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Accidental practice.

My first memory of a solo school performance is a reminder of my lack of interest in learning structure by heart and repeating it. School term end approaches, and I am known to be taking Spanish guitar lessons at home, so I
am asked to give a performance at the end of term concert. I’m about 11 years old and not used to rehearsing and performing in public.

The rehearsal day arrives, and I play something for the music teacher. Something I had never played before.
This was not my first go at improvising. I was usually forced into it by my lack of preparation. My music teacher was suitably impressed and told me to play the same in performance. I had no idea of what I’d played. I had just listened without trying to memorise.So when it came to the performance, I just made something else up and hoped no one would notice. My music teacher came up to me afterwards and congratulated me on the performance, but it sounded a bit different to rehearsal. I told him it was because I was nervous.

Since then I have learnt pieces by heart and polished them in performance. However, once they are under my belt, I will start to rearrange add take away and play with different rhythms. This method I would do clandestinely as I believed that I was having too much fun. This gave me a way of practising and making up different ways of going over a tricky passage.

When I find a part of the music which is difficult to play I will practice it, repeating it and listening. This method however quickly bores me, and I lose focus. To keep myself on track I will play it slower and slower. Then when it is at a comfortable speed, I will begin to expand on it, adding other passages of harmony and playing with the rhythm.

Not only has this allowed me to avoid the tension of fitting a weak section between mastered ones but more often than not has led to a whole new composition with what was once an unmastered passage.
Awareness of your strengths and weaknesses can save you a lot of time by allowing you to focus on that which needs immediate action before the whole musical vehicle can move forward.

Remember that the start of a practice of new music needs a focus on individual notes and their sequence, dynamics and timing. The piece is already perfect. It just needs for you to find the space within it and settle into its form.
Seeking perfection can have us practice to a point where we can play the piece without thinking but then there’s a risk that it is played without feeling.

Thought is a useful tool but a poor master. It cannot replace the other senses like touch and hearing. Then there are the feelings it evokes in the listener. The ability to hear the music with all its emotion, stress, accentuation, rhythm and dynamic allows a player to free themselves from the structure and play. Just play. One of my teachers gave me some very sound advice on playing and practising.

‘When you practice never play. When you play never practice.”
Performing should feel free of any agenda or reason to play. Motivation can be in need to express. There may be gains for the performer or listener, but the performance betters when it is allowed to be.

Letting go.



Listen to feedback because you just might have got it right.


The elusive run.


Trying not to try.

There is a phrase of notes that I play from a composition which has been a hit and miss no matter how many times I practice it. After ten years of playing the piece, I was sitting at home once again trying to master this elusive run.
Meanwhile, my friend starts talking to me about something interesting. Rather than stop practising the run, I kept on and at the same time listening to the story. Knowing my frustration with this run of notes my friend suddenly points out that I had just played the run perfectly. Yes, they were right. I had played it almost accidentally, or I had accidentally let it play me.

The music is there to first play with you so you can play with it. The need to express is strong, and the letting of that is the final touch. If you can’t allow that, it becomes too much like hard work.



Ration the passion.

Many compositions have a pinnacle, summit or crescendo where conclusions made like a wave of energy. Like the punch line of a joke, it needs good timing. It is a to get the shape of the piece in in your mind’s ear before you express it. Here it is useful to watch the tempo. Too fast and there is no room resonance and expression. Too slow and one can lose the thread and energy.

Knowing the shape helps you pace you playing. Start too hard and loud and there is no room for dynamics and sound projection. A good storyteller will use timing, tempo, and volume to deliver the plot. Keep the music in your mind and your heart ready to feel where it ebbs and flows.

Ration the passion.

Just enough salt will bring all the flavour forward..too much, and it’s inedible. Same with your passion. Too much and it’s like a sail boat in a strong wind without a rudder. You just swirl around. Too little passion and your boat will just sit there.

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The Search


So just landed in a new city, Bangkok.
How do I start to find musicians?
The internet of course. Bingo!..I find John Fernandez. A wonderful and talented percussionist trumpet player and vocalist from Columbia. John has amazing sensitivity and can always bring out the best in my music
John introduced me to Claudio, a Chilean percussionist; another master of rhythm.We played a residency at Jamon Jamon and really got the place rocking. I have always been into all genres of music although my chosen instrument is the flamenco guitar.

 

All genres to be found

I was brought up in 1960’s London and would sleep at night with the radio against my ear at low volume so my parents couldn’t hear…no headphones in those days. I would listen to anything and everything.

While performing at Jamon Jamon we wanted to put on a special night of vocals.
Immersion Fusion
Another internet search brings me to Jean Olsen; an accomplished and talented vocalist living in Bangkok. Jean encouraged me to learn some jazz standards and she performed a marvellous set adding class and elegance to the event.We had no reverb or effects but that was no problem for Jean.
On the night of the concert, we were approached by Nizam, a saxophonist from Lebanon.
He asked if he could sit in with Saxophone and flute.
He did and it was super cool. Jazz and flamenco by Lebanese, American and English musicians in a Spanish Taverna in Thailand….IMMERSION FUSION



The best of both worlds

Not long after this, I was contacted by Lalita; a flamenco dancer and dance teacher who asked if I would accompany her on guitar for an examination.
This lead to a collaboration of flamenco dance performances at Jamon Jamon which transported us to Andalusia Spain.



Action attracts opportunity. 



