November 2014 News Update
Saturday, November 1, 2014
On the 7th of October I travelled to the beautiful village of Bloxham to the home of Ric Sanders to add his violin to the new piece mentioned in last month’s news. It was quite an historical event because it was the first time in almost 25 years since we were in a recording studio together, in fact the whole thing was quite emotional as Ric had written a beautiful second part and nailed the whole thing in less than two hours.
The following day Mike Stranks came over to my place to mix the final thing. Although it was just a recording of guitar and violin, you would not believe the work that goes into such a task. You have to decide which take was the best and then sort of glue the whole thing together, once that is done a decision has to be made on the sort of reverb required for both instruments plus tone adjustment.
Technology is so amazing these days that there are numerous choices at hand. When the final thing was done it was then down to a serious listening session, and this is where I bring in Hilary's executive producers ears. If it passes the Hilary test in all areas then I know it's good.
The lovely thing is that the piece was commissioned for Trevor and Thea Raggatt who were to say the least over the moon with it. I shall be asking Trevor to contribute his thoughts and the history behind the piece, the occasion it has been written for and his and Thea's initial response on hearing it for the first time.
I sincerely hope this piece (as yet untitled) will be the first of many recorded with Ric which will eventually lead to a complete album....who knows.
I shall also ask Ric to write his thoughts on the renewal of our friendship and this brand new recorded piece.
I was absolutely delighted when, a few months ago, my phone rang and it was none other than my old pal Gordon Giltrap. It had been quite a few years – way too many in fact, since we’d seen each other. But when we met up those years just slipped away, and it seemed like only yesterday that we’d been on the road, and having a fine old time!
I first worked with Gordon in the late seventies, guesting on his album “The Peacock Party”, and toured with his trio alongside keyboard player Eddie Spence. In those days I played in The Albion Band and Soft Machine, and I was able to exploit both the folky and jazz- rocky sides of my playing with Gordon. In the mid eighties I joined Fairport Convention.
It was an exciting time because Gordon and I started to play duo concerts, and we did some long tours, which were great fun! You might imagine that an all instrumental guitar and violin concert could be quite a serious affair, and I suppose it could be, but it never was, because Gordon and I both love entertaining and having fun with an audience, and that’s the way it always was. I’ve often said of Fairport shows that they’re like a meeting of friends, and the same could be said of the shows we did together – a great vibe!
In ’89 we recorded our duo album “One To One”, and it’s still one of my favourite things I’ve ever done. It gave me the opportunity to record some of Gordon’s classics like “Roots” and “Heartsong”, as well as hearing his great guitar arrangements of some of my tunes like “The Rose Hip” and “Portmeirion”. We even recorded an off the wall arrangement of Miles Davis’s “All Blues”. Somehow, as we went into the nineties, and as life can do, we sort of lost touch with each other. So I must say that both on a musical and personal level, I could not be happier with our reunion. Also, we’ve already started to make music again, because Gordon asked me if I would play on a recording of a lovely new piece of his, and it’s turned out beautifully. It felt so natural to be playing again, back in the old routine! So who knows what may happen down the line. I’m hoping we might do a few shows again - that would be great. In fact I’ve been practicing “Heartsong”, just in case!
So there I was in my music room practising, when a message came through via my iPad on Facetime. It was my friend Paul Polycarpou from Nashville asking a huge favour. His partner Mollye was putting the finishing touches to a film that was made by Carol Buckley, the world famous lady who has been championing the rights of elephants around the world.
She is currently campaigning to get chains removed from the legs of these wonderful creatures worldwide and asked Mollye if she would help her put together a film to show all the powers that be about the terrible mistreatment of elephants.
The footage had already been filmed by Carol and needed some serious editing to make it presentable, and Mollye was looking round for some suitable music and fell in love with my Appalachian Dreaming. Because this is a charitable organisation there was no budget for music, and Mollye asked my permission to use it free of charge. I of course agreed.
I will post a link to the film clip as soon as I have one, I hope you will find it interesting and moving. Carol is the Jane Goodall of the elephant world and is doing great work, so any assistance I can give is a privilege.
Things are moving on a pace with our good friend the very talented Carrie Martin and her new album "What If."
Thus far she has myself on the album along with Oliver Wakeman and very recently the great Ric Sanders has offered to add his violin skills to one of her tracks. She has some wonderful images prepared for the album and Oliver myself and Ric will be writing some sleeve notes for her.
She has already recorded her version of one of my songs from the early seventies "The Passing of a Queen" and has created a beautiful song from a piece from the Ravens and Lullabies album " Wherever there was beauty" where I have recorded the guitar part, and have added a part to another of her lovely songs, also my good friend and fine guitarist Garry Burnett has done a great job on "The Passing of a Queen".
This promises to be a cracking second album from a very talented writer.
Watch this space for more news of the albums progress!
It gave me great pleasure to compose a piece for two very special people Piotr and Ania Wargan.
