Members' Ensemble Concert

Thursday 13th December 2018

Unitarian Chapel, Brunswick Square

The BCGS was delighted this evening to welcome an appreciative and good-sized audience of friends and family and to treat them to our annual winter concert, showcasing the work throughout the year of the Ensemble and smaller playing groups and individual members; regaling them with music that is both serious and enjoyable, and shedding some light for their nearest and dearest on what it is that they actually do on the second Thursday of every month.

Helen James and the Ensemble opened the evening with two folk tunes in her arrangements, with rich chords, lovely light and shade and the melodies singing over the four-part accompaniments.

Charlotte, Rob and Lynette's Vivaldi and Hartog were a clever pairing, with the bluesy Hartog piece following the formal baroque variations. Both were played with coordination and style.

Next came Ciarán, with his own arrangement of the Pogues' seasonal favourite Fairy tale of New York. His adaptation allows Ciarán no easy ride as player, drawing on a wide range of techniques from tremolo to melody in thirds and in the bass strings. A piece we hope to hear again at regular meetings.

Clive Garrett bade farewell tonight to the BCGS with Mason Williams' 1968 hit Classical Gas, one of the classical guitar's very few pop hits, in an energetic rendering that Clive clearly enjoyed as much as we did. We will miss Clive's good humour and skilful playing, and wish him the very best for his future involvement with the Worcester CGS - our loss; their gain.

Tony and Tim rounded off the first half by adding even more variety, with sensitively executed and beautiful renaissance pieces by Dowland and Bach, and the cool jazz feel of Pujol's 2005 piece Palermo, which they and many of us first heard and were charmed by last year in the hands of visiting artists the Griffin-Turner Duo.

Although Francisco Tárrega never played his Recuerdos de la Alhambra in concert, he almost always included Capricho Árabe in his programmes; he considered it among his most accomplished pieces. Tonight Paul played Tárrega's original arrangement of a piece that has turned the head of many a guitarist to the classical genre over the decades.

As Tony Lewis, BCGS Chairman and MC pointed out, he has never singled out a performance for special praise at these concerts. However, on this occasion, Francesco's Chaconne was rightly identified as the stand-out moment of the night. A classical guitar scholar now working as an engineer, Francesco showed us an impressive feat of technique, memory and sensitive musicianship. He received loud, warm applause.

In counter-balance, Rob returned to the stage with Barry and Vince to play a 'light' trio from among the little-known composer von Call's oeuvre of some 150 didactic works. The performance was nuanced, and the players communicated well throughout to produce a very pleasant suite of salon-style music.

To bring the programme to its culmination, the BCGS Ensemble took the stage again. It is hard to overstate the progress that the group has made over the time the Helen has been arranging music for us and directing us. The playing is now careful and the parts tight, and the players' reading of her conducting is responsive, producing lyrical, skilful and very enjoyable music that all of us can be proud of. Helen's talent as an arranger shone again here, in the four Spanish folk tunes and Brazilian Nazareth's Brejeiro.


Equally efficient, as always, was concerts secretary David Evans in the provision of wine and mince pies afterwards, and there were plenty of smiles and good conversation until late. A great end to a great evening and a great year of classical guitar music. Well done and thanks to all, and best wishes for a happy 2019.

Nick Regan, December 2018

Winter Concert Programme

Thursday 13th December 2018 - 8.00pm

Ensemble   Folk Tune    

                   Ijwals                                           both arr. Helen James

Charlotte Barnard /  Trio Sonata in Dm      Antonio Vivaldi

Rob Blackwell /  Let’s Take the Flip Side     Cees Hartog

Lynette Taberner

Cierán Elster   Fairy Tale of  New York       arr. Cierán Elster

Clive Garrett   Classical Gas                         Mason Williams

Tony Lewis /   Come Again                           John Dowland

Tim Rigley      Arioso                                    J S Bach

                         Palermo                                 Máximo D. Pujol

Short interval

Paul Bradshaw   Capricho Árabe                  Francisco Tárrega

Francesco Reale  Chaconne in Dm               J S Bach

Rob Blackwell /  Leichtes Trio Op. 26:  

Barry Corbett /  Andante, Menuett,              Leonhard von Call

Vince Smith        Adagio,  Rondo

Ensemble    4 Spanish folk tunes:                   arr. Helen James

   Don Gato, La Tarara,         

   Valenciana, Serrana.

