Sunday, 29 May 2016

Edinburgh fringe tickets on sale now - even before the launch of the Fringe brochure

Is this the earliest that tickets have ever been on sale for the Edinburgh fringe?

It seems so to me. I haven't even got my poster design finished yet. But this is a sneak preview.

The best link for ticket buying is direct from C Venues box office sales here

I'm getting excited at the prospect already and this year I'm heading up to the beautiful Isle of Skye for a concert straight after the Fringe finishes so if you're up there in the Highlands and Islands, come and see me on Skye. I'll post the full details nearer the time.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Adelaide Fringe: week 1...

I started my Adelaide Fringe tour in the town of Salisbury about 12 miles from Adelaide and played
The road to Auburn, Clare Valley

at the RSL, which is like our Royal British Legion. They’ve just begun being a Fringe venue. They are still getting the hang of it and were sorry that more people hadn’t come but for a Fringe audience it was actually respectable – 26 people. Lord knows how they found out about it though – there was no way to tell it was happening apart from one of the smaller posters we sent which was all alone on a very long wall behind the parked cars outside. The building is next to a railway line and a warning bell dings to close the crossing as freight trains rumble through. During my encore – I am doing Vincent Lindsay-Clark’s, Pulsar – the dinging sounded in perfect time with some notes towards the end; and were also in tune! The people in charge were really friendly and the audience was full of enthusiasm. I met some good people afterwards who stayed to chat including Charlie, a local jazz musician. Nest day, at the Migration Museum the room was full. My concert began at 6.00 pm and while it was blisteringly hot outside the air-conditioning inside made it a cool haven. We had a 10 minute comfort break at half time for people to get water outside on the terrace and then we started again. I began to notice, about halfway through Variations on Sakura, that it was becoming darker. On I went, but there was no denying it – it was getting dark. I began on the horror story that is Usher Waltz and by the time I’d finished that, I could hardly see the audience any more at all. It didn’t matter to me because the light from my iPad screen meant that for Cazaapa (which I still don't know off by heart) I could easily see the notes. My last piece I do from memory and, as  no-one  mentioned the darkness I just carried on to the end and then, as the organiser came back into the room at the end, she exclaimed: ‘Oh my goodness I forgot all about putting the lights on!’ I have a second concert there next Thursday so everyone has made notes in their calendars to remember the lights.

HATS Courthouse
On Friday night it was a great gig in Auburn. Cherie and Ivan, who run the HATS Courthouse Cultural Centre, gave us a warm welcome back along with Sound & Lighting man extraordinaire, Bob. The venue is looking great as are they. They’ve added air-conditioning and a swish new lighting rack since we came in 2014. It has a wonderful acoustic in any case and it’s a delight to play here. Thank you, also, to the appreciative audience, who’d come out on a very hot night. Such levels of heat can be disastrous and Cherie, Ivan and Bob told us some sobering stories of heroism, from when the terrible bush fire swept across the area in November, changing course as the wind swung round until it was over a hundred miles across. There was evidence of the dreadful damage it did all over the landscape as we drove through.
fire damage

It was really hot the next day - 40 degrees by the time we set out for McLaren Vale. Down there the sea breeze made it cooler and we were grateful for that as soon as we stepped out of the car. Kate and Dave who run the Singing Gallery, and Michael, who helps them, are another team who know how to run a great venue and make performers feel welcome. You might remember me mentioning the venue dog, Yanni, last time I played there and I am delighted to say that Yanni is sprightly and well despite her advancing years. This is not surprising - she is well fed and so were we, with deliciously cooked locally produced food.   During my Bach a very strange noise made me think that someone had fallen over backstage taking a stack of mops and brooms with them. I carried on playing, no-one else batted an eyelid and a few seconds later it happened again but now sounded as if several things were running about on the roof looking for a way to prise it apart and get in. I carried on playing seeing as everyone else took no notice. Michael told us later that it was possums. Darkness was falling as I started the Bach and possums wake up and begin gambolling about once it’s dark. Later on I heard one – it had an indescribably weird cry. It sounded accusing and was like someone with a sore throat trying to turn a cough into a roar.
Singing Gallery
Next day I played at Trinity Sessions, the Church has a great acoustic and is cool inside. Roger and Yvonne run it with supreme efficiency and there was a good walk up as well as respectable sales on the Fringe. The heat had brought thunder with it. A thunderclap accompanied my opening O’Carolan piece and then the storm went elsewhere. In the second half it came back and there were sundry other thunderclaps. I managed OK with concentration and the audience was clearly used to dramatic weather manifestations. And then as I began on my encore which was suitably cosmological given the eruptions outside (Vincent Lindsay-Clark’s Pulsar) the heavens opened and the mother and father of all downpours descended, shaking the roof. So there was a bit of a competition between my Pulsar and the deluge and when we went outside the car park had been turned into a lake at one end.
The Fringe Garden

Thus ended week 1 of my tour...

