Past Events

Visiting artist on 13 March 2014

Gerald Garcia: Know your body, avoid injury

Gerald Garcia is great company: he is a delightful blend of the knowledgeable, fun, insightful and energetic, as is reflected in his renowned compositions and concerts, his participation in musical events from east to west across the globe, his membership of the famous Mandolinquents, his blog, and the fascinating life he leads among people of music and science.

It was for a concert with the Mandolinquents at the British Banjo Mandolin & Guitar Festival that Gerald was in town this month, and we were fortunately able to grab him to spend the evening with us at the Brunswick.

The richness of Gerald's professional experience and cultural background allows him a very broad and multi-faceted view of musicianship. He is inspired by, and equally illuminating regarding, any area of the guitar, be it the details of soprano guitar construction, the phenomenon of the Chinese child prodigy, the South American charango, or the anatomy of John Williams' hands, and it may also be what makes him such an original thinker.

Gerald talks to us this evening about the physicality of playing the guitar. Again he is well placed to do so by personal experience - this time of a serious physical condition, Focal Dystonia, which has ended the career of more than one concert artist (Nicola Hall among others), and of his application of the Alexander Technique and Tai Chi in resolving it.

Focal dystonia is a strange mental-physical ailment that affects musicians. It is an alarming and debilitating condition affecting the ability to perform and is seemingly triggered by repeated practice of sets of unnatural movements, such as the fast alternating strokes of the fingers on the strings of the guitar, that go against the natural mechanical design of the body itself.

The results can be extreme. Gerald cited the case of a pianist who was prevented from playing at all, simply falling forward over the keys whenever she sat at the piano on, very specifically, a piano stool. Such was her mind and body's rebellion against the thousands of hours of unnatural conditioning it had been subjected to that the touch of the piano stool triggered a subconscious 'refusal' to perform that the person herself was powerless to overcome consciously. Astonishingly, the provision of any other seat or chair cured the problem instantly. Gerald's case was not so spectacular, but certainly was cause for concern and worry at the time (see link to his article below).

For guitarists, the key idea arising from Gerald's reflections is that guitar playing must be fitted with how the body is designed naturally to move and work - not the other way round, where the body is reined in awkwardly to the shape of the instrument. A happy medium is very much achievable with a little awareness.

The question of playing posture is not new among guitarists - back problems, optimal wrist positions, types of foot stool, etc. are constantly discussed - but Gerald gave us a new, fine-grained view of physical awareness, transferred to musicianship from yoga and tai-chi. After sharing his personal experience he gave us our own opportunity to understand how the body operates, as different from how we imagine it to operate or try to train it to operate. The next 15 minutes were amusing and enlightening. The exercises Gerald had us do included very-very slow curling and uncurling of each finger, one joint at a time; identifying the axis above the ears around which the head moves when we nod, the apparent length of a finger when viewed from the palm side versus the from back, and the line that continues along the ulna of the forearm through to the end the little finger; the shape of the spine. This mechanical investigation must be unhurried; it must feel easy and slow. The simplest finger-curling exercises made a big difference to Gerald's own playing by 're-connecting' him to his hands. We should watch ourselves in the mirror, practise the guitar in front of a mirror, or ask a friend to comment on how we move.

For many this is a surprising, new area for consideration, and one which certainly promises much reward for time invested.

Our sincere thanks to Gerald for a genuine raising of our awareness and for a hugely interesting and entertaining evening.

During his talk, Gerald recommended the following for further information:

Joaquin Farias, expert in focal dystonia in musicians, at

Barbara Conable's book What Every Musician Needs to Know About the Body: The Practical Application of Body Mapping & the Alexander Technique to Making Music (Andover Press, 2000)

See also Gerald's articles:

Forging Perseverance, a reflection on his own experience of focal dystonia

Some Thoughts on Music Performance, Relaxation and Martial Arts, a guide to connecting performance and the body

Nick Regan March 2014

Sunday 17 November 2013

Masterclass with
Gary Ryan

After the excitement of last Saturday evening's concert, it was a pleasure and a privilege for some fifteen members and friends of the society to attend the masterclass given by Gary Ryan on Sunday morning at the Brunswick Club.

It's our custom to invite our Concert Series artists to give classes, so as to make the most of their experience and olympian musical skill, as well as simply to spend more informal time in their company. The players eager for Gary's expert advice today were Carlos, Barry, Kwang, Neil, Matt and Nick, who played for him pieces aimed at grade exams at different levels as well as some personal favourites. Each player received generous, focused - and good-natured - guidance. The whole gathering received a wealth of insight into technique for both hands, practice, posture, nerves, interpretation and learning new music. The guitar tutors present will have seen much, too, to inform their own teaching. Gary's observations really were aimed at the whole company, not just at the players themselves. It was a delightful and very productive few hours. We thank him sincerely - and promise to keep practising!

12 September 2013

A recital by

David Godden

'You May Not Have Heard This Before' was the title of an evening of lesser-known guitar music performed and discussed by David Godden. Like John's first visit to us, this recital was informative, impressively played, and highly entertaining.

David's prestigious jazz background is clear in the two opening pieces, Prelude and Tango, in the complex progression of the chords and unusual - for the 'classical' guitar - harmonisations; his experience of playing in the genre comes through too in the skill with which he moves chords around the fretboard, revealing an effortless and comprehensive familiarity with its geography. He plays in informal posture, right ankle on left knee.

David informs us, to a raising of eyebrows - the first of many -, that Ernest Shand wrote the first ever guitar concerto. The four pieces by him here, published in 1924, are, as David says, very much Edwardian in style, but interesting to listen to, the sprightly Em Impromptu in particular. They are also demanding of the player, with some tricky left-hand jumps especially.

David moves us on, in his wonderfully easy way, to lute music, and talks a little about the instrument and its repertoire and techniques as an introduction to the music of Queen Elizabeth I's courtier, Anthony Holborne. We learn that the right hand uses alternate p i only; the third string of a renaissance lute was F♯. David interprets the music with dexterity and clear depth of knowledge.

Reussner, on the other hand, composed for baroque lute, and the music is difficult to render on a modern guitar - Weiss, for example, loses much in the translation to our instrument. Since Reussner's Suite cannot be played as written, David has arranged it so as to minimise the loss of idiomaticity. The resulting piece was a pleasure to  watch and hear.

After Calleja and his extremely - enchantingly - brief Preludes, David introduced us to Quiroga, the composer of 5000 pieces of music, popular in his native Spain in the 1940s and 50s. Ojos Verdes is among his most famous songs. David's sincerity and intimate knowledge of the guitar have the audience riveted. Even when he stops matter-of-factly, a few bars into a piece, to retune, we are rapt as he reins in the effects of the lute tunings, explaining to us all the time what he is thinking. Our unfamiliarity with the music serves only to draw us in more.

The final set of five pieces, in E major, showed David at his best, reconciling his mastery of the jazz and classical idioms, pushing the harmonic conventions of the guitar continually. The Well-Known Tune of the final piece appears slowly out of a wonderful jazz-based background.

His wise and charming manner, and his wonderful playing, make David Godden a fascinating performer. He took us here on an intriguing journey, educating and surprising us all. We really hadn't heard it before, but we enjoyed it thoroughly, and look forward to David's next visit - and to hearing more.






Read David Godden's biography here

11 July 2013

Members' solos concert

Tonight is the moment in the year when as players we all sit up straight and concentrate, earnestly to produce our best work, in concert format, for an invited audience. Despite any nerves, fourteen members took the stage this evening to perform a highly successful programme of pieces from Grade 1 up. (Full programme details below).

