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March 31st 2020: in this issue:

New Guitar for Gordon Giltrap
Martin Simpson
Remi Harris - 100th Sketches Video - Nuages
How to lose an hour of your life
The inevitable COVID-19
Music delivered to your home
Will McNicol
Richie Carr
Stuart Penny - You’ve changed

John Smith
Other Heroes
Troy Donockley and Nightwish
Oberon Guitar for sale
Ben Robertson
Signature mandolin for sale
Live from your own front room
Clive Carroll's Coastal Walk Part Two
Reasons to be cheerful Part Three

New Guitar for Gordon Giltrap

I did wonder about how to start this newsletter, but it didn’t take long. Guitars must come before bad news, plenty of time later to talk about other things and I think we need cheering up first.

This idea has been brewing between GG and myself for quite some time. Gordon loves to stretch himself over many different styles of guitar and has made very good use of a small guitar in the past. I think he sort of issued a challenge to me over this without putting it in quite in those words. It usually goes something like this - “Rog, what do you think about …?”

The back and sides are very very old Brazilian Rosewood, deep chocolatey brown, from the stock of Harald Petersen, once a well-regarded classical maker from the Lake District. Most of it was far too small, or full of wormholes, cracks etc, but these pieces were perfect for the job.

The soundboard is Sinker Redwood that Moira and I brought back from Mendocino, California. Again, it’s a small piece, but wonderful quality, stiff and resonant.

Rosewood bindings. Laminated Mahogany neck with black and red lines. 515 mm scale Ebony fingerboard with notched square abalone inlays (and a cheeky little bit of colour!). The neck is a copy of a Fylde GG model, 46 mm wide at the nut, and the same taper, but because of the short scale, the string spacing at the bridge is less than normal. Gordon can play anything.

The bevel/cutaway was formed from four layers of black veneer, moulded “round the corner”, to remove the ugly, pointy, sharp bit.

The tone is huge, lively and full. It probably doesn’t need a pickup, but it has a K&K just in case.

I can’t wait to hear it live.

Gordon's site

  • Gordon Giltrap's New Guitar
 
 
  • LC1A8274
  • LC1A8280
  • LC1A8275
  • LC1A8283
LC1A8274
Martin Simpson

A short clip of Martin playing just one of his "Lots" of guitars. When Martin played this, the sun came out!

One of Martin’s main skills is that he actually listens while he plays. I’ve been aware of Martin’s analytical “ear” for a long time, it’s one reason he is so highly regarded amongst guitar makers. But in this case, it’s his “other” ear (yes, he has two) the one that tells him when he is playing well, and hearing something good, it shows in his face.

I often say that nobody really hears a guitar until they have it alone, to themselves. You don’t read a book in the bookstore do you? It’s the same with guitar purchases. In the shop or at the exhibition, you only hear the bass and the volume, the “sleeve notes”. The full story is inside, when you get it home and you can really listen.

Martin wants us all to subscribe to his Instagram and Facebook accounts, he will be uploading lots of new tab (please keep your requests coming in to info@martinsimpson.com) and finding ways that he can perform mini-concerts.

Remi Harris - 100th Sketches Video - Nuages

Let's have some more music, just to remind us why we are here.

Well, happy birthday to Remis' Sketches - 100 videos. It's wonderful for us to see something like this - an astonishing guitarist playing one of our babies so well, and so often! Just right for times like this, we all need encouragement.

Well done Remi.

Remi's website

How to lose an hour of your life

Put the clocks forward an hour, but a whole week before it was due. Not referring to anybody in particular of course.

The inevitable COVID-19

OK, time to talk about this.

We are still working but absolutely no visitors (and no exceptions, I’m sorry to say) for the time being, I can answer most queries via email from home and delivery services are still working, I'm very impressed with couriers etc, and very grateful to them.

We are taking it in turns to be in the workshop, it's plenty big enough to keep 2 meters apart but we don't need to take the risk, yes it will slow us down, but we'll manage.  I've discovered that methylated spirts is the strongest alcohol for hand sanitiser and we have plenty of that. Moira has bought a steam cleaner to go round everything we touch and she has tested it out, I'm a bit pink but at least I don't need to shower for a while and now I know it works.

