Emmanuel returns to the Grand stage

Australian guitarist holds first show in Frankfort since 2009 on Tuesday

By Reba Pierce/Grand Theatre Volunteer Published:

Following a sold-out performance in 2009, Australian guitarist Tommy Emmanuel makes a much-anticipated return to the Grand Theatre stage on Tuesday evening, Sept. 25. Drs. Burch, Renshaw, Wix and Associates sponsor the show.

Currently the event is sold out but typically there are tickets returned. Check with the box office if you’re interested in coming. It is at 312 W. Main St., 352-7469, open weekdays 10-3 or via the website www.grandtheatrefrankfort.org.

Long celebrated in his native Australia, Emmanuel has become a sensation worldwide for his technical precision and charismatic showmanship. With more than 20 albums to his credit, he has performed widely in Asia and Europe. More recently his fame has spread to the U.S.

Emmanuel has perfected a guitar style known as fingerpicking, in which he uses all 10 fingers to lay down the melody as well as the rhythm. His stylistic range is vast: from country and bluegrass to pop and jazz, blues, gospel, classical and flamenco. Chet Atkins, the “father” of fingerpicking style, was an early influence, later becoming Emmanuel’s mentor and one of his biggest fans.

In 1999 Emmanuel was honored by Chet Atkins with the title “Certified Guitar Player,” a title held by only four others in the world. The pair recorded an album in 1996 titled “The Day the Finger Pickers Took over the World,” for which Emmanuel received his first Grammy nomination.

In addition to a second Grammy nomination, Emmanuel has been inducted into the Thumbpickers Hall of Fame, the only non-American so honored and in 2009 he was given Guitar Player magazine’s Guitar Legend award.

Growing up in a musical family, Emmanuel was given a guitar at the age of four and began performing when he was five. He and his nomadic family traveled throughout the country playing to support themselves. While still a teenager, he moved to Sydney and began playing in clubs and winning televised contests.

In the 1970s and ‘80s he was sought out to play on recordings for pop bands including Air Supply and Men at Work. Yet it is in solo performance where he truly shines.

Only in live performance can one appreciate the range of Emmanuel’s gifts. A passionate performer and a consummate showman, he doesn’t perform from a set playlist, preferring to let each performance evolve spontaneously.

Audience favorites such as “Classical Gas” and “Guitar Boogie” often turn up. He mixes original compositions with his interpretations of Beatles tunes and other familiar favorites. The aboriginal piece, “Initiation,” complete with guitar as percussive instrument, is otherworldly.

Emmanuel plays more than 300 dates a year. On a recent day traveling between gigs, he was asked how he manages to summon his trademark enthusiasm for each show.

“Every night, every hall, every audience is different,” Emmanuel said, “and so am I. My perception changes with each show, but I’m always hoping for magic.”

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