   Brejeiro                                                        Ernesto Nazareth

                                                                        arr. Helen James

Mince pies and wine!


Visiting Artists series: The Griffin-Turner Duo

Thursday 9 November 2017

Unitarian Chapel, Brunswick Square

What a great evening. First we had the pleasure of Amanda Johnson's short talk on the Spanish pianist-composer Enrique Granados, to whom the classical guitar repertoire is so grateful for his Spanish Dances and Goyescas, and who was to meet a tragic end in the English Channel. These 15-minute talks are among the highlights of the BCGS calendar, as they offer a space to any member to explain, share or demonstrate an aspect of the classical guitar world in which they have a particular interest. Members are constantly surprised by the quality and variety of the talks!

After Amanda's talk, we tuned up, sat up straight and settled into our Ensemble session, guided as always by our fabulous director Helen James. With the end-of-year recital looming, we need her more than ever.

The second half of the evening was devoted to our special guests, the latest in the Visiting Artist series, in which we invite national and international figures to give recitals and talks. We were delighted to welcome Frances Griffin and Leo Turner, the Griffin-Turner Duo.

Leo and Frances immediately showed their technical control and excellent communication as they started with a bright, up-tempo arrangement of Vivaldi's famous concerto. Not for them an 'easy' opening piece to settle in with! Sanzen-in, for two guitars, inspired by Andrew York's visit to the temple of that name in Kyoto, is beautifully evocative, and the duo applied the same careful coordination and great subtlety of tone to render the quiet beauty of the piece.

Astor Piazzolla's wonderful, intriguing treatment of Argentine tango is well known to guitar audiences through his 1960s/70s Estaciones Poerteñas (Seasons of Buenos Aires), and Libertango (a combination of the words in Spanish for 'freedom' and 'tango', implying the composer's freeing himself from the confines of the traditional form). Frances and Leo gave it brio, swing and emotional depth that took full advantage of the two-guitar format and the broad chords and layered voices that it provides: Piazolla scored the pieces originally for multi-instrument bands including electric guitar and conventional tango accompaniment.

The duo's own arrangements of the Beatles' music provided a new look inside familiar music. Leo and Frances commented later that one obvious but critical issue, when translating non-guitar music onto the guitar, is that the result must be, above all, a meaningful guitar piece. The choral textures in Because were reworked into a full and resourceful combination of the guitar's capabilities, delivered with a lovely subtlety. Likewise, the addition to the programme Carillon, by Herbie Flowers/Ian Gomm was tastefully arranged.

Another Argentine, Maximo Diego Pujol's, 2005 piece Palermo (Sunday in La Boca) is bright and lilting, and the instruments' individual tones gave it a real charm. The programme ended with a fiery rendering of Falla's famous Spanish Dance from La Vida Breve, with the fast-paced Iberian energy maintained with great control of technique and close communication.

It was an enjoyable and memorable, evening of music, for which we are very grateful to the Griffin-Turner Duo. Conversation and discussion with Frances and Leo continued in the Surrey Vaults before they set off again for Birmingham, where they play regularly to packed audiences in their home city's Museum and Art gallery.


 Concerto in D    Antonio Vivaldi
Allegro giusto

 Sanzen-in    Andrew York

 Verano Porteño    Astor Piazolla

 Two Beatles melodies   Lennon/McCartney arr. Griffin/Turner

 Palermo (Domingo en La Boca)   

 from the Suite Buenos Aires   Maximo Diego Pujol

 Spanish Dance

 from La Vida Breve   Manuel de Falla



Members' Summer Concert 2017 Review

Thursday 13 July 2017

Unitarian Chapel, Brunswick Square

With a select audience of family and friends, well-practised soloists and ensemble players, quality guitars gladly lent, a great acoustic and a substantial programme, what could possibly go wrong?

