‘My friend Ambre came to Belarus and I also want to!’ Wow, visiting Belarus with a good intention may be contagious (in a good sense!), and it is real true words by Tom Ward, one of the most popular Australian street guitarist.
If the theory of six degrees of separation exists, then Ei JunGue, undoubtedly, is the 5th person that connected the first one to the 6th.
Tom Ward was already well-known and famous among Belarusian musicians and Ei by Blue Sky Talent Company invited Tom to Minsk and gave everybody Belarusian the opportunity to see and hear this young legend of the street guitarist live, at a time when nobody thought about such a possibility.
Listening to Ei’s stories, it seems that nothing happens in his life just without a reason. Everything has its own meaning, every detail plays a life-changing part in his whole big life scenery.
After visiting Spain and southern France back in 1995, Ei fell in love with instrumental classical Spanish guitar music after meeting a man playing his guitar in a village square and bought his audio tape. There was music Ei has never heard before and he played this one audio tape of classical guitar music over and over until the magnetic tape stretched and finally snapped but by then Ei had memoriesed all the tunes that was on this amazing album of this man. He never thought that in Australia it was possible to hear someone playing the classical guitar as amazing as he had once heard in that French Bordeaux village square one sunny afternoon in winter.
While hurrying along the streets of Sydney after work in the afternoon, I heard music that stopped me in the direction I was going. I felt something hit me and I froze for a moment. Like a blind man, I used my ears to guide me towards the source of this music. First I thought it was playing on the speakers of some shop but it was too clear to be a recording. As I walked closer to this sound, there sitting in Pitt Street mall in Sydney was a cool looking young guy sitting on a chair surrounded by many people playing amazing music on his guitar.
I quickly forgot where I was going and stood hypnotized by the agile fingers and hypnotic Spanish sounds. I was really impressed. I have seen and heard many street performances but Tom was one of the best that I have seen in my life. Besides being a highly skilled classical musician, Tom Ward was also very charismatic performer. He drew quite a crowd around him. I waited until he had a break and approached to ask about him and his music. He was super friendly and we spoke about Spanish guitar music. I asked if he knew the songs I once heard in Bordeux, such as “Mi Favorita Anonimo” and “Dane Norde” Tom kindly played a few songs which I LOVED and I bought a CD from him as well as left a nice tip.
While organizing my sister’s birthday party, I remembered about Tom and invited him to perform for her and her friends. Since that party, we just got along so good, we became really good friends and he openly shared all his life with me about music in particular as well as some big party nights.
It was Tom Ward who first introduced Ambre Hammond to Ei JunGue. After Ambre visited Belarus, a lot of people were interested to visit Belarus also but Tom was the most favorite of Ei being his good friend as well as an amazing musician.
So, during Ambre’s visit we were actively posting about our charity concerts in social media. And it was like a snowball effect. I had always wanted all my best talented friends to visit me in Belarus and participate in the tours that was making such a difference. During some visits back to Sydney, I would always catch up with Tom and we discussed about Tom visiting Belarus and Tom was quite interested to visit a place he’s not heard much about and having Ambre recently visit, Tom thought it would be a great idea as well.
As well as in Ambre’s case, Tom also had a window in his schedule and was not far from Belarus – in London. All in all, Blue Sky team had 2 weeks to prepare before Tom’s arrival.
With Tom it was a bit different, because many of Belarusian musicians already knew him. Tom is very popular in social media, and in YouTube some videos with his performances have 30 mil hits, and he is a world famous street performer. A lot of Belarusian Guitarists and musicians alike knows Tom because they watch a lot of musicians on Youtube.
Blue Sky organized for Tom a tough schedule, including charity – community/social – master classes activities every day.
Having had the experience of giving charity concerts with Ambre, we found that some of the patients were not able to visit the performance in the concert hall because they were bedridden. I thought how can we bring international artists with their music to everyone so no one misses out? So, when Tom arrived, I got the idea, that after the main performance on stage, we should go from room to room with the guitar for one song and make everybody happy with Tom’s music. Tom was great to do this and it really made a lasting impression, even to those who could not attend the concert hall.
This idea was highly successful. Tom’s music was so inspirational to so many people. Again, another talented Australian visiting boarding homes for people with disabilities left lasting memories and happiness not just for the inhabitants, but also the careers, the directors and anyone near was invited to see and listen.
In the evenings, Tom Ward gathered around him vast audiences at his master classes hosted at Blue Sky Talent Factory.
Consisting of many Belarusian guitarists, all music fans were simply mesmerized not only by tantalizing sounds of his classical guitar but also by crazy charisma of the young Aussie. One evening, there was a skeptic in the audience. Tom was challenged about his classical guitar technique by someone who seemed to be an expert, but after seeing him perform live, he told Tom as well as the audience that he’s convinced. Tom is indeed a great guitarist. Previously he told that watching Tom on Youtube, he did not think that Tom was so great. but now he knows for sure.
When Tom picked up this broken guitar, listeners had no idea what to expect. But as soon as he began to play everybody got chills. He is one of those rare guitarist virtuoso’s, who can connect with audiences beyond the classical world. Tom has a great sense of style when he is playing music whether it be from the baroque through to the twentieth century…
Belarusian audience met Tom with warmth and sincere enthusiasm and it got to know that he is a kind of a busker whose career is split. Apart from busking, Tom is also a recording artist who performs numerous shows each year in concert halls, including the Sydney Opera House. On the summer street corners, the musician enjoys bringing classical guitar to an audience that might not otherwise ever hear it.
During one of his master classes he shared a very deep philosophical thought about basking and playing music on the street, as in Belarus back that time busking is not that popular, not ‘prestige’ and unskilled labor.
You never know when your busking might make a difference to someone. A busker friend of mine who performs comedy was doing his thing one night near a tall structure in Sydney often used for suicides, and the laughter of his audience induced a woman to climb down from the structure to see what was so funny.
She watched him every day for a month and then went up to him and said, ‘A month ago I was about to jump off this thing, but you made me laugh. And you made me laugh every day since, so now I feel good.’
During Tom’s 10 days sponsored by Blue Sky visit he gave 11 concerts including master classes and charity events. Unfortunately, the Aussie didn’t manage to have a busking performance on the streets of Minsk, but he left this chance for the next time.
Tom on the last night of his show at Blue Sky decided to leave everyone with a gift and gave away all his CDs of his album. They usually sell for $25 and it’s his main way of earning money. Everyone in the final show audience was super excited! Thanks Tom! Come back to Belarus!