July 2021 News Update
Thursday, July 1, 2021
Paul Brett collaboration Vintage Raven Reflections album
Many of you will remember my news feature the month before last on the album I was recording with Paul Brett where each of us recorded six tracks to make up a full CD of pieces demonstrating the remarkable qualities of his Raven guitar.
It is now out there to download and listen to. Also for folks who want to purchase said instrument you will get a cd with the re-released guitar!
I also mentioned this collaboration in a recent interview – see further down the page.
Press release: Two of the world’s most creative acoustic guitar virtuosos, Gordon Giltrap MBE and Paul Brett record ‘Raven Reflections’ with Vintage guitars
On ‘Raven Reflections’, two of the world’s most creative acoustic guitar virtuosos, Gordon Giltrap MBE and Paul Brett, have teamed up to record a selection of stunning songs, highlighting their unique, individual fingerstyle techniques.
All 12 tracks are performed and recorded with the ‘Raven’ electro-acoustic guitar, from the Vintage Paul Brett Series of popular and highly innovative acoustic/electro-acoustic guitars.
Between them, these legendary award winning guitarists have performed with some of the world’s finest musicians, having achieved enough musical milestones to satisfy several lifetimes.
Whilst both artists have their own Vintage acoustic signature models, it was the gothic themed Raven, with its double bound acacia body, contrasting satin black finished, solid Sitka spruce top, distinct headstock and soundhole design, that inspired Gordon Giltrap and Paul Brett to record this beautiful collection of songs.
“It’s uncanny,” says Gordon. “I’ve always had a weakness for black guitars. When I set eyes on the Vintage Paul Brett Raven, I thought it looked wonderful and very dramatic with its unique soundhole design and compact dimensions.
The unusual crisp wire-like deep tone lends itself perfectly to some of my classical and medieval influenced pieces. I immediately called Paul and suggested that we record an album together featuring the Raven.”
Released on Cherry Red Records, and available to stream on all platforms, such as Spotify and Apple Music, ‘Raven Reflections’ features 6 original tracks from each artist. With soaring melodies and emotional content, this unique recording highlights the intricate acoustic mastery and exquisite, individual fingerpicking techniques that have shaped their careers…and the sonic versatility of the Raven.
Gordon continues, “The track ‘Loren’ for example, features CGCGCD tuning and, a fine example of how the Raven copes exceptionally well with low tuning.
In ‘Shining Morn’, I used a standard capo on the second fret across all six strings, then added partial capo across the 3rd 4th and 5th strings on the 7th fret, to bring the pitch of the piece a whole tone up, producing a crisp, brighter, chiming tone which sounds stunning on the Raven.”
Like all models throughout the vast range of Vintage acoustic and electro-acoustic guitars, including the Viator and Statesboro’ lines, the Raven offers exceptional playability and a superb tone, with a focused bass response, powerful mids, crystal clear highs and ringing harmonics.
“I was inspired to design this acoustic guitar by Edgar Allen Poe’s poem from the same name”, says Paul Brett.
“I wanted to design a model for musicians who simply adore beautifully constructed, eye catching acoustic guitars that play and sound well above an unbelievable price tag.
But whilst this guitar evokes gothic from all angles, I wanted to show how it will also appeal to singer songwriters and perform all musical genres, from folk to hardened blues, whilst ensuring stability in any chosen variety of tunings. The tracks we’ve recorded for this album vary in styles and again, highlight the versatility of the Raven.
Pastoral songs from my Izzak Walton Complete Angler compositions, through to blues, gothic, and an acoustic version of the Fox’s Prophecy for example, all feature open Gm or Open Gmaj tuning.”
‘Raven Reflections’ is not only a treasure trove of acoustically driven songs, performed on this album at their best by masters of their craft which fans will adore, it’s also a celebration of friendship between two of the world’s finest acoustic guitar players.
The Vintage Raven Reflections album is now available to download from:
Eye of the Wind
As mentioned last month that The Eye of the Wind Rhapsody can be downloaded on all the digital platforms. I have already had a very favourable response from folk who have heard it, all we need now is for Classic FM to pick up on it. Dream on Giltrap I hear you cry!
This month’s good news is that all the parts including the master-score have been lovingly restored in digital format by my good friend Adam Parrish and is available FREE OF CHARGE to any orchestras out there who wish to perform it. Just contact our beloved webmaster Sue Holton via the contact page, and she will make that happen for you.
My sincere thanks go to Adam for this labour of love that the dear chap spent literally months on and off in between his busy musical life to make sure everything is in perfect working order,(if one can apply that to the written word) for orchestra leaders and managers to acquire painlessly in readiness for performance.