And now I am having three days off before starting on Week Two!

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Goodbye soggy fields!

In just over three days from now I'll be airborne and heading for the sunshine of South Australia. It's a damp and chilly time in the UK at the moment - I am glad to be escaping for a bit. I think my bones are looking forward to it too - the rain is making them go rusty. It feels like that some days. Tickets are selling well for my show on the Adelaide Fringe and I've also been invited to give a concert for one of the assisted living places out there - similar to the work I do here for Music in Hospitals and I'm looking forward to it. Those concerts are  heart-warming occasions, I find, Music  brings people alive in ways that stir their memories and arouse their nostalgia and emotion. I've had some wonderful conversations with audience members after  performing at such venues. It can be very moving.

And talking of odd venues, I did a concert in a bank two days ago. Katy, who organised it, took this picture for me, seeing as I liked their building, It's their Bridgewater branch. So thank you, Katy. It was a little bit surreal. I think Nat West are trying to tell us something. Is it: 'this is a nice bank, please come here and leave your money with us - have a cup cake and listen to this man playing classical guitar while you queue'.

I am sorry I couldn't oblige, customers who asked me if I could play something by Adele or Ed Sheerhan. But then a lady came in who asked me if I could play anything by Bach. Phew! And when I'd finished playing Prelude to Cello Suite No. 1 she said it had made her day and went off to queue up at the counter. I began playing Moonlight Serenade, thinking that perhapsAdele fans might like vintage Glen Miller. The Bach lady came zooming back utterly delighted because she happened to be a jazz singer and that was one of the favourite songs in her repertoire. So all in all it was fun. And I had cupcakes.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Xuefei Yang - fabulous concert at Turner Sims hosted by Southampton Classical Guitar Society

Photo Yongxin Chen
Another wonderful event  last night as SCGS hosted the classical guitarist Xuefei Yang at the Turner Sims. It was a terrific concert with some incredible demonstrations of Xuefei's unique guitar virtuosity. Paganini would have had to admit, I think, that she had done on the guitar (if not OUTdone) what he did with Caprice No. 24 on the violin. I liked the beautiful traditional Chinese piece that she opened the second half with and her introduction as she described the fisherman sailing his boat towards the horizon was as poetic as the music that followed. Her performance of Milonga del Angel by Piazzola was fantastic; she played three Schubert lieder transcribed for guitar that were ravishing and closed with a stunning Homage pour la tombeau de Debussy by De Falla. I'm just mentioning a few things that are standing out for me, there was much more and in between there were her engaging and interesting comments. She has a very good sense of humour. I really enjoyed myself.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Vulcan - nothing to do with guitars at all

Here I am having a pint, nothing odd there - but note the camera poised for action. I'm one of several other people and they all had cameras poised. The lady behind me only seems casually chatting - she was synchronising with someone further up the flightpath and it was her who spotted it first.

So here's my tiny film of it:

Friday, 11 September 2015

Classical Guitar in The Merchant's House Marlborough

The panelled walls and solid wooden floor of this extraordinary room made the guitar sound amazing. I was using the Carlevaro which meant I could hear the sound myself, The audience was keen to know how it was making any sound without a sound hole and it generated great interest when they realised there was a gap all around the edge. Quite a sizeable group came up in the interval to have a closer look.

It was very nice to find that there were also audience members present who  had been to see me, in past years, at the  Edinburgh Fringe.

Marlborough has a wide, spectacular, beautiful High Street and this 17th century house is  a gem, right in the middle of it.

The Merchant's House Trust is gradually restoring the whole building to its original condition, commissioning the best conservation experts and craftsmen. Several rooms are already finished and more are in the planning stage.
But look at that floor! The house is like a wooden ship inside, the floors go up and down and creak like anything but in a good way.

It was a lovely venue to play in and a privilege to contribute to the fundraising effort that is keeping the house in such fine order.

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Equipment failure at a crucial moment

Hurrying down the Grassmarket after my performance, I was on my way to get filmed for STV, when the guitar-containing bit of my guitar case fell onto the cobbles with a bang leaving me with just a handle in my hand.

Red Dog Music happens to be at the bottom of the Grassmarket so hugging my now uncarry-able case I went in there.

It's quite nice to be forced to buy something new from a music shop although I was in such a hurry I probably seemed like I'd spent the day thus far drinking black coffee.

Thank you Red Dog, for saving my sanity. I only had to carry the guitar in the hugging fashion for one more day and then I was able to pick up a lovely new replacement. This time I've gone for a Hiscox. Not that there was anything wrong with the Gator - it had seen a lot of action and safely protected my guitar to Adelaide and and Toronto and back.
And seeing as I'd been thinking that I should save my wrists and fingers I also got a sling for it and now I can carry it hands free - much better for eating chips and icecream and so on.