Declan Zapala is one hell of a talented guitarist. If you imagine that Nick Drake and Jimi Hendrix had a love-child, taught it to play classical guitar and do whatever he felt would sound great, that’s essentially the skill level of Zapala.
It’s an eclectic assortment of some of the finest and most intriguing classical guitar around: a real treat.
His show, based around the concept of the ‘multiverse’ theory, where we live in one of many different iterations of the same Universe, each only minutely different from the next, is a superb showcase of Zapala’s immense musical talent.
Performed in the suitably atmospheric and ethereal St Columba’s By the Castle, Zapala takes the audience on a journey through the different ‘multiverses’ of guitar playing. Heavily influenced by musicians such as Eric Roche and Benjamin Verdery, Zapala approaches each song with an energetic fervour. By using the guitar in less conventional ways as an integral part of the percussive side of his songs, Zapala truly mesmerises from start to finish.
Not to be outdone by his own music, Zapala builds a healthy and amusing rapport with the audience despite not coming across as the most confident of stage-men. There are interesting and often potent stories that go alongside his music, especially the history of the Magdalene Laundries in Ireland alongside his own relationship with his mother that influence his song Philomena. These add an extra layer of interest to the performance but also take away the focus on the music.
When in full flow however, Zapala’s clearly evident talent and innovation with the guitar is enthralling to watch. His performance of Prelude No.1 from the Well Tempered Clavier by J.S. Bach, arranged by Austrian guitarist Thomas Leeb sits just as easily as his more fractured, modern original Broken Rhapsody does, and that’s before he gets started on the Jimmy Page original. His original pieces are the most impressive moments from the show,
Sleeping Gently, a song inspired by his now four-year-old nephew is a complicated and intimate tune solely devised using harmonics. The aforementioned Philomena showcases his inventive percussive use of the body of the guitar alongside a beautiful melody.
However, Zapala does have a tendency to over-complicate, perhaps unsurprising considering the intricacies involved in the way he plays the guitar, but while rare it is a noticeable and unfortunate blight on an otherwise excellent performance.
On the whole, Zapala’s music will give your soul a long, loving hug that makes you feel deliriously happy while simultaneously feeling intensely nostalgic for something, somewhere. It’s an eclectic assortment of some of the finest and most intriguing classical guitar around: a real treat.