A lovely afternoon was spent with this incredibly gifted young man Mr Blair Dunlop, son of dear friend Judy Dunlop. Blair’s father is the legendary Ashley Hutchings founder of groups like Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span, The Albion Band, and Rainbow Chasers.
Genius and talent runs in the family. His Mum Judy is a fabulous singer who was in a duo with Steve Marsh who published two of my music books, Troubadour and Vintage Giltrap on his Lathkill label. I played on one of their albums many years back.
Many of you will know of Blair’s work. He is a fabulous singer, songwriter and guitarist. He has won many Radio 2 folk awards and was a child actor. He worked opposite Johnny Depp in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Here he is holding “the beast”. It’s the law for any visiting musician to have their picture taken with it. Whilst with us I gave his beloved Telecaster a tweak, well more than that actually. I removed the neck completely TWICE to sort out a rather nasty bow in the neck. After fitting a new set of strings, sorting out the action and intonation it transformed it! He was one happy bunny!
It was a joy spending time with this country’s “new guard” of talented and creative people.
My old London House
My ZOOM teaching is going from strength to strength and I have been giving on average one lesson per day since inviting RGT (Registry of Guitar Tutors) tutors for a Zoom chat.
One of the lovely things to come out of this was a meeting with Elliott Morris who happens to live literally two streets away from where I lived at number 22 Heather Rd, Lee, London SE12. I moved there with my first wife Maureen and our first child Jamie in 1972 until we moved to Berkshire in 1979.
Both Jamie and Sadie grew up in that house. I have to say a tear emerged on seeing this photograph and of course memories (some bitter sweet) came flooding back. I wrote material for my 1973 Phonogram album there and more importantly Visionary, Perilous Journey, Fear Of The Dark and Peacock Party, were created within the walls of my little upstairs music room. I’m enclosing my favourite photo of my beloved boy taken in that room.
I often wonder if the present owners are aware of the music that took birth there. I doubt it. I put a posting on Facebook about it, and many have seriously said it was worthy of a blue plaque. Trying to step outside the realms of ego and purely for the sake of history and for my beloved family I think it’s a lovely idea.
A few distinguished guests visited that house during our time there: John Renbourn, John James, Greg Thain my first manager, John G Perry who played bass on Visionary, Perilous Journey, Fear Of The Dark and some of the Peacock Party tracks. Legendary bass player Johnny Gustafson, Kevin Peek who was in SKY with John Williams. My old producers Jon Miller, Rod Edwards and Roger Hand must have visited at some point. My dear friend Roger Bucknall and his first wife Ann stayed over with us. Probably many more but I truly can’t remember. I remember giving lessons to a chap who told me about a local guitar player who lived in Deptford called Mark Knopfler. Anne Dudley the producer and arranger who formed The Art of Noise lived in Grove Park just up the road and who I once visited.
I sold many early Fylde guitars to my students from that room. You can see some in the background in protective plastic bags!
Even as I write this, emotions start to rise and memories come flooding back! I owe this house so much because it allowed me to write Heartsong there and that was just the tip of the iceberg.
I remember making the case for the John Bailey twin neck in our front room. I still have the case, and it’s a strange feeling just touching it and looking at it. I ventured into playing the lute there. The memories just go on and on and on. Bob Walker head of RCA classical lived 2 mins walk from the house. We became good friends. French Horn player Lesley Lake who played for the English National Opera Company lived opposite. Michael Coe a superb musician and arranger also lived opposite. The area was just full of amazing musicians. One of the Monty Python team had a child that went to the same school as our children. I saw him once outside the playground. His name was Neil Innis.
Thanks Elliott for sparking all these precious memories by taking this pic and of course without making the initial connection it would not have happened! I owe so much of my life to this gift of music that nature and the universe bestowed on me. Of course there is a price one must pay in life but that is true of all of us I guess. I wished to God now that we hadn’t moved from this house and London, all in a vain attempt to keep the marriage and the family together, but that’s another story and all part of life’s Perilous Journey eh my friends. I’m just grateful to still be here to remember those early days of hope and to share them with you all now my friends.
This is an interview I did recently for Russell Welton of Copper Magazine dedicated to audiophiles who love all things music and hi fi.
Gordon Giltrap Interview by Russell Welton
Could you tell us about your favourite composers and how you are inspired by them?
