This year Richard Durrant brings us a rather special musical celebration of midsummer and a classic collection of new pieces, old favourites, tales from the road and the occasional song inspired by the summer solstice. We talk to Richard to find out more…

You are no stranger to extended UK wide musical tours. How did all this begin?

“Over the past 15 or so years playing my Christmas tour has proved to be a wonderful adventure.  My encounters have been with both Christianity (from church avoider to minister of communion) and paganism (living at the feet of the Long Man of Wilmington on an ancient trade route and fascinated by the hill barrows and sacred sites along the south downs).

Long Man of Wilmington
Long Man of Wilmington

“This has enabled me to use music and my Christmas audience to arrive at a much clearer understanding of midwinter & Christmas and what it means to different people. I understand a lot more about this time of year now – and of course about myself in relation to Christmas and the solstice.”

‘One is left with the impression of a man who loves music and life in equal measure.’

Gramaphone Magazine

So why Midsummer?

“Now I want to begin to explore the real meaning of midsummer, a time as significant as the winter solstice. This year is the start of a long journey as I try to make sense of it all – just as I did with those early Christmas tours.”

So what are the challenges for you in creating Music for Midsummer?

“Last December, at the matinee on the solstice, I managed to engineer it so that I began playing Barrios’s musical prayer in full, bright sunlight and ended it in total darkness (apart from my candles). This was a moment I will never forget and the audience got the significance in all it’s layers – beyond the obvious trick with the timing.”

“It’s not so easy with midsummer because we don’t have the tangled, hyped expectations and emotional depth of Christmas tacked onto the solstice. The world doesn’t stop in June as it does in December – well, not for most people. It does for me on the summer solstice though, just as it does on the equinoxes – maybe I’m just a bit of a weird beard!”

‘My new favourite guitarist…Richard Durrant sits completely outside the accepted genres. He has a peculiar and wonderful mind.’

Tom Robinson, BBC 6 Music

And what sort of music can we expect at Music for Midsummer?

“I’ll be playing my own guitar solo Book of Spells and Bach’s 3rd Cello Suite. I shall also play some British folk contrasted with music from the Tropic of Capricorn with some great pieces from Venezuela and Paraguay. I shall be adding music right up to the wire to try and give us a glimpse inside midsummer. One of the great things about this first tour is that the gigs are spread across a wide area of England and Wales so I get to see the countryside lit by that magical midsummer sun.”

Music for Midsummer 2019

11 May        Exclusive Studio Concert

5 June         Aberystwyth

6 June         Narbeth 

7 June         Kingskerwell

8 June         Baulking

12 June       Bexhill-on-Sea

20 June       Crawley

21 June       Brighton

22 June       Stoke Golding

23 June       Surprise Tour Finale!

Richard Durrant Live

Richard Durrant returns to the Ropetackle Arts Centre on 4 April with a rather special recital featuring a selection of some of the world’s most famous guitar solos.

Richard is currently preparing for two major Ukulele events prior to his Music for Midsummer UKtour which starts on 5 June in Aberystwyth. Before that he will be playing solo, unplugged, un-amplified and down off the stage with music from Europe and South America. So this is an opportunity to keep his hand in with some of the great classic works from the repertoire. 

‘There will always be times when I have to plug in, and this can be very exciting and effective. But, equally, there are times when I want to offer something purer and more direct. This direct, acoustic contact with the audience, the sound of my guitar with fingers on strings and nails articulating emotions, is something I’ve practised and thought about for all of my working life. Federico Lorca was on the case in his poem “Guitar”. It’s a bit melodramatic, but it always does it for me:’

Richard Durrant

The weeping of the guitar begins.

The goblets of dawn are smashed…
It weeps arrow without target
Evening without morning
And the first dead bird
On the branch.
Oh, guitar!
Heart mortally wounded
By five swords.