After an introductory word from Barry Corbett, Tim Rigley opened the show with two traditional melodies, keeping both the Scottish and Uruguayan rhythmical lilts moving nicely. He was followed by Dave Evans in a rare and very well prepared performance of works by Giuliani and Tárrega, and Bert Higgins with the beautiful Nostalgia by Bartog. A return for Tim next, in duo with Mick Gregory, each playing a tricky Govotte in Am from Bach's 3rd Lute Suite, and making a confident and nuanced job of them too. Mike Conroy followed (bare-footed!) (yes!) with three pieces by Vincent Lindsey-Clarke, making the most of the typically atmospheric music, the central waltz particularly lovely. The first half was rounded off by Barry himself with a very cantabile Romance, and the lovely Argentine Norteña.

After the interval, Barry opened Part II, now in groovy Brazil mode, before handing on to the evening's surprise numbers. A gap in the programme at this point allowed new members Gill Bye and Neil Johnson to step forward, Gill performing the traditional Drunken Sailor and a Bach minuet, and Neil giving us Lee Sollery's King of the Jungle and a Brouwer study. Well done to both, for their playing and for their courage! Colin Marrs gave us two further great tunes by none less than Dowland and Handel, and Andy Fagan performed Brouwer's beautiful Un Día de Noviembre, originally written as an orchestral film score. Nick Regan played his exam piece by Ponce and a Barrios prelude, and then over to Steve Bussey to regale us with the ethereal Bagatelle No. 2, written by Walton for Julian Bream. To crown the evening, our chairman Tony Lewis played four pieces from across the centuries, none of them originally written for guitar, but arranged charmingly by Tony for it. To end with a flourish, he and Tim Rigley duetted on the Gypsy Kings' lively Alta Mar.

A thoroughly enjoyable evening, brim-full with varied music. And a great success in several ways: the atmosphere and the reception of the pieces was excellent; the players had, to a man and woman, prepared their music diligently, and two of our newest members felt able to take part. So the BCGS continues to fulfil its mission to provide a place where anyone can come to play to an appreciative audience. To repeat Tony's sentiments, thanks and congratulations to all who took part, and to Barry for organising the evening. Onward to the autumn events - and the December ensemble concert!





























13 June 2013

A recital by

Duo Recado  

The spring calendar of events was given a wonderfully novel flavour by the visit of Duo Recado to the Brunswick. The duo consists of David Griffiths on mandolin and our own ensemble maestra Helen James on guitar. Their repertoire ranges from Italian, Gypsy and Swing music to Latin and Classical, and we were treated to a generous amount of all of these, cleverly and sensitively arranged, and skilfully performed.

There is always an added pleasure in hearing and watching a small group of musicians close up, and seeing the telepathic communication that they share as they play. David and Helen were clearly enjoying their set as much as we were, and their communication with the audience was equally warm. David explained the historical and personal significance for him of the pieces, and also some of the features of music for the mandolin and of playing the instrument itself - particularly interesting, this, for a BCGS audience used to dealing almost exclusively with Spanish-style six-string guitars.

Dave and Helen played well-known pieces like Begin the Beguine, Erroll Garner's jazz standard Misty and Brahms' Hungarian Dance No.5, and lesser-known numbers like the choro Quando Me Lembro and the tangos El Choclo and Perfidia. The programme itself was selected, as the evening developed, from an extensive set list. This in itself was a pleasant departure for a crowd accustomed to formal classical guitar programmes unfortunately set-in-stone by the mid-20th century after years of similar flexibility. Dave let the choice of music and tempo lead and reflect the mood of the company.

The guitar and mandolin are closely related enough to work easily together - and have done with huge success for centuries, especially in folk bands - but different enough in their tone and range to create a very diverse-feeling sound in duo. The mandolin player's plectrum gives a clear and ringing note on the metal, double-course strings, with plenty of punch for lively passages, but its high register can also produce a tremolo note that suits a romantic melody line perfectly (think Captain Corelli's Mandolin!). The guitar meanwhile completes the arrangement with a mellow, lower-register orchestral accompaniment.

This was a delightful change of style for us. It was delightful to meet Dave, to see our teacher Helen in performance mode, and to witness the wonderful energy of musicians enjoying playing together. Duo Recado are skilful players and arrangers, and their performance was reminder of what an evening of music should be - warm, well played, entertaining.

We look forward to seeing Duo Recado again at the BCGS, and wish them every success in the meantime.

Nick Regan

Visiting speaker on 14 March 2013 -

Cuffy: Flamenco Guitar

How did a Glaswegian become entranced by the music of southern Spain? How did he make his way to Bristol as a professional player and teacher in that style? These were only the first of a long list questions put to professional flamanquero Cuffy by the BCGS audience, in an evening that was as rich, as entertaining and as informal as any flamenco session. Classical musicians have been known to be sniffy about 'folk' styles; on this occasion, though, the audience at the Brunswick Club was enthusiastic and curious - although probably no less ignorant - about a style at the very roots of the Spanish guitar.

One of the highlights of the evening for me came right at the start, when Cuffy relaxed us all into the session with a few fantastic minutes of playing. The awed silence reflected open admiration - and my own realisation that perhaps I know very little about playing the guitar after all.  

Cuffy answered questions patiently. The central element in flamenco, he explained, is the song. The guitarist's job is to follow him, providing stylish and appropriate accompaniment, going at all times wherever the singer chooses to take the song and the tempo. The dancer, the castanets and the palmistas who provide hand-clapped support to the tempo are all very much accompanists. It was not until recently with Paco Peña and Paco de Lucía that the idea of the flamenco guitarist as soloist was invented.

One of the early questions was about time signature, the compás. This is a fascinating area of flamenco music. Each song type, or palo, has a specific compás that defines and identifies it. The Solea, Seguidillas, Fandango, Malagueño and Bulerías each place accents on crucially different points of a 12-beat cycle. Among the BCGS audience, used to counting bars of 4 and 3, this caused a fair bit of confusion. Some time was spent while Cuffy carefully explained each palo to us, demonstrated it, even described it in terms of a clock face to try to get us to understand... In the end we just had to move on to the next question.

The flamenco instrument itself, he said, is the same, although flamenqueros prefer a narrower-bodied instrument that gives plenty of punch in the notes and a more metallic tone, less full but louder than 'classical' guitarists aim for. The tuning is the same, but the right-hand technique is very different, and key to flamenco - Cuffy gave us a slow-motion breakdown of the types of high-speed rasgueado and rest-stroke runs that are so characteristic of the style. The nails of the right hand take a hammering: layers of superglue and silk are needed to make sure they can take the punishment. He showed us the right-hand finger tap - golpe - on the soundboard, the use of the capo to fit the guitar to each singer's range, the phrygian scale, different moods - toques - and the broad musical formulas that can be developed into original music on each playing occasion - even how to bend the joints of the left hand fingers backwards (!) to achieve efficient half-barrés.

The classical guitarist seeks a range of expressiveness as a solo instrument that the flamenco guitarist, as an accompanist for loud song and dance, has perhaps no interest in, but I for one felt very humbled to see almost every classical technique I know demonstrated in flamenco with twice the vim, twice the grit and at twice the speed. And all in a time signature that is beyond me.

Cuffy is a delightful guy. His easy manner and good humour are infectious, and his playing is breathtaking. This was a real education for everyone present. It's no wonder Cuffy is such a popular teacher at the Spanish Guitar Centre and leading light of UK flamenco, or that he's been accepted into the select underground world of Andalusian music in Spain itself. Tonight the questions and the music flowed until way past closing time, leaving us only to thank Cuffy very much for a wonderful evening, and go home to try and work out how on earth to play a four-stroke tremolo...

A comment on Cuffy's page next day sums it up:

Tim     Hi Cuffy - thanks so much for your talk & playing last night. Inspirational!


Mar 15, 2013 @ 9.07 AM

Nick Regan April 2013

An  Interview  with  Our Patron, Berta  Rojas

After Berta’s magnificent recital on 2nd November at Red Maids School, organised by the Society, BCGS Musical Director Nick Morrow Brown interviewed her about her career, her early life, the Steps of Barrios tour and her future projects for the guitar.

