 ballots cast by mail

Provincial Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau speaks at Provincial Green Party headquarters at the Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe in Victoria. (Arnold Lim / Black Press)
VIDEO: Furstenau leads BC Greens to win first riding outside of Vancouver Island

Sonia Furstenau became leader of BC Greens one week before snap election was called

NDP Leader John Horgan elbow bumps NDP candidate Coquitlam-Burke Mountain candidate Fin Donnelly following a seniors round table in Coquitlam, B.C., Tuesday, October 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan, NDP head for majority in B.C. election results

Record number of mail-in ballots may shift results

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Mounties looking for teen boy ‘unlawfully at large’ from Riverview psychiatric hospital

Nolan Godron left the hospital, located at 2721 Lougheed Highway in Coquitlam, without consent on Saturday

The Canadian border is pictured at the Peace Arch Canada/USA border crossing in Surrey, B.C. Friday, March 20, 2020. More than 4.6 million people have arrived in Canada since the border closed last March and fewer than one-quarter of them were ordered to quarantine while the rest were deemed “essential” and exempted from quarantining. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Majority of international travellers since March deemed ‘essential’, avoid quarantine

As of Oct. 20, 3.5 million travellers had been deemed essential, and another 1.1 million were considered non-essential

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Friday October 23, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada’s top physician says she fears the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths may increase in the coming weeks as the second wave continues to drive the death toll toward 10,000. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns severe illness likely to rise, trailing spike in COVID-19 cases

Average daily deaths from virus reached 23 over the past seven days, up from six deaths six weeks ago

Most Read