Oct 2022 News Update
Saturday, October 1, 2022
RIP Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
1926 - 2022
So, we say goodbye to a remarkable woman and a great monarch.
Rest in Peace dear lady we shall miss you.
A heartfelt addition to this post. In 1973 I wrote a piece called “The Passing of a Queen” the title of which is so relevant on this sad day in our nation’s history. It started life as a song and was covered by Carrie Martin and Vicky Clayton. Many years later I recorded a purely solo version for my Shining Morn album which then became the Heartsongs CD the charity fund raiser for the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
Little did I know how poignant that piece would become on the day when the people of this nation lost such a blessed human being.
I want to share with you the essence of what inspired and created much of the music on Scattered Chapters.
They say that many musical creations have been born out of suffering and I believe that to be true from the greatest musical genius to the least.
Here are a couple of examples that spring to mind.
Vaughan Williams wrote some of his most profound pieces in response to the suffering he observed and experienced whilst serving in the First World War.
Pete Townshend’s beautiful The Sea Refuses no River was written during a very fragile period in his life.
Martin Taylor wrote a heartfelt piece entitled One Day in memory of his son Stuart who committed suicide and it was Martin who found him.
Two of my pieces on Scattered Chapters, Through Braden’s Door and The Melody Weavers Son initially dedicated to the memory of my dear friend Del Newman revealed to me that it was really an outlet for the personal grief at the loss of my dear son Jamie.
Through Braden’s Door was written for my lovely daughter in law Karen and my beautiful grandson Braden who were both trying to come to terms with the loss of a husband and Father.
Paul Ward's beautiful Requiem was written in memory of his parents who jointly committed suicide. This of course is all very powerful and heart-rending stuff but the point is that we as artists are privileged to have an outlet for these deep emotions expressed through the power of music.
So now you will all hopefully understand that this album isn’t just a collection of tunes but a sharing of our personal suffering with the listener and hopefully it could bring a degree of healing comfort to all who have suffered profound loss.
Thank you you for reading this thus far and for allowing me to share it with you.
Scattered Chapters Review
I hope you enjoy reading this remarkable insight into the new album from my biographer Steve Pilkington.
Gordon Giltrap and Paul Ward have been making up something of a regular creative team of late, and one has to say that it has paid significant dividends already, with the pair’s collaboration making the album The Last Of England one of the strongest Giltrap releases of recent times. They are here again with this new album, taking equal billing as artists, and deservedly so as they complement each other so perfectly. Paul Ward’s keyboards and beautifully judged arrangements manage to give Gordon’s guitar just the right backing to frame and accentuate his playing without ever seeking to overwhelm it. Indeed, one of the key strengths of this 18-track release is the sympathetic and restrained performances, not only of the two main players but also a crew of guest musicians, with everything performed in the service of the piece itself and without any hint of self-serving overplaying. The respect for the music shines through every note on here and is splendid to hear.
The album is actually just half of a multimedia project which also includes a book of short stories by acclaimed writer and musician Nicholas Hooper (together with a series of imaginative illustrations) which is designed to accompany and complement the pieces of music themselves. It’s a very nice idea, with the book and CD matching in terms of design, but in this case we are concentrating on the music, so we will stick to the contents of the CD.
Having as many as 18 tracks could have been a risky move, as we are all aware of the danger of ‘listener fatigue’ when filling a CD with too much music, but this is something which has almost entirely been sidestepped on this release by the clever sequencing of the tracks. An unaccompanied guitar instrumental will be followed by a more arranged piece, while the more grandiose or melodically emotional pieces will be leavened by a shorter, sprightly ‘palate cleanser’ such as the joyous The Kissing Gate, which conjures up a sepia-tinged 19th century image of lusty farmhands and village maidens racing each other to said gate on perpetually sunny afternoons! If there is one thing which Gordon Giltrap has always been adept at, it is the art of writing a piece of music to conjure an impression, thought or half-formed memory in this way, and there are examples of this throughout. The mysterious A Cottingley Secret, for example, sets the mind instantly down a path towards imagining just what that secret might be, and the enigmatic Through Braden’s Door manages the same trick.
