Will’s Way – Will McNicol in Chengdu

Will in Chengdu Global centre Will escalates

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
Dragonflies, Frogs and Bumblebees

Will was voted Acoustic Guitarist of the Year by Guitarist Magazine in 2011.
Here is his piece “The Wakeup”.

Lunch with Alex, Josh, Gerald, Will, Xu Bao

Ho’s Hong Kong History – interview with Kenneth Kwan, Bunny Leung and Ho Chung-Sze

 

HMCGS group 1982

The HK Classical Guitar Society ca.1981 – Mr.Ho is second from the left in the front row. Also present are Pepe Yeung, Simon Cheong Hing Liu, Edgar Chu, Stephen Kai Leung Chau, Ricky, Wilson, Summer Chan,Ng Ho Yi, Mr.Wong, Ngai Kai Tai Thanks to Bunny Leung for the photo

Hong Kong 1979-85– a group of enthusiastic amateur guitarists which met in a small shop in the Jordan area of Kowloon showed up at my first recital in my home town. They seemed well organised, and were hungry for any information and music that was out there.  It appeared that the shop belonged to a Mr.Ho, who allowed local teachers to use it and have their regular meetings. This was the Hong Kong Classical Guitar Society.

They were very kind and also friendly towards each other and towards visitors, so I made a point of keeping in contact on my regular visits and annual concerts. I discovered that there was also a connection with China – the society’s newsletter was sent regularly to contacts and teachers in disparate provinces.

The big name in China was Professor Chen Zhi, who had a reputation for producing wonderful players, but the growing number of classical guitarists in China wanted information – sheet music, recordings, videos…

The HK Classical Guitar Society grew into the HKGIA (Hong Kong Guitar Information Alliance) which involved the burgeoning number of  guitar teachers in Hong Kong, expanding the reach of the society to include all types of guitar interest – flamenco, baroque, nail players and no-nail players.

It was in this group that I first became aware of Kenneth Kwan, a student of the erudite Richard Szeto. It was also this group which made the links with Professor Chen Zhi that enabled John Williams and me to visit Hong Kong and China in 1995.

Prior to this visit Professor Chen Zhi organised The First China Artistic Guitar Festival at Zhuhai, China in 1987.
It was a very important event and has had a big influence on the development of the classical guitar in China.
Before this event Professor Chen Zhi had visited the HK Classical Guitar Society (and Mr. Ho) to invite local players to perform in the Festival. 
Some HK players performed in the China Artistic Guitar Festival 1987.

HK players in China 1987

None of us realised then what an explosion of classical guitar activity in China would result from John Williams’ and my visit in 1995 which was promoted by the British Council.

Most of today’s guitar professors in Chinese conservatoires were present at the concerts and masterclasses which John Williams and I gave.
Professor Chen Zhi has been instrumental in bringing his students to the west, and some of his ex students (and their students in turn) are now bright stars in the universe of the guitar.

I like to think that it all started in that small shop in Jordan, with a group of likeminded enthusiasts back in the early 80s. It should come as no surprise that we have kept in touch even though we have gone our separate ways.
In a world where thinly disguised self promotion seems to be the norm, it is refreshing to come across true enthusiasts who modestly make things happen which have far reaching implications.
Here is a meeting in a Hong Kong in a coffee shop – a meeting of old friends who hadn’t met up for almost forty years and still don’t know how to stop being enthusiastic!

GG and HK friends

GG and Leung Shui Pun

Teaching Bunny (Leung Shui Pun)

6C22A53E-3D7F-41C1-A591-B539B3B2A6D4

My first recital in Hong KongGGHK programme

Sean Shibe shed show

Sean Shibe

Sean Shibe

Sean came to the shed to play a preview of his Aldeburgh concert and CD recording last year. His programme was interesting as usual, starting with Forlorn Hope by Dowland and ending with Nocturnal by Britten, with Malcolm Arnold and Walton in between.

I had the chance to talk to him about his work as a New Generation artist with BBC radio 3, his attitude to competitions, and his idea of a good programme .
This was a welcome opportunity to catch up with Sean, whom I have known since he was a 13 year old in NYGE.
I was also present at his outstanding performance in London when he won the Royal Overseas League competition, ahead of an oboist, a singer and a pianist.

Here is a link to his Youtube channel where he shares his often individual view on the world and some fine performances, and here is our interview in the shed.

