Dennis van Rooyen

Dennis van Rooyen. Photo: WinkiPoP Media

An Interview with Dennis van Rooyen


Classical Guitarist Dennis van Rooyen was a finalist in the 2018 Sydney Eisteddfod NSW Drs Orchestra Instrumental Scholarship. He spoke to Sydney Eisteddfod about the pieces he chose to perform in the Final, how his passion for the guitar has grown over time as well as why he likes to listen to Jacob Collier and Pat Metheny. 

What inspired you to start playing the guitar?

Like most kids, the opportunity and desire to pick up the guitar came mostly from my parents. Nothing too profound in my 7-year-old self I’m afraid! Over time I began to discover that ambiguous energy that music has, it's quite tangible. Why not spend your working time cultivating it? I’d say I’m the most inspired now than I ever have been before.

Can you tell us a bit about the pieces you chose to perform for the final and why you chose them?

It was a mix of styles, Rodrigo’s Invocacion et Danse is fiery and dark, and full of tension. It’s a homage to De Falla’s opera El Amor Brujo. The main theme lies beneath the surface, but never shows itself in the open until the very end! 

The Bach Prelude from BWV 998 is a lovely little piece from a larger suite. It’s known for being one of only two suites for Lute written in a major key, and it has an aura of hopefulness about it that makes you smile.

Finally the 3rd Movement from Brouwer’s sonata for guitar is an awesomely unashamed piece with a grooving beat that keeps rolling. Brouwer has a very distinct voice that draws from afro-cuban music, and this piece is all about the rhythm.

Which other performers do you most like to listen to, and why?

Broadly I love to watch performers, who behave like genuine people on stage and have clearly considered their delivery. I like Jacob Collier for his personable cleverness with music and visuals. Recently I've been listening to some Pat Metheny; his ideas about instrumentation are very imaginative.

Guitar-wise, anyone who is interested should look up Ricardo Gallen, Paco De Lucia and my teacher Vladimir Gorbach to see a range of excellent performances.

What have you learnt from your Sydney Eisteddfod experience?

Of course winning or losing isn’t everything, but wanting to get something right enough that you push your practising limits, and then reaping what you’ve sown (both good and bad), is something everybody should experience. I also learned that when it's over, it's over, and that's a good thing!

What would you say to a young musician who was thinking about entering Sydney Eisteddfod?

I would recommend that you enrol and take it seriously enough to try sacrificing the inessential things for your preparation. Though, we are just mortal and it won't last forever, so have fun! And be nice to your parents.