Stratford Summer Music show featuring 100 guitarists rocks Allman Arena Sunday

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What’s the best way to describe 100 guitars performing together in a hockey rink?

“Unique is an overused adjective, but I’m going to use it,” composer and conductor Tim Brady said Friday.

The unique show is coming to Stratford’s William Allman Memorial Arena Sunday. The 15-minute performance, part of the Stratford Summer Music lineup, will take place four times that afternoon.

Summer Music artistic producer John Miller used the same word to describe the demonstration about six weeks ago.

“It’s absolutely unique to hear 100 electric guitars all playing together and conducted by Tim,” he said.

The group is comprised of mostly amateur guitarists – weekend warriors, Brady termed them – from Stratford and the surrounding area. There’s a wide range of age and talent levels.

“Some people you can tell are basically professional-musician level, I’ve had a couple of 12-year-old kids and a couple of people who are, I don’t know, insurance sales people or something during the day and they just love guitar,” he said.

In the past he’s noticed the more experienced players tend to raise the level of the raw participants. Local guitar teacher Eric Mahar is also co-ordinating the event. He’s been busy instructing smaller groups over the last few weeks.

“He’s done an exceptional job in preparing the guitarists,” Brady said.

The piece, called 100 Very Good Reasons Why, was written by Brady three years ago. It made its debut in Montreal, Brady’s hometown, in 2015.

“I had a great time putting it together, the guitarists had a great time playing it, the audience really liked it,” said Brady, who picked up the guitar at age 11 due his affinity for The Beatles.

Another unique aspect of the show is the spatial element. The musicians are divided into four groups and placed in different corners of a large venue such as a shopping mall or, as they will be on Sunday, a hockey arena. The result is different than a traditional concert experience as the music moves throughout the space.

“The movement of the music becomes part of the beauty of the whole project,” he said.

Footage of a previous performance is available below and at, although he noted the sound movement is not captured.

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Viewers can – and are encouraged to – walk amongst the musicians while they’re playing. Standing in the large open space between the four sections provides the best sense of the sound’s movement, he said.

“You also get the really full intensity of all 100 guitars,” said Brady, who’s been trying to broaden the vision of the electric guitar through operas, concertos, chamber and solo music over the last two-plus decades.

But spectators can sit in the arena’s bleachers if they prefer. In the past, Brady’s noticed people stay for multiple performances – he called it a guitar orchestra – in order to take it in from different perspectives.

“That sense of movement and interaction is really what the piece is about,” he said. “And also just 100 guitars is a very special sound.”

There are two large practice sessions set for Saturday and a Sunday morning rehearsal. Performances begin at 1 p.m., 1:30 p.m., 2 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Admission is pay-what-you-can at the door. There’s also a Perth pop-up market outside the arena that day.

This is Brady’s first foray into Stratford Summer Music, although he’s known Miller for about 30 years.

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