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Queen Guitar Rhapsodies

Three weeks in August: from Madrid and London to the City of Derry

- Why the pursuit of excellence connects them all -

These past three weeks of August have seen me at three very different locations: in geologist Juan Menduiña’s workshop in Madrid, in London during the Olympic Games, and in the City of Derry Guitar Festival. One thing connects them all, and that is their pursuit of excellence, of which I have been both spectator and participant.

Armed with a new guitar from Juan Menduiña’s workshop I proceeded to Derry. Hang on, I hear you say, isn’t Juan Menduiña a geologist, not a guitar-maker? Yes he is a distinguished geologist who has published papers on his specialty, but through his work he has developed an expert knowledge of the transmission of sound waves, giving him new insights into guitar construction. A patented design, the Sistema Menduiña creates a pure harmonic resonance and a great evenness of sound across the instrument . You shall be hearing more from me about this in future articles.

Now where was I? Oh yes, at the City of Derry Guitar Festival. Derry is unusual in many ways. For one thing many towns wish to be taken for cities, but Derry is a city happy to exude the atmosphere of a small town. I found myself strolling down the street and greeting strangers with a cheery “good morning” to which came back the reply “geed morrnen”, which is Irish-speak for the same thing. I love the Irish accent and if I could choose one for my own speech it would be that one.

Back to my stroll: along the Strand Road I passed a very large drinking establishment which in the early morning is quiet, but at night is heaving with music and social activity. A few yards further along the Clarendon Bar harks back to a more traditional pub of the kind rapidly disappearing in England. Very soon I reached the excellently equipped North West Regional College which was hosting the festival. I was here for the 9th consecutive year and this is the Festival’s 10th anniversary year. Directed by the far-sighted Sean Woods it brings together all types of guitar-playing and attracts players and aficionados of different abilities, ages and backgrounds. I particularly like the emphasis on encouraging the new and the creative. In the students’ concert a charismatic young man accompanied himself in his first composed song in his first public performance – his name is Mic Friel. I hope to be hearing a lot more from him in the future.

Carlos with Sarah Murphy, Gary Ryan and Sean Woods in concert 24 August 2012, Derry

I myself played in the opening gala concert on the Friday night putting my new guitar through its paces in music by Bach, Brouwer, Albeniz and the Beatles. Later in the same concert I joined Gary Ryan, Sean Woods, and Sarah Murphy, flute, for performances of Pachebel’s Canon and Jenkins’ Palladio, and what a delight to play with these wonderful musicians and produce such quality of ensemble playing after the briefest of rehearsals. Creativity was also the name of the game in Gary Ryan’s Saturday night solo recital which included some memorable compositions of his own.

Derry’s Guitar Festival is building something for the long-term and reflects the city itself. The stunning Peace Bridge on the River Foyle runs through the middle of the city and was designed by architects Wilkinson Eyre. Architect Quentin Seik has written:
“Its inspiration was Derry's iconic hands across the divide sculpture; conceived as two distinct structural systems that work in harmony. At the middle of the river both systems overlap, boldly interacting to create a single unified crossing - a structural handshake across the Foyle and an embrace in the centre of the river.”
It is a few hundred yards from the Guildhall and is a symbol of hope for the future. The past has also been served well in the murals which depict scenes from Derry’s recent history and are an artistic wonder worth a trip by themselves.

Carlos and guitarist Amanda Cook posing with mural during the City of Derry Guitar Festival 2010

Walking back to the hotel on Saturday night was to witness Derry at ease with itself in party mood - excited youngsters in various states of unusual attire, and others, young and old, spilling out from pubs onto the pavements, all shouting, laughing, singing... One man looked at me carrying my guitar and shouted “long live music” to which I answered “I agree”.

Whether it be in Derry, or wherever you live, I hope you agree too.

Mexico, 31 August 2012

Printed from: http://www.carlosbonell.com/blog/?p=1569 .
© 2019.

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