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…)