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.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

I'm on the telly - on the STV Player for a few more days...

If you missed my brief appearance, scroll through the episodes to  Monday 17 August (7.05 pm) - I'm in the same line-up as Mark Thomas and the magician Pete Firmin. I played a truncated version of the Turlough O'Carolan pieces. After we did the first take the producer asked me if I could lop 15 seconds off. So we did another take and at the end of that he zoomed over from behind the monitor and asked if I could lop another 10 seconds off. So I played it again and left out another repeat, hoping it would fit and was still making sense...!
Yes. Nervewracking but it was fun to do and the crew were fantastic. Here they are sorting me out...

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Great review in today's Scotsman!

I got an axciting tip-off last night from a friend who has an inside contact at The Scotsman that I was getting a review and that it was favourable. So I was up early this morning and here I am reading it at the crack of dawn... and for those who can't get hold of a copy of the paper, here it is:- 

Classical Guitar – Jonathan Prag
C Too (Venue 4) ****
Even in these early days of the festival, a simple show can feel so refreshing. Classical guitarist Jonathan Prag is a Fringe stalwart, and his daily lunchtime solo recital feels a bit like a cool breeze of sanity amid the Edinburgh mayhem. That's not to say Prag is unambitious: he delivers a wide-ranging programme journeying from music by 17th century blind Irish harpist, Turlough O'Carolan through to a flashy showpiece from the 1980s by Russian composer Nikita Koshkin. But it's the quiet authority with which he plays and his natural unforced musicality, that mark his show out. He gives gentle but characterful accounts of two tunes by O'Carolan and picks out voices sensitively in a rippling Bach Fugue and Allegro. His command of tone colour is impressive in Barrios's 'La Catedral', especially a beautifully fluid transition into ringing harmonics, and he ends his programme with a nicely characterful 'Suite Del Recuerdos' by Jose Luis Merlin, providing poignant perspectives on the work's shifting moods and dance rhythms, put together in memory of the Disappeared of Argentina. It’s Koshkin’s fiery, Poe-inspired ‘Usher Waltz’ that’s most impressive though, slowly fracturing and disintegrating a piquant waltz tune with all manner of grotesque effects, and drawing Prag’s most extrovert performance. Elsewhere his playing can be a bit self-effacing, even undemonstrative, but there’s no doubting his technical dexterity nor his intense focus, and he has an easy, natural way of talking to his audience. For an hour of calm thoughtfulness and yes, maybe a bit of introspection, Prag offers something quite special.

[David Kettle, The Scotsman 8 Aug. 2015]