Well there were a couple of things we can quickly deal with: moving the full ensemble from ‘stage’ to ‘auditorium’ after the beginning three folk songs, and subsequent setting ups interrupted the flow. We missed Bruno’s pieces: he banged his right hand on a car door and essential bits of nail disappeared – nothing permanent and we are promised an update at the August session. We missed Bruno too – he was too upset to stay for the concert. Did someone mention a car crash? It was Clive, like most of us, his own worst critic, commenting on his rendition of Weiss’s Prelude from Sonata 14 in Dm.

And it is an undeniable truth that performance nerves are always there, and sometimes evident. Getting used to these is, as Tony reminded us, an important function of the Society. Personally I find ensemble playing far less nerve -wracking… and playing solo in front of guitar aficionados as calming as swimming with sharks.

So thanks are due to the many solo and valiant players who brought us musical delights, including: back to back Lauro from Colin and Cari, back to back tunes covered by Nat-King-Cole from Rob and Martin, Morgan’s Villa Lobos and other well-known composers: Derrick’s Tarrega (paired with Reiher’s spicy Miniature), Georgi’s Carcassi (paired with the excellently expressed Travelling with the Neverocop Express), Matt’s Mexican Chanson from Ponce and Bob’s Burgalesa with those wistful Torroba harmonies, and Clive’s Weiss. Andy gave us Satie’s first Gnossienne and, apart from Neverocop Express (Ognian Valev) and Miniature No 3 (Alain Reiher) already mentioned, we had Gary Ryan and Paul McCartney from Tony to bring us up to date. I fumbled through Sor and a piece hot off my own press too.

Link to full programme

Which brings us to the ensemble pieces: Either side of the interval we had some wonderfully tight playing with Couperin’s Tic-toc-choc from Bob, Cari, Matt and Georgi. After the interval Luke gave us four studies from Giuliani then teamed up with sister Maisie for a violin and guitar duet – great to hear such a different sound.

It was a pity Helen, our indefatigable and constantly positive ensemble leader, was not there to hear the bookends of the concert. Helen’s work was evident throughout the three traditional folk tunes with massed guitars that started the evening and Peter Maxwell Davies’ Farewell To Stromness that a smaller group of seven played at the end. A suitable close.

A pity too that Barry couldn’t join us. We all wish him well.

Thanks to all the players and audience for their crucial contributions. Time now to think of the Christmas Concert.

Tim Rigley

Members' Summer Concert 2016

Thursday 14 July 2016

Unitarian Chapel, Brunswick Square

Almost every month of the year at BCGS meetings, members try out, share and discuss solo pieces amongst themselves as a group, but only twice in the calendar are we asked to put on the tailcoat, Brylcreem the hair, and step out to perform in public. The Annual Members' Concert in summer is the first of these.

The stage for this summer's Concert was reassuringly familiar, being our new premises at the Unitarian chapel, and the audience, likewise, was composed of friends, family, fellow players, and friends of all of these. For the players, this all makes for less pressure and an opportunity to demonstrate to those who spend much of the year aware only of our dedicated practice around the house what it's all for.

Eleven members performed a programme of a total of sixteen pieces this evening. The music was very varied in scale, ambition and style, from Sor to Reinhardt; classical preludes to movie themes. We have been very pleased to find, since we moved, that the chapel has a very favourable acoustic. It is spacious, and well lit by the huge skylight.

Barry opened proceedings with a confident rendition of three descriptive pieces from Castles of Spain, commissioned by Andrés Segovia from composer Moreno Torroba; Villa-Lobos' famous Prelude and Tárrega's musical celebration of his youngest son, performed by Morgan and Cari respectively, continued the traditional classical repertoire. Derrick's lilting Ihla de Coral, evoking the tropical island of southern Brazil, by the great Brazilian composer of bossa nova, Luiz Bonfá, and Colin's version of the beautiful song Scarlet Ribbons brought the style very much into the modern era. Ingrid and John followed with selections from their grade exams repertoire: Ingrid, a beautiful Fields of Green, from Jasper Smith's collection Five Pictures Of Norfolk, and John, a very flamenco-inspired Malagueña, from Zebramusic for Guitar by David Cottam.