Berta, tell me about your route to the classical guitar, your early teachers, and your influences

I began playing the guitar when I was 7 years old, strumming popular tunes, but playing a full size instrument.  By the age of 10 I was having lessons in the classical guitar from Felipe Sosa and his wife Violeta, but I never practiced much! I also played the piano, but by the age of 16 I began to feel a real passion for the guitar. In those days there were very few guitar records available in Paraguay; scores and even strings were very hard to get. So I heard very few other guitarists. It was only much later, in 1988, when I moved to Uruguay, that I heard other players such as Manuel Barrueco and David Russell.

Tell me about your first performances.

My first public performance was probably the end of year concert with my classmates, but I do remember my debut recital in the Purcell Room in London  in 1992. The programme included a Suite by Bach, the Lennox Berkeley Sonatina and the Black Decameron by Brouwer.

What about your introduction to Barrios?

I recall hearing John Williams playing Barrios and this inspired me to play his music. He himself had been introduced to the music by Carlos Payes, the President of the El Salvador Mangore Association, having only heard one or two pieces before that. This led directly to Williams’ album of Barrios that he brought out in the 1970s.

Tell me about your  Barrios tour

I started the tour two years ago, and it will finish next year. I have nine more countries to cover. The object is to present the music of Barrios to audiences in the countries that he visited in his lifetime, some of them familiar with the music of Barrios and others that are not and who come to the concert attracted by the figure of Paquito D’Rivera whose name, as a major star in the world of jazz, fills the halls. We also try to involve the local communities having local guitarists performing with us.  Incidentally, in Trinidad and Tobago  I was once approached by a man in his 80s who showed me an original programme of one of Barrios’ concerts from the 1930s!

Also it is not generally known that Barrios was indirectly responsible for Antonio Lauro embracing the guitar. In the book Six Silver Moonbeams by Richard Stover there is an interesting story about Lauro listening to Barrios play on the radio, and being so moved by the music he heard that he immediately switched instruments. So without Barrios there would probably have been no Venezuelan Waltzes!

What recordings are you planning in the near future?

Next year I hope to record music by Vincent Lindsey-Clark and Edin Solis. I am interested in promoting new repertoire at this time as there is a lot of music for the guitar by composers from different regions that is not being played and I would like this to receive attention.  However I do not rule out playing more traditional repertoire at some stage.  An artist should always be free and not be pressured by career models of other players and how they achieved success – we should be free to explore our own path.

What future is there for the guitar?

I feel that the guitar has a very bright future. There are many new players coming up form not only Paraguay but also slightly unlikely countries such as Malaysia, Thailand and even Madagascar where we had two contestants participating from the Barrios Worldwide Web Competition.

I notice that you play a guitar from Ireland.

Yes I have played this guitar, by Michael O’Leary, for the last five years and I am completely happy with it in all respects.  It does everything I want it to.  I also have a Robert Ruck which is a lovely sounding instrument that I have used in all my recordings except the last two, Terruno and Dia y Medio.  

I was very impressed by your beautiful tremolo technique. Do you have any tips on how to improve tremolo?

Like everyone I found tremolo very difficult at first and I have had to work hard to achieve tremolo.  My advice is simple – work on the independence, speed and strength of m and a and bring them up to the speed strength and volume of  i and m.

Thank you very much Berta for talking to me and we all look forward to your next visit to Bristol and wish you well in all your future projects.

Friend’s Recital: Adam Purnell

13 September 2012

In preparation for his final exams at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Dance, Adam Purnell brought us at this month’s solos meeting the impressive programme he will present at his degree performance recital.


Fernando Sor (1778-1839)                                 Introduction and Variations on a Theme by Mozart, Op. 9

Claude Debussy (1862-1918)                             Claire de Lune, from the Suite Bergamasque (duet with Luc  Morris)

Jorge Morel (b. 1931)                                          Danza Brasilera

Leo Brouwer (b. 1939)                                         Un Día de Noviembre

Federico Moreno Torroba (1778-1839)        Sonatina in A: allegretto, andante, allegro

A final degree performance must contain music that is varied in style, and challenging in terms of both technical demands and expression, so as to display the student’s playing at it’s best. Adam has chosen a programme that certainly fulfills those criteria.

Sor’s four variations on the theme from ‘The Magic Flute’ are a guitar audience favourite – skillfully written and full of interest for the listener. What is less widely discussed is just how difficult they are to play. John Duarte has described this piece as ‘a testing ground for every aspiring guitarist’. Adam handled the pull-offs, harmonics and fast arpeggios with aplomb, applying a thoughtful range of colour. Each time we see him he is a performer of increasingly mature musicality.

Claire de Lune (‘Moonlight’) is the 3rd movement from Debussy’s 1905 piano work Suite Bergamasque. The twelve strings of Adam and duet partner Luc Morris’ guitars conveyed very well the lush, ‘impressionist’, breadth and depth of Martinez-Zarate’s arrangement. Communication between the two guitarists was close, and the playing sensitive and precise.

The pace then rocketed up as Adam whisked us off to Brazil for Danza Brasilera. It was great to see him enjoying the samba groove, and injecting lots of colour and dynamic into the music. He followed this with a very emotive rendering of the Brouwer, making very effective use of free and apoyando right-hand strokes for the famous melancholic theme.

The final piece, Moreno’ Sonatina, dedicated to Andrés Segovia, requires a lot of musical understanding as well as full command of effects and fast right-hand patterns and left-hand position changes. Adam achieved the enchanting melodies and dramatic descriptions, filled with the flavor of Spain, admirably. The performance felt considered in its expressiveness, as well as impressive in technique.

Adam has always taken up enthusiastically the RWCMD’s philosophy that performance maketh the performer. We hope and trust that this – for the audience, thoroughly enjoyable - recital has helped warm him up for his degree performance. His exam prep continues with a recital at the Priston Festival on 16th September. He takes our very best wishes with him to the exam on Wednesday 19th: the culmination of a four-year journey with which the BCGS is proud to have been associated.

Member's recital:  Tony Lewis
Thursday 3 May 2012

Tony Lewis' great creativity - and generosity - led him to vary the BCGS solo concert schedule by inviting no fewer than three colleagues to share the platform with him at the Brunswick Club tonight.

The first was Nick Regan. The duo provided an entrée with a courtly Alman in D by Robert Johnson. In nice contrast came two arrangements by Len Williams (father of John) of traditional Spanish melodies: first, Boleras Sevillanas, delivered with a good danceable rhythm and efficient command of the tricky timing, then a tonally nuanced version of the lovely carol Buenos Reyes.

Tony provided a solo bridge into the second section with Willie Brown's foot-tapping Mississippi Blues, showing once again that he is comfortable in almost any genre of guitar music. It was only missing the crackles of an old record to make the sound perfect.

Joining Tony for part two was Tim Rigley. The duo played William Byrd's beautiful Pavan and Coranto. The fantastic counterpoint and polyphony came across poised and accurate, Tony and Tim sharing the work and communicating well. They followed with a rarely heard piece by John Williams called El Tuno, from his 1973 album The Height Below. Tony played the atmospheric melody over Tim's chords in harmonics to produce a broad, slightly disembodied, 'ambient' feel.

Tony next gave us a solo from his wide repertoire of popular music: The Shadow of Your Smile, the love theme from the Liz Taylor-Richard Burton picture The Sandpiper. It's a beautiful melody, and Tony's own arrangement conveys the romantic cool jazz feel admirably. He gave it a good strong melody line with warm evocative middle and bass parts.

For the final section of the programme, Tony and Nick Morrow Brown treated the audience to a festival of Latin music. Firstly, a graceful Scarlatti Sonata saw them alternate between the lead and orchestral work; next, and in spite of nail troubles, Nick took the enchanting melody on Granados' Oriental. The two different instruments and personal tones worked well together to help create the many colours that transported us effectively to the open plains of Spain. The duo continued in the Spanish folk-classical idiom with Albéniz's Bajo la Palmera, again with careful and confident playing combining well to keep the difficult vivacious rhythms working. Alfonso Montes' Milonga (dedicated to Piazzola) followed, its exotic charm conveyed with good control of dynamics, and leading pleasingly into the wonderfully evocative Cuban Dance, with its tropical melody in high fretted thirds over agile basses and rasgueado.

Our thanks to Tony, and to Tim and both Nicks for a varied, well played and highly entertaining evening of music.

The programme:

Tony Lewis and Nick Regan

Alman     Robert Johnson

Boleras Sevillanas   arr. Len Williams

Buenos Reyes   arr. Len Williams

Tony Lewis solo

Mississippi Blues   Willie Brown

Tony Lewis and Tim Rigley

Pavan and Coranto   William Byrd

El Tuno     John Williams

Tony Lewis solo

The Shadow of Your Smile  P. Francis Webster, Johnny Mandel

Tony Lewis and Nick Morrow Brown

Sonata in E major   Domenico Scarlatti

Spanish Dance No. 2 (Oriental)  Enrique Granados

Bajo la Palmera    Isaac Albéniz (arr. Miquel Llobet)

Milonga    Alfonso Montes

Cuban Dance    anon.

Member’s Recital: Nick Morrow Brown

8th September 2011

Nick Morrow Brown is one of our most experienced players - a regular concert performer with a CD recording, Guitar Classics, to his name. There is word that a second CD is forthcoming.


Robinson (1588-1610) Bell Vedere from The School of Musick, 1603 (arr. Scheidt)

Mudarra (1510-1580) Guardame las Vacas, romanesque

Fantasy No 10, imitating the harp in the manner of Ludovico (arr. Pujol)

Handel (1684-1759) Sarabande and Variations

 from the Suite in D minor (HWV 437) (arr. Bream)

Minuets I and II from Eight Aylesford Pieces (arr.Segovia)

Bach (1685-1750) Siciliana & Fugue from Sonata No 1 in G minor for violin, BWV 1001 (arr. Duarte, Koonce)

Sor (1778-1839)  Rondo allegretto from Sonata in C, Op. 22

Turina (1882-1949)   Fandanguillo, Op.36

Albéniz (1860-1909) Granada, serenata from Suite Española Op. 47


Asturias, prelude from Chants d’Espagne, Op. 232 (arr. Yates)  

Nick led us tonight from 1603 to 1893, beginning with the as yet unrecorded Bell Vedere from Thomas Robinson’s The School of Musick. The pun on ‘bell’/’bel’ in the title is deliberate; the ‘chiming’ of the playful Elizabethan counterpoint was brought out to good effect.

Guardame las Vacas was already a well-known folk air in Spain when Alonso Mudarra arranged it. Nick gave us this and Fantasy No 10 in an arrangement re-fingered by himself to provide a harp-like, campanella effect. This, and his careful use of voicing, worked very well indeed.

The next section was one of what Nick described as ‘high seriousness’. Handel is not often heard on the guitar, but the strong moving bass line in the Variations and Sarabande worked wonderfully well, and the relentlessly shifting positions in the two Minuets sat comfortably on the instrument – although making no concessions in terms of control on the part of the player. In Bach’s Siciliana and Fugue it was a real pleasure to feel Nick’s love of Bach shining through (he was inspired to take up the classical guitar by a Bream recording of Bach!). He used great dynamics in the Siciliana and close, confident control of the counterpoint in the Fugue, giving the whole a great dynamic beauty. Warm applause ensued.

Nick moved on into the nineteenth-century with Sor. The Rondo allegretto is demanding, and Nick kept the fun element required by the ‘-etto’ of the title – the ‘Viennese froth and ice-cream’ as he put it - working splendidly,

The second highlight of the evening for me was Nick’s rendering of Turina’s Fandanguillo. It is overtly Spanish in its melodic influences, but very modern in its idiom, the ‘mood music’ structure and feel was brought out and delivered in admirable style by Nick, who made full use of his command of the rasgueado, tambora, harmonics, runs and other wide-ranging techniques.

The pianist Isaac Albéniz is said to have preferred some guitar transcriptions of his works to his own originals. Granada and Asturias certainly make fantastic guitar pieces. In Granada Nick brought the melody through strongly from among the complex harmonies, and kept the rasgueado chords in Asturias tightly in tempo, with a haunting and lyrical centre section.

Nick’s playing is always rich, assured and clearly articulated, and he gets an excellent sound from his Christopher Dean guitar. An encore was loudly requested, and Nick obliged with a delightfully rendered Minuet in C by Sor.

Nick is not only an excellent player but an excellent musician. Warmest thanks to him for this varied and often original selection of music, delivered with enviable sensitivity and control. (And thanks to Julian Bream!)

Nick’s CD Guitar Classics is available via

A Times interview with Nick is available to read at:

2011 Members’ Solos concert/Zoltan Farkas in concert on July 14th 2011


It is a principal role of the BCGS, one written into our Constitution in fact, to provide guitarists in Bristol and Bath of all levels of proficiency with a platform and a friendly, discerning audience for their playing.

At every solos meeting at the Pierian Centre we take turns to play a piece, or occasionally more, for the enjoyment and consideration of our colleagues, with much comment and useful exchange of ideas invariably following each piece, whether it be an exam piece, a work-in-progress for fun, a topical item or polished tour-de-force. As well as this, several times a year individual members give full concert performances. There are no fewer than six such concerts in 2011, and the standard of programming and playing has been consistently high.

Participation as a performer in these events is voluntary, but very important – both to members keen to share the music, hone their nerve, show off or polish repertoire, and to the life of a Society that exists to be welcoming, encouraging and discerning in equal measure.

Thursday July 14th was in this sense a highlight of 2011. It saw, in the first half, our annual Members’ Solos Concert, an event to which friends and family are invited to come, to witness the work of the BCGS, and understand the reason their loved ones insist on absenting themselves from home every other Thursday. In the second part of the evening we had the rare treat of a formal concert recital by our own Musical Director, Zoltan Farkas. A review  of both events follows.

Members’ Solos Concert

The 2011 Solos Concert featured no fewer than fourteen performers, and a wonderfully varied programme covering styles and technical demands from the baroque to the 21st century. The programme opened, promptly at 7 pm, with a series of pieces by eighteenth century composers. Colin Marrs, Helen Ford and Bruce Pierce and David Brown performed Kuffner’s Andante, Giuliani’s Andantino, Mertz’ Notturno Op4 No1 and Carcassi’s Preludium respectively, to good effect and warm applause.    

These are small-scale works, but no less demanding of musical sensibility, or less difficult to perform for that: the rhythms, balance of treble against bass and entrances of different voices all require close control; our players handled them commendably. (Special mention must go to Colin for beginning the proceedings, a nerve-wracking job for even the seasoned professional).

Eddy Martin brought us smartly forward a hundred and fifty years with Spanish Dance by Stephan Rak. This was an interesting choice – Rak is a composer that many of us are less familiar with, but who has composed a large number of (often unusual) pieces since the mid 20th century. Eddy conveyed the modern Spanish flavour clearly, in spite of the demands of the piece. Mike Gregory next took us to the baroque period, with a solid rendition of JS Bach’s Bourée, again, a demanding piece, which Mike handled well, with fluid hand movement and good articulation of the chords and single notes. Two very characteristic South American dances followed, with Aysu Bisgrove playing the atmospheric Danza del Altiplano by Brouwer and Morel’s Danza Brasileira. Aysu provided brio in the Brouwer, with a nicely handled introduction, and good energy and tonal variation in the Morel. The first half concluded with Steve Bussey performing a mesmeric self-penned arpeggio piece, The Koi Pool, inspired by the movement of carp in the water, delivered to great effect on a (!) steel-strung instrument, and including Bigsby-style vibrato that he produced by bending the neck.

The coffee break buzzed with conversation about the pieces and the playing, just as it should – and usually does.

With the audience back in their seats after the interval, Vince Smith opened the second half of the programme with two modern pieces. His rendering of Temptation of the Renaissance, the second piece tonight by Stephan Rak, was very competently played, and another nice choice, Andrew York’s closely interwoven Sunday Morning Overcast, gained from Vince’s careful treatment of the rhythm. Tony Lewis followed with another less familiar modern piece, the very attractive Un Amor de Valsa by Bellinati, a lilting 60’s-sounding piece (just right for a glass of wine!), with some difficult stretches that Tony dealt with effectively. The next pieces on the programme were Villa-Lobos’ Preludes 3 and 4, from the famous series of five: Barry Corbett produced good volume and presentation, with some beautiful tone and vibrato, and nice clear harmonics in No 4. A final (for this evening) novel, but again very attractive, piece was provided by Tim Rigley, who played a confident Nostalgia, by the nineteenth century French guitarist-composer José Ferrer. It is a romantic piece; Tim played it with good strong bass and clear treble, and expressive tone variation and rubato.

The final two players of the Solos Concert were Ed Heslam and Nick Morrow-Brown, who regaled us with a selection from the Spanish canon. Ed chose Tárrega’s Capricho Arabe and Granados’ Danza Española No 5. He performed with his trademark flair, with effective discords at the opening of the Granados and clear harmonics in the middle section - a touch fast for some, but full of confidence and technical skill. Nick then rounded off a great concert with Tárrega’s Lágrima and Moreno-Torroba’s Madronos. Nick played with characteristic sensitivity, conveying well the sense of yearning and melancholy in Lágrima that reflects the composer’s mood at the time he wrote the piece. The Torroba was accurate, expressive and played with warmth and a good sense of rhythm.

Hearty congratulations to all this evening’s performers for their willingness to perform and generosity in braving the concert platform to make such a success of one of the BCGS’ most important events. They, and all the membership, should give themselves a pat on the back for a hugely interesting and enjoyable evening’s music, and a good year’s work.

For the Members’ programme, click here.

Musical Director’s Recital

Zoltan Farkas in concert 14th July 2011


 The music on July 11th did not stop at the commendable performances of the members solos.


In the BCGS we enjoy and benefit daily from many influences. Our Director of Music, Zoltan Farkas brings to the BCGS a wealth of musicality and skill, and the experience of his studies under the Hungarian masters.


On July 14th at the Pierian Centre, Zoltan brought us a wonderful concert performance – as always, a musical education, a wonderful display of expression and technique, and a great evening’s music.


Zoltan chose not to arrange the pieces in strict chronological order; the first three were related, rather, by their mood. Carcassi’s Op. 60, Study No. 24, from the composer’s early nineteenth century series of 25 pieces; the beautiful first Prelude from Bach’s Well Tempered Keyboard, and Egberto Gismonti’s Aqua e Vinho, a ballet work written in 1986, all share a haunting expressiveness that allowed Zoltan to show off the guitar at perhaps its most effective, in combining lower volume with complex orchestration and deep lyricism. The musicality of these pieces demands a firm base of technique: Carcassi’s running scales, the close arpeggiated chords of the Bach, and Gismonti’s tremolo were all skillfully controlled.


Zoltan continued with a second Bach piece, BWV 998. This Prelude, Fugue and Allegro, and the following piece, Scarlatti’s Sonata K208, were among the highlights of the programme. They are as demanding of the player as the opening three, and were played with Zoltan’s customary delicacy and precision.


The most unusual item in tonight’s programme was the adagio sostenuto, from Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No 14, the ‘Moonlight’ sonata. Even having surmounted the problem of transcribing a piece written in C#m to the guitar, the challenge in this piece remains in providing the delicate, arresting melody with the sustain it so depends on, available to the pianist through pedalled notes. Once again, Zoltan’s tone and control were more than equal to the task.


Beethoven was a contemporary of Giuliani and Sor, whose Folia Variations and Variations on a Scottish Theme were, appropriately, next in the programme. Zoltan has played the Folia Variations before at the society, and he clearly enjoys playing the piece. This came across in this rendition; he employed considerable musicality and energy in the faster variations, with grace and beauty in the melodic variations.

Zoltan ended the concert with a final challenge, in spite of having so skillfully addressed all those of the previous fifty or so minutes, and gave what was another highlight of the evening. His rendering of Agustin Barrios’ posthumously titled El Ultimo Tremolo (‘Last Tremolo’) was beautifully and expressively played, and was received with warm applause.


There was an encore, and Zoltan asked the audience (bravely, we thought!) what Bach piece they would like to hear. Nick Morrow-Brown requested his favourite, and Zoltan, always enjoying Bach, obliged with great musicianship.

This was a delightful programme, with a range of mature and accurate technique that left us, as always, full of admiration. Zoltan’s programming, musicianship and technique are a happy reminder of where we all should be (dreaming of) aiming.

Friends of the Society Recital

9th June  2011

Adam Purnell

It’s always a pleasure to see Adam Purnell, to catch up on the progress of his studies and, of course, to hear him play. So it was a happy reunion last night at the Pierian Centre. Adam is back at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Dance in Cardiff, having completed his studies in Brussels with Antigoni Goni in January this year with flying colours. This evening’s programme was a selection of modern music for the guitar that Adam has been working on recently, including several pieces rarely heard on the concert platform.

Adam opened with the beautiful Norteña, by Jorge Gómez Crespo (1900-1971). The music can scarcely be described better than by  John W. Duarte, composer and critic:  a

‘simple but beautiful traditional Indian lullaby transcribed by the Argentinian composer Gómez Crespo and transmuted by the magic of Andrés Segovia’s harmonisation and arrangement into an evocative piece of poetry in sound’. Adam handled it fluidly, leaving us very much impressed by his ‘new’ playing: his technique and musicality this evening were distinctly more assured; more mature.

And he certainly wasn’t pulling any punches just because this was a meeting of friends. Adam next took on one of Agustín Barrios’ most challenging pieces, La Catedral, applying a commendable balance of delicacy through the campanella Prelude, solidity in the middle section, and speed and precision in the infamously demanding final allegro section. He followed this with a piece that was unknown, perhaps, to many of us - Hans Haug’s (1900-1967) Alba - developing its tricky chord series and counterpoint passages confidently to make this evocative piece work wonderfully.

Overcoming slight frustrations with tuning, Adam went on to give a genuinely spirited performance of the allegro spiritoso from Mauro Giuliani’s Sonata Op. 15, and, moving freely and effectively from era to era, Brouwer’s A Day in November, giving the piece all of its space and delicate, atmospheric beauty. The finale was John Duarte’s English Suite Op. 31, the piece he wrote for Segovia on the occasion of his first marriage. This tricky work, with difficult passages for right and left hand, exudes Duarte’s particularly English folk-baroque style. The very English Adam gave a thoroughly enjoyable and highly competent performance, dealing easily with the technical problems.

The audience called for an encore. Adam returned minus guitar, but the disappointment evaporated as he explained that it wasn’t for lack of wishing to oblige that he’d rather not play any more, but because a broken glass at home had left a nasty cut right on the tip of a left-hand finger the day before. He’d played the hour’s programme in some pain. And we thought those grimaces were to do with his interpretation!

It was great to hear such a varied and refreshing programme, and to see Adam as he develops ever further – as Tony Lewis said in his closing remarks, we all look forward to following the progress of Adam’s career over the years to come. Our thanks to him for a great concert; we hope to see him at the BCGS soon.

Members’ Recital: Tony Lewis and Ben Spender

12th May 2011

There are days when one can only wonder at how lucky the BCGS is to have gathered such a talented bunch of individuals into one place.  So much the luckier, then, to be treated to a performance on Thursday by two of them at once: one of the region’s most prolific recording artists for the guitar, Tony Lewis, and one of its most renowned composers, performers and teachers, Ben Spender. Tony and Ben brought a fascinating programme of no fewer than eleven duets and seven solo pieces – the rehearsal time alone is admirable!

They opened with two early duets. First, Le Rossignol, a beautiful Elizabethan piece in imitation of the song of the nightingale, followed by William Lawes’ Suite for two Guitars, composed around 1630 for lutes. Ben and Tony made a great job of both pieces.

Ben took the floor next, with a series of his own solo compositions, Passamezzo, Memorias and Etude de Saudade. These three delightful short pieces reflect Ben’s Spanish upbringing and his deep affiliation with all aspects of Latin American music. They are stylish and charming solos, and all three were warmly received.

Tony followed with two pieces revealing his own special talent - as an arranger: Hoagy Carmichael’s Georgia On My Mind, the jazz-blues of the original coming across with great depth and musicality, and Kern and Hammerstein’s (the vey same) The Folks Who Live On The Hill. Tony has recorded three CDs of popular pieces for guitar solo and duet, and his experience shone through here.

Back in duet mode, Ben and Tony performed a selection of popular music, beginning with the theme from The Godfather film, Speak Softly Love - a piece criticised in some quarters, it seems, for being imitative of the overture to Verdi’s opera La Forza del Destino - and Piazzola’s Oblivion tango. This gave Tony the opportunity to air his 1894 mandolin, made in Naples, and bought by him some years ago in Halifax (for £6!). Next, on to Willy Brown’s fantastic Mississippi Blues. What a repertoire – this was an embarrassment of riches.

Two more solo pieces by Ben followed. These were the very beautiful Teresa, and the title piece from Ben’s forthcoming published collection, Caminando. And as if these two men hadn’t displayed enough musicianship already, they ended the evening with two traditional Andean pieces featuring Ben on the charango, the tiny ten-stringed instrument (made traditionally of an armadillo’s shell) so characteristic of the music of that region. We heard the very atmospheric Karallanta and Alturas. As Time sadly obliged an end to the music, Ben and Tony chose a piece by the often amazing  Rodrigo and Gabriela, Tamacun, to end.

This was an evening featuring a huge range of technique and musicianship, but also full of good humour. And it showcased the guitar and its derivative instruments arguably at their best, producing popular music. It was a real treat, and, for my money, a hard act to follow. Warm thanks and congratulations to Ben and Tony.

BCGS Patron Berta Rojas visits Bristol

On March 31st the BCGS was delighted to welcome for the first time our recently appointed Patron Berta Rojas, internationally acclaimed guitarist and Ambassador for culture of her home country, Paraguay. Berta met a large gathering of BCGS members and non-members at the Pierian Centre on Thursday evening, and we spent two wonderful hours in serious discussion and chatting, playing for Berta, and enjoying the rare treat of hearing her play pieces by her compatriot Agustín Barrios.

The three-day visit came immediately before Berta leaves for Paris to begin her European tour as part of the celebrations for Paraguay’s 200th anniversary of independence. She plays in Paris, Hamburg, Berlin and Milan, and will return to Italy in August.

Berta was delighted with the reception she had; it was a very special evening on all parts, musically, professionally and socially. It is also an important moment in the life of the BCGS, as the society becomes more active in the guitar community locally and further afield. We look forward to many years of collaboration with Berta, and to her next visit.


Photos from the occasion

Member’s Recital: Mark Witney  

March 24th 2011

This evening’s concert was not only a high-quality recital, but also an exemplary use of the BCGS concert platform. Mark himself contributed the following commentary, with remarks from members of the audience.


Antonio Ruiz-Pipó   Danza

João Guimarães  Sons de Carilhões (Sounds of Chimes)

Johannes Bach   Gavottes I and II from Cello Suite No. 6 in D

Agustín Barrios   Julia Florida

Vals No.3 Op. 8

Johannes Bach Prelude, Loure, Gavotte and Rondeau from Lute Suite No. 4 in E

Mauro Giuliani  Theme and Variations Op. 107

Fernando Sor  Fantasy on a Scottish Air Op. 40

Isaac Albéniz  Asturias (Leyenda) from the Suite Española

‘The programme design addresses a few practical points: first, the need to place easier pieces at the beginning to allow the player time to settle; secondly, tuning – the first six pieces all use the 6th string in D, so they are grouped to avoid continual retuning; and finally - and importantly - I wanted to play the test pieces for my Trinity Diploma.’

Mark took a pleasantly informal approach, and succeeded in creating a warm and friendly

atmosphere. He introduced the music by giving personal thoughts, with no musical pedantry or biographical soap opera attached.’

Ruiz-Pipó’s beautiful, quasi-renaissance (1958) Dance No. 1 has been in Mark’s repertoire for many years. Guimarães’ Sons de Carilhões, or Sounds of Chimes (or Sounds of Bells) is another personal favourite. He handled the bright runs, and the Brazilian swing, well. Now into his stride, he was ready for the Bach Gavottes.

‘Once he settled and gained confidence the playing became very assured and expressive.‘

‘Bach is difficult, but technical problems, like the position shifts in Gavotte II, simply require patient practice. Right-hand fingering needs careful planning too. Hayley Savage practises pieces at an absolute snail’s pace. When you bring it up to performance speed, the ease it comes with is amazing.’

The next piece, Barrios’ Julia Florida, was the highlight of the programme for many in the audience.

The interpretation of Julia Florida was especially good, with lovely rubato, and an excellent balance between melody and accompaniment maintained throughout the piece.’

‘To achieve the lilting barcarole feel in Julia Florida I picture a gondolier serenading his passenger as they float along. I find using images often helps. In the next piece, the Vals, I imagine him celebrating with friends that he’s finally secured a date with her!’

Mark then tuned the sixth string up to E for Bach’s 4th Lute Suite.

‘His playing produced a clean, well-phrased sound, with good rhythmic precision where required - there were several very tricky Bach pieces in the programme.’

‘It was especially good to hear someone from the BCGS tackling the Prelude to the Fourth Lute Suite. It’s very demanding.’

Lute Suite No. 4 is a fabulous piece. It is tiring, though, to keep the gavotte and the rondeau flowing, and to maintain the lyrical 6/4 in the loure. It’s a tricky time signature.

‘The Giuliani Theme and Variations is fabulous too: the fast triplets; the light and shade; the fantastic staccato bass in the fourth Variation - punishing on the thumb!; the Hammer-horror-movie feel of the fifth, and the grand, regal final section. It’s great fun.’

Sor’s Fantasy on a Scottish Air followed, with the low D supplying the bagpipe drone, and the 6/8 the Scottish dance feel. Mark’s finale was the ever-popular Asturias, delivered with style and energy.

‘Mark displayed good attack in the lively opening section where the music demands a driving, inevitability. A very entertaining performance.’

Mark’s conclusion: ‘I was surprised, but I really enjoyed it!’ So indeed did the audience, who rewarded him with warm applause. Our thanks to Mark for giving us a great evening of music - and our best for the Trinity exams.

Mark Witney’s website is

Our sincere apologies to Mark for not having posted this article more promptly.

Graham Wade at the BCGS

The Society was out in force to hear the talk by Professor Graham Wade on ‘The Guitar Then and Now’ on 10th March and those who attended were not disappointed. Speaking entirely without notes for almost an hour and a half, Graham held our attention throughout with his fascinating and often hilarious personal accounts of his encounters with the luminaries of the classical guitar, including his great hero Andres Segovia, Julian Bream, John Williams and others. He also displayed a very wide and tempting selection of his books on music and the guitar, as well as what looked suspiciously like a historical novel! For some of us it was also something of a blast from the past to see again the early 1960s copy of ‘BMG’ with the youthful Mr Wade on the cover.

It was particularly interesting to hear of Julian Bream’s great admiration for John Williams, with his failed attempt to catch him out in sight reading Bream’s newly penned arrangement of the Schubert Arpeggione Sonata, Williams calmly observing the deliberate wrong note whilst playing serenely on. Bream, it seems, has admitted, perhaps to the relief of many of us, having to ‘hammer the notes into his head’ in order to learn a piece, in contrast with Williams’ enviable ability to play a piece only once in order to have it forever in his memory.

Graham also made us aware of the frankly rather frightening modern phenomenon of music colleges in Germany and elsewhere turning out, quite literally, ‘hundreds’ of guitarists all apparently capable of playing, e.g. the Walton Bagatelles with ease, who will simply end up teaching, there being a limit to how many virtuoso classical guitarists are actually required. Graham rhetorically asked the question ‘whither the classical guitar’ but unfortunately there was not, indeed neither could there be, a clear answer. I am sure he would agree, however, that what is perhaps most important of all is players’ continuing and infectious enthusiasm for the guitar and its music, which he noted with pleasure was much in evidence from the members who had played earlier in the evening.

Nick Morrow Brown

Member’s Recital 10-02-2011: Ed Heslam

The BCGS members’ recital series for 2011 got off to a great start on Thursday 10th. Ed Heslam drew on his wide experience of studying and teaching music to give us a broad programme complemented by informative observations and explanations.

The first pair of pieces was by the Spanish composer Fernando Sor, a virtuoso guitarist (and veteran of the Napoleonic Wars) who made his career in Paris. The two, Andante Largo and Study in E minor, paved the way into a sequence of more demanding music for player and audience. Ed performed his own transcriptions of three preludes by the Russian composer Alexander Scriabin (b. 1872), a highly controversial figure who, among other things, developed his own atonal music and experienced synaesthesia – he ‘heard’ in colours.

Besides Ed’s obvious skill as an arranger, the energy that he injects into his playing was becoming more and more apparent as he set out on J S Bach’s Lute Suite I (BWV 996) – the first work, we were told, that Bach composed for an instrument other than the keyboard. Ed took the well-known Bourée, in particular, at a fairly hair-raising tempo, but controlled it all admirably.

Next, to twentieth-century Brazil and Heitor Villa-Lobos, an orchestral composer and amateur guitarist who based much of his music on the folk melodies and rhythms of his native country, including the Mazurka and Choro No. 1 here. Ed delivered the requisite Latin American ‘groove’ in quantity. He went on to deal confidently with the tricky and unusual rhythms in Poluenc’s Sarabande and Lauro’s Venezuelan Waltz, demonstrating again the enviably close understanding he has of composition and of musical traditions, and ending the central section of the programme with two pieces by the Astor Piazzola, one of Argentina’s greatest cultural figures. The first was the sleazy-sounding tango-based Verano Porteño; the second, the much darker La Muerte del Angel, where Ed delivered the dramatic rasgueados with relish.

A cello suite by Bach was later transcribed by the composer himself to become what we guitarists know as Lute Suite III (BWV 995). Ed played the Prelude and two Gavottes, before moving on to another of his own arrangements, the anonymous medieval Danse de Cleves, which he gave his wonderfully energetic treatment, to finish the programme with a flurry of high-powered rasgueado.

The encore was well deserved. We thank Ed for sharing such broad musicianship, and for providing an extremely musical and entertaining display of guitar playing.


Adam Purnell is reaching the end of his 2nd year studying guitar under John Mills at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, and is a Friend of the Bristol Guitar Society.

This is my first time hearing Adam play and I hope it isn’t the last. He started his program with Preludes 4 and 5 by Villa-Lobos. Prelude 4 showed what was to become a staple of the evening’s performance – a good use of tone colour and dynamics and a lovely delicate touch. This was to leave many of the guitarists in the audience, including myself, feeling very envious by the end of the evening! Prelude 5 again showed a good use of dynamics and had an almost vocal quality to some of  his lines. During the more exuberant passages one could almost see the teenagers do what teenagers do!

Next, Adam played two Baroque transcriptions.  First, a Pavana by Gaspar Sanz. This is a stately dance in 2 time with a lovely campenella section evoking images of church bells in hot, sunny, sleepy Mediterranean climes.

The only slight down side for me was Adam’s performance of Bach’s Gavotte and Rondeau from the 4th Lute Suite. It was the only time in the evening where he displayed any signs of insecurity. This is hardly surprising as, having tried this myself, Bach is ... difficult!  On the positive side the performance was fluid in parts with enviable trills!

Next were three Spanish pieces, the first of which, El Catalán by Broca, was played very cheekily, evoking images of Spanish women dancing in long black and red dresses, flirting with their admirers on sultry evenings! Second, Danza Española No. 5 by Granados, familiar to many of us. Adam showed lovely control of dynamics and a delicate, lyrical touch with a good distinction between melody and harmony. The third piece was Torija from Torroba’s Castles of Spain.  This was almost too short for me to make any notes as I was carried away listening to Adam’s playing! However, I do remember thinking this show-cased his delicate touch, with notes dropping like spring rain.

Next we had Tedesco’s Tonadilla on the name of Segovia. This was well shaped, well phrased, melodically clear and musical. The quiet section in particular was excellent.

By now I was wishing I hadn’t been volunteered to write notes and be allowed to enjoy the marvellous performance. Estudio Sin Luz by Andres Segovia was next. Very well played, a good balance between melody and harmony, and again played very well.

The finale was Preludio and Danza from Paisaje Abierto by Edin Solis. This was a tour de force, performed with flair and near abandon, leaving many players in the audience green with envy, including me!  Again, terrific control of the right hand, in particular giving a marked decrescendo after the forte section with no loss of control elsewhere; superb!

The encore – Adelita by Tarrega. Some difficult changes in this but, as we had come to expect during the evening, it was well executed, enviable trills, lyrical and delicate, a lovely touch. My final comment on this piece isn’t printable, but Adam knows what it was!

He is a very personable young man with a lot of potential and great skill. We wish you well Adam!

BCGS Concert

13th May 2010 -
Vince Smith

Several BCGS members are working on Grade exams, and Vince Smith treated us to a concert on Thursday embracing a lot of the music he will be presenting for his own Trinity Diploma in Performance this year.

The programme opened two Bach pieces, Lute Prelude BWV 998, and the Prelude from the 1st Cello Suite, both of 1720-40. Bach was still writing his sublime baroque music long after the style was out of date in the mainstream. It is still a delight to listen to, and Vince did a sound job on both pieces.

Giuliani’s Opus 15 is a long work. We heard the first movement, Allegro Spirito, with precisely that character - lively with spirit – to warm applause, before moving ahead in time to 1921 and Barrios’ La Catedral, the composer’s vivid musical description of Montevideo cathedral.

Concert programmes are often arranged in chronological order from the oldest to most recent pieces. Another option is to use the flow of key signatures to order the pieces. We had heard the Bach in D, Giuliani in C, and Barrios in Bm. The move backwards in time to Fernando Sor’s Variations on the Theme by Mozart provided a change to a new key, E major. The Theme in question here is from Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute. Again, this is a high-level concert piece, which Vince performed confidently.


To 1900 (and the key of Dm) and Tarrega’s Capricho Arabe, with its beautiful melody echoing the the joining of Iberian and Moorish cultures that has produced modern Spanish music.

Leo Brouwer is generally considered the greatest living composer for the guitar, although his twentieth-century style may not be to everyone’s taste. His Elogio de la Danza was followed by Joaquín Turina’s Hommage a Tárrega. Turina was one of Segovia’s preferred composers, a friend of Falla and Albéniz, and, like them, a composer on the grand scale Segovia was so keen to see brought to the guitar. Vince worked confidently through the complex harmonies and rhythms of both composers.

BGCS is lucky to have players who can give us a performance of such a variety of important guitar works. We are also lucky that we can be a ready and knowledgeable audience during exam preparation. Our thanks and congratulations to Vince for an accomplished concert. All our best for the Diploma.