My favourite composers are without doubt Ralph Vaughan Williams and Samuel Barber. I'm inspired by the great melodic content of both these composers. I must have read Vaughan Williams biography at least six times and am equally impressed by the man as well as his music. Although I am a self-taught untrained musician, I very much relate to the fact that his skills didn't come easy and were the fruits of years of sheer hard graft and determination. He comes across as such a grounded person and completely unpretentious about his gifts. Although a professed atheist there is so much spirituality in his music especially the Tallis Fantasia and of course The Lark Ascending. The music is so English which of course I can relate to 100%
With regard to Samuel Barber, his Violin concerto just raises the hairs on the back of my neck. A good sign!
What are the great challenges in recording your different guitar playing styles within a single piece of music?
The main challenges are not so much technical but emotional. Trying to capture a piece that is as near technically perfect as well as trying to infuse the piece with as much deep emotion as one can muster in that moment of recording. Of course, the other main problem is lapse of memory. When I have completed a new tune and need to get it recorded, I have to get it down piecemeal and hope that when done, the piece has a natural flow and feels like a complete performance.
When writing a new piece of music, which comes to you first, rhythm or melodies? I understand you like to sing through the lines.
I always draw my inspiration straight from the guitar, that's where it all begins. Then I build it slowly bar by bar until eventually, it hopefully becomes a cohesive whole. Once I get a melodic idea, I try to sing in my head, but usually out loud, where I think the next part of the tune will go. Anyone listening I’m sure would find it amusing hearing these vocal outbursts that sound like a strangled cat! The process isn’t rocket science, but for me the real mystery is where the ideas come from in the first place.
I firmly believe the good stuff comes when the ego drops away and the tune virtually writes itself. It certainly comes from a higher consciousness that's for sure. I have a friend who is a world famous and legendary rock musician who disagrees entirely with that statement. He says that it’s my fingers, my muscle memory, I have been doing it for a long time and I'm good at my job! On the one hand that is quite a compliment, but on the other hand I know in my heart that is not always the case.
Which piece of your music do you get asked how to play the most?
Heartsong has got to be the tune that most guitar players are interested in. I guess that’s because it was a minor hit back in the day and achieved the highest profile.
What advice would you give to guitarists in seeking transparency in their recordings?
When recording, keep it simple. I'm still old school and work on an old 24 track hard disk recorder. I know its basic functions well and therefore it doesn't get in the way of the recording process. I use a single small capsule top quality Schoeps microphone connected to an ExplorAudio-H-Clamp that allows the mic to be anchored to the Explored body of the guitar for a nice close miked sound. Once I have found the sweet spot it remains rigid and doesn’t move. I use a Gold Mike valve pre-amp into the hard disk recorder. I then transfer the track on to a small Zoom 8 track machine with a memory card so I can transfer the data across to my musical partner Paul Ward for him to do pretty much as he wishes with it. We have a great working relationship. He's a fine sound engineer, musician, composer and arranger. He understands my music so well, I am very fortunate in that area.
Do you recall what was your first hi-fi equipment, and where it came from?
Sadly, I have no memory of my first hi-fi equipment. All I can tell you is it wasn't expensive!
What equipment do you enjoy using today and how do you like to set it up?
When listening to music in my studio at home, everything goes via an ancient Mackie SR 24.4 that belonged to my late son Jamie who was a highly respected Drum and Bass artist (DJ TANGO). It is of great sentimental value. I have a pair of Alesis M1 powered monitors. I was recently gifted an Ariston turntable which is powered by a simple Berringer micro amp and once again is put through one of the channels of the mixing desk. I also have a Bose Radio/CD in the kitchen along with a lovely ancient but beautifully made Sony ZS 2000 CD/Radio.
Has your choice of hi-fi equipment been influenced by your requirements as a musician and performance artist and how so?
I can’t confess to being a hi-fi fanatic, and truth be told I spend a lot of my time creating music more than spending time listening, which really, I should do, because it would be good for me to switch off at times and chillout listening deeply to the music I love.
Please tell us about your current projects and how you have kept inspired during the lockdown.
Lockdown for me has been a blessing because I have devoted more of my time composing, instead of preparing for concerts. Paul Ward and I have a serious project ready to be launched later this year, but I can’t really say too much about it as yet. It will probably be my most satisfying project to date. I would love to chat about it towards the end of the year, by which time it should be fully formed!
One special project that has come to fruition this year is the limited-edition vinyl release of my 1997 CD Troubadour. I wanted this to be a fitting tribute to my dear late friend Del Newman who produced and arranged the album. Del had worked pretty much with all the greats in the rock world including Cat Stevens (Yusuf Islam), Paul Simon, Elton John, George Harrison and so many more. He was like a father figure to me and I felt privileged to know him and call him friend.
