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



In March 2014, the University of Surrey will launch the International Guitar Research Centre. The research centre aims to establish an international hub for guitar-centred research in all styles of music.

Surrey has had a strong association with the guitar since the 1960’s when Reginald Smith-Brindle was Professor. In more recent times, the Guildford Guitar Weekend has become a permanent fixture in the annual cycle of significant guitar events in the UK. The University has a large cohort of guitarist PhD students and alumni.

The research centre will work in close affiliation with various partner institutions including the IGF (International Guitar Foundation, King’s Place, London), the IGRA (International Guitar Research Archive, CSUN, Los Angeles, California) and the University of São Paulo (Brazil).

The launch will comprise a two-day event on 29th and 30th March that will include academic papers, seminars, public discussions, lecture-recitals and concerts. Guest artists will include John Williams, Xuefei Yang, The Amadeus Guitar Duo, Bridget Mermikides, Declan Zapala and Michael Partington.

Here is the programme

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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!

Free mp3 of recently discovered Britten, unheard since 1937

Roman Wall Blues  was written to be performed as part of W.H. Auden’s radio play, Hadrian’s Wall, which was aired from Newcastle on 25 November 1937. The original broadcast, like much live radio at the time, does not survive, but the script does: Continue reading