This album is about much more than typically Giltrap-esque acoustic guitar vignettes, however, with several longer and more fully arranged pieces displaying the skill of Ward front and centre, with Giltrap himself playing more electric guitar than he has done for some time and to great effect. Chief among these more textured and nuanced arrangements might be the glorious opener Starfield, its six minutes displaying an absolutely wonderful tapestry of keyboards and guitar, at times floating and nebulous and at others cutting through the background radiation with a chiming theme as if being contacted by one of those very stars. This is most definitely a piece which can easily be described as ‘ambient progressive rock’ without a shadow of a doubt and bears some comparison to the likes of Mike Oldfield in its meticulous structure.
Nordkapp (meaning ‘North Cape’, and actually a location in Norway) is another piece with a very full arrangement, including synthesised drums and an overall bleakly glacial splendour which is entirely fitting to its title. The longest piece on the album, The Melody Weaver’s Son, at first puzzles as to how it will justify its seven-minute-plus length without the admittedly pleasant melody overreaching itself. This becomes obvious as it is built up gradually with first Ward’s subtle keyboard tones lifting things, before the climax of the piece again has a full arrangement making the piece something of an ‘epic’ – worthy of a place in any progressive rock fan’s collection just as much as any acoustic guitar lovers, and a clear high point of the disc.
There are more influences at play here though, with John Devine supplying pipes which give a distinctly Celtic air to a couple of the tracks. The Wounded Healer is the most overt example of this, a superb tune which is only enhanced by that Celtic ‘skirl’ of the pipes putting it front and centre in the Highlands of your mind’s eye. The other Devine contribution is to a reworking of the classic Heartsong which closes the album, the pipes adding that extra Celtic element, like a twist of lemon to an already well-savoured gin and tonic. There have been several reworkings of this track of course, but this is one of the more successful for sure.
There is the occasional look back to a previously released work, such as One For Billie, written for Gordon’s wife Hilary, and of course the redone Heartsong, but there is also a track which predated the album’s release, Turning Earth, which was released as a single around Christmas time in 2021 – and I for one am thankful that it was included here, as it is another high point. With Ian Mosley of Marillion – and an ex-member of Gordon’s band predating even that – providing the drums, the track is the closest that we could get to a successor to Heartsong’s title, with its instantly hummable melody and superb arrangement combining to make it something of an instant classic very much in the mould of the late-’70s Giltrap of the ‘Triumvirate Trilogy’ of albums. Another old face from the band at that time, keyboard player Rod Edwards, also pops up here providing the keys arrangement on Through Braden’s Door, and there is even room for one track featuring vocals, with Precious consisting of a poem recited with some feeling by Jenny Hanley (familiar to a whole generation from her time on the iconic TV show Magpie of course) over a tasteful musical backing.
Anyone who has enjoyed Gordon Giltrap’s previous work – especially that which he has done along with Ward – is sure to enjoy this lovingly assembled collection. But it could reach a wider audience than that by virtue of the way it touches so many stylistic bases while still managing to retain its own singular identity. Listened to in one sitting is is also a tremendously relaxing experience as well – take my advice: if you are planning a stressful car journey fearing roadworks and heavy traffic, just put this record on for the duration of the journey. I can almost guarantee that it will soothe your frustrations and drive away that simmering road rage! So, there you go, an album full of excellent music which can also save you from getting a speeding ticket – if that isn’t something worth having I don’t know what is!
One could say his bias and that’s understandable, but the man has truly listened deeply to the music and fully understands what it all about.
What is it all about I hear you cry?
Well, much of that is explained in this month feature about the back stories to some of these tunes. This album is a million miles away from a commercial venture but more like therapy for Paul and I and a chance to share the joy and the deep sadness behind a few of the pieces. As creative people we are so blessed with the ability and the opportunity to express our emotions via our chosen instruments. I’m still humbled by that aspect of doing what I do and indeed a part of who I am.
Thanks Steve, for your very insightful review.
Bert’s surprise gig
On Saturday the 17th of last month I along with friends Cath and Geoff Olner turned up at the house of a dear friend Bert Wapplington to do a surprise concert for him in he and lovely wife Jenny’s beautiful home in Bolsover near Chesterfield.
