It was a happy coincidence that I bumped into Will McNicol in Chengdu when I was on my way to my Mum’s 96th birthday.
I was met at the airport by Will, Xu Bao and Joshua Jiao and rushed to a restaurant in an emergency food dash.
Will had been touring China with his own super charged yet gentle brand of acoustic music which he played on a new crossover guitar made by Martinez. This is a nylon strung instrument with a longer neck (the neck meets the body at the 14th fret) and a slightly shallower body. Will had just played in Chengdu the night before, following on from ten or more concerts throughout China, ably assisted by Josh.
After a wonderful lunch which culminated in the smashing of a wine glass while I was on a swing (don’t ask) we were joined by Alex Wang, CEO of Martinez. The following, slightly inebriated interview(s) discussing the future of the guitar in China, connections, Will’s music, life, the universe etc followed without further breakages .
A clip from Will’s latest recording
Will was voted Acoustic Guitarist of the Year by Guitarist Magazine in 2011.
Here is his piece “The Wakeup”.
Many thanks to Steve Greenslade and the OGS for making this such a memorable occasion!
We had a great time afterwards at the Tree Hotel in Iffley – it was a beautiful summer evening and the SGEN barely made it back int time to Oxford station to catch their train for their concert in London the next day.
I had a chance to chat to Susana, with whom I had a lot in common.
She believes that music connects us and that all cultures, ages and abilities have a common voice through this.
The Ensemble is made up of students and ex students of hers, some of whom are not professional musicians. They do not receive a grant and so feel free to play the repertoire they love.
Their enthusiasm and sense of belonging is infectious and evident in their performance.
Susana is convinced that music connects people and that playing an instrument plays an important role in the personal development of children and young people.
For more than 20 years Susana Opanski has been working as a guitar teacher at the Music School in Amersfoort. She also teaches at Muziek in de Wijk (Utrecht) Besides that she develops educational projects to bring children into contact with music.
We first met at the GB Summer school (which Gilbert Biberian and I directed many years ago) and Stephen regularly keeps cropping up at guitar festivals.
He is a member of the Tantalus Guitar Quartet who recorded my “Blue Nose Ballads” on Debut.
At GFA 2013 Louisville, he and the Tantalus Quartet gave the first performance of my piece “Spectral Dreams” for Guitar Quartet and Guitar Orchestra. Steve was instrumental in getting me over to the USA and also provided some very fine home-brewed beer.
So it was a pleasure to have him come over to the shed and also talk about his latest projects over a pint, after a rather distressing encounter with a less than sympathetic bus driver who refused to let his luggage off (it was destined for the wrong stop only half a mile away!).
Stephen has performed as soloist on notable concert series including the International Guitar Institute, Tennessee State University, Valdosta State University, and University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Following a concert at Carnegie Hall in 2010, the New York Times noted Stephen’s “unfazed” performance in a challenging program of 20th and 21st century works with the Grawemeyer Players. As recipient of the prestigious Theodore Presser Award, he recorded the complete guitar chamber works by Franz Schubert, which are available internationally in new critical editions through Chanterelle Verlag.
He enjoys a vibrant teaching career as Assistant Professor of Guitar at the University of Louisville, directing classical guitar studies and teaching music theory courses. A strong proponent for public music education, Stephen is Director of the University of Louisville’s Community Music Program where he fosters the development of diverse educational programs in music, instituting unique learning opportunities for music enthusiasts from all areas of society.
In addition to his performing and teaching engagements, Stephen is the Director of the University of Louisville Guitar Festival and Competition. Alongside this role, Stephen is President of the Louisville Guitar Society, which hosts a concert series and advocates for guitar education through outreach programs and civic initiatives. From 2007-10 Stephen worked for the Guitar Foundation of America as Development Director and Convention Manager.
Here he is playing a bit of Ponce and an extract of “Illusions” by Xi Fu Hang.
When I first met David Leisner, he was helping guitarists to get over focal dystonia. He stayed and taught at my house, and was the first person to offer real hope to many guitarists who were suddenly struck by the focal dystonia. He had been through it himself and had subjected himself to all manner of therapies before working out a way through before any permanent damage was done. He is a very patient and encouraging teacher.
David Leisner and GG
David and Marcin Dylla
Now, he is back on form as one of the most innovative guitarists around, with a beautiful sound, solid technique and unerring musicianship.
He is also an exciting composer, hence an early epithet of “Triple-Threat performer, composer and teacher” bestowed by the New York Times.
Here is a revealing interview I did with him at this year’s West Dean Summer school, where he talks about dystonia, David del Tredici and performing. Shortly after this, he went on tour in China, where it seems he was a big hit.
Here is a link to his latest CD, Facts of Life featuring music by Bach, David del Tredici, and Golijov
At Iserlohn’s annual guitarfest this summer, I had the opportunity to talk to Stephen Gossabout his busy composing schedule and the final concert of the Tetra Guitar Quartet, which he founded and has nourished over the last 26 years.
He is one of the busiest guitar composers around, but also writes for orchestra and other instruments.
I also managed to catch the last encore which the specially reconstituted Tetra Quartet played at this, their final ever performance.
A historic and triumphant, but sad occasion.
Here is the interview with Steve Goss, whom I have known since he was a young student with extremely short hair and an unflappable performing style (I remember a particularly unsubtle joke involving the Benjamin Britten Nocturnal and a condom at an early summer school of Steve Gordon’s in Prussia Cove in Cornwall. Goss carried on serenely…)
Here is the final encore – a Sevillana (!) by Elgar, with Stephen Goss, Carl Herring(flown in from Japan), Alan Neave(flown in from Glasgow) and ex-NYGE alumnus, Michael Button(flown in).
Here is an earlier incarnation of Tetra playing Goss’s wonderful compilation of Mahler tunes.