The first, mafia-flavoured, film music of the evening, the romantic Godfather Theme, played by Andy and followed shortly by David's clearly detailed Cavatina from the film The Deer Hunter, a piece made so famous by John Williams. In between, Nick took on music by Tárrega's pupil Miguel Llobet and Sunburst, originally composed by Andrew York on, and for, steel strings. To round off, Tony gave us three of his own beautiful arrangements, two classic songs from his CD Café Guitar, and the third, his new arrangement of Django Reinhardt's upbeat jazz classic, Nuages.

Link to full programme

Warm congratulations to all who took part as performers, both on their contribution to a great evening of guitar music and on all the graft that they have put into into getting the pieces ready. And thanks, too, to our audience for their unfailing support.

Visiting artist 9 April 2015

Ahmed Dickinson Cárdenas - an evening of Cuban music

Cuban guitarist Ahmed Dickinson Cárdenas has lived in London for some ten years now, but there is no doubt what music he loves most. By the end of this evening we too were intrigued and charmed.

He began with perhaps the only composer known to the audience. Leo Brouwer's mix of modern guitar idiom with African-Caribbean harmonic and rhythmic traditions comes over often, but what was a very pleasant surprise for us was that this blend of the guitaristic, the exotic, and the compositionally sophisticated was a feature of all the evening's music. Interestingly, also like Brouwer, all of the composers in the programme are renowned and prolific arrangers, teachers, directors - and concert guitarists.

Ahmed settled into Eduardo Martín's Canciones del calendario's beautiful descriptions, bright lyricism and infectious beats, exploiting the full range of the guitar's resources, including harmonics and percussive effects. The two Divertimentos are full of sunshine and of complex jazz-like chords, reminiscent of Afro-Brazilian music.

Luis Manuel Molina's Oricalco and Poema idílico, and Yalil Guerra's Tango and Bolero, are equally brimmingof characteristic flavour. Though discordant at times - not 'easy' listening -  the music was delivered by Ahmed with persuasion, from quiet reflection to vibrant rhythms. The compositions also keep up the demand on the player for solid, intricate rhythms, and for clarity of melody among rich chords. All required precise and physically strong technique.

The programme ended on three of the most familiar forms in Cuban popular music - the danzón, the bolero and the guajira (a close relative of son), in the transcriptions that formed the 2008 CD 'Ahmed Dickinson plays Ñico Rojas', which effectively saved Rojas' work from being lost. Jairo y Juan maintains a breezy melody over the lively dance rhythm, while Lilliam is a very slow-paced bolero, designed, as Ahmed pointed out, 'for 3 o'clock in the morning, when the guitar sounds best'. Finally, Guajira a mi madre was a delightful uplifting end to the evening.

Ahmed gamely agreed to play two encore pieces, Brouwer's A Day in November

and another Rojas piece, El agua no se puede malgastar.

Our thanks to Ahmed for an evening of wonderful playing, for his gentle and affable company, and for presenting to us the first-rate composers and beautiful music of Cuba. He reminds us that Cuba continues to produce pioneering, culturally-anchored art at the highest level.


Leo Brouwer (1939 - )

Cuban Landscape with Bells

Danza característica

Eduardo Martín (1956 - )

Canciones del calendario

Divertimentos tropicales: Inevitable, Chacumbele

Luis Manuel Molina (1959 - )


Poema idílico

Yalil Guerra (1973 - )

From 'Guitarra latinoamericana': Tango, Bolero

José Antonio (Ñico) Rojas (1921 - 2009)

Jairo y Juan: motivo de danzón

Lilliam: bolero

Guajira a mi madre

Ahmed Dickinson Cárdenas' website is


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Charlotte, Rob and Lynette

Tony and Tim

Helen with the ensemble players

Barry, Rob and Vince