I can’t put into words the look on his face when we arrived! This selection of photographs tell a much greater story than any words from me.
Bert is a lovely man and has been a constant follower of my music for 32 years. It was Bert who gifted me some bits from a sadly neglected Hofner guitar all those years ago when I was working on the book. The guitar was skilfully restored by Alan Hexley.
What is life all about but creating beautiful memories whenever we can. My thanks to Nathan Broadhead for organising the whole thing and lovely Jenny for laying on a spread to die for.
This event was a prime example of how special these private concerts can be when all the stars align and the universe is smiling down on us all.
left - me with the assembled crowd. I’m in the conservatory!
right - with Bert's wife Jenn (right) and her sister
What a wonderful experience it was playing in a beautiful church in Portsmouth on Saturday 24th Sept, meeting up with old friends Ric, Paula, Roger, Em, Bob and Jane and to have our dear friend Sue Martin there with us to share this special evening.
My thanks to Richard Martin for organising the evening and to Sheila for organising such lovely food for us all.
Thanks also to Hilary who took the pics (except the ones of the stage) so therefore wasn’t in them bless her. She hates having her photo taken.
A special thanks to the sound and lighting guys and to the lovely vicar for the use of her building.
Here are a selection of snaps to give you a flavour of the evening.
I have been meaning to write a few words about GAS for some time.
Guitar Acquisition Syndrome.
I have had it for years as anyone who has followed what I do can testify to this.
As guitarists we are all searching for that perfect guitar (electric or acoustic) that will make us sound amazing and fulfil our wildest dreams.
Sadly, as time goes on the truth dawns on us that it really doesn’t exist, and it really is a dream.
Anyone who has been playing for a while can to a greater or lesser degree make any instrument sound reasonable providing it’s set up well and plays in tune. I have lost count of the number of guitars I have bought, sold and given away.
There is also a massive ego element in having a good instrument especially an expensive one where you think that the audience will assume you are a great player because you can afford the best. Over the years I have been so fortunate to own the best, but I have to share this personal story with you.
When I first came out of hospital in 2016 after major surgery my mind was in such a dark place that I would go into my music room and gaze at all the fantastic guitars I had acquired and thought “my god I have the finest guitars in the world in this very room but have no desire whatsoever to play them.” Such was my mind set at the time. Thankfully I found a way to move forward with my life and the rest is history and thank the Lord continues to be the case… lucky me.
I can also remember years ago doing an interview with Guitarist Magazine and submitting a photograph of me surrounded by my guitar collection giving the impression of how successful I was because I owned all these instruments……What a sad person!
To a degree I still like to share the guitars I use but the agenda is slightly different. I do it to extoll the virtues of the genius guitar makers who’s instruments I use: Fylde, Armstrong, Vintage, Warren, Williams, Gough. etc.
These days I get great satisfaction in buying cheap instruments, making them playable and gifting them to anyone who can’t afford a high-end guitar to learn on. Many will remember my Car Boot guitar (now retired) that I bought for £5 and created a hybrid high strung instrument and composed Appalachian Dreaming on and Rain in the Doorway (on the Troubadour album) and to this day it’s sound still astonishes me!
The final word must come from the late great Julian Bream who was quoted saying in his excellent biography A Life on the Road, not quite word for word.
“I meet players who buy the finest guitar the finest strings and expect that those these things will make them sound great.” He then went on to say. “At the end of the day it’s the player not the instrument that counts. I could probably get a reasonably good sound out of a cheap Japanese guitar or any old nail, I’d rather not but I could.”
Wise words from the great master. Having said that, it does help to have as good an instrument as one can afford and of course a good guitar is so inspirational to play and Bream pretty much throughout his career used the Rose Augustine Hauser and latterly guitars made by my dear friend the great Gary Southwell.
Will I ever grow out of GAS ? I sincerely hope so because at the end of the day we are all just custodians of “things” and when we pass on someone else will hopefully have the pleasure of playing them.
I told my beautiful grandson Braden that when I die my guitars will be his. His reply was “you can’t die yet Grandad you have to live to be a hundred.” Bless him!
Thanks for reading these ramblings thus far my guitar picking friends.