Piotr asked me at the beginning of the year if I would be open to writing something special for his beloved Ania's special birthday. I of course said I would be and set to work on ideas pretty much straight away.
I already had an idea in my head for utilising a tuning that for me was very evocative and romantic. The end result became Ania's Dream which was Piotr's title and one I thought very beautiful and fitting for such a beautiful lady.
It took less time than I thought although it's quite a long piece for me. With all my pieces I like to paint a picture and tell a story, and the format for the piece draws its inspiration from The Promenade from Pictures at an Exhibition by Mussorgsky where you have a returning theme throughout the piece. This seemed to work well, and when I finished writing it I decided to record it.
I did the recording here at home using a Michael Baranik guitar that was gifted to me by my friend Peter Sorton. It worked well and when I was finished I asked the great Mike Stranks if he would do the final mixing and editing, and a fine job he made of it, adding just the right amount of reverb to the finished mix.
Shortly after that my friend Rob Aitchison was at the house filming me for a new product and I asked him if he would film a special message from me to Piotr and Ania which he did, so that was added to the package.
I think that Piotr was a bit shocked when I sent him electronically the final piece so quickly, and he said that he now had to keep this whole thing a secret until October for the special birthday.
I forgot to mention that they both love the piece which was a relief to me, but truth to tell Piotr gave it the thumbs up as soon as he heard it. You can judge for yourselve from this snippet Listen here
You can read their views on the whole thing here:
Ania’s special birthday, 13 October by Piotr
A lot of surprises were prepared for this day: surprise presents and surprise location. The main present, that was kept secret for many months, was a beautiful tune composed by Gordon and entitled “Ania’s Dream”. It was in the late 2013, when I decided to ask Gordon if he would agree to write a special piece for my most special person. I was elated when he said yes.
(In the picture above Ania is in the centre wearing black with Piotr in the blue shirt)
On the evening before, Jarek and Elzbieta arrived in their car to take us to the place. Ania was surprised and happy when it turned out to be her favourite coffeehouse. The occasion was celebrated with her closest friends.
Among many presents was a special gift – the tune composed by Gordon Giltrap. I played it from a discman and small loudspeakers and the impression was great. This was definitely the highlight of the day. Another surprise was an “album cover” I made for the CD. This was a photobook with photos from our most memorable trips, a lot of Ania’s photographs, our photo with Gordon at the concert in St. Ives and a letter from Hilary and Gordon (I cannot agree more: good memories are worth living for). This was a truly memorable evening and I would like to thank Elzbieta for helping me organize it.
We play Ania’s Dream at least twice a day and are more and more amazed at how beautiful it is. I remember when Gordon asked me what tunes I was thinking of, I said that some romantic pieces from the Visionary. And I can hear some of them in the piece – just wonderful!
Ania wrote on the discussion forum :
I would like to thank you very much for such nice birthday wishes. This was a surprise worth waiting for - I find this music very beautiful and romantic.
Worley Guitar Show
On the 11th of last month I attended the Worley Guitar Show in Stourport, sponsored by Matt Worley. I was there under the banner of JHS and Vintage whose product Matt stocks for his shop.
The event was run over two days and what a great little guitar show it was.
I performed in the afternoon for about 45 minutes, and later that afternoon I was asked to do a question and answer sessions in an adjoining room, which I particularly enjoyed. I answered questions ranging from hand injuries through to open tunings and demonstrating my harping technique which intrigues many players that hear it.
The wonderful Gavin Coulson was in charge of the JHS stand, and was performing a super demo when Hilary and I arrived at the venue about midday. Gavin is a great rock guitarist, and I have always joked that he should give me some lessons!!
My brief set was warmly received and it's always a buzz when folk want their picture taken with you, which almost makes me feel a bit famous!
If Matt runs the event again next year and I’m free I will certainly attend.
Guitar of the Month
I know what you must be thinking. “This looks like another of GG's deluxe signature guitars", and to a degree you would be right, but this one is a recent acquisition from the company and has a particularly beautiful piece of straight grained cedar for the front which theoretically makes it sound richer, who knows!
All I can tell you is that it has a sound quite different from my other guitars and is a little different in the cosmetic area of the bridge which usually has two black dot markers helping to secure the bridge, but this one as you can see from the photograph has two white dot markers very similar to my first GG 2000 signature model which featured in all the early publicity pics and can be seen on YouTube.
How anorak like can one get eh?
I feel I ought to share with you the state of play with the proposed brand new recording of Heartsong. The only word I can apply to the whole hoped for success with this project is disappointment.
The plan was to re-record this old classic of mine and for a new "vocal" version to hopefully eclipse the 1977 version. Sadly this was not to be!
The whole process was really a catalogue of disappointments.
What we had planned was to turn the original into a 21st century Christmas carol. My friend Mark Soden and I worked on the lyrics! In fact I spent a very long time coming up with lyrical ideas until eventually between myself Mark and Paul White along with a few suggestions from Carrie Martin we decided on a template that we thought would work.