And it will be as close up and intimate as Richard and his regular stage manager Matt Hodgson can make it at their favourite Arts Venue; the Ropetackle in Shoreham-by-Sea. This will be a programme of real favourites played on six string, concert guitar including music by Lauro, Villa-Lobos, Juan Duarte, Albeniz and Tarrega

Vila-Lobos, Tarrega, Lauro, Albeniz and Jean Duarte
Vila-Lobos, Tarrega, Lauro, Albeniz and Jean Duarte

“Durrant never lets his stunning technique overshadow this wonderful timeless music”

The Sun

Playing un-amplified really allows the unadorned warmth of the instruments to project into a room. Just last Sunday Steve Johnson wrote a piece in the Chicago Tribune entitled ‘Why unamplified music makes for a better live show’ . 

Johnson praises how an un-amplified performance by somebody with the technique to carry it off seems ‘so clearly superior to the average amped show: richer, deeper, more connected.’ He suggests the most affecting performances are the ones that have the least ‘stuff’ in between the performer and the audience… ‘and makes it a communal thing.’

Richard Durrant Live

ROPETACKLE ARTS CENTRE
Shoreham-by-sea, BN43 5EG
4 April 2019 : 7:30 PM – 9:30 PM
TICKETS £5 – £16

Richard Durrant

Richard Durrant’s first ukulele quartet ‘Tan y Bwlch’ is soon to receive its first performance given the instrument a new status in the world of classical music…

Pic: Ukulele Quartet Poster

Since producing The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain’s 2004 album ‘The Secret of Life’, Richard is becoming increasingly influential in the ukulele world. In his 2012 solo tour of Paraguay, he was invited to play unaccompanied Bach on his uke on top of the Itaipu Dam overlooking Brazil, and in 2018 took part in a royal command performance at Buckingham Palace. And his wonderful six-movement ukulele concerto has ‘smuggled the little wooden box into the world of classical music’.

‘Richard’s ukulele compositions are masterful. They’re full of intriguing and catchy musical ideas which transcend the boundaries of academic or popular music – a game changer for the ukulele.’

George Hinchliffe, co-founder of the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain

When Richard was invited to perform at the finale of this summer’s Meet the Ukulele Maker’s Festival he saw it as a great opportunity to write and perform his first ukulele quartet. Set in Plas Tan y Bwlch, a former stately country house in North Wales’s Snowdonia National Park, Richard took its name as the title for his new quartet.

Tan y Bwlch

‘I’ve been visiting Snowdonia for over thirty years and I hope my love for the place comes across in this new music. But you have to understand this is an Englishman’s view – it’s me clutching my uke and gazing in awe at the mountains.’

Richard Durrant

TAN Y BWLCH

The World Première will take place at Ropetackle Arts Centre on Wednesday 27 February performed as part of a concert featuring Richard playing solo guitar, tenor guitar and ukulele. Tan y Bwlch will be performed by the composer plus thirty two of his Ukulele Circuit Trainers.

The performance at MUMF will be on 1 June. Richard is calling for participants who can download the resources online and watch specially prepared instructional videos to prepare for the workshops and performance at the festival

This three movement work can be performed by either four ukulele players, or three groups of players plus a soloist. The two outer movements are written in a minimalist style with intriguing, repeated patterns that suit the four ukuleles perfectly, conjuring up a beautiful, filmic landscape of sound. 

Snowdon Railway
Snowdon Railway

In Durrant’s ingenious score the four ukes perfectly mimic a Welsh train rushing through Snowdonia and there is even a brief interlude where the train pulls into a misty little station to take on water, coal and sandwiches!

In total contrast the middle movement is set to become a huge hit with uke lovers everywhere – it is the ukulele’s very own ’Orange Blossom Special’. But here Durrant is evoking the sound of the famous narrow gauge  Welsh Mountain Railway instead of the American express locomotive of that famous, bluegrass fiddle tune. 

