Report of 20th Meeting: 19th November, 2016

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A decent turnout for a visit by Jelma van Amersfoort (Holland) and Paul Sparks (England) playing duets for late 19th-century Italian mandolin and Spanish 19th-century guitar. This event also brought some new faces to the meeting, and it is hoped we see them return to future meetings.

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Rob MacKillop started proceedings, as he often does, this time on a guitar that arrived at his house two days before: An Aria copy of a Fleta classical guitar. The guitar was made in Spain under the José Antonio label, but administered from Japan. The result is a very Spanish-sounding instrument, with a big warm sound. Paul Sparks remarked how the treble reminded him of old Segovia recordings. Rob played a brief set of two short preludes by Ponce.

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Next, Stuart McLuckey played What If A Day from the Holmes manuscript, followed by Packington’s Pound. As ever, Stuart played well on his James Marriage 8c lute. It’s always good to hear Stuart play, and great to see his confidence growing with each meeting.

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Yasuhiro Nakashima played two pieces on his beautiful new Nico van der Waals 8c lute. He intended to play just one piece, Love Is Careless by Tobias Hume, but gave such a beautiful performance, an encore was demanded: a Fantasia by Luis de Narvaez. Yasuhiro is a shy performer, but easily wins over an audience with his beautiful tone production and intimate style.

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Next came the 13c lute of Philip Lord. Philip has lost the nerves battle a few times in the past, but this time played to the end of two pieces, a Gavotte and Double, by Weiss. For his efforts he received a deservedly resounding round of applause. Onwards and upwards, Philip.

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Bill Samson started his set with Mr Dowland’s Midnight, played on what used to be a 7c lute belonging to Rob MacKillop, but is now an 8c belonging to its maker, Bill himself. Next we heard another version of What If A Day, this time from the Pickering manuscript, with divisions written by the player. Very interesting, and well executed. Bill prefaced the performance with a reading from the original poem (printed HERE), expressing how much of a dot we are on a dot in infinite space…quite a suitable subject for astronomer Bill.

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Chris Jupp borrowed Yasuhiro’s new lute to perform an Allemande and Preamble On A French Courante by Terzi. I confess to not having listened to much Terzi before, but after this performance, I’m keen to hear more. Maybe next time. Well played, sir!

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Finally the special guests, Jelma van Amersfoort and Paul Sparks tuned up for a very interesting recital. Jelma was having her second visit, and brought with her an original, deep-bodied Spanish guitar of 1862, by Enrique Recio. It has a big, deep mellow sound, strong enough to be equal partner to the mandolin. Unusually, it has six fan braces.

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Paul Sparks is a very-highly respected researcher in mandolin and guitar history – his books are well worth reading, and are still in print. His knowledge of the mandolin seems second to none, and he talked at some length before and after the recital, eliciting many questions from interested members. He played a mandolin by the famous Raffaele Calace.

The Sonata for Mandolin and Guitar by Gian Francesco de Majo, started their set, and can best be described as charming. Not music to challenge the intellect, but certainly music to bring a smile to the face.

Then Jelma presented a Minuet and four variations of increasing difficulty, by Castro. I’d not heard Castro’s music before, and was mightily impressed. Equally impressive was the performer’s technique and musicianship.

Paul introduced us to the composer, Clara Ross, while detailing a little of the history of the female mandolin and guitar bands of 19th and early 20th-century Britain. Her Serenade For Mandolin And Guitar was a delight, and I hope the performers record it soon.

The set concluded with Calace’s Romanza For Mandolin And Guitar. How better to hear this than on a Calace-made mandolin? Paul gave a brilliant performance, showing complete command of the instrument, and although the mandolin took most of the attention, the guitar part was not without interest either. A fitting end to a good recital. Both performers can return anytime, and be assured of a warm reception.

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So, another excellent meeting. Thanks go to our visitors, and also to the members who turn up and contribute. It’s gratifying to see that we have reached our twentieth meeting – five years! It wouldn’t happen at all if not for the commitment of its membership, so: MANY THANKS to all those who take part. We have something quite unique here.

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