May 2011 News Update
Sunday, May 1, 2011
For a long time now I have been contemplating entering the world of the after dinner speaker, but have held back feeling ill equipped to do so. That was up until a few months back when I was put on the spot by a Mr Keith London who invited me along to a meeting of his local business association to do a little chat about my life and some of the famous and infamous people I have met along the way.
I rose to the challenge, knuckled down and spent many a long hour writing out page after page of memories, and then editing the whole thing down to a manageable 45 minutes. I decided I would obviously include some musical examples relating to the stories.
On my birthday Hilary and I visited our friends Kaz and Leigh Greenham whose birthday we share, and whilst there do a sort of dry run. I learned so much from that dry run, and it put me in good stead for my first ‘official’ speaking engagement on the 12th of April in Hinckley for a group of local businessmen and women.
I’m delighted to say it went really well judging by the encouraging comments afterwards. I now feel confident enough to move forward with this aspect of my career, and to that end plan to let the world know that they can book me as an after dinner speaker for their business function or whatever. I can’t wait.
Sue Webster from Routes Music will be handling that side of things and can be contacted on 01905 721881.
This is the second year running The Hinckley ACT has organised a Festival of Music, and the second year they are proud to welcome Rick Wakeman and Gordon Giltrap, so as you can imagine, tickets are selling fast.
The Festival will be held this year at the Sketchley Grange Hotel on Sunday the 29th May.
This years lineup features Rick Wakeman, Gordon Giltrap, Steve Hicks and Lynn Goulbourn and Isambarde, who will all be performing live to a small audience (350 approx) in one of the private function rooms of the hotel. This intimate concert forms part of a days entertainment at the hotel organised by members of the Hinckley ACT, who are this year supporting Parkinson UK. Following on from the concert, Rick Wakeman will take questions from the audience, making this an absolute must for any true fan!
For more information and to purchase tickets
CLICK HERE or phone 01455 631 609 and ask for Keith or Pam London.
Vintage GG Guitar News
Please forgive me if I keep rattling on about this guitar! Sales continue to be extraordinary, and supply is outstripping demand. Even the guitarists who work at JHS the distributors have to wait in line to get one!
For those of you who can’t wait to get hold of one of theses amazing instruments and don’t have a VINTAGE Dealer near you, I suggest that maybe a nice day out in London and a visit to Ivor Mairants shop in Rathbone Place may be an option.
My good friend and Maltese pilot David purchased one of the last two remaining 6 strings in stock during April. He is thrilled with it, and was delighted at the service he got from the staff at the shop.
The great news is that if you purchase the GG model on line via the shop, the price drops dramatically from £479 (approx) to £435 (approx). David paid the lower price for his guitar. How they do it is beyond me!
They are getting another delivery in May and another at the end of June.
Ring the shop on 0207 6361481 and see what they say.
The Way We Were
I was recently approached by an old friend, David Bracher who asked if I would write the foreword to a book of photographs that he was launching shortly. I was delighted to do so and here is my text. More information on the book can be found by clicking the icon at the bottom of the page. It will be available from Amazon shortly.
I was about 19 or 20 years old when I entered the hallowed portals of Goldsmiths’ College in South East London. It wasn’t as a student: I came in by the ‘back door’ so to speak via the college folk club.
Growing up in that part of London the college was a fascinating landmark for me. I remember my first job on leaving school at 15 as a shop boy in a sign making factory in New Cross just up the road from Goldsmiths’. I would spend an occasional lunch break sitting in a cafe frequented by the students thinking how wonderful it would be to be one of them. Oh how I longed to go to Art College and live the life of a student. Little did I know that within a few years I would pretty much become a fixture within the social life of the place, making many friends along the way and being totally accepted as one of the crowd because of the gift of music that nature had bestowed on me.
Those Goldsmiths days hold very fond memories as I was slowly making a name for myself on the London folk / blues scene. I well remember being a part of the college Arts Festival and even being featured in the local paper (I still have the clipping) and witnessing a spellbinding performance by an amazing new band called King Crimson. Another band playing at the festival was Ambrose Slade later to become Slade. Magical days indeed! A few close friendships were made during that time, and one in particular remains to this day.