Have a look at the second movement ‘Cledrau’…

Richard Durrant Ukulele Workshops

Welcome to 2019! It’s the perfect time to dust down your Ukulele and brush up on your skills with Richard Durrant’s great series of six-week workshops…

Ukulele virtuoso, composer and sometime Producer of The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, Richard Durrant brings back his hugely successful ukulele courses. Whether you need to brush up up on your Ukulele skills or are a complete beginner these workshops are for you – whatever your age, experience or ability.

Ukulele Ground Zero

Every Wednesday at 6.30pm 16 January – 20 February 2019
Ropetackle Arts Centre Shoreham-by-Sea, BN43 5EG
£60

Ukulele Circuit Training

Every Wednesday at 8pm
16 January – 20 February 2019
Ropetackle Arts Centre Shoreham-by-Sea, BN43 5EG
£70 – SOLD OUT

Richard’s workshops are held every Wednesday from 16 January to 20 February and are immensely popular with young and old alike…

Workshop participants
Workshop participants


And if you can’t get down to Shoreham-by-Sea, here’s a gift of a 3 months free Academy Passport to the Richard Durrant Academy. Here you will find easy to follow video courses for classical, acoustic and tenor guitar as well as the ukulele and even sight reading music.

This very special 12 Days of Christmas free offer worth £89.85 is only available until the end of January 2019.

How to take advantage of the 12 Days of Christmas offer…

Click on the button above and:

  • Select Academy Passport
  • Click Subscribe then create an account
  • At the checkout click Have a coupon * Enter the code nocharge3mth
  • Click Apply
Taking a break from gigs

The Candlelit Christmas Guitar Concert Tour is now two-thirds of the way through and Richard Durrant and his team are playing to big crowds and getting the Christmas magic flowing through advent.  So let’s catch up with all the action…

‘The new set list for this tour is a joy with the addition of the English song The Cutty Wren, an XTC track and several other surprises. I am also playing more cello than before – which sounds great with Nick Pynn’s fiddle, dulcimer and bass pedals and Amy Kakoura’s wonderful singing’.

 Soundcheck in Beverley

Tickets are now sold out for the remainder of the tour except for the Trinity Theatre, Tunbridge Wells and the afternoon performance in Wilmington Church.

Uffington set up

The tour began at the start of December and included a trip up to The Toll Gavel, Beverley – a regular gig for Richard where he always draws a big crowd. Richard tells us:

‘Apart from meeting so many old friends at the show, this trip also reminded me just how much I enjoy travelling with Nick, Amy and company stage manager Matt Hodgson. Matt’s a great member of the team who makes a big difference to the show with his years of experience in music and theatre, both onstage and backstage – believe it or not he even played the Milky Bar Kid (a few years back…)’.

The day after our their too short visit to Yorkshire they travelled down to Baulking in Oxfordshire. The idea was to include a Christmas gig as close as possible to the Uffington White Horse. Big thanks to George Reade and team for hosting such a brilliant event. The candles flickered and the White Horse danced on the side of the hill. This gig was filmed and the plan is to publish highlights at some point. 

Rehearsal
Rehearsal

On Saturday the team headed back to Sussex to a gig in the historic church at East Chiltingon. The following day they played a matinee and evening concert back home in Shoreham at the Ropetackle Arts Centre.  The Ropetackle gig was recorded and the track are on sale now in MP3, FLAC or ALAC formats.


This week the tour concludes with performances at Trinity Theatre, Tunbridge Wells, Findon Valley and the tour finale on the day of the Winter Solstice at Wilmington Church (close to another notable, English hill carving).

December in Shoreham-by-Sea
December in Shoreham-by-Sea

Look out for Richard’s 12 Days of Christmas which will soon be appearing on all Richard’s video and social media pages as well as on the successful Richard Durrant Academy…

Amy, Richard and Nick

Richard Durrant takes a break from rehearsals to give us an insight into the music being performed in the Candlelit Christmas Guitar Concert Tour which started at the beginning of December…

Your Christmas shows always sound fresh and contemporary yet are rooted in the spirit of Christmas. So what is the secret go making your Christmas shows such a success every year?

