Shoreham-based guitar virtuoso Richard Durrant laments the fact that it’s difficult to say you love your country and its countryside these days.
“You can’t really say it without your words being misconstrued as some kind of Brexit nonsense, some kind of right-wing UKIP rubbish,” Richard complains.
He’s now redressing the balance with his latest musical project, Stringhenge: Acoustic Music Inspired by the British Isles which he brings to Chichester Cathedral on September 28 at 7.30pm (tickets on richarddurrant.com).
To an extent, it’s a show celebrating a love of the British landscape which it has become difficult to express in words.
Richard will be playing his own distinctive, solo guitar music alongside a fascinating collection of other English melodies. He also introduces his trademark arrangements of unaccompanied Bach juxtaposