El Cafe Shipston-on-Stour Live Music but Maybe Never again

I have played twice at El Cafe in Shipston-on-Stour but it looks like I am never going to play there again.

Here is the story:

There has been a complaint from one neighbour who is not at all pleased with the noise. More about that later!

The first time I played there it was gentle Spanish Classical and concert type Flamenco pieces.

Frankly I absolutely loved the evening.

The courtyard setting is fabulously appropriate for a lovely summer evening with excellent Spanish food accompanied by delicate Spanish guitar pieces.

I can play as loud, brash and fast as the next guitarist but I chose not to because I love real Spanish guitar music.

On my second occasion I was joined by my wonderful Spanish singer/dancer.

She is quite magical.

But there were also other music acts on that evening and I had not anticipated that.

I think the music was kind of Irish, Folk, maybe some pop. I am no expert in these styles.

About the other acts let me say this:

There are no bad or less good/important music styles or musicians. I have no time for superiority attitudes when it comes to music.

So, to me it is all good.

I do have a suggestion but firstly I need to talk about the neighbour making the complaints.

I have never met him or seen what he says but I so totally get where he is coming from.

I am a musician and love music but I also want peace and quiet in my home.

Why shouldn’t he want to have peace and quiet and to be able to enjoy his home without feeling it is being invaded with noise that he does not want?

I have a lot of appreciation of how he feels.

So, what is my suggestion?

Well I wonder how he would feel if the nature of the music were so distant, so quiet and gentle that outside of the venue it would be almost impossible to know if there was any music being played at all.

This may sound like self-promotion because this is precisely what I can offer. (It could be another guitarist; it doesn’t necesarily have to be me)

I have always wanted to be a concert performer and indeed I do perform in that way for time to time but when in restaurants etc. I also include many of the concert standard pieces and do find that people genuinely enjoy these pieces.

So, I guess what I am saying is wouldn’t it be absolutely lovely if the atmospheric El Cafe in Shipston could continue to offer good quality quiet music throughout the summer and at other times (perhaps inside with doors closed?) and perhaps the neighbour might like to pop in for some superb Spanish food, the drink of his choice and to enjoy a musician working very hard to provide wonderful music.

Hispania Restaurant London Spanish Guitar Private Party

I was very pleased to be contracted to play a mixture of Spanish Classical Compositions and Flamenco pieces for a private party held at the Hispania Spanish Restaurant in London.

I had prepared a very varied selection, each piece with its own characteristics and mood.

I imagined that people would like Asturias by Albeniz and Recuerdos de La Alhambra by Tarrega because these are such well known and popular pieces.

However, I was also very pleased that several people recognised and commented on other less well known pieces.

When playing flamenco, I am never entirely sure how it will go because the word flamenco evokes different feelings to different people.

I did not need to have any concerns; these flamenco pieces were also very well received.

There were several Spanish party guests and I thought it very kind of them to take a few minutes to come over and chat and tell me how much they enjoyed my playing; or to be little less modest some of them were very familiar with flamenco guitar playing from attending concerts on Spain and were very complimentary about my playing.

I suppose it is not the humblest thing to repeat that here but I think performers of all fields know that we do need to have feedback, we genuinely value all constructive criticism (provided we are genuine) and of course we are encouraged when people with real knowledge and experience and high expectations give us positive feedback on our work.

The host had explained to me before the event that he had a special affection for South American music and so I was very happy to prepare a few South American pieces whether within the  flamenco repertiore or otherwise.

Hispania seems to be a rather up market Spanish restaurant and some very exquisite tapas had been prepared for this event.

One chef had the sole responsibility of cutting and serving Jamon Serrano 5 Jotas which if I am not mistaken is Jabugo Bellota and as such rather spectacular.

One of the perks of being a flamenco guitarist is that waiters bring you plates of Jamon 5 Jotas!

A luxury evening for me playing for a lovely private party at Hispania Restaurant London.

 

Spanish Guitar at Private Party Colchester Essex

A totally magical experience playing a selection of flamenco guitar solos and Spanish classical pieces for very appreciative hosts and guests at the special birthday party for the Spanish hostess.

Both the hostess and the host frequently listen to, know about and love Spanish guitar playing. Knowing this confirmed to me that I would be free to offer my entire repertoire with all the flamenco moods.

They had set up a magical shaded area for me under a tree in their delightful garden; they had taken the trouble to organise an electric extension lead for my amplifier, a small table with table light and plenty of refreshments.

They had also set up rows of chairs and organised the timings so that people could come and sit down to hear my recital after they had eaten.

When people go to this kind of effort you know that they really do want to have you there playing Spanish guitar.

So, I felt great and played many pieces including several that I normally only perform to audiences with flamenco experience. These pieces might be  for example Tientos, Granaina, Tarantas, Soleares.

This is because in a way flamenco can sound kind of abstract without a clear and obvious theme going through the piece. This was of course intentional in the origin of flamenco; not so much a music, rather flamenco came about and especially in the singing to be an immediate expression of profound and often tragic emotions.

As the art form developed not all of the pieces were sorrowful but the powerful passion and emotion still remains.

In a way those emotions are also present in Spanish classical pieces and it is possible that the Spanish composers were influenced by flamenco which surely would have been very present in Spanish culture.

All of these thoughts were in my mind as I played because I was in an environment which was conducive to concert standard playing.

I am not sure if all of the guests would have had the same extent of knowledge about Spanish music but it was very clear that they did indeed understand and feel the emotions in the music and I was grateful to them for their applause.

I will remember this one as very special.

 

 

Flamenco Dance Workshops for Schools

Typical Flamenco Dance Workshop

There is no set formula because each organisation has their own timetable and their own idea about what would be the most appropriate content for their members.

Here are just a few examples of how previous flamenco dance workshops were delivered.

Here are some suggested guidelines that iI hope will be helpful to workshop organisers.

I typically deliver either one workshop of of 1 or 2 hours duration or several shorter workshops (30 or 45 minutes) for different groups.

These workshops can be repeated as many times as you like throughout the day and the fee will be calculated depending on how many hours you would like.

The content of a workshop will typically cover:

  • Position of the body
  • Footwork
  • Castanets
  • Arm and Hand Movements
  • Rhythm and Flamenco Clapping
  • Individual Focused Work
  • Pair Work
  • Group Work
  • At the end students often like to show what they have achieved.
  • Performance/Demonstration

 

Class members enjoy when I show examples of flamenco dances explaining the origins, moods and meanings of each dance.

I also demonstrate the castanets together with flamenco guitarist Tomas.

It is most important that my workshops are delivered together with Tomas as live flamenco guitarist as it gives me the freedom to vary workshop content and development in accordance with my observations of the student’s understanding and development of flamenco dance.

Spanish Language Work

Sometimes students bring questions in Spanish about Flamenco or about our background and experience and we are always very happy to reply in Spanish.

 

El Bar De Tapas Stevenage Flamenco Dance and Guitar Show

Recently I had the pleasure of performing together with the inspiring dancer Rocio at El Bar De Tapas Stevenage.

The wonderfully hospitable management had set up a wooden board for flamenco footwork at the entrance to their bar de tapas on the pedestrian walk.

To our left were a team of chefs cooking various paellas and passing people sat for a while on the benches in front of us .

I noticed that in addition to the waiting staff quite a few Spanish people passed by and stopped for food and the flamenco show.

We had the thrill of meeting a Spanish lady who had been a professional dancer all her life and although now retired had a very accurate memory of the music of her generation.

I was absolutely overjoyed that she recognised many of the pieces that I played and connected them to Andres Segovia in the case of Classical guitar pieces and to Sabicas in the case of the flamenco pieces.

Quite naturally people do not always know what the pieces are that I play even if they enjoy them very much but when I meet someone who totally does know these pieces an indeed my playing style I feel so encouraged and supported.

Rocio as always keeps people looking and taking photos or filming her.

She has a very engaging style and presence and as I have repeatedly said I am most fortunate to work with such inspiring colleagues.

I found a very professional guitar shop just around the corner and could not resist going in and the owner very kindly gave of his time to show me around and explain a little about the history of his business.

He mentioned that they could hear every note loud and clear and I think that is down to my new Fishman Loudbox Mini amplifier; the sound of which is anything but mini!

Chef cooked for us specially and when we left if was with very happy memories of a summer afternoon with El Bar De Tapas, Stevenage.

Spanish Night Fortescue Arms Billingborough

Together with flamenco singer and dancer Yasmin, I performed for the Spanish night at the Forescue Arms, Billingborough.

This was our second engagement at Fortescue Arms and so we were very much looking forward to it.

The setting is ideal. They have a courtyard which is very similar to a Spanish patio.

The day had been very hot and as the evening drew in there was a lovely temperature and summer night atmosphere.

The audience was very appreciative indeed and very well disposed. I think that this mood is created by the superb real authentic Spanish food served by friendly and efficient waiting staff.

We had arrived quite early and taken some time to set up our sound levels and Yasmin said that she felt very comfortable with the microphone which in turn enabled her to experiment with the songs and improvise new cadences etc.

We felt it was appropriate to offer music that included some very serious traditional flamenco singing and dancing, some delicate Spanish classical guitar pieces, some popular Spanish songs that you may well have heard while on holiday in Spain  and as always I interspersed  several Flamenco Guitar Solos.

We loved giving this performance and on the way home we discussed how our audience were cultural people with a knowledge of Spain and it’s music and yet at the same time realaxed and enjoying the Spanish evening at Fortescue Arms, Billingborough.

 

 

R.I.P Esteban Antonio Flamenco Guitarist

The flamenco guitarist Esteban Antonio passed away some months ago.

I receive this news with sadness.

I knew Esteban Antonio very well when we were in our twenties. He was studying at the Royal College of Music and I was teaching flamenco guitar at the Spanish Guitar Centre in London.

When I first met him he was studying classical guitar and seemed to have spent some years emulating the classical guitarist John Williams, whose father Leonard Williams originated the Spanish Guitar Centre.

About the time we met Esteban heard or had already heard Paco de Lucía and was immediately overawed and started on a new path to study and play the music of the great maestro Paco de Lucía.

I remember at the time suggesting that it would be impossible to match Paco and certainly unrealistic to aim to play scales as fast as Paco but Esteban had a can do attitude. He was vivacious and just wanted to jump in and practice endlessly to move towards his goal.

I was a very different guitarist preferring Paco Peña and seeking emotions that are present deep in flamenco even without the outward displays of virtuosity.

We were also very different people. I was always early to bed but Esteban loved the night and excitement.

But we respected each other and got along very well and we played duets together performing around the London music scene, particularly the Pizza Pomodoro in Knightsbridge which was a family run Italian restaurant with  a small stage area and the owner had a love and respect for good music.

The restaurant was very popular with people seeking good food and good music and I remember one night the very respected popular singer Paul Young (Wherever I Lay My Hat) sat at the table right on the edge of the stage with his friends and clearly respected and enjoyed flamenco.

Esteban Antonio was a very handsome young man and attracted quite a lot of attention but he never seemed to care about all that, his eyes were always on his guitar and his conversation was always about flamenco guitar playing in general and Paco de Lucía in particular.

We got along very well and he stayed at my flat several times.

Some years ago he bought  a fabulous Arcangel Fernandez Flamenco guitar which is currently for sale at the Kent Guitar Classics where you can read more information about the guitar and hear Esteban play it.

I think Esteban’s illness originated as a heart problem although it may have been exacerbated by other factors as the condition developed over time.

Esteban absolutely adored and idolised Paco de Lucía who died far too soon of a heart attack on 25 February 2014.

Now Esteban Antonio has departed this world, again far too soon and I pray that he is in heaven playing duets with Paco.

 

Retirement Village Flamenco Dance and Guitar Show

About two weeks ago I had the pleasure of performing a flamenco show together with the charismatic flamenco dancer Samantha.

Samantha has a skill for detecting the mood and performing to that mood and so she selected wonderful dances that clearly gave so much pleasure to our audience.

She also accompanied me with castanets and with her Nigerian drum.

The people at this retirement home in Berkshire were very alert and you could see how they understood and enjoyed the flamenco performance.

In fact, several people approached us afterwards and told us how they had either lived in or frequently visited Spain on holiday or for business.

While in Spain they had attended various flamenco concerts and our work reminded them of what they had seen.

I was especially happy that some people knew the names of some of my pieces or recognised them from concerts that they had attended.

The coordinators working at the retirement village were especially kind to us; greeting us and helping us to get set up and locating changing rooms and once we had finished they gave us a really good dinner; a selection of very well cooked Spanish dishes and whatever we wanted to drink.

Lovely evening, great memories.

 

Ashbourne Festival of the Artisan Flamenco Guitar

A total joy to have been invited to play flamenco guitar at the Ashbourne Festival of the Artisan.

First and foremost a huge thank you to the wise and perceptive sound engineers who provided me with an enviable sound system so that my flamenco guitar could be heard uniformly and brilliantly throughout the entire large church where the event was staged.

As soon as the sound engineer saw my guitar and realised that it had no pick up or any other form of microphone he immediately changed the microphone that he had been using for other performers and provided me with a microphone that was ultra responsive to each and every nuance of the flamenco guitar.

This is very important and a proper sound system can make a very significant contribution to how a musical performance works: both in terms of how the audience receives the music and in how the musician has the freedom and support to play the music exactly as they feel they need to.

Certainly I felt completely supported, was overjoyed with the sound and how I could hear it (monitor on stage) and frankly would have been delighted to play there all night.

The audience were very warm and appreciative and I loved playing for them.

I did not select those pieces from the flamenco repertoire that are perhaps a little more accessible to non specialist listeners; quite the opposite, I decided which  pieces I wanted to play right there on stage in accordance with my mood at each moment.

If my memory serves me right I played: Soleares, Tientos, Farruca, Colombiana, Zambra Mora and Bulerias.

Great memories. Thank you everyone at Ashbourne Festival of the Artisan for making it such an enjoyable experience.

Update on the Flamenco Concert for Prostate Cancer UK

What an extraordinary success!

Sometimes everything comes together and the results are better than expected.

On this occasion I was working with the fabulous flamenco dancer and castanet player Rocio Gomez who is always very good but it felt like she was doing all she could to make it work.

It is very difficult to put into words here on a website but I know that the audience really were excited by  Rocio’s passion.

With the help of people at the St Michael at the Northgate Church, Oxford it was possible to lay a piece of  plywood and to fix it firmly to the ground.

You would be surprised what a good sound you can get from flamenco footwork on plywood.

The other thing to talk about is our totally wonderful engaged audience.

Yes, I play the guitar as well as I can and Rocio is an inspiration with her dance and castanets but the audience were with us the whole way, not just in their magnificent applause (thank you!) but also in their emotions and reactions throughout the performance.

The hour was fantastic and I loved every minute of performing flamenco for this cancer charity.

I have been informed that £246.45 has been donated and this money will go to Prostate Cancer UK.

The money is so useful and I will always be grateful but all the people on that day: Rachel who drove me there and back (this guitarist gets a chauffeur!), Rocio who gave all she had, an exceptionally beautiful young woman and her boyfriend (you guys know who you are!) the lovely church workers who supplied much needed refreshments (thank you, yes it did help) and help with laying wood on floor and very much all the people who came and listened and joined in spirit to save men from prostate cancer.