Category Archives: Concerts

Nava Rasa

Former Knox pupil, Simon Thacker, is currently gathering together an East/West ensemble entitled the Nava Rasa Ensemble for a ten-date tour (details here). The programme, Inner Octaves, will feature music by Shirish Korde, Terry Riley and Nigel Osborne. Simon is never one to shy away from technical or musical challenges and this promises to be an unique evening – and one to remember.

International Guitar Night

My lifelong friend and professional predecessor at Musselburgh Grammar School, Mike McGeary, dropped by there last week to see me – with an offer for East Lothian guitar pupils. In his capacity as City of Edinburgh Council’s Principal Officer for Instrumental Instruction, Mike is involved with the outreach side of the current International Guitar Night tour. In addition to the gig at our own Brunton Hall, the members of this outfit are putting on a concert/workshop for pupils in Portobello High School on Friday Oct 2 from 2:00 – 4:00. Entry price to pupils is a mere £5.

There is ample video footage on the tour diary site but, to give you a more immediate idea of the three players involved, have a look at the videos below.

Lulo Reinhardt (great, grandnephew of Django Reinhardt)[kml_flashembed movie="" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

 Itamar Erez[kml_flashembed movie="" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /] 

Brian Gore[kml_flashembed movie="" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /] 

Search for Portobello High School on Google Maps here.

Carlos Bonell Concerts & Masterclass

Haddington-based guitar teacher, Liz Mercer, is putting on a weekend of events featuring her former teacher, Carlos Bonell.


In order, they are:


Saturday 28 November at 12:30


Children’s Matinee Concert in St. Mary’s Church, Haddington. Ticket price £7 per adult, which includes entry for two children.


Saturday 28 November at 19:00


Evening concert in St. Mary’s Church, Haddington. Ticket price £14 (limited place senior citizens price £7)


Sunday 29 November at 14:00


Masterclass in Town House, Haddington. Participant price £15, Observer price £9.


Tickets can be ordered directly from Liz, using this booking form which contains all necessary contact details.


Madhouse and The Whole Thing There

The magical blend of youth and experience, normally associated with football, is to be experienced in Edinburgh’s Queens Hall this Saturday (18 July) when one of the UK’s leading jazz guitarist/composers, Mike Walker, teams up with the National Youth Jazz Orchestra of Scotland (NYJOS) to perform Walker’s debut album Madhouse and The Whole Thing There (audio samples in this link).

This unusual title comes (I’ll bet my bottom dollar) from the final line of William Empson‘s poem Let It Go. You can hear hear Empson reading two of his other poems – Missing Dates and Aubade here.


Guitar @ The Fringe

Here is a list of links to concerts in the Fringe featuring solo guitar, guitar duo, guitar in mixed ensemble & guitar/vocals. These links will take you to their entries in the fringe programme – giving details of dates, times, prices. Many of these artists have their own websites, or MySpace sites, where you can hear samples of their playing.

Antonio Forcione (acoustic)

Bach For Breakfast (featuring Sean Shibe on classical guitar)

Bert Jansch (acoustic)

Bon Iver (acoustic)

Camera Ritmata (featuring Simon Thacker on classical guitar)

Classical & World Guitar (featuring Neil Wilson on classical guitar)

Classical Guitar Recital (featuring Spyros Dendrinos)

Classical Guitars & St. Cecilia’s (featuring Luca Villani)

Claude Bourbon (acoustic)

Darren Dutson-Bromley (jazz)

Electric Avenue Band (world/rock)

Flamenco Jazz Late Night (featuring Ricardo Garcia)

Guitar Fiesta (featuring Luca Villani)

Guitar Music – Transatlantic (featuring Stefan Grasse)

Guitars at St. Cecilia’s (featuring Gordon Ferries – baroque)

Jonathan Prag (classical)

Lotte’s Gift (featuring Karin Schaupp – classical)

Mayhew: Live – Free (featuring classical/folk guitar and more)

Preston Reed (acoustic – unusual technique!)

Spanish Spectacular (featuring Sorros Duo – Phillip Thorne & Selina Madley – classical)

Tony Cox – Guitar, me and South Africa

Two-five-one (featuring Duncan Findlay & Adam Bulley – jazz)

Wingin It (acoustic/traditional)


Super troupers

This has been quite a performance-heavy week. Mon – Wed saw three evangelising concerts, where guitarists performed to younger pupils who will be eligible for guitar instruction next session.

