General News

April 2011 News Update

John Etheridge photo copy Colin Baird

4 Parts Guitar Tour - Report 16th March

As I write this one quarter of 4 Parts Guitar, Mr John Etheridge is poorly, so much so that he had to cancel a Soft Machine concert and the remaining three 4 Parts concerts. The Bristol Colston Hall gig has been re-scheduled for May 27th, my son Jamie's 40th birthday!

I don't want to single out any particular gig for praise because quite honestly they have all been such great fun, and the audience response has been nothing short of outstanding.

If I tell you that we have sold between forty and fifty CD's per night it will give you some idea of the enthusiastic response we have received right across the board.

We are still hoping that John will make a miraculous recovery for the two remaining concerts but I somehow doubt it.

My hope for the future of the quartet is that we tour on an annual basis and for a proper record company to take up the reins and release our privately released debut album to a much wider public, because I believe in my heart that this music deserves to be heard world-wide. Here I go again being the incurable romantic that I am!

What 4 Parts Guitar has in abundance is an ability to give people a great fun filled evening with some great music thrown in. And no ego!

My thanks go to the following people. Sue Webster for working her heart out to create this first ever extensive UK tour. To Clive's lady Chrystel for her hard work selling the CD's along with my beloved Hilary for doing the same. Thanks also to Sue Holton for her help along the way and some cracking footage for Youtube.

Hilary and I would like to say thank you to the following people for hosting us in their homes: Malcolm and Paula, Chris and Melanie, Sue Martin, Garry and Louise, Ray and Sian, Russ and Carol, Val and Dave, Trev and Thea. A final THANK YOU to all those lovely folk who turned out to support this brand new quartet.

GG Guitar update

My VINTAGE GG guitar is going from strength to strength in terms of profile. I'm delighted to report that the second batch of guitars has finally arrived here in the UK and pretty much most of them are pre orders, so they will go as soon as they arrive. I think at this point in time the demand has outstripped the supply but the company is getting that sorted. The company have affectionately nicknamed it The Horse because of the GG prefix...get it!

I finally got hold of the 12 string model and can declare the guitar is also is a winner in all areas. My friend Paul Brett did indeed speak the truth when he gave this amazing guitar a FIVE STAR rating right across the board in Acoustic Magazine.

Later on this year the mahogany non pickup version will be this space. Also my friend and fellow 4 Parter John Etheridge is very keen to get his hands on a GG six string to take on the road. He tried my guitar out the other night and couldn't put it down, bless him.

Unfortunately I can't reveal the identity of one of THE most famous guitarists on the planet who is now the proud owner of a Vintage GG signature model six string. He absolutely loves it and hopes to be using it on stage during his upcoming UK tour. This man could afford any guitar on the planet and has people queuing up to give him guitars, so for him to choose MY guitar is indeed an honour.

Unfortunately his identity must remain a secret until such time when he may decide to let us use his name, but hey it's enough that he loves it and wants to play it.

No, it's not Eric Clapton OR Ritchie Blackmore....grin...

Featured Guitar
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Each month I try to feature a guitar from my collection, and this month is an interesting one.

This beautiful green custom Strat was hand built by the great sound guru Paul White. Paul is pretty much obsessed with building Stratocaster related guitars, and I know that is a great source of relaxation for him. The body was purchased from a British company that specializes in making custom built bodies. The beautiful birds eye maple neck was obtained from the States I believe. The pick-ups are Tone Rider and the machine heads are the locking Sperzal variety. The vibrato is one of Trev Wilkinson's super designs.

So far I have used this guitar on a piece of commissioned music and can vouch for its gorgeous tone and playability. This is probably the best Strat type guitar I have ever owned and I hope to be using it on many recordings in the years to come.

Well done and thanks to Paul White for creating a cracking instrument. Keep 'em coming Paul!

Guitarist Magazine

In this month's Guitarist Magazine there is a glowing review of Tommy Emmanuel's new album at the end of which it says: "For fans of Antonio Forcione, Pierre Bensusan and Gordon Giltrap!"   An honour to be mentioned methinks!

Acoustic Magazine

A nice interview with Ray Burley, albeit a month after the 4 Parts Guitar tour started in this months Acoustic Magazine. Pity it wasn't in the previous issue !

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John Ditchfield Glass

On February the 26th I was doing a gig in Lancashire. The following day Hilary and I decided to visit the glass studio of the great glass maker John Ditchfield. This man is now regarded as one of the finest glass makers and designers in Europe. We walked into his workshop and low and behold he was there demonstrating his supreme skill as a glass blower.

I noticed that he had quite an eclectic collection of CD's in his rack, in fact Sergeant Pepper was on as we arrived adding  for me the perfect ambiance to the morning. After perusing his showroom Hilary decided to purchase one of his lovely green glass toadstools.

I thought it would be a nice idea to give him a CD, the one we chose was Brush and Stone, and even if he hadn't heard of me he certainly would have heard of Mr Wakeman.

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The CD was handed over and he was delighted to receive it. In return he invited Hilary and I to choose a piece from his 'seconds' cupboard which contained pieces that weren't quite perfect and couldn't be sold to the public, I chose this lovely glass vase (pictured).

All in all a lovely visit and a lovely unexpected gift from one of this countries great glass craftsmen and designers.

