By Richard Anderson
The second meeting of the Liverpool Guitar Society took place at the buzzing Liverpool Hope University Creative campus last week.
While across the (nearly complete) Hope Renaissance Gardens the brand new Capstone building was hosting a Milapfest Indian Dance performance, the Cornerstone building was alive with students preparing for Drama shows.
Those members who weren’t struck down with colds (which I’m now suffering with) or put off by the horrible weather, or frightened off by eerily costumed drama students, enjoyed a solid couple of hours of ensemble playing, and we were pleased to see some new faces there – Judy Brookfield (and her roadie!), Richard Harding and Steve Gaskell.
First a few announcements, as Steve Heidstrom unveiled the new forum for Liverpool Guitar Society members. He has very kindly set it up so that members can register on the forum page and chat about guitar and society related topics. It will be a great way to keep communication open between meetings, providing members with a valuable chance to talk about things that would normally see family members glaze over, or close friends suddenly nip to the bar. I, for example, am considering starting a topic about guitar case humidity, which is not something I would dare share with many!
To log on and start chatting, visit www.p4.forumforfree.com/classicalguitar.html
Fingers remain poised over guitars, as I announced a performance opportunity for the Society on Friday 14th May. As part of the ‘Light Night’ citywide cultural event, Liverpool Hope University will be hosting a full day of performances at the Creative Campus. The Liverpool Guitar Society has been invited to get involved, and the plan is for members to play in various places around the Campus sometime in the evening. Nothing is set in stone at the moment, but we hope to include some solo performances and ensembles of different sizes, playing a wide range of music. Fingers crossed we can get into the new theatre to see how it sounds for guitar! More details coming soon.
Finally, fingers now growing restless keen to get on with the real business of playing, I mention Collin’s idea from the last meeting, of starting a Liverpool Guitar Society Music Library. If members (and other donors) are willing to lend one or two pieces of music they have in their collection, we could very quickly amass a nice collection of guitar music, which can be signed out from one meeting to the next. If members are happy to donate some music to the society, bring some along to the next meeting and we can make a start.
Onto some playing, and Kathy very kindly offered to kick things off with a piece she had prepared. Choosing from a collection of guitar arrangements of James Horner’s music for the film Titanic, Kathy thankfully chose to avoid ‘that Celine Dion song’ and played (I think) Hymn to the Sea, which came a across as a much more lyrical and subtle use of the soundtracks’ musical themes. Showing off Kathy’s love of Folk music, the piece had a Celtic flavour with tricky grace notes. Well done and thankyou for your performance Kathy.
Next up new member Richard Harding treated us to two selections from his vast 30 minute-long composition Ten Variations Based on de Falla’s Homenaje pour le Tombeau de Claude Debussy. Soon to start his PHD in Composition, Richard is a superbly scholarly musician, picking two contrasting movements from his work and playing them with poise, control and feeling. After playing to an enraptured room, he explained how he had used small fragments of the de Falla piece as a starting point for each variation (Judy had spotted the quotes when listening). I think we were all impressed by how much rich music he had produced from limited material.
He was also complimented on his lovely tone, at which point he rather modestly talked about his guitar (which I’d been eying up earlier). A stunning golden coloured guitar, it was handmade to his specification by Coventry-based Luthier Rik Middleton. I’m sure each time guitarists hears Richard play one of his guitars, Rick gets an influx of orders!
The group then moved on to some ensemble playing, first playing three compositions by Richard. All three pieces were to varying degrees composed as ‘indeterminate’ pieces, where each player could chose when and for how long to play a number of ‘cells’ of music. The first piece, Contigency Music, is made up of 14 separate parts, which each player worked through, repeating for as long as they wished, until reaching the end. If parts were too difficult, we skipped along to the next, and even backwards to earlier parts, meaning the musical harmony and texture shifted and changed constantly and the 6 guitars blended together beautifully. It reminded me of Terry Riley’s In C, which I love.
Next, we had even less guidance from the music, as Richard presented us with the brilliantly sparse music for Root. It consists of a kind of ‘note row’ or ‘raga’ which we were instructed to play through “in order, for any desired duration and leaving rests also as desired”. This was really challenging as we essentially improvised the music together, and our hesitance to play too much created a very open, spacious sound, which certainly helped create a mood of “calmness and serenity”. For many of us, this approach to playing was way out of our comfort zones, which made it all the more exciting and enjoyable a piece to play.
Finally, we tried Hazel’s Tune, a piece with a slightly more standard three part structure, but still largely based on short one to four bar motifs. Written 10 years ago for the birth of his daughter, the piece built layer upon layer of flowing arpeggios going in and out of phase, moveable shapes interweaving with open strings. It was a more difficult piece to pull together, but when it clicked, it was truly beautiful. Youthful, hopeful, melodic, flowing – a lovely tribute to a loved one.
I for one really enjoyed playing Richard’s music, and hope we can work hard to prepare performances of each piece for our first public outing on the 14th May. We rounded off with a little ‘warm down’ of some Forrest Ensemble quartets, which sounded effective and together, before heading off into the night, very much looking forward to our next meeting in April.
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