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: http://guitar.org.cn/ 

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.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eaaJyc5Hy98

(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.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YmFc7xnT2UE

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cd6xBhmDxH8

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:

http://guitar.org.cn/

More videos can be found on the official YouTube channel:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC64XKw_Qs_ApWfaCeO8E0cA

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
Cheers!

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 musicweekends@btinternet.com 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.

Book
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.
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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

GGG archive – Interview with Dan Williams – cuatros, koras, learning and Warthogs in the Mist

  •  More GGG archive

Dan Williams

While out on the cliffs near West Bay last year, a voice uttered a by now familiar phrase – “Are you Gerald?”.
It was a surprise and great pleasure to see Dan Williams, whom I haven’t spoken to for around twenty years!
He happened to live and have a workshop in Bridport.

West Bay cliffs 29E77CE1-2060-4288-A1BB-020D4BF4E01C

The next day, Alison and I visited and were fascinated to see all the instruments he had been making – Venezuelan cuatros and West African Koras as well as fascinating wooden sculptures and artifacts.

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We first met when holidaying in France with his elder brother John (the guitarist!) in the 80s.

He had met Venezuelan guitarist and composerAlfonso Montes who features on John Williams’ album ‘El Diablo Suelto’ and became interested in the cuatro through that meeting.

Dan plays as well as makes his own instruments and has a background in film animation and woodwork. He learned to play from his father  Len Williams, as did his famous brother.

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Dan was about to start work in his first guitar, so I took the opportunity to ask him about his life and how it had taken so long for him to get around to making a guitar!