“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.”
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.
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.
Last year, just before Christmas, we had a shed party which was rather special. Simon Mayor and Hilary James joined me in the shed to play trios. The fourth member of the Mandolinquents, Richard Collins (banjoist and polymath) found himself playing with Joe Brown and we were reduced to a trio.
Here is an excerpt of that gig, complete with colourful clothing!
This piece is one of a set of three Chinese pieces which the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet asked me to write on hearing the news that they were to visit China in 2008.
“Spring Snow” is a traditional pipa solo (the pipa is a plucked instrument which ended up in China, having begun its journey in the Middle East) from the 14th century and is almost monothematic in structure, with an obsessive four bar riff which branches out in many directions later on in the piece.
I have turned it into a chamber work by adding several sections and elongating others as well as introducing a percussive element which is implied in the original. The work requires extensive use of pipa techniques such as tremolo, crossed string percussive effects and heavy string bending.
The first performance of this piece was dedicated to Prof Chen Zhi of Central Conservatoire, Beijing.
LAGQ have since performed it many times as part of their “World set” this season.
Bill Kanengiser has also arranged some of this on solo guitar.
Under the direction of Steve Christmas and Berkshire Maestros BYGO has established a national and indeed international reputation for excellence.
This was their Festival debut with star soloist Craig Ogden.
The BYGO played South American Dances by Ginastera and Rodriguez, Irish Folk Songs and three Gershwin Preludes. Craig’s solo pieces were by Gary Ryan, Albeniz and Tarrega and Craig and the BYGO came together to play Gerald Garcia’s Le Grazie Concerto for guitar and guitar orchestra.
This was a fine performance under the sure baton of Steve Christmas.
Craig played two pieces by Gary Ryan, including the ubiquitous “Rondo Rodeo” (probably the definitive performance!), and also “Recuerdos de la Alhambra”, “Asturias” and “Sevilla” – squarely aimed at a family audience then!
The orchestra played Gershwin, Ginastera, a duple of Irish arrangements and Le Grazie.
In all, a brilliant performance by any standard from both the soloist and the ensemble.
The video clip below is of an excerpt of their encore of the first movement of Le Grazie.
Le Grazie was originally written for string trio (2 violins and Cello) and guitar as a companion to the Vivaldi D major “lute” concerto.
It was originally performed by its dedicatee Alison Bendy with students from Wheatley Park School in 2001 and has since been a favourite at summer schools in an arrangement for solo guitar and guitar orchestra. It has been performed numerous times all over the world and was conducted by the composer in the 2nd Swedish “Guitar instead of Guns” Gala in 2002 with, amongst others Zoran Dukic, Roland Dyens and Wolfgang Lendle in the orchestra!
It is in three movements in the form of an Italian concerto and the movements are : Night Sounds (tempo di boogie woogie – homage to Fats Waller) Clear Day (homage to Vivaldi) Star Rise (homage to Michael Tippett)
Here’s another clip of NYGE at Easter in Rugby School performing Villa Lobos Bachianas Brasileiras No.5 (arr.Chris Susans) with Belinda Evans.
This will be on the programme on Saturday 17th August at the Menuhin Hall and on Sunday 18th at West Dean Open Day