Growing up, my childhood home was fairly unmusical. There were no piano lessons, or screeching violin practices in our household. Between my sister and I, there probably wasn’t even a triangle or xylophone to be found and we may have both even failed the high school music component of learning nursery rhymes on the recorder.
In stark contrast, visits to my parents’ friends the Grigoryan’s were full of music. Their two sons – who we knew growing up as ‘Slav’ and ‘Len’ – would spend hours practicing on their instrument of choice, the guitar. Whether we were visiting their home, they were visiting ours or we were on a combined family beach vacation, live music and impromptu performances were always guaranteed.
As we all grew and family vacations and visits became less frequent, I started to get an inkling of their immense talent. I would regularly hear their names both as individuals and as a duo on T.V and radio, see their CDs for sale in stores and their names billboarding concerts.
Slava and Leonard Grigoryan are now undoubtedly Australia’s finest guitar duo; 4 time ARIA award winners, The Grigoryan Brothers are well known to audiences worldwide. Ahead of their upcoming performance at the Canberra Theatre Centre with another dynamic pair, the Beijing Guitar Duo, Leonard revealed what it was like growing up in his musical family, his relationship with his brother and details of the tour.
What was it like to grow up in the Grigoryan household surrounded by music?
Music was always a big part of my childhood. Both mum and dad are musicians so help was at hand 24 hours a day. The thing that was most valuable was that music was always being played around the house, not only classical music but also jazz, blues, rock and basically anything that my parents thought was good music.
At what age did you and Slava start playing the guitar?
I started playing the guitar when I was four years old and Slav started playing when he was seven. There’s a nine-year age gap between us so when I started playing Slav was already a very good musician. Hearing him playing around the house was what inspired me to pick up the guitar.
What is it like performing and touring with Slava?
The nine-year age gap between the two of us is actually why we think we get along so well. We were never in direct competition growing up so there was never a feeling of trying to be better than each other. The goal for me from an early age was to try and reach a high level in order to one day be able to pay with Slav. In the late nineties Slav moved to London for about four years and in that time was when I developed as a musician so as soon as he returned home we started playing and touring together.
How did the collaboration with the Beijing Guitar Duo come about?
We first collaborated with them in China as part of a South Australian delegation visit to its sister province, Shandong. The week included a number of cross-cultural collaborations between the two states. Although they are known as the Beijing Guitar Duo (because of where they studied and met), they are originally from Qingdao where we played one of our concerts together.
Meng Su and Yameng Wang are both incredibly gifted guitarists and the way they play together is incredibly inspiring for both Slav and myself. Working with them during our tour of China was musically incredibly rewarding. I’m looking forward to recapturing some of that energy on our Australian tour.
For an astounding evening of guitar virtuosity, the Grigoryan Brothers and Beijing Guitar Duo will be performing one night in The Playhouse at Canberra Theatre Centre on August the 20th. For bookings, visit the website or call the Box Office on (02) 6275 2700.