David Bracher was a hip, good looking student who took me under his particular wing of friendship and would chauffeur me to various gigs and rehearsals in and around London in his lovely old Austin Seven with my guitar poking out through the roof! David had what can only be described as a passion for photography. He had a keen eye for detail and was able to capture some remarkable images of the people and places that were a part of this student world and its environment. My world at that time centred around a band called Accolade which featured the late Don Partridge and later on, after I decided to move on, the legendary Wizz Jones. A rehearsal shot of Don is captured in this book.
I feel very privileged to have been asked to share some of these memories within this remarkable book of black and white images. When one looks into the faces of these fresh faced and oftentimes beautiful students it’s hard to believe that all these years have come and gone and we are all that much older, many of us with children and possibly grandchildren of our own.
The thing is that nothing really changes. That student will always be there with that same fresh faced look that David captured all those years ago. But of course these black and white memories are only a small part of what is on show here.
Being a South East London lad I get all mist eyed when looking at views of Lewisham or New Cross. These places have pretty much changed beyond recognition over the past forty odd years.
Thank goodness there is always a person with a camera to capture that moment in time to remind us of The Way we Were.
Steeple Aston Village Hall
On the 2nd of April I played at Steeple Aston Village Hall. I have played the venue before and a pleasant venue it is indeed. What marked this evening out to be different was the manner of my performance. This evening I was using a slightly heavier plectrum. Now then, I know I’m getting into Anorak territory here BUT, using this heavier pick has for some reason moved my playing on in a significant way. Not only was my playing (by my standards) note perfect but I felt that by using a slightly firmer pick it gave my playing and my sound more strength and definition and more control.
Admittedly I still have to use my usual lighter flimsy pick for pieces like Heartsong and Lucifer’s Cage, in fact anything that requires my signature double strumming, but as far as everything else I shall from now on be exploring the world of the heavier plectrum.
I think it’s amazing that after all these years I ’m still discovering (for me) better ways to play this old hollow box with 6 strings!
Holy Trinity Church Headington Oxford April 9th
This concert was held to raise funds for the church, and was a way of saying THANKYOU to Mike Stranks for all the sterling work he has done for Ray and I over the past year or so. It has been mainly I who has benefitted from Mike’s wonderful expertise when it comes to live sound and his superb PA system.
Double Vision unfortunately don’t get the chance to perform much these days, but our talents as a duo have been put to good use within 4 Parts Guitar.
One of my favourite films of all time is Shadowlands the love story of CS Lewis and Joy Gresham. In the film the part of CS Lewis was played superbly by Anthony Hopkins and Joy by Debbie Winger. This movie is a real English production and a veritable tear jerker.
Anyway, I digress: The concert was pretty well attended, not a sell-out (disappointingly) but OK for all of that. Dare I say that Ray and I performed REALLY well on the night, and of course the sound was superb, helped I’m sure by the great Stranks and a wonderful Santos Martinez guitar that Ray is now endorsing until such times as his signature model finally reaches these shores.
I KNOW that you can’t beat a superbly built handmade English guitar played through a microphone, but this Santos Martinez is a pretty good compromise, and for me really does give more control in terms of live sound. I know this model isn’t particularly expensive, but in the hands of a master like Raymond it truly sounds wonderful and FAR more expensive than the modest retail price.
Yet another winner from JHS as far as I’m concerned!
All in all a fine evening and a goodly sum raised for this very special church. Thanks to Margaret Stranks for the photo.
On a disappointing note: I was told during the evening that CS Lewis hated music....Oh well you can’t win them all.
Tears of Joy
On Saturday the 23rd of April, my good friend, broadcaster, author and photographer Ashley Franklin took this superb photograph of Dame Ellen MacArthur after he presented her with my Shining Morn album featuring my musical dedication to this remarkable lady, Tears of Joy!
Tracy Sollis Weekend April 23rd/24th
It is pretty scary how quickly the years come round, and it only feels like yesterday that my annual Tracy Sollis charity concerts at The Fleece in Bretforton took place.
