Guitar weekend in Benslow 13-15 October 2023

UK guitarists! It’s here again…

Tired of practising on your own? Looking to improve your musical skills?

Join us in a guitar ensemble with a friendly group of like minded people in lovely surroundings!

More or less expertly held together by Gerald Garcia !

This year’s music will include:

Piazzolla: Muerte del Angel
Adios Nonino

Bach/Garcia: Prelude in B minor

Gerald Garcia: Spanish Ladies

Tchaikovsky arr.Alilović: Waltz of the Flowers

and more(?) to follow

You will receive music in advance, and there will be a performance on the Sunday followed by tea…

Full board and lodging is provided on site.

For info and booking, email:

Weekend Programme

The guitar ensemble rehearsal/tuition programme is determined by its director, but typically consists of sessions:

• After dinner on the Friday

• Saturday morning

• After tea on Saturday

• After dinner on Saturday

• Sunday morning

The period between lunch and tea on Saturday is free – you can explore the grounds, go into town, practise, play with other guitarists or singers or just rest.


On Saturday evening there will be an informal concert at which both singers and guitarists who wish to perform to the others may do so.

We aim to make no profit from these weekends so our prices for accommodation reflect the tariff of the venue. The prices for accommodation including all meals, tea and coffee will be updated soon.

Participant in a single room

Participant sharing a double or twin room

Non-participant sharing a double room

This is a special rate for a spouse or partner to accompany a guitarist or singer.

These rates do not include tuition/direction. Each guitarist is expected to pay Gerald

Bookings are to be accompanied by a deposit of at least £50 per person. This represents a commitment to pay the rest a few weeks before the weekend. If we do not accept your booking or do not provide the accommodation, then we shall return whatever you have paid.


Special requirements

If you have any special preferences for food or accommodation, then let us know when you book, and we shall do our best to satisfy them. There are some rooms suitable for people with limited mobility and the venue’s catering team will do their best to provide dishes to meet guests’ special requests if notified in advance.

(The small print here is that while we endeavour to meet special requirements, if these arise from medical conditions then we do not want to know about that and take no medical responsibility. Data protection regulations, we believe, permit us to hold the information that we need about you, but not about your health.


A tribute to Arne Brattland who died in February 2021. This was inspired by Arne’s wife’s moving performance of his “Lullaby” on Facebook. It is this Lullaby that ends the piece.

Here is David Russell’s deeply felt performance just a few days after he received the score!

Get the score here


David Russell has this to say:

“We are very sad to hear that our friend, guitarist John Holmquist, has passed away. Our heart goes out to his wife and family. Here I am playing this beautiful Tombeau that Gerald Garcia wrote in his memory.”

“Nos entristece saber que nuestro amigo, el guitarrista John Holmquist, nos ha dejado. Nuestro cariño para su mujer e hijos. Aquí toco este precioso Tombeau que Gerald Garcia escribió en su memoria.”

Get the score here

Here is another interpretation by the guitarist and film maker, Christian Fergo

Changsha Festival 2020

I’ve been fortunate enough to have been invited 3 years in a row and the dates and registration details for the 2020 festival are here. Owing to the pandemic, some of the festival will be held online.

There’s also an article below about past festivals by the estimable Steve Mann and links to various performances and media.

Registration start date:Sept. 30, 2020

Preliminary round video submission deadline: Nov. 15, 2020

Notification of finalists : Nov. 30, 2020

Open group final round video submission deadline: Dec. 17, 2020

Youth group final round video submission deadline: Dec. 10, 2020

Children group A & B final round video submission deadline: Dec. 10, 2020

Price of registration is $10. 

More information can be found on the official website: 

Article by Steve Mann

Changsha Guitar Festival: what is it and what does it mean?

At first this seems like an easy question: various guitar competitions with national and international guests giving concerts, lectures and master classes for the duration of about a week in the city of Changsha, southern China.

On a certain level this is true, but the more I think about it the more I realize it is so much more and that it means very different things to different people.

To start with something that I know a bit about, I can say what the festival means to me. I first went to Changsha in 2015 to help write articles on the event.

I was impressed with the atmosphere, which felt like a cross between a symposium, a set of music concerts, a party and a ‘Chinese style fun for all the family’ competition.

There were many fascinating and well known guests there that year, but I was somewhat in awe of one of them in particular – Roland Dyens.

With Roland being fresh off the plane, and looking quite grumpy, I didn’t quite know how to approach him to ask him questions for the articles I was writing. When I saw him in the breakfast the next day he was working on his laptop and so I sat with some of the other guests. He then came over and showed us what he had been ‘working on’. One of his friends had copied a picture of him having just got off the airplane in Changsha and pasted it next to a scruffy fugitive off some international wanted list! We all laughed hysterically. (In all honesty there was quite a bit of similarity between the two photos). At that point I realized that he was a wonderful talented human being, but with his own unique skills, quirks and charm. In many ways Changsha guitar festival is like this for me; it is a place where these great artists that we hold in high esteem can meet and be part of a grassroots development of the guitar in fun friendly way, with its own unique characteristics.

Festival organisers and friends

Over the years, I have got to know the organizers, helpers and regular attendees at the festival and I am aware of the massive investment of time, money and energy that goes in to this event.