On Monday, P5 – P7 pupils from Campie PS played a short concert for the current P4s. The repertoire was a mix of group items and solos, the latter of which would give them some idea of what they might be doing next year. The atmosphere was great and there were some very interesting questions for the pupils from the audience. Recordings from this event can be found on the Campie PS page.

In a similar vein, Tuesday saw a visit of NBHS guitarists to Law PS and Wednesday, a visit of Knox guitarists to King’s Meadow PS. Technical glitches e.g. batteries running out during performances, resulted in their being fewer recordings than I’d hoped, but there are enough to give some idea of the day. The explosive applause of P7 pupils should also convey how much the pupils enjoyed the visit. (NBHS page; Knox page).

Thursday evening was the Musselburgh Grammar School Summer Concert in which the school’s Guitar Group played two items – a Scottish Medley and a Brazilian Choro. You can hear these items on the MGS page.

Many thanks to all the pupils concerned for the hard work, joie de vivre and savoir faire.


This afternoon I was proud to take part in a performance with 9 guitarists and 2 singers from Knox Academy & North Berwick High School. Organised by Health Scotland, the theme was mental well-being and the idea of the performance was to allow delegates to see the benefits conferred upon young people by engagement in positive activity. This resonates with my own view (not mine alone, of course) that involvement in something, which is both meaningful and bigger than oneself, is one of the key ingredients of good mental health. Music and sport provide many and varied opportunities for the natural occurrence of this phenomenon.

Impromptu MC, I was keen to highlight the relevance of the way in which much of the music had been put together to the themes of the day. Many of the pupils had been on exam leave for several weeks and, nevertheless, were game to take on new material for public performance at very short notice. One example of positive attitude was to be seen in two pupils who agreed to join in the accompaniment of two songs only yesterday. Another was in the willingness of the whole group to perform a blues put together in a few minutes with neither notes nor overall plan written out. Four individuals volunteered improvised solos in this blues, and I was keen that the audience enjoy the quality of living in the moment, which always adds an immediacy to performance. I decided to dedicate this blues to Carol Craig of the Centre for Confidence and Well-being who was seated quite near the group. Her talk on well-being at the 2007 Scottish Learning Festival was one of those rare events where someone appears to be articulating inchoate thoughts you’ve had for years.

Our final item, an arrangement of The Average White Band‘s Pick Up The Pieces, seemed apposite. The young people playing have most of their lives before them. Things are bound to go wrong in the remaining decades but the thing is to pick up the pieces and keep on keeping on.

Thanks to everybody involved* for representing East Lothian in general, and these two schools in particular. The audience seemed both engaged and moved and the organisers were very grateful to the pupils for providing exactly the positive effects they had envisioned.

* the day had kicked off with a performance by some hip-hop dancers from Dunbar Grammar School – unfortunately this was long before we arrived for our lunchtime slot.



I received a publicity email today from former Knox Academy pupil, Simon Thacker, alerting me to forthcoming concerts with vocal virtuoso Daisy Chute.

It seems pointless to paraphrase the content, so I’ll simply paste it in below. Just let me flag up an international project of Simon’s scheduled for later this year – the Nava Rasa Ensemble.