This year the weather was truly gorgeous and we managed to get a reasonable crowd for both nights, the second night being the highlight for me with a few special friends in attendance along with that wonderful guitarist Vo Fletcher sat in the audience.
Over the two night we raised upwards of £1,100 toward the charity’s funds, but in all honesty I need to do more next year to get a few more bums on seats and I have promised Sue Sollis I will do a few radio and press interviews to resurrect interest in this incredibly worthwhile charity.
Next year we plan to do just the one night on 22nd April and put the ticket price back to the usual £15 per ticket.
My special thanks go to all the friends and volunteers at the event: Sue Sollis, the lovely Debbie and Mum Ann, Mike and Sue Holton who was on merch table duty as well as filming both nights. What an amazing woman Sue Holton is! Some of her footage of the two nights is on YOUTUBE already, and you can view 'Night' below! Sue and Bob Fairclough, Steve, Keith and Fiona Meredith, she of Fiona’s Smile, Nicky and Andy.
The final thank you must go to Nigel, the landlord at the Fleece who has supported the charity during the six consecutive years that I have played there. As a special thank you to Nigel I plan to do a free concert for him sometime in the autumn as part of my touring period. Again this will be a Sunday night concert.
Next year we will pack that ancient barn to the rafters!
Fleece Inn Sat 23rd April 2011 review by Keith Meredith
The less than perpendicular medieval barn next to the Fleece Inn at Bretforton was bedecked with fairy lights and red/white pennants ( it was St. Georges day ) and was once again the atmospheric venue for this annual fundraiser for the Tracy Sollis Leukaemia Trust. Grateful thanks to landlord, Nigel, for again allowing its use.
Overlooked by Helpful Harry the Hedgehog (the Trust's mascot) a certain talented, hirsute guitarist of our acquaintance delivered a polished and well received performance. The ambience of this delightful building suited Gordon's music well.
After a brief introduction from Sue Sollis - founder of the Trust that commemorates her daughter's name - musical proceedings commenced with the bouncy Appalachian Dreaming. Under This Blue Sky was singularly appropriate for the very un-traditional bank holiday weather - although Rain in the Doorway suited the very short, sharp shower just before the off. Although it appeared unusually in the middle of the first set, the Dodo’s Dream was just about flawless.
The interval’s raffle was followed by the auction of a superb ceramic dog donated by a local artist, Rosie Lippett. It was secured by the solitary bid of £50 – a considerable bargain.
Requests and dedications were featured in the second set – and included On Camber Sands, Forever Gold, and a note perfect rendition of Echoing Green. The loop station was again utilized for a version of Night – a blast from the Visionary past.
This was a wonderfully atmospheric evening’s entertainment – and I am told that the Sunday event was even better. In all the Tracy Sollis Leukaemia Trust is better off to the tune of £1100 to help it to continue with its important and worthwhile work. A satisfying result – I look forward to helping top that figure next year.
Featured Guitar -
Washburn Prairie Song Custom
This month’s guitar is a rare beast indeed! Built by Washburn Japan in the early 80’s this guitar ranks alongside some of the finest American guitars I have ever played and that include a few high end Martins!
I acquired this guitar several months ago from Guitar Junction down in Worthing. It was up for about £850 and I really can’t remember what I swapped or part exchanged for it, all I can tell you is that amongst the guitar world it must be a well-kept secret. There are a few references on the internet giving information on this outstanding guitar.
I have recently had it re-fretted and the top nut widened by my friend, that superb craftsman Roger Williams. The photographs don’t really do it justice and on first glance it appears to be just another bog standard Washburn acoustic, but on close inspection one can see top grade ebony for the fingerboard and the most beautifully figured rosewood for the back and sides. When I first saw the quality of the rosewood I really thought it was top grade Brazilian but that isn’t the case.
Be that as it may, this is one hell of a guitar and I have plans for recording and live use for it, and it will remain a permanent part of my collection, because trying to find another one for sale would be nigh on impossible. Anyone owning a Prairie Song is going to hang on to it as I will be doing.