For them the meaning of the Changsha Guitar Festival is probably something much more personal with the main organizers Mr Li and Xuefei Yang working around the clock to make the festival each year better than the last. The logistics and organizational skills required for arranging such an event are vast, with guests, competitors and sponsors all needing to be taken care of. Both organizers put a lot of skin in the game and they always go the extra mile, with Mr. Li’s team doing anything they can to make people welcome, such as helping one of the international competitors to find an artificial nail at 10 o’clock at night.

(Xuefei Video: A Moonlit Evening on the Spring River for Classical Guitar and Chinese Flute)

As for the competitors and guests (Gerald has visited three times), they all have their own individual reasons for visiting. Although I do not know these reasons, I see people leaving the festival with faces that show they have had a wonderful time there.

Interview with guests: Johan Smith and Lazhar Cherouana

Regarding the 2020 Changsha Guitar Festival, due to the pandemic situation it will be held later this year with a part held at the Changsha venue and a significant part held online.

The details have finally been fixed but please feel free to check in with the festival website given below.

Vsit here for the official Changsha Guitar Festival Website:

More videos can be found on the official YouTube channel:

Here are some happy moments from past years

Berta Rojas and Xue Fei Yang
Kenneth Kwan, Ben Verdery, Xue Fei, Mark Eden, Ekachai Jearakul
Xue Fei, Paolo Pugliese, Clive Carroll
Damon Smallman and Ingrid Riollot
Raphael Feuillatre and Jihyung Park
The team of helpers
Mr.Li with young players

Gilbert Biberian’s “Haiku” played by Alison Bendy

A new video of Gilbert Biberian’s “Haiku” played by its dedicatee, Alison Bendy.

When Alison Bendy asked me to record Gilbert Biberian’s six “Haiku”,
I jumped at the chance – here it is, two days later.

The pieces were dedicated to Alison on her birthday in March 1982 and are based on haiku by Basho, Busan and Moritake, masters of the genre.

These miniatures are similarly, masterpieces of the genre and well worth a look if you are a guitarist.

Elegy for Julian

David Russell is the first to give a heartfelt performance of this homage, which came to me after I heard about Julian Bream’s death on the morning of the 14th August. It was a spontaneous gesture and a tribute to one of the guitar’s greatest musicians. Thank you! I hope this piece will be a source of comfort for those who play it.

Here is another moving performance by guitarist and film maker, Christian Fergo

Here’s another performance by guitarist, composer and fine musician, Stephen Kenyon.

Oxford Guitar Ensemble weekend – THIS HAS BEEN CANCELLED because of the world situation – Sorry

Guitar Ensembles in beautiful Oxford in April!

Port Meadow

Friday 17th-Sunday 19th April –THIS HAS NOW BEEN CANCELLED

The next guitar course will include ensembles by Bach, Vivaldi and Villa Lobos (and possibly music from South Pacific!).

Participants will receive music in advance.

All participants will gain experience in ensemble playing and sight reading in a supportive, fun and friendly atmosphere.

Please contact for future courses and details.

Happy New Year

This year, I had the good fortune to bump into Christian Fergo, a very talented film maker who is also no mean guitarist.

He wanted to do an interview with me, which ended up a sprawling 30+ minutes long. Thanks for the hard work, Christian!

Here is the video he made-

and here is the complete performance of the Concerto for Four Guitars given by the Sensemaya Quartet at Iserlohn 2019

Born in Copenhagen 1980, he studied guitar with John Jacobsen, Lars Trier and Frank Bungarten and graduated from the Royal Danish Academy of Music and the Lucerne Academy of Music, both academies awarding him diplomas with distinction for his recitals and soloist performances. The Lucerne Times called him an “outstanding young soloist” and wrote about him: “Christian Fergo showed a highly sensitive musicality and very detailed technique”.

Join his YouTube channel here and visit his FaceBook page here

Let the wood speak-interview with the luthier Paul Fischer

[In the workshopWelcome

When Paul Fischer had a stroke a couple of years ago, his friends and family did not know what the outcome would be. As it happened, he recovered enough to speak and to drive again. However, it was a signal to him to ease off on the guitar making. At his peak, Paul was producing 30 or more guitars a year, and he had been doing this since the late 60s when we first met. This was at the workshop of David Rubio, and since then Paul has gone from strength to strength, becoming the doyen of English guitar makers, pioneering the use of alternative woods for the guitar body, and a friend of guitarists, composers, royalty and normal people alike.

After the stroke, he took to teaching guitar making, and out of this, with a student, came the idea of writing a book – “Let the Wood Speak“. This book is a story of Paul’s life told in the easy and engaging way that he talks, and I had the opportunity to ask him about it at one of the many meals we have shared over 40 years at his and Joy’s beautiful house in the Cotswold town of Chipping Norton.

Get the book here

Over the years, Paul and Joy have welcomed many people to their house, and have been generous to a fault, sharing food and ideas with fellow luthiers and musicians. He has also encouraged composers, notably Nic Hooper, Raymond Head and Bill Lovelady, and has been associated with many famous guitarists – Xue Fei Yang, John Mills, Sergio Abreu amongst others.Bill and Paul

with Bill Lovelady.
Joy Fisher with Ray Head
The late, great Rob Russell and Paul

With the late, great, Rob Russell.

In the workshop

Paul with Oren Myers

With Oren Myers