“Luckily for me, because I love the time of year so much it always comes to me afresh, which is why I look forward to the tour so much – I like how many different things Christmas can mean to each of us. This elusive Christmas magic has challenged and inspired countless generations of musicians and songwriters who try to get to the heart of the matter.  Christmas music, both sacred and profane, continues to flow and the surprises aren’t just under the Christmas tree, they come in the form of tunes and songs.”

What contribution do Nick and Amy make to the creative process?

“When Amy, Nick and I meet to prepare the shows there are many ideas that get chucked around – interestingly these often include British and Breton folk music. Certainly there are some amazing noises that drift out of my studio as the rehearsals get underway; Amy can bend and shape her voice any way she wants and Nick and I can play a lot of different instruments.

“I always play a solo set in each half, and we choose the duets with Amy and Nick together. The trio numbers we arrive at over a number of days spent playing, considering, rejecting, agonising and discussing – and then we start the routining and polishing. By this time we’re super keen to get in front of an audience…”

Instruments

And is there any original music in the show too?

“Absolutely! This year I have a new solo piece called ‘Book of Spells’. And, of course, we have changed the songs and carols, tweaking the arrangements of our old favourites and introducing some great newcomers. I really don’t want to give too much away here – but I don’t think anybody would be able to guess our set list…”

Richard & Nick

Finally, what makes this different from any other Christmas concert out there?

“For me these concerts are to mark the winter solstice and celebrate the Christian alongside the Pagan. We carefully choose music, instruments and arrangements (even lighting and staging) to evoke the middle of winter and take the audience to a different place. It’s my thirteenth year of playing the candlelit tour (my sixth with Amy and third with Nick) and I hope that people will again notice we are aiming for something honest and authentic rather than commercial.”

Throughout December, you can catch Richard Durrant’s Candlelit Christmas Guitar Concert Tour at Beverley, Baulking (already sold out) East Chitlington, Tunbridge Wells, Findon Valley, Wilmington and Richard’s home town of Shoreham-by-Sea.

Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without Richard Durrant’s Candlelit Christmas Guitar Concert Tour. But it’s not all about Richard as he is accompanied by two of the finest talents on the musical scene. Find out more…

CLICK HERE FOR ALL THE TOUR DETAILS

Amy Kakoura

Caught between worlds – part Greek, part Irish, and brought up in England, Amy Kakoura is an artist who strides across genres, journeying between the folk world, an operatic training, the musical-theatre industry, the Jazz ’n’ Blues scene, and many stops in-between.

Amy trained at the GSA Conservatoire, and went on to co-write and take the lead in the sellout production Songs From A Ledge, at the Old Joint Stock in Birmingham, and her song cycle Anansi Is Dead was performed at Coventry’s Theatre Absolute in November.

Amy is the lead vocalist for Steamchicken. This eight-piece folk-funk-cabaret cacophony has attracted much notoriety! She also sings regularly with Blues and Soul Revue The Daily Grind and joins Richard Durrant for a sixth year of his magical Christmas tour.

Haunting Vocals
– Maverick Magazine on Amy Kakoura

Nick Pynn

Nick is probably best known for his regular appearance as Stewart Lee’s musical counterpart in the BBC Comedy Vehicle, as well as playing in Lee’s Austerity Binge at The Queen Elizabeth Hall.

Nick is a member of Stomp’s Lost and Found Orchestra, and has toured with comedians Boothby Graffoe, Rich Hall and performed for several years in two-handers with Steve Harley (Cockney Rebel) and Arthur Brown.

Receiving glowing reviews for his 15 years at the Edinburgh Fringe, with his unique mix of storytelling, melodic mastery, technical wizardry and vast array of instruments and curiosities. In 2012 he toured in the all-star line up of The Lady: A Homage to Sandy Denny.

