I have just got back from the 2nd Classical Guitar Retreat on the Isle of Cumbrae organised by Matthew McAllister, and thought I would do a bit of a review, as it was such an amazing experience.
I got there late on wednesday night, getting the second to last ferry across to the island, and with my guitar safe and sound having been generously allowed on the flight as hand luggage, just in time to see Spain beat Germany in the semi final! Had to have a quick practice in the Cathedral to see what my guitar sounded like in that space, even if it was pretty dark at 11 at night.
CGR started on thursday afternoon, with the guitar orchestra led by Peter Stewart, playing a piece composed by him for the occasion 'The Eileans', and going to be the first part of a CGR suite of pieces. That night the first concert was given by Allan Neave, Matthew and Peter - see below, and featured a range of solo, duo and trio pieces.
Friday saw us split into groups for chamber music rehearsals with flute, violin or double bass, I was with Feargus for violin. It really was a great experience to play with other musicians. I have a feeling this might also have been the day of a 3.5 hour guitar orchestra rehearsal, which was a bit exhausting to say the least, I swear by the end I could hear an audible groan every time Peter would say 'Back to letter K on the score', however by the end we definitely sounded a lot better!
The day ended with a concert from Jamie Akers on the lute. This was fantastic, he played some really beautiful music, ending with Dowland, and three encores, the concert was followed by several glasses of wine in the common room of the college
Saturday passed in a bit of a blur, starting with some emergency practice of a Bach Sarabande Jamie had asked me to play in a baroque ornamentation class, followed by plenty of time to get nervous for a masterclass with David Russell in the evening. Still there was so much to enjoy before that, including Matthew's concert with members of the Frevo quartet, and featuring parts a Bach and a Brouwer suite which were beautifully played, especially knowing that Mr Russell was in the audience!
A masterclass with David Russell, well where to begin... It was an incredible experience, I played the first movement of Ponce's Sonata 3 - not as well as I have done, but not terribly either. Then he started to go through it with me. Everything he mentioned just made so much sense, and he was very helpful, if you couldn't get what he was saying immediately, he would find another way of explaining. The main thing I came away with was the need to make my right hand work far harder. I thought I had a good tone, but hearing him play right next to me was incredible, the strength of sound he created was unbelievable. I know its a very different guitar to mine, but even so! Listening to the other 4 players and David Russells comments was also very helpful, especially at the end when he gave a demonstration of how to practice vibrato.
After the masterclass several drinks were required before sleep was a remote possibility - what a day!
David Russell's concert was on Sunday afternoon, and it was a brilliant concert, with an immensely hard programme including F. Couperin, the Bach flute and guitar sonata, a Bach harpsichord sonata, some Albeniz transcriptions including Cuba, and some Lauro. As an encore he prepared two pieces by Ron Moore, entitled Great Cumbrae and Little Cumbrae - very appropriate given our location, as well as an astounding interpretation of Una Limosna.
Inspired by this, it was then the turn of us, the students, to play in the student concert, whatever we had been preparing during any spare time (was there any??) during the festival. The guitar orchestra managed a successfull rendition of 'The Eilean's', and the chamber music groups all played too. Peter and Douglas played some wonderful Pat Metheny pieces for guitar and double bass, and this was the highlight of the concert for me. Allan finished the concert with a piece Douglas had written partly during the composition lecture!
Then things got ultra competitive with the CGR quiz... with caricature rounds, and the ridiculously difficult name the title and performer round. The quiz was won by Allan's team by quite a margin, with David's team beaten into 3rd place. Still most of us managed to end up with a few goodies from D'Addario, and I can't remember how, but I ended up with a signed copy of the 'For David' CD signed 'For Kathleen' - oh dear I must have been really quite drunk to pluck up the courage to get that signed! As a wonderful end to CGR Feargus asked David to play violin, whilst he played viola, in a wonderful duet, joined by David (the college warden) who played the Ashokan Farewell to David and Maria as they left.
Lets just say that after all that excitement, monday was a bit of a struggle, and the rest of the week a write off. I am still completely exhausted, and although really inspired, I am struggling to play anything at the moment.
Thank you Matthew for organising such an amazing event
ps sorry this can hardly be described as a short post, but I'm still sure I have missed lots out!