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

Aubade again

Chipping Norton is a small market town on the highest point of the Cotswolds and was host to a very special guitar event last night.
The Chipping Norton Theatre in Oxfordshire celebrated its 40th anniversary by putting on a first showing of Henry Astor’s film, Aubade, followed by a short concert by one of the subjects of the film, XueFei Yang.
The other people involved were the composer, Bill Lovelady, who has written a piece for the film (the eponymous Aubade) and famous luthier and local resident of Chipping Norton, Paul Fisher, who was specially honoured in the film, showing him making his very last guitar – a beautiful and fantastic creation of lacewood with a Nomex double top. In the film, Paul spoke at length about most guitarists’ reticence to embrace new materials and the fresh approach to sound that one could achieve with an open mind, not bound by fashion or tradition.
The theatre was full and a-buzz with anticipation. All the seats had sold out within a day of tickets going on sale. The audience were wonderfully sympathetic during the showing – laughing, gasping and applauding. It was quite an event and a wonderful tribute to the three artists involved. I sat next to Paul throughout this and could tell he was delighted.

After a short interval, Fei came on and played Aubade by Bill Lovelady, Asturias by Albeniz, Spring Breeze in my arrangement, Yi Dance arranged by Fei and Carnival of Venice by Tarrega (to help us get over the rainy weather, she said).
The playing was flawless and Fei’s musicality was a given. The audience had no doubt about the musical intention of each number and we were transported to a world of beautiful sounds and near reckless bravado. A gem of a performance.

Henry Astor will bring out a DVD of the film at some point and also has plans to repeat the film showing and performance – Oxford, Edinburgh and London were mentioned. I think the format worked very well, and the personalities of all involved made this memorable experience with just the right amount of showmanship without a hint of self aggrandisement.
The work of the luthier, composer and performer was what came to the fore.  It was good to see the creative talents of the artists combining to make something which gives such a lot to the world of the guitar.
Wonderful, refreshing and very much in the spirit of Paul Fisher. As Fei remarked, “The guitar is like Paul” – straightforward, slightly restrained, but with a wonderful depth.

In attendance at the reception beforehand were John Mills, Cobie Smit, Amanda Cook, Adrian Azuelo, Oren Myers and many of Paul’s local friends. There was a small exhibition selected from Paul’s 1400 plus guitars which he has produced during his career.
Unfortunately the guitar press was not much in evidence – they missed a unique event in our microcosmic world.
It was a great celebration and good fun too! I was honoured to be part of the celebration.

Here are some photos of the event (after the break…)
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Bill and Fei
Put together a world class guitarist, a renowned composer and a famous luthier, mix together with a pinch of local colour and you will probably get something like this short film by Henry Astor.
It pools the talents of Xuefei Yang, Bill Lovelady and Paul Fisher.
Centred on the Cotswolds where both Paul and Bill live and work, the film charts the creation of a guitar (made from rare and beautiful lacewood) and the writing of a solo guitar piece (Aubade).
Fei is the common factor as she discovers Paul’s instrument and explores Bill’s piece as he writes it.
Appropriately the film gets its premiere in Paul Fisher’s home town of Chipping Norton, in the glorious theatre on February 12th, followed by a live recital by Fei. It is all a very local affair, but with international stars.
Here is the blurb:

Aubade is a documentary film following three contemporary talents in the classical guitar world as they unite on a creative journey. From legendary luthier Paul Fischer, who lives in Chipping Norton, to prolific and accomplished composer William Lovelady and guitar virtuoso Xuefei Yang, the film captures the art and dedication required to build a classical guitar and to compose and perform at the highest levels. As part of the evening, Xuefei Yang will perform music from the film as well as from her new album.
The first half of the evening will be the film screening. The second will be Xuefei Yang playing.

Here is the trailer

For those of you who missed this, it will probably be aired on Sky Arts later this year. There will also be a DVD available.
Oh, and the recorded music is by John Taylor, so quite a gifted production then!