Nick often joins forces with singer/songwriter Kate Daisy Grant to create a two-person orchestra, adding piano, found objects and various string instruments. Nick has performed and recorded regularly with guitar virtuoso Richard Durrant.

…music of immense imagination and skill
– Glasgow Herald on Nick Pynn

Richard Durrant

In 2018 Richard never really stopped. After his orchestra gave its debut performance playing Richard’s new ukulele concerto and a selection of his other orchestral music, he went on to release his first double album Stringhenge. Then he cycled from St Magnus Cathedral on Orkney all the way down to Sussex including a live performance on BBC Radio 3.

Following two very successful Guitar Adventurers holidays in the south of France Richard returned home for more Stringhenge concerts and found himself the subject of a forty five minute feature on BBC6 Music. The station continues to play tracks from Stringhenge.

But now Christmas has just appeared on the horizon, and the music has changed tack

Says Richard: ‘As soon as the clocks go back I start to daydream about playing with Nick and Amy – by the time Bonfire Night has been and gone this has turned to a raging desire! So bring on the midwinter and let me play folk music and sing carols….’

Richard Durrant is my new favourite guitarist. He sits completely outside the accepted genres and has a peculiar and wonderful mind
– Tom Robinson BBC Radio 6

Throughout December, you can catch Richard Durrant’s Candlelit Christmas Guitar Concert Tour at Beverley, Baulking (already sold out) East Chitlington, Tunbridge Wells, Findon Valley, Wilmington and Richard’s home town of Shoreham-by-Sea.

CLICK HERE FOR ALL THE TOUR DETAILS

Due to other commitments this is a shorter tour than usual so get your tickets fast!

Portmeirion Chess

It’s the end of a crazy couple of months as the Stringhenge Solo Tour draws to a close. But in amongst the concerts some colourful, extra curricular activities had lent some interesting nuances to Richard Durrant’s Autumn schedule…

In between those September and October gigs Richard was working on the Tenor Guitar module for his online academy 

Better cameras, better lights and the beautiful little tenor guitar – Ian Chisholm’s Uffington Tenor – all conspired to make some great films to make up the series of ten lessons entitled Quick Start Tenor Guitar.

Richard filming

And after the gigs in Halesworth and Tunbridge Wells Richard spent a day in his studio with Paul Cartledge working on their Americana  recordings. In addition to G and Tenor banjo, mandolin, acoustic guitar and his lovely old Gretsch Anniversary Richard persuaded his youngest son, Felix to lend his double bass.

Americana Day

Then it was off to Wales for a concert at Theatr Clywdd in Mold. This included the official premiere of Richard’s new work Book of Spells which will be available soon on BandCamp alongside music from Stringhenge.

UkeLive

Next Richard and his family headed into Snowdonia for a wonderful week of Welsh sunshine including a solo recital in the Hercules Hall inside the ever magical Portmeirion – see the title pic of the giant chess pieces.

Following the interest shown by BBC 6 Music in the second half of the Stringhenge album – called The English Guitar Hymnal – Richard gathered together his band The Burning Deck for a special show at Ropetackle. 

Lastly, for all the Ukulele fans out there, Richard will be leading some Ukulele courses: Ground Zero for beginners and Circuit Training (for those already up and running) starting from 16 January at the Ropetackle Centre.

What a great Christmas present a place on a course like this would be! 

Here’s a photo of last year’s players with some extra, celeb players who sneaked in for a good musical workout on their way to the pub…

Ukulele group
Richard Durrant, Amy and Nick

Oh Goodness, it’s only 72 days, 13 hours to Christmas! So no time to lose in planning some jollies to lift your spirits as Richard Durrant’s extra special Candlelit Christmas Guitar Concert Tour hits the road in December…

For many music lovers across the UK, Christmas doesn’t properly begin without Richard Durrant’s Candlelit Christmas Guitar Concerts. Richard’s wintry, musical choices are always a fascination: original guitar works, tunes from the early music repertoire, British folk and works by Bach – all played in his uniquely expressive way with the flawless technique of a major virtuoso and the delivery of a natural story teller.

