Recent Major Concerts and Events
3 Parts Guitar, Birmingham Town Hall
Saturday, September 20, 2008
The performance in Birmingham Town Hall by Gordon, Raymond Burley and John Etheridge in celebration of the members of the trio's individual 60th birthdays, featuring special guest Rick Wakeman, was a major success. With a total of around 200 years of musical expertise behind them, what else could it be ?
2 photo galleries from the night can be found here
Well, it came and went in a joyful flash, and it was without a doubt a great fun filled success.
If only folk knew how little preparation went into that show they would be quite shocked. Don't get me wrong, we were prepared but in terms of finding time to rehearse - well forget it!
All of us are such busy people with our own projects to work on that actually finding the time to get together is impossible.
Rick is currently out and about promoting his book, John Etheridge as ever has about three different musical projects on the go. He has his ongoing gig with John Williams, The Soft Machine, his solo gigs, his Frank Zappa project, etc., etc. , etc. Ray Burley has just returned from China, and so it goes.
About a month ago Ray and I planned out the format for the evening, and various bits of music were posted and e-mailed to John and Rick, the only time we had to look at the stuff was during the interval !
Speaking broadly, the thing is that when you get a bunch of seasoned pros like us, we instinctively sort of know what to do, and you know I think it's that knife edge situation that makes the whole thing so adrenaline charged and exciting.
What the audience heard on Saturday was indeed the first time all four of us had heard it, and boy was it fun, and to be on that very special stage in the newly refurbished Birmingham Town Hall where I played all those years ago as a young rock star was indeed a privilege.
The audience on Saturday was just the best that any performing artist could wish for, they were with us all the way.
Judging by the wonderful comments left on my FORUM page I think we can safely say that we won!
I had a few ideas of how I would like to mark my 60th year, and my 40th in the business. One idea was to re-form the band and perform material from those 70's prog rock albums like Visionary and Fear of the Dark, but for me this concert just encapsulated what I'm all about as a musician in the 21st century. I started out as a solo acoustic guitarist, the acoustic was, is, and always will be my first love and I can't ever see that changing. Being on stage with such good friends and such great musicians was a sheer joy for me.
My thanks go to my darling wife Hilary, to all my friends and family (my God this is turning into an acceptance speech at an Oscar ceremony) Rick, Ray, and John, Ashley Yeates, Sian, Sue and Mike Holton, Cath & Geoff Olner, Jacquie & Larry, Dave and Paula, Dave and Jan, all the family....the list goes on.
Here's to the next time when we can share Three parts Guitar with you and maybe, just maybe our favourite keyboard legend could drop by and do a bit...Dream on eh!
Below are just some of the lovely comments received after the show, which say it all.
"Three Parts Guitar" - A Review
Surely this must be the concert to end all concerts I thought as I read the news about "Three Parts Guitar". You see, as someone who's loved classical guitar since teenage years, enjoyed Gordon Giltrap's music since the mid 70s and whose listening of choice these days is blues and jazz, for me this seemed to have it all. It didn't disappoint.
First up was the ever-affable Mr Giltrap whose genuine man-next-door approach has endeared him to many, even before they've heard a note. But with the first few notes you remember that this isn't your mate in the pub – this is one of the greatest masters of the guitar and the composer of many a rattling good tune. Four Giltrap pieces old and new opened the event, including one currently untitled and commissioned to celebrate Sir Cliff Richard's impending birthday. It seemed to me that the obvious title was 'Congratulations', but apparently the honour of naming it goes to the winner of a competition organised by the Birmingham Cliff Richard Fanclub. When Gordon reached for the electric guitar, knowing looks and smiles were exchanged in the audience. We were right; the evolution of 'The Dodo's Dream' continues, making the piece even more beautiful. Those around me who haven't seen 'Dodo' performed live before were amazed at Gordon's skill, mastery of the instrument and sheer musicianship.
Raymond Burley had the unenviable task of following 'The Dodo', but did the job superbly. He introduced us to pieces by various composers from different countries and no-one would disagree with Gordon's assessment of Ray as "probably the finest classical guitarist in the country". Obviously, not someone as at ease with words as Gordon, Ray let the music speak for itself. His assessment of J S Bach as "The Guv'nor" endeared him to me and his interpretations of one of "The Guv'nor's" works and of other pieces was sublime.
Until this concert John Etheridge was to me a known name, but someone whose music I'd never heard. After Saturday, that's going to change! The range of styles and techniques was huge, with John demonstrating how much at one he is with the guitar. This was music demonstrating warmth, fun, melancholy, power and vibrancy. A spell-binding set which left my emotions a-jangle.
After the interval Gordon was back for the briefest of warm introductions to Rick Wakeman. Music gave way to comedy for a few minutes as Rick found a microphone that fought back and entertained us with a couple of anecdotes from a life of touring. But this was a man who was in the right company. The music and playing was as spell-binding as that which we'd experienced in the first half of the concert, and all interspersed with Mr Wakeman's wry observations. What a character!