singing star and virtuoso guitarist
Tuesday 9th June, 7.30pm
Loretto Chapel, Loretto School, Musselburgh, East Lothian EH21 7RE
Tickets £10 (concs. £6)
Tickets: 0131 653 4433 or e-mail:
Wednesday 10th June, 7.30pm
The Osprey Music Society
Boat of Garten Community Hall
Reidhaven Park, Craigie Avenue, Boat of Garten, PH24 3BL
Tickets: £13 (£11/£5/£2) call 01479 831213 or email
Friday 12 June 2009, 8pm
Inverurie Music, Kemnay Church Centre
Church Lane, Kendal Road, Kemnay, Inverurie. AB51 5RN
Tickets £9.00, £7.00 (concession), £1.00 (children & full-time students)
available at the door or call (01467 624629)
Virtuoso guitarist Simon Thacker joins forces with Brit Award nominated All Angels’ star singer and recording artist Daisy Chute to perform passionate and colourful classical, Latin American, jazz and folk influenced music of remarkable range and stylistic diversity.
Their programme includes beautiful classical and exuberant popular Brazilian music, itself a merging of European, native and African cultures, Martini’s much loved romance Plaisir d’Amour, masterfully arranged North American folksong including their unique take on Babe I’m Gonna Leave You (popularised by Led Zeppelin) with digital delay, Spanish renaissance songs, a result of the fusing of Moorish, Jewish and Christian influences, Cuban song and a flamboyant Mexican Fiesta for guitar. The programme will display Daisy’s stunning voice, radiant stage presence and remarkable abilities to interpret music of diverse origins, whilst also featuring virtuosic guitar solos. Guitar and voice is one of the most intimate and affecting combinations and this promises to be a special concert featuring two acclaimed musicians.
Daisy shot to fame with the female vocal quartet All Angels, whose debut album reached the top 10 in the national pop album charts and number 2 in the classical charts, earning a platinum disc, Classical Brit Award nomination and making them the fastest selling début classical group of all time. All Angels were watched by 10 million TV viewers when they sang in front of the Queen at the Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall and have appeared countless times on peak time BBC and ITV. Their performances include Blenheim Palace, Sandringham Last Night of the Proms and Proms At The Palace at Scone Palace. Daisy has sung at the Wigmore Hall and released a critically acclaimed solo jazz album at the amazing age of 15, championed by Humphrey Lyttelton on Radio 2.
“I could listen to her fantastic voice all day”, Howard Goodall, composer and television presenter
Simon’s fleet fingered fretwork, imaginative programming and emotionally charged interpretations have earned him acclaim from London to Havana. He was recently appointed Honorary Fellow in Music at the University of Aberdeen and nominated for a Royal Philharmonic Society Music Award, the highest recognition for live classical music-making in the UK. In 2006 he was a winner of the 50th Park Lane Group Young Artist Awards, resulting in his solo Purcell Room debut. He has performed in Cuba and the US, toured the UK several times and broadcast on Cuban TV and BBC Radio 3. Simon is Head of Guitar at Napier University and founder of acclaimed crossover group Camerata Ritmata. He will be leading his ground-breaking nine piece East/West project The Nava Rasa Ensemble, which features nine leading Indian and Western classical musicians, on a prestigious Scottish Arts Council Tune Up tour across the UK later in 2009. 
“The guitar is often underrated as a solo instrument, but Thacker demonstrated with startling virtuosity just how versatile and exciting it can be in the right hands.”
The Scotsman

Music from Iraq and Afghanistan

How many countries are there in the world? How many of these have a musical culture of which you’ve never heard a note? Would it strike you as odd if one of these countries was Iraq – a place with which we have been heavily involved? I had never heard any Iraqi music live and so was delighted to discover that Reel Festivals was putting on an evening of Music of Iraq at the Roxy Art House on Saturday. This formed part of their Reel Iraq Festival.

The evening featured Farida with the Iraqi Maqam Ensemble, supported by the Babylon Arabic Band. Both groups were very affectionately received and there was an engagingly enthusiastic, participatory feel. This video will give you some idea of Farida and the Iraqi Maqam Ensemble:[kml_flashembed movie="" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

If you’ve never heard any Sufi music from Afghanistan you might like to catch a return visit to Edinburgh of the Ahmad Sham Sufi Qawali Group at the Roxy Art House on Tue 26th May. I saw this group in a fantastic performance in The Queens Hall last year. Here is an excerpt of the email which alerted me to the upcoming event:

The Ahmad Sham Sufi Qawali group is the most famous Qawali group in Afghanistan at the moment. They will be performing at the Roxy Art House on Tuesday, May 26th. The doors will open at 6.30 and music should begin around 7.30. We aim to convert the Roxy into as close an approximation of an Afghan Sufi house as possible for this. As such we won’t have a fixed price for entry, but will ask for £5 suggested donation. More of course will be much appreciated by the sufi group, all money will go towards covering their costs and any left over will be donated to an Afghan Charity. Last year the group raised £7000, which they donated to widows and children disabled by war.

And here is a taster:[kml_flashembed movie="" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]