I had already recorded brand new guitars and Craig and Kevin from Barclay James Harvest had very kindly recorded the rhythm parts in their northern studio. I had secured the services of the great Barbara Dickson to do the vocals and Carrie Martin had come up to my home studio and recorded a lovely guide vocal for Barbara. The guide vocal CD was sent off to the great lady. Within a day of receiving it she told me that unfortunately it didn't fit into her vocal range, therefore she sadly said she would have to pass on it! Needless to say I was terribly disappointed. I then contacted my friend David Fawcett to see if he would be willing to come up and do it. This he duly did, but somehow it still wasn't working. The drums and bass weren't sitting quite right and the whole thing just began to rapidly lack that hoped for magic that the original had.
To cut a long story short, and believe me it is a far longer story than what is printed here, it was decided to shelve the whole idea.
There is a lesson to be learned from this, and Peter Green's words are still haunting me as I write this. "YOU CANT COVER A CLASSIC MAN"
I rest my case!
SONY TC 630 tape recorder
Here is a serious piece of my recorded history from the very early 70's. I recorded many of my pieces on this lovely old SONY TC 630 tape recorder, which came with its own clip on speakers which I still have somewhere!
On this very machine I created all the demos for Visionary and Perilous Journey including of course Heartsong.
This machine has been in storage for SO many years, and I thought it was about time it came out and was put on display in my studio/ music room.
The TC630 was one of the first machine where you could record sound on sound and overdubbing etc. I remember experimenting with half speed recording to create a Harpsichord sound which eventually was replaced by the real thing for Awakening the opening track on Visionary. To my ears it sounded far better than the real thing somehow. I also created the loop for Cascade on Perilous journey. I also worked out the various parts for the canon on Night.
So many pieces of music and SO many memories, it almost brings a tear to my eye when I think of those days long gone when I was striving to achieve some sort of recognition, which of course in a relatively small way finally came. What I didn't know at the time was the form it would take or the price I would have to pay, but no complaints I promise you.
I’m very blessed to be given the gifts I have and long may they continue.
I may try and find some electronic genius to see if this lovely old beast can be made to work again.
Cookley 19th Oct
It always feels a bit odd doing a gig on a Sunday, but my gig on Sunday the 19th at Cookley Village Hall dispelled that. The hall was a delight to play in with good acoustics, and the audience were a perfect match.
They were warm, responsive, and a joy to play for. The Dodo went down so well in the first half that the audience insisted that I repeat it as my encore, which I duly did. To my knowledge I don't think I have ever played it twice in one evening!
Now we move on to the hospitality which was above and beyond with two huge trays of delicious handmade sandwiches accompanied by tea and coffee.
Our thanks go to Ian the organiser and Karin for those superb sandwiches. We look forward to returning next year, although it will probably be outside the remit of the village hall scheme because Ian does his own independent promotions for the VH.
See you then Cookley.
Comment received from organiser Ian
Can you thank Gordon for a wonderful evening on Sunday. The whole experience was a joy, from arrival to departure he and Hilary were wonderful. Over the years I have promoted and been a roadie for many many people but Sunday was probably the most pleasant experience ever.
A lot of people have already asked can we have Gordon again next year.
Hoghton 25th Oct
My concert on Saturday the 25th of October at St Joseph's Village Hall was a perfect example of true fans getting together to organise a GG concert and making, through sheer hard work a great success of it.
This was my second concert for Fran Lawson along with his old friend Bren, and it excelled all my hopes and expectations. The first gig last year at the same venue was a rip roaring success, but this one truly eclipsed it.
These guys have been great fans of my music since way back in 1976 and have followed my career ever since. Fran and I have been good friends for at least 12 years now, and one couldn't ask for a better person to organise a concert.
The raffle prizes were all pretty much GG related, and the wonderful thing is that this year all the proceeds are going the Tracy Sollis Leukaemia Trust, which as you all know is my major chosen charity of which I'm privileged to be a patron. This picture shows Tim who won a raffle prize which was a signed pic of us together
The audience at the packed St Joseph’s hall were truly up for having a good time, and believe me a good time was had by all. At the end of the evening Fran presented me with a beautifully framed black and white hand drawn image of yours truly created by his brother. It now hangs in my music room alongside my other treasured bits of memorabilia and original Sue Martin artwork plus quite a few more besides. I was deeply touched by this kind gesture.
I can see this becoming a permanent fixture in my calendar, I do hope so as it was something I had been looking forward to ever since the date had been secured and put on the date sheet.
My sincere and heartfelt thanks go to everyone for making the evening a truly special one for this ageing guitarist.
A final word of thanks goes to Fran's partner Karen for the superb hospitality on arrival and for afterwards at Fran's home.
If anyone fancies doing something similar then do take a leaf out of Francis Lawson’s book and GO FOR IT!
From the Archives
Found on the net by my friend Bob Wilson. Interesting reading but my God it’s ancient !
Click the link below to read on the Internet or the one at the bottom of the page to open a PDF version