The anticipated climax came as all three guitarists returned to the stage for various combinations of duets and trios. Everything was there from their solo sessions, but this time with the added interaction with other players. These were clearly people who respect and trust each other's musicianship and simply enjoy playing with fellow craftsmen. Wonderful renditions of pieces such as 'A Christmas Carol' and 'A Dublin Day' were rounded off by the reappearance of Rick Wakeman for "Maddy Goes West". For me this was one of the high spots of the evening as each musician featured in turn. Unsurprisingly, no-one was selfish and the whole really was greater than the sum of the parts.
So how can you sum up a concert as unique and special as this? I'll leave that to a teenage friend of mine who's no slouch at the guitar and keyboard himself. His assessment? "Awesome!" And that says it all.
Mike Stranks, Oxford
It was always going to be a special concert. It did not disappoint.( Alternative poster design by Bob Wilson.)
If you had any pretensions to liking guitar music in almost any of its forms then you had no excuse but to be enthralled. Ray's precision, John's passion and Gordon's consummate mastery, were there to delight and envelope you. And then Rick, living legend, coaxing liquid gold from the Steinway, let you slip and slide to euphoria.
Each musician, at the peak of their art, showcasing solo, treating us to some of their, and our, favourites. Gordon, was as engaging as ever. The Fylde, much to our personal delight, kicked off the set with the fullness only the 12 string can give. Leading us through some old favourites, and a work in progress, to a version of Dodo's Dream that seemed that little more ethereal than usual, as the notes soared and faded. Ray taking us musically to the heat of Spain and Brazil, rubbing the imaginary sweat from his brow, carefully coaxing those magic tunes from a guitar too precious to ever put down. With John we were transported straight to Africa, and not a foot could resist that rhythm, and from there to a Blues club, wreathed in coils of smoke. He showed us a new depth to the electric guitar as his tongue hovered at the corner of his mouth in concentration. And Rick, left elbow working overtime, fingers moving faster than one could follow, caused the notes to flow into each other and around us, transporting us to Liverpool and Hampton Court.
Finally, after every combination of guitar duo had surprised and delighted, the 4 played together. "Muddy" goes West, and Fast Approaching were excellent choices. Despite the size of the venue, the 4 musicians managed to make it feel an intimate concert. There was an openness. At times, the cost to the musicians, in terms of nervous energy, could be guessed at. But professionals to a man, their connection with their instruments was magical. Their camaraderie obvious, no more so than when Rick demonstrated the position required for a 'Giltrap waxing'!
And glancing momentarily at our neighbours now and again, revealed an audience in rapt attention, thrilling to every note and anecdote. The only sadness, that it was over too soon, and then, as we stumbled out into the cool evening, the shock of how long it had actually been - time flies when you are having fun!
Thank you all.
Christine & David
What a fantastic concert. From the start the atmosphere was electric and with Gordon quickly engaging the audience it was obvious that this was going to be a concert to remember. With Gordon, Ray, John and Rick we had a very wide range of music in one concert. From the Celtic influences through the classical to jazz, blues and even hints of reggae all topped off with the lovely classical and rock piano.
The duos and whole stage pieces were not only great to hear but the banter between all of the musicians showed how much they really all appreciate each others skills as well as each others friendships.
It's just a pity it wasn't on DVD or maybe a BBC Four film crew there to record. I, for one, would love to watch it again.
It was also great to be sat next to Sue and Mike, just back after their (well earned) holiday (can't wait to see the pics Sue!) and to meet John and Pauline.
A very big thank you to all the musicians.
Truly a night to remember
Bob and Jane
A wonderful arena in which to see 4 consummate musicians (and friends) demonstrate their art. The acoustics were marvellous and shows how well the renovation of the Town Hall has been undertaken. Even with the ensemble pieces at the end where 4 different sounds were competing on stage, I could hear each of the four parts clearly.
The programme for the evening rightly kept to a simple plan of 4 solo sections, the audience attention held tightly in each by the pieces selected, leading to a rotation of guitar duets where the individual playing styles and instrument tones blended wonderfully well, and finally a piano and guitar ensemble to round off the evening. "Maddy" was indeed a revelation in its extended form, allowing Gordon to hold it all together with the theme and then giving time to each of Ray, John and Rick to highlight while the others strummed along. A real example of how Gordon's "simple tunes" as he calls them can be adapted to the occasion.
Yes it was over all too soon from the audience's perception (if not the performers' who would be well justified in wanting a breather) but doesn't this just underline what a hugely enjoyable and enthralling performance it was? Well done Gordon, Ray, John and Rick. I wouldn't have missed this for the world.
Just a few lines to say 'Thank You' for a quite magical evening at the Birmingham Town Hall last night.
Many memories came flooding back - indeed I think I was at that concert in the 70"s when you were briefly a Pop Star!
My pal and I saw Nickleback in concert at the NEC a couple of days ago and whilst we both enjoyed the gig, we both agreed that your evening was far more enjoyable (and certainly better value for money!)
Now planning to bring the family to see you in November in Oxford and have already added your web site to my bookmarks and just about to visit Voiceprint to order some CDs.
Many, many thanks once again to you; John, Raymond and of course, the irrepressible 'youngster' Mr Wakeman.