The Life and Music of Agustin Barrios

Augustin Barrios ‘Mangoré’ (1885-1944)

Lecture by Nick Regan on April 8th 2010

The second half of this month’s solo evening was devoted to a talk, with powerpoint slides, readings and performance by members, on the life and work of Agustín Barrios Mangoré. Nick is a student of Barrios’ work, and a researcher into his life. The following extracts are taken from the talk. (For the full text of the talk click here)

Agustín Barrios’ life seems almost a stereotype: a brilliant artist denied the accolades he deserved until years after his death.

Born in 1885 in the village of San Juan Bautista, Paraguay, he attended school in the capital until he dropped out aged 14. From this point on, he devoted himself to the guitar, and studied music under the Italian conductor Nicolino Pellegrini in Asuncion.

In 1910 Barrios left home not returning until 1922. During these twelve years he travelled and played extensively. In Buenos Aires, at the time a world centre for culture, he met a newly-arrived Andrés Segovia. Barrios played for Segovia, and promised him a copy of the score for his masterpiece La Catedral. It remains a point of some debate why this music was never received, and why Segovia never played Barrios’ music. Were the two men too busy trying to forge their careers, or was there some professional jealousy at play?

In 1922 be returned to Paraguay and set about trying to establish a Guitar Conservatory, but the government rejected his proposals. In 1925 he left Paraguay for good. Around 1930, Barrios adopted the name ‘Chief Nitsuga Mangoré’. Wearing faux indian attire on stage, he dubbed himself the ‘Paganini of the jungle’. This may have been a purely business-minded move towards better ticket sales, or a reflection of Barrios’ emerging identity as a pan-American performer. Either way, he began to travel constantly, and the next few years brought him great commercial success, especially in Venezuela, where he performed over 25 concerts in two months.

In 1933 in Mexico he met the Paraguayan Ambassador, who took Barrios and his wife to Europe. However, the opportunity to give serious concerts remained elusive: the rise of Nazism, the crippling recession in pre-war Europe and then finally the Spanish Civil war in 1936 and the coming Second World War robbed Barrios of the possibility of all meaningful success in Europe.

He returned to Central America, but in 1938 and 1939 suffered a series of heart attacks. His travelling days were over. Barrios accepted a post at the National Conservatory in San Salvador, and settled into the life of a teacher. He died in San Salvador in relative obscurity in 1944. However, that was not the end of the story…

Nick would like to thank Vince Smith, Zoltan Farkas and David Evans for their valuable contributions in the delivery of this talk.

Andy McGrath

April 2010

For the full text of the talk click here

Zoltan Farkas in Concert 11-2-2010

This month’s solo evening event was a recital by our own artisitc director Zoltan Farkas, who presented a fifty-minute selection of pieces ranging from the eighteenth to the twentieth century and from Germany to Cuba, and showcasing a wide range of the guitar’s many facets.   Zoltan began with an audience favourite, Leo Brouwer’s A Day in November (1968), with its charming and immediately recognisable theme. This served as a warm-up not only for us, but for Zoltan too before he took on two large and very demanding Bach pieces - the Loure and Gavotte en Rondeau from the 4th Lute Suite and the Fugue from the 1st Violin Sonata.   Anyone who thought Zoltan would choose to follow those hefty counterpoint works wth something ’easy’ was mistaken – he neatly linked the Bach forward in time to Agustin Barrios’ short suite La Catedral of 1922, where the influence of Bach three hundred years later stands out immediately.  Back across the Atlantic to Spain, and another world famous piece – although, like the Bach, one not written for the guitar originally. This was Issac Albéniz’s Leyenda (Asturias) from the Spanish Suite for piano. Albéniz wrote the piece in G minor, but on the guitar it sits more comfortably in E minor; many argue that the guitar in fact brings out the very Spanish stylistics of the piece much better than the piano. Again Zoltan gave us a commanding rendering, dealing solidly with the mix of the big rasguedo chords, high-speed passages and the reflective middle section.  Zoltan is also at home with tremolo. A contemporary and fellow-countryman of Albéniz, Francisco Tárrega is one of the best-known champions of the modern ’classical’ guitar, and his dreamy Recuerdos de la Alhambra was the next in the programme.  To finish, we were treated to the work of another South American, Baden Powell de Aquino from Brazil – Valsa Sem Nome (Waltz without a Name). With this, Zoltan highlighted that wonderful combination of Brazilian rhythm and the guitar, and brought the programme right up to the 2000’s.  Lots of sounds, styles and effects for us to all explore at whatever level we play, and a great hour’s entertainment. I’m sure we would all like to give Zoltan Farkas our sincere thanks.

Denian Arcoleo at the Bristol Music Club on Saturday November 15th 2008

 A very full and eager audience turned out to listen to the Classical Guitarist Denian Arcoleo, and I think all would agree it was one of those evenings you wouldn’t have missed.

 With a quiet yet warm stage presence, Denian played with a rich, well balanced, commanding sound that, in particular, suited the voicing in Bach’s Prelude, Fugue and Allegro. The clarity and articulation in the contrapuntal lines of the Fugue were skilfully executed and played with an assurance belying the technical demands of this work.

The three nicely chosen works by Barrios - Vals op 8 no.4, Mazurka Appassionata and Maxixe -  were played with character and poise and felt very at home in Denian’s hands, as did the four works by Dilermando Reis (Se Ela Perguntar, Promessa, Uma Valsa e Dois Amores and Alma Apaixonanda). The melodic lines in all these pieces had a relaxed elasticity and charm that tastefully integrated into the rhythms of each piece.

A composer himself, Denian’s works were received well by the audience – his Samba Bachianas getting one of the most enthusiastic receptions of the evening, thanks to its toe-tapping rhythm. His Lydian Lullaby had some distinctive harmonic shifts that helped to capture its poignant and appealing mood.

Before rounding off with the Fantasie Hongroise op 65 by Johann Kaspar Mertz and a very fluently played encore of Registro from Lauro’s Suite Venezolana, Denian played Preludes 1, 8 and 4 by Gilbert Biberian. These made a refreshing contribution to the programme in their slightly more complex musical design. The lines and phrases were cleverly yet clearly developed by the composer throughout each prelude, creating a sense of musical evolution rather than just an intellectual one.

I’m sure everybody present would agree that it was a pleasure spending the evening in the presence of Denian Arcoleo.  It is concerts such as this that will hopefully continue to boost the success of the Bristol Guitar Society and its wonderful supporter, Chris Gilbert of the Bristol Spanish Guitar Centre.

  Hayley Savage November 2008

Thanks to Hayley for the above. It was also nice to see Gilbert Biberian who was present to hear his compositions being played. BGS



David Godden

Il Pensaroso    

Gavotta Riccoco



Ernest Shand (1868-1924)

Pavan and Galliard

Anthony Holborne (c.1545-1602)

Suite for Lute    






Esaias Reussner (1636-1679)

Three Preludes

Francisco Calleja (1891-1950)

Ay! Pena, Penita   

El Laurel

Ojos Verdes

Manuel López Quiroga (1899-1988)

Five Pieces

David Godden

Variation on a Well-Known Tune!

David Godden

Tim Rigley

Wild Mountain Thyme




Dave Evans

Study No.2


Allegro Op.50 No. 1


Bert Higgins



Tim Rigley with Mick Gregory

Gavottes No. 1 & 2 (from the 3rd Lute Suite)


Mike Conroy



Vals Navarro


Barry Corbett

Romance de los Pinos



Gómez Crespo


Barry Corbett

Sons de Carilhões


Gill Bye

The Drunken Sailor




Neil Johnson

King of the Jungle




Colin Marrs

Orlando Sleepeth




Andy Fagan

Un Día de Noviembre


Nick Regan



Prelude in Cm


Steve Bussey

Bagatelle No. 2


Tony Lewis



Chanson de Matin


This Guy's in Love with You


For All We Know

The Carpenters

Tony Lewis with Tim Rigley

Alta Mar

The Gypsy Kings