A miscellany of news, views, performances etc
Been able to find some time to spend in my workshop recently. I’ve been building guitars as a serious hobby for almost twenty years now, beginning at a night class before going on to study at weekends under one of the UK’s top luthiers, Nick Benjamin.
Whilst not getting as much time as I’d like to devote to it, I’ve been able to build a dozen or so instruments over the years. As my competence increases, so does my understanding of how the process can make a significant contribution to the spiritual life. When time allows, I intend to write more about this.
Meanwhile, here are some shots of my latest small-bodied bubinga and spruce instrument. I’ll update photos these as construction progresses.
Gluing x-braces to top.
Cutting out the sound hole after the rosette has been inserted.
Sides bent and sitting in the mould, ready for trimming and fitting with back and top.
Top and back ready for fitting to sides.
I wrote this for a bit of fun and recently found myself performing in Long Eaton where a couple City fans suggested that I record it. So here it is.
Occasionally, we hear music that touches us so deeply that we can do nothing else but stop and accord it our full attention.
Here is one of Canada’s great songwriters, Tom Wilson performing ‘Beautiful Scars.’ He wrote this after reading a work by writer Miriam Toews and had the opportunity to perform it in her presence in Canada’s Q Studios.
These are wonderful, fragile, moments capturing the power of music to touch our hearts.
Enjoy it and be moved.
Back in the eighties, I was a regular attender of the Greenbelt Arts Festival.
In my then mid-teens, the festival introduced me to Christianity but more importantly, it opened my eyes to a brand of Christianity whose emphasis lay with artistic expression and social justice. It was great fun and some of the artists that it introduced me to remain close to my heart to this day.
Poet Stewart Henderson was a great Greenbelt contributor and since the eighties he has been able to expand his artistic horizons as a writer, songwriter, radio presenter and producer.
At the end of one festival, it was around 1985 if I remember correctly, I found myself with just enough money to buy one last bag of chips, or so I thought. By the time I reached the front of the chip van queue, I realised I must have dropped my money somewhere. Embarrassed that my chips were in my hand but that I was unable to pay, I was surprised to find a hand reaching over, offering me the pound I was short of. It was Stewart Henderson.
In the midst of my embarrassment, coupled with the fact that the last person I would expect to find queuing for fast food would be Stewart Henderson, I never really felt as though I said ‘thank you’ to him properly.
This small moment has stayed with me for many years. I think that this has been the case because the impression that I had at the time was that Stewart was a giant offering kindness and generosity to me, a mere festival punter. The kindness seemed to come naturally to him and I have never forgotten it.
Call it luck, serendipity or the hand of God, last week I found myself sitting next to Stewart. So thirty years later, I was able to tell him how his act of kindness had sat in my soul for so long. He seemed as touched to hear this and I felt grateful for the opportunity of explaining the long term effect of his generosity.
Sometimes we never get to know the effects of our actions. Mostly, and rightly, ‘acts of random kindness’ drift into the maelstrom of life and are forgotten.
But this is not always the case. Sometimes acts of love pierce our lives and stay. Sometimes our own ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ scenes are cinema-graphed to us. But not often, and that’s probably for the best.
I think that I was trying to say something of this nature in my song lyric that reads ‘just love enough to trust angel’s wings to carry your heart to the world.’ Sometimes things seem so insignificant at the time they occur, though who knows where any chain of kindness ends?
We live, we try to love, and we trust that ultimately some small aspect, event or act of our existence may make some small difference to the life of another.
And ‘just enough’ love, is more often than not, all it takes.
The City Folk, Chichester, is one of the best musical places on the South Coast to spend a Friday evening. In the best tradition of folk clubs, you’ll find a warm welcome and a range of talent, all of which is greeted with the same degree of enthusiasm. We went there last Friday.
Staged in the local guide hut, it uses a sing-around format where the audience always listen with respectful silence and where turns are punctuated by the respectful MC’ing of one of the regulars.
And like all good folk clubs, the regulars, who know each other well, are not averse to occasional, affectionate banter all which serves to add a element of light-heartedness to the sessions. Folk clubs, like any institution, reflect the values of the personalities who run them and this club seems to me to be crammed full of genuinely good people.
It’s a bit of a trek from home for us, but always worth the effort when we get there.
Try it. You’ll soon be making some more musical friends.
I’ve had some time this past couple of weeks to bring together a host of ideas that have been fragments of songs for sometime. I’m being drawn towards recording a collection of songs with more of a ‘traditional feel,’ perhaps with just guitar and vocals. I already have versions of ‘Banks of the Sweet Primroses’ and ‘What’s the Life of a Man’ – both considered to be folk English standards but (and more interestingly to my ears) I have been exploring some broadside ballads, putting my own musical flavour to existing lyrics. The aim is to be able to seamlessly weave between my own self-written material and more traditional sounding material but without there being an abruptness in the difference of content and sound. There is some difference of course, but my goal will be to minimise it, to select material that is to my lyrical taste and to write music in sympathy with the words. Time will tell if this will be achievable. The joy will be in the journey.