‘…one of the highlights of the year. Durrant’s evocative playing and stunning stage set fill the centre with a magical aura perfectly aligned to the festive season’.
– Ropetackle Arts Centre

Richard is once again joined by the master folk fiddler Nick Pynn and uniquely talented singer Amy Kakoura (above) – two great musicians who help take this show into the heart of Christmas. These three musician’s performances are always flawless and full of midwinter magic. Together they will serve a festive feast of tunes from the early music repertoire, British folk, traditional carols and original guitar works.

‘Attempting to wrestle control of Christmas from the more commercial aspects.’
– Daily Express

Over many years Richard’s Candlelit Christmas Guitar Concerts have become a seasonal tradition eagerly awaited by music lovers across the UK. The tour starts on 2 December on Richard’s home territory of Shoreham-by-Sea before heading up to Beverley in the East Riding of Yorkshire, West to Baulking in Oxfordshire and then to various venues in the South-East.

Map


STRINGHENGE 2018

And just a reminder that there are just two more concerts to go in the current Stringhenge Tour:

Tuesday 16 October: Ropetackle, Shoreham-by-Sea with The Burning Deck

Saturday 20th October: Theatr Clwyd, Mold

featuring the Premiere of Richard’s new solo work Book of Spells.

View from the Road

As we pass the autumn equinox Richard Durrant is currently out and about on his autumn Stringhenge Solo Tour.  This is his first outing since the two long drives to the South of France running his Guitar Holidays not to mention 1,000 miles on a bicycle playing those gigs through the heat of summer 2018.

The last few days crossing the UK have been very affecting, witnessing the start of autumn whilst travelling from Sussex to Scotland in the bright sunshine. A stop off in Edwinstowe included walking into the Forest of Sherwood to play at the opening of the new visitor centre.

Richard tells us more:

‘It was a beautiful evening and I stood next to a hog roast (with a very convincing Robin Hood and Little John looking on), playing my bog oak guitar to the gathered folk of the Sherwood Forest Trust.  Later that same evening Friar Tuck showed up at my concert in the church where Robin and Marian where supposedly wed. The good Friar bought some vinyl – he hasn’t gone digital just yet.’

Gary and Richard

Gary and Richard

Richard then travelled on to Northumbria to visit the new workshop and home of Gary Southwell. Gary made the beautiful concert guitar that has been so central to Richard’s musical adventures for the last two years.

The cover pic to this newsletter is the view of Gary’s workshop from the nearest proper road!

Performing in Peebles

Performing in Peebles

After a wonderful Friday night at the Eastgate Theatre in Peebles, Scotland, Richard headed south-west to Cumbria to perform at the Upfront Gallery and Puppet Theatre in Unthank. It is a unique place and it’s always worth arriving early to have a look round…

and you never know when you might see a puppet!

Puppet

Album News

Stringhenge

Stringhenge album

As of two weeks ago, the Stringhenge album is now officially ‘out there’.   It’s still getting plays on BBC 6 Music and was also chosen as one of the Guardian’s ‘Top folk album Picks of the Month’. The album has now just arrived on all digital platforms (i-tunes etc).

CHECK OUT RICHARD’S NEW BANDCAMP SITE

Richard Durrant and the Burning Deck

The unexpected popularity of standout track Kenneth the Hedge (which has been played all over the network) has prompted Richard to get together with some of the musicians from the album to perform at the Ropetackle gig on Tuesday 16th October.  With Stephen Hiscock on drums, Howard Beach keys, Gareth Huw-Davies on bass and Rabs on guitar and additional vocals this is Richard Durrant and The Burning Deck.

Richard’s message to everyone now is to…

‘Enjoy the change in season –  get yourself some conkers – and I hope to see you at a gig sometime soon!’

Upcoming events