I'm working a lot from home, so you might get emails at weird times, 4 am is common at the moment, but there might be tea stains and toast crumbs on the emails.

Music delivered to your home

I had a nice little idea a few days ago, Mike English turned it into a proper light bulb moment.

I had been asking people to post more videos etc so that I can help get music “out there”, then someone mentioned they were planning a “streaming” event, and the idea began to form.

If you look at the home page of this website, you will find links to various musical streaming events, many of which allow the artist to earn a little during the current lockdown or at least lay down some publicity for the future.

The idea will depend upon getting enough content, and keeping it up to date, so please do your best to send me any such links. I'm not going to keep it strictly to Fylde related things. If like it, I’ll try and use it. If I don't like it, well - what do you think?

I've already used a live stream from Gordon, playing live for the nationwide “clap for the NHS” event. We clapped in the garden, with the squirrels.

John Smith, Tristan Seume, Will McNicol and Hattie Briggs have also featured, I’ve just put up Snake Davies' list. Keep them coming.

Will McNicol

Will is one of the hardest working guitarists I know in terms of "strings to his bow", the bits and pieces that support his main intention of making music. We've often discussed all the different parts that make up the whole package of a professional life.

Here are two parts of Will's catalogue of “product".

https://www.willmcnicol.co.uk/scores
www.willmcnicol.co.uk/giftcards

Richie Carr

What a splendid video by our latest mystery guitarist.

His name is Richie Carr, he is a student of Will's and a regular at Ullapool. Just in the middle of exam years and being rather good at disciplining himself.  Well done Richie. Watch this space everyone.

The piece is composed by Will (I told you he was a busy lad).

Stuart Penny - You’ve changed

This is quite appropriate in some ways, many of us will be making music from home.

Stuart is a recently retired vicar, and as is often the case, has a nice line in edgy jokes. The guitar is a Custom Ken Nicol.

John Smith

John had his Australian tour cut short because of the epidemic. It was shaping up to be a huge success, selling amazing numbers of CDs.

He also played at Adelaide, where my daughter Sophie is now living. I had told John that she would be there, and he shouted out a greeting from the stage, that made Sophie's night, and her Australian boyfriend, Ben, thought it was "Bonzer". (Hello Ben, we haven't met in person yet, but WE WILL). John had to "have a word" with someone who was filming from the audience, but the light was bad, and he didn't know who it was.

You won't tell him, will you?  Sophie is very sorry.

John's website

>
Other Heroes

We all know how much we owe to nurses or doctors. Can we extend our support to all those who are delivering things? Posties and carriers are working flatout, and are fairly visible, but what about the lorry drivers? Everything we use has to be transported, all the usual stopping / feeding places are closed, and we are going to see some very malnourished truckers.  We might get to the point where we don’t say “Respect”, we say “Big Clap” instead?

Troy Donockley and Nightwish's Floor Jansen

Any musician will be jealous of the hits on this link, 64,000 on the first day. Troy is playing his Oberon, which, with Nightwish, has probably been heard by more people worldwide than any other Fylde.

The guitar dates from 1996, it's not one of the early ones, it's only 23 years old! This sort of thing is beginning to make me feel ancient. We've recently "added" a cutaway to it and repaired a "bit" of damage. caused by the rock and roll life it leads. I don't know the story of this video, perhaps the rest of the band didn't turn up at the studio. Hangovers most likely.

Oberon Guitar for sale
  • Oberon for Sale
 
 
  • LC1A8233
  • LC1A8239
  • LC1A8248
LC1A8233

This guitar shouldn't be here. It was made to order last year but I agreed to let the customer take one of the personal selection models instead. That worked well for me, I've had the guitar here as a demo since then. I don't think I will be able to have any visitors for some months, so it makes sense to let it go.

The Oberon was the first model we ever made, and it's become just about iconic, played by so many of the pioneer British Guitarists of the 70's and later. It isn't as popular now, but still fills a very distinct space, ideal for dedicated fingerpickers with its short scale length and 46mm nut width. Listen to early Gordon Giltrap, Nic Jones, John James. Chris Foster and others. It was, and is, famous for its balanced tone and uncanny recorded sound.

For sale £3,400

Ben Robertson and Nina Bannister

That worked out well, here we have another Oberon, demonstrating that lovely recording sound I mentioned. Ben deserves to be much better known, and I think it might happen. Lovely guy, great talent and very well paired with Nina’s lovely voice.