Be well and continue to enjoy your guitar or guitars.
A Promise Of Spring
If all you folk love beautiful melodic music, then this album A Promise Of Spring is perfect for you.
If you would like more information and would like to purchase a copy, then email firstname.lastname@example.org
The most gentle and relaxing album I have heard in ages. Tunes written from the heart.
Geoff’s birthday present
Our dear pal Geoff Olner celebrated his 61st birthday last month. Here he is holding my Paul Brett Viator the very guitar I used on stage for a few years and recorded The Anna Fantasia on. Many will remember the piece on The Last of England.
I had loaned it to Geoff for a while and the penny slowly dropped that the dear chap played it a hell of a lot and had grown quite attached to it so I decided he should have it as a birthday present from Hilary and I!
I could tell he was quite speechless when I suggested he should keep it. It has gone to a good home. Geoff I know will treasure it and never part with it and it will hopefully be a constant reminder of our special friendship (Hilary and I) with Geoff and lovely Cath such special long-time friends.
What a fantastic day Hilary and I had visiting Guitarist Magazine, and what a joy to meet up with old friends David Mead and Nev Marten and to meet the editor, Jamie. The photographer Phil and the video cameraman Martin.
I remember the last time I was interviewed by this esteemed magazine way back in 2016 and was honoured to be the featured cover artist.
Thank you all for making us so welcome.
I need to point out that this photo is of the issue the mag did on me in 2016 NOT from my recent visit. I thank you.
De Armond pickup
Not sure I posted a pic in last month’s news of the De Armond pickup I acquired a while back. Here it is in situ on my lovely crackle finish Warren Acoustic which is currently having a fret dress at a local guitar shop. Can’t wait to get it back as it’s really starting to open up sound wise.
My good friend Keith Tromans has recently re wired and serviced the pickup which should improve its Vintage tone even further.
GAS part two
Many of you will have read I’m sure with interest my account of Gas - Guitar Acquisition Syndrome higher up the page.
Well it sort of continues with an instrument that I would have rarely played if ever, to one I shall play. This lovely Lakewood M32 slot head guitar. All solid rosewood construction with ebony fingerboard and spruce top. Once I have tweaked it in my usual GG fashion it will be a joy, I’m sure.
My thanks to my dear friend Brian Whitehouse of The Classical Guitar Centre in Bearwood, Brum for doing the swop for me and the superbly pleasant time catching up on old times. Brian used to be Hilary’s guitar teacher way way back. He said she was one of his best pupils.
From the archives
I’m biting the bullet and posting this VERY early pic of a 17 year old mod heavily influenced by Pete Townshend holding two acoustic guitars. I’m sure you will find it amusing. Also a pic of my first 12 string a sweet little Hoyer.
Trust me to buy a 12 string to get to grips with trying to play acoustic! I still love the sound of a full bodied 12 string. Eventually I replaced the Hoyer with a stunning Harmony 12 (bought from Len Stiles in Lewisham where I bought many of my early guitars including the Hagstrom used on my first album) which I had and used for years. You can hear it on my first album playing Ives Horizon and also on Innerdream from Fear of the Dark and probably a few more early recorded efforts.
Pete Townshend was an early devotee of the Harmony 12 put to good use on Substitute.
I found this very early pic of me taken onstage at the legendary Les Cousins club in Greek Street in around 66 or 67. Look at those sideburns! I’m playing my first decent acoustic, a Hagstrom used on my very first album for Transatlantic, a copy of a Gibson J160 E made famous by the Beatles. The difference being that the 160 E had a pickup at the end of the fingerboard and the top was laminate. Bert Jansch used one for a while when his beloved John Bailey fell apart whilst on a tour of the USA with the Pentangle!
The Hagstrom was of all solid construction. Spruce top and mahogany back and sides. Later on I ruined it by stripping all the polish off the front in an attempt to get more volume out of it. I ruined many nice guitars in those days (before transducer pickups) in fact many of us did methinks; Ralph McTell, John Renbourn, Johnny Martyn and many more.
It’s quite possible that my pal Colin took this pic. I’m sure he can confirm if this was the case. Colin took a lot of great photos back in the day.