Last Two 4 Parts Guitar Gigs -  Report 21st March

I am SO happy to report that in spite of our dear pal John being unable to attend these shows through ill health; it all went off really well.

We juggled the set list around a bit by Ray and I playing a duet in his set in the first half and us adding Down the River as a trio piece and Ray and I playing Kaz and Tailor Bird in the second half.

The crowd at New Milton went bonkers after the Dodo, so we came back on and did Maddie goes West as our second encore. South Petherton was equally as lovely and it was good to see friends Dave, Eddie, Bob, Jane, Ian and Jenny in the audience.

Of course the OFFICIAL last gig of the tour will now be the re-scheduled May 27th date now at the Colston Hall in Bristol.

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At the risk of repeating myself, I have SO enjoyed being on stage with three of the most outstanding players and friends one could wish to work with. I have in the past committed SO much time and energy with fellow collaborators only to be bitterly let down by any reciprocal commitment toward whatever project we were involved in (no names mentioned here) and am therefore quite guarded  these days!

If this wonderful quartet of ours is meant to continue into the future then so be it. If not, it would be a real shame as these shows are bringing much joy and pleasure to so many people.

The four of us I know enjoy making music together and creating  an air of fun and spontaneity on stage. The only thing that could stop it moving forward would be setting the time aside to do so. We all have our individual careers to think of, but I see no reason why these careers can't run in tandem with 4 Parts Guitar.

Let us hope so.

Raymond Burley photo © Colin Baird

Rob Armstrong benefit concert Bishops Itchington March 26th 2011

In many ways this concert was more of a celebration than a benefit affair, because Mr Armstrong along with his partner Sheila have come through it all and have bravely re-built their lives after the fire in the form of a superb new workshop and the completion of four brand new guitars.

I know that if I had been in Rob's shoes on Saturday I would have felt a little nervous about the whole thing, and if you knew Rob like we know him you would understand. Be that as it may the spirit of the whole event went wonderfully well apart from a rather off the wall version of The Dodo from yours truly. I really wanted the earth to swallow me up as the piece became more atonal as it progressed. At the end of it the audience gave me such a round of applause I couldn't believe it.

VERY special thanks go to Martin Green and the lovely Louise along with Mike Stranks for a superb sound and thanks go to all the helpers Keith Meredith and Andy Smy. It was lovely to see John and Pauline Adams there along with old friends Garry Hudson and his lovely lady Lorraine, and what a joy to meet Garry's Mum Phil who's birthday was on the 27th, so that gave me the opportunity to dedicate a few tunes to her and the aforementioned friends.

All in all we raised £1000 towards Rob's fund, which will of course be put to good use purchasing whatever he needs to continue building those outstanding instruments. He could have given up but he didn't, and boy are we glad he didn't!

You can read more reviews on the Discussion Forum.
Review by Rev Martin Green

We held the benefit concert here last night for Rob Armstrong, which, as his workshop is now up and running again after the fire, became a celebration of his skills as a guitar maker.

Gordon played the evening using exclusively a selection of Rob's guitars, including a solid mahogany electric guitar he had borrowed from Rob for the evening.

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Photo © Andy Smy

Playing to an audience of friends and supporters from far and wide, Gordon told some of the stories behind the guitars and dedicated tunes to various members of the assembled crowd.

It was, as always, a delight to welcome Gordon back here, and he played a great selection of his tunes, including a "jazz-version" of Dodo's Dream, and throwing in an impromptu rendition of "The Tailor Bird" - shows how relaxed he was among friends.

It was also a delight to welcome Rob and Sheila, and we were able to give Rob just over 1,000 towards his workshop refurbishment.

It was another great evening of music, a lovely chance to catch up with old friends, and a great tribute to Rob's enduring skills as one of our leading guitar-makers. I hope the evening was as much an encouragement to him and Sheila as it was a welcome back with his new, streamlined workshop.  Rob told me afterwards that one of the guitars he has made in the new workshop is probably the best he has ever made !  

What a great way to put the tragedy of  last year behind you.

Helen Marshall

Here is the latest video from that young genius Helen Marshall. This time on a beautifully made cittern.

Helen writes "'Sumurun' is a piece inspired by a beautiful 94' yacht by the same name, built in 1914 in Fairlie, Ayrshire, Scotland. She has a pretty romantic history, too much to write here so please check out the website if interested:

My bell cittern was made by outstanding luthier (and boatbuilder), Nikos Apollonio. The oak used to make it was offcuts from that used to refurbish Sumurun. So, in a sense the same cut of wood has breathed life into boat and cittern alike. Perhaps this makes them sisters... or half sisters!

It's a truly wonderful instrument; the oak is unusual and gives a massive and beautiful sustain that I've never heard on any stringed instrument of this size. Such a warm and rich tone. I feel very privileged to own something so precious. Thank you, Nikos."

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Saxophone for sale

Under normal circumstances I do not advertise other folks goods for sale, but this person is a special friend so here goes.

My good friend the esteemed hypnotherapist Ian Wood wishes to sell this superb saxophone along with a Yamaha electric guitar.

He wants £400 for the saxophone and is open to offers on the ERG 121 guitar.

More information and contact details can be found in the document below.