Enter Jay; A passionate and expressive flamenco dancer who brings strength and dramatic quality to his performance.
So up until now, I had performed with three Flamenco dancers all from Thailand which was a challenge as up until then I had always performed solo. So why Thailand? Why not?









Cameroon Calling


Bangkok like many large cities has a multicultural quality. The demographics may differ but the diversity and variety are strong. Like a meeting point or market square for a cultural jam.
Didier Mpondo living n Bangkok is the second musician from the Cameroon I have met and worked with.
The first was a saxophonist who was introduced to me by one of my first guitar students in London.
‘You gotta make it talk’ my dad would advise me when I played the guitar.
This Saxophonist made it talk, cry, laugh, walk, run and dance.
One time I gave him a lift home at 4 am. When we approached his house he asked me to cut the engine so the car noises wouldn’t disturb his sleeping 5-month-old baby. As he got out of the car he called out a bird noise into the sky and immediately afterwards a bird in a nearby tree echoed his call exactly.
Didier can do much the same through his wonderful vocals and percussion. Although I haven’t heard his bird call.



Indian Weddings and Jazz Tabla jams.

Like London, Bangkok has a large population of Indians and there are regularly lavish and grand Indian weddings. My first event in Bangkok was at one of these weddings.
The job was to play flamenco guitar for a dancer I had never met. Carla Soledad Rivera. We met. I played. She danced. Job done.
Since then I have studied, researched and performed with her at amazing venues throughout Thailand.
One thing leads to another.


Carla is the founder of The Home BKK. A cultural, educational and performance space in Bangkok. Through the Home, I have met great supporters of my art and worked with so many talented dancers and students. Recently we put on a show with a mesmerising mix of jazz percussion by Pong Nakornchai and Indian and ragga vocals by Harry Freebird.


I don’t believe I’ve even scratched the surface but look forward to many more musical experiences in this magical land in South East Asia.

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A wonderful memory of great artists and warm friends in Chiang Mai.

Thailand has held so many surprises and opportunities. Serendipity seems to be having a field day here.
Some of the best houses can’t be seen from the main road. Thailand has certainly proven to support that.

Chiang Mai Talent

Since living in Thailand I have had the honour and privilege of performing with some very talented musicians. My stay in Chiang Mai brought me into contact Jeap Supreeda; a well known Flamenco dancer and teacher from Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Since meeting we have performed at various events, festivals and 5-star hotels including the Four Seasons Hotel and The Shangri-La Hotel.

The Four Seasons rehearsal 

We have also made a music video together and through Jeap I was fortunate to meet and work with Geng; a very talented and musically sensitive Cellist and Anna Nantawan; a versatile and very musical vocalist.
The perfect compliment for my style of music and composition.

This has led to cooperation with other artists like Attasit who performs with Isan Soul.

The hospitality of the people of Thailand has never ceased to amaze me. But when combined with ‘Good old American hospitality it is the best of both worlds.

Jeap introduced me to the Chamberlains; Brad and his wife wed, their talented multi-instrumentalist son Rees and their daughter Zoe; a student of flamenco dance and a mean tuba player.

This family’s kindness has seen me housed and fed many times.

Brad has even rushed me to a hospital at 2 am when I snapped the bone in my little toe.

Not forgetting Mojo; their deaf dog who loves to sit in on rehearsals and feel the vibrations from their son Reece’s cajon playing.

I feel blessed to have such wonderful people in my life and if nothing else, the pursuit of a career in music has brought the most wonderful people and fascinating experiences into my life.


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Events

RomanceWell actually Romance Anonimo ( Anonymous Romance).

There is no known author that can be attributed to the composition of this piece of music
Yet it is one of the most recognised and loved pieces that is normally played on classical guitar.

I find though, that in a lot of European countries where I play it there is always someone who claims it is from their country
Be it Spain, France , Italy  or Greece.

On a recent visit to Danang in Vietnam I was sitting in a port cafe and a Vietnamese girl selling marble turtles asked me if she could play something on my guitar.

Expecting some heavy metal or pop song I was surprised to hear her play Romance.

It was probably first made popular by a French film entitled ‘ Les Jeux interdit’ ( The Forbidden Games) A 1952 French war drama where Romance was used as the soundtrack.

While working on a cruise ship contract I was approached by a member of the crew who asked me to play at her renewal of wedding vows ceremony on the beautiful Thai Island of Ko Kood.

The ceremony was to be conducted by the Ships Captain on the beach.

This of course was a very important event and she was quite concerned that everything would be perfect and that we should meet to discuss music I would play.

However we never really could find the time for this so I told her not to worry and to leave the music to me.

So I find myself installed on the beach while the ceremony was underway and I hadn’t really thought about what I would play but when I looked at the couple who were obviously still very much in love and in  the perfect setting , like a soundtrack to a love story, I began to play Romance.

It was probably the perfect choice and I felt as if I was watching a film that I was also performing in… it couldn’t have been more perfect.

During my contract we had a great guest entertainer magician ( Peter Mehtab ) and he was also a guest at the ceremony and took the perfect picture of me which I ended up using for the Front  cover photo of my latest album ‘ Mundo Lindo

This piece of music was one of the first I learned on the Spanish guitar and is a standard for students of classical guitar but I never get tired of it and neither do those who listen to it.

Then romantic couple renewing their wedding vows…Maria Fernando Magalhaes and Eduardo Dias Madureira

Captain Daag congratulating the bride!

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