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d-yWZuV12_w[/embedyt]

 

ARD Finalist Kuang Junhong

Junhong_iserlohnJunhong_GG_Iserlohn

17-year-old Junhong Kuang is widely recognized as one of the greatest young talents in the world today. He began receiving professional training in classical guitar at the age of nine with Professor Xu Bao in Chengdu, China. Only two years later, he won first prize in the Thailand International Guitar Competition, and soon after he was awarded a prize for the best interpretation of a Spanish piece and also for his interpretations of Bach’s “Chaconne” at the Iserlohn International Guitar Competition in Germany.

I met Junhong again last May in Baltimore, where he is studying with Manuel Barrueco.
Before that, I had been teaching him on and off, and recorded his CD for Naxos when he was 13 years old.
This is the interview we did
[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YswhtzQ93Kk[/embedyt]

I worked with him on his ARD programme in Iserlohn under the auspices of his former teacher, professor Xu Bao

Here is his ARD semi final, playing Tedesco’s Quintet

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vy9gPrTnolQ[/embedyt]

ARD finalist Andrey Lebedev

Andrey_Oxford

Andrey Lebedev is an Australian classical guitarist, collaborator, and creator based in London.

His insatiable curiosity and versatility have resulted in the creation of an array of new music and collaborative projects. He has premiered solo guitar works by Sir Harrison Birtwistle and Leo Brouwer, and chamber music by Brett Dean and Peter Sculthorpe, amongst others. During his studies at the Royal Academy of Music he collaborated with guitarist Julian Bream, and with guitarist John Williams, on recital projects exploring contemporary solo guitar music, and Australian chamber music. Performances at the Hong Kong Altamira International Guitar Symposium (China), Cultura Artistica Serie de Violao (Brazil), Dark Mofo Festival (Australia), and Buxton International Festival (UK), are a testament to his versatility as an artist of exceptional calibre.

I had the good fortune to meet Andrey in Oxford and talk just before his shed gig, a few days before the ARD competition.

Here is the interview
[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zBNQ4EEy0hU[/embedyt]

and here is his playing of Bozza’s Concertino da Camera in the semi finals of the ARD competition
[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AqD3oezQkM8[/embedyt]

 

Interview with Kenneth Kwan

Kenneth KwanAnother person whom I have known for age, Kenneth has been on the Hong Kong guitar scene for as long as I can remember. He is professor of guitar at Guangzhou Conservatoire and also a stand up comedian (are they the same?).
He is also an avid traveller in China and seems to know much of what goes on there.
This is an interview I held with him in one of the many coffee shops we frequent in Hong Kong, where he talks about China, teaching and life…
Find out more on his Facebook page

 

This is what he has to say about himself:

Kenneth Kwan is considered a comic’s comic’s comic, since nobody but comics may understand his jokes, and that’s when they’re drunk. He’s a musician and full-time womanizer, that is, he tries to help women become more woman by helping with chores behind the backs of their spouses, so that a woman can one day be womanizest (they don’t call him a comic’s comic’s comic for nothing).

Here’s what famous comedians have to say about Kenneth:
Seinfeld: “Kenneth who?”
Johnny Carson through a medium: “For someone who has absolutely no talents, Kenneth sure tries hard…even though nobody laughs, the world is better because of this!”

Interview: Stephen Mattingly in the shed and the pub

Steve MattinglyI seem to have known Stephen Mattingly for years.

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.

“The Leaves be Green” Interview with Timothy Bowers

After taking a break from the blog, there is now lots of new material.

I would like to start with this interview with the composer of a favourite piece with guitar quartets-
“The Leaves be Green”.

Bowers
The composer, Timothy Bowers, is a rather shadowy figure, but I managed to find him as he and I were the only ones raiding the drinks table at a reception for the Vida Quartet’s concert (featuring the ‘Full English’ on their eponymously titled CD, The Leaves Be Green) at King’s Place last year.


Timothy Bowers is Head of Undergraduate programmes at the Royal Academy of Music.
He is a versatile composer whose large output (approaching 100 pieces) includes works written for a wide range of instruments as soloists, including the series of six works commissioned by the Royal Academy of Music Brass department and published by Queen’s Temple Publications.
I was surprised to learn that he has written many guitar pieces, most of which are in manuscript, but some are available from Spartan Press.