Signature mandolin for sale.

I don't have pictures of the actual instrument, it isn't quite perfect, there is a tiny flaw in the soundboard, but I can't catch it with the camera to show you. You most likely would never have known if I hadn't told you about it.

I shouldn't, but I will, offer it a little cheaper, £1,250 rather than £1,550

Live from your own front room

How's this for an idea?  Now there is no actual live music, and we are having to entertain ourselves, why not set up your own, very personal gig from your own front room?

Let's make it as realistic as possible:

If you have  a reasonable length ‘stream’ to watch, or a series of YouTube clips, even a DVD, set them up on your widescreen TV, etc. and collect all your dining chairs, office chairs, kitchen stools, tea chests etc, and arrange them in nice lines in front of the screen.

Pick the seats in the very middle for yourselves, it's important not to snatch the best seats just because it's your show, that wouldn't feel at all like a proper gig. Place large soft toys on all the other seats to simulate a full house (or not). We have three generations of such things gathering dust around our house.  Be sure to put the giraffe on the seat right in front of you, or possibly the big bear with the wobbly head that won't keep still.

If you have a steel pillar or awkward corner, put one of the seats just behind it, and arrange the rows so there isn't quite enough room to put a beer glass on the floor.

Sit down in your chosen seat at least twenty minutes early, or about a minute after the video starts. Nothing in between is allowed,

You must use ridiculously squashy plastic glasses and overfill them each time you struggle out to the bar (Kitchen). Depending on what type of venue you are simulating, you might have wonderful beer, and struggle out between every song, or terrible beer and make it last until half time. Of course, it's important to use the squashy glasses correctly, and deposit a little down the neck of the giraffe each time you get a drink. If you have six pints, well, just imagine, and of course there is always the cheap red wine to consider.

Turn the lights down of course. No bare feet or carpet slippers allowed, keep it real.

I would wear my favourite T shirt that says, "Will the person sitting behind me, please shut the **** up". Well, I would do if ever I'd got around to getting them printed. That's copyright by the way.

Again, to be realistic, it might help to have a few empty chairs, every venue has some blokes that prefer to stand up.  Maybe some groups of upside-down brooms propped against the walls? You could put boots on the floor underneath, again just to add realism. Moira has a lovely fluffy mop that I've taken a fancy to, I'd put a pair of high heels underneath that. Maybe some earrings and a necklace?  Bit of perfume? Lipstick?

What else? Oh yes, make sure that the living room door is squeeky, and lets a blast of light in when you try to sneak through it. If the person with the remote-control times it right, this could all become part of the evening, that and making sure you are fighting your way in, spilling beer and apologising all the way, for the first few seconds of every third song.

Of course, depending on your age, or if you have any sort of "condition" to consider, you might prefer to sit at the end of a row. Realism is important. 

There is a little more you could do depending on the size of your self isolation group. Perhaps children would be willing to help by dropping glasses just outside the door, or just generally making bar staff type noises? Mine do that without being asked anyway.

Half time would be strange, because there isn't likely to be a queue to the toilets, nor a queue at the bar, so perhaps a shorter interval would work. After the show, there would be no opportunity to buy the artists CD, but you could get onto their website, and buy the same CD that you bought last time.  No cheating by looking at your current CD collection. You could even send them a message saying that you first saw them in 1979, and that you've always thought they sounded like a young (insert name of appropriate dead hero). Professional artists love that sort of thing, one of the reasons they do the job is to have the same pointless conversation five times every night.

There won't be a kebab shop on the way home, nor any opportunity to criticise any one's driving, nor will you get lost, but there has to be some downside to the idea.

Do tell me your experiences when you try this ...

Clive Carroll's Coastal Walk Part Two

This is a very convenient link to the next feature, I just need something with a "Part One" in the title.  Clive has completed the second part of his intrepid adventure. Unfortunately, the next step has been postponed because of the general lockdown. We were hoping to see him at our special place, Staithes in North Yorkshire, but it will have to wait.

Clives Website

Reasons to be cheerful Part Three

I want to see part one and part two.

Great backing on this classic track. When "Drum and Bass" meant, well, drum and bass.