Other projects have included putting together a CD with 12 string virtuoso and guitar designer Paul Brett to promote one of his wonderful instruments called The Raven, a distinctive guitar based on one of Paul’s pre-war guitars. It looks fabulous, has a unique sound and represents incredible value for money. I have recorded six tracks and Paul the same. The instrument is marketed under the Vintage brand as are my own signature range and created by the company of John Hornby Skewes. Each guitar sold will come with the CD. The collection of pieces shows off perfectly the guitars sonic features, and it does record remarkably well.
I have been involved with the company for many years and although I am the proud owner of several high-end handmade Fylde guitars, I have always loved the idea of putting into the hands of players with a limited budget, instruments that sound great and are affordable. To prove that fact I use these Chinese made instruments on stage and in the studio! Players cannot believe how good these guitars are, and to a degree they are still little known within the industry. Players still want the hallowed names of Gibson or Martin to adorn the head stocks of their guitars, which is fine because nothing sounds quite like a guitar from either of those companies. I myself own a beautiful Gibson J 200 gifted to me by Pete Townshend and it is a beautiful instrument, but as I said earlier, if your budget can’t stretch that far, mine and Paul’s range are an amazing alternative. It really is a no-brainer, and this isn’t a sales pitch I promise you!
What have been some of your personal favourite live performances to date?
There is one venue here in the UK which is a personal favourite. It’s The Stables Theatre in Wavendon, Bucks. A beautiful theatre run pretty much by volunteers. They look after you so well and the audience always turn out for me and make me feel welcome.
Who would you put together for your ultimate super group to play with?
I have had the privilege to work with some of the finest musicians in the world. My wish list would be RodEdwards and Paul Ward on keyboards. Ian Mosley of Marillion on drums. Pino Paladino on Bass. RobinAshe Roy on flute. Davy Spillane on Uilleann pipes. John Etheridge on electric guitar. AnneSophie Mutter on violin.
What musical plans do you have for 2021 and onwards?
At 73 I try to avoid making plans. The only plan I have right now is to stay Covid free and for my family and friends the same. Some rescheduled dates are in the diary for next year, but in all honesty I'm quite nervous about treading the boards again after such a long layoff, but we shall see when the time comes.
Yes another new guitar acquisition.
This custom Strat was made by my pal Paul White and was one of his earliest construction jobs made from various bits and pieces. My reason for buying it was because of the particularly good Tremolo arm made by Khaler for Fender back in the day. This will be my second instrument made by Paul, the first has been featured elsewhere in these pages.
If as and when I get back to playing more electric on future albums with my dream musical partner Paul Ward, this instrument might just lend itself to a bit more expression with the trem, creating a sweet controlled vibrato. Jeff Beck I ain’t but I do my best and continue to get away with it!
Hearts in Harmony Online Folk Concert Supporting Four Charities, Reminder
A host of wonderful folk musicians have come together to raise funds for four great causes. They’re performing an online concert which will stream for two weeks from July 6th 2021. That’s nearly three hours of top quality music.
The idea for the event came from the band Rare Occasion (Judy Dunlop, Nigel Corbett and Jon Scaife) who wanted to use lockdown constructively to support charitable organisations whose work strongly resonated with the band. The initiative quickly expanded to include musical friends New Horizons, Blair Dunlop and Ashley Hutchings, Offshoots, and Some Antics.
The music will be folk: traditional and modern, British, Irish and European. The concert MC will be guitar maestro Gordon Giltrap MBE, who speaks for all the performers and organisers in saying, ‘I hope with all my heart that funds raised will help to relieve some of the suffering. Please be as generous as you can.’
The event aims to reach a global online audience. Performers will take no fee and profits will be shared equally between four charities:
Blood Cancer UK, dedicated to funding research and to supporting those affected by the disease https://bloodcancer.org.uk/
Hft, a national charity providing services for people with learning disabilities https://www.hft.org.uk/
Meningitis Now, founders of the meningitis movement and the only charity dedicated to fighting meningitis in the UK https://www.meningitisnow.org/
This is Luke, a crowd-funder supporting young Luke Mortimer and his family with ongoing costs relating to Luke’s quad-amputation due to meningococcal meningitis https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/john-firth
A Blood Cancer UK spokesperson said, ‘Hearts in Harmony is going to be a truly sensational music fundraiser … We’re proud to be a chosen charity for this event and believe that Hearts in Harmony can help power us towards our goal of beating blood cancer in this generation.’
You can buy tickets via this link - Hearts in Harmony
Tickets are just £15 for up to 2 people watching (or £20 for more), and the event will be streamed online, on demand, from Tuesday 6th until Sunday 25th July 2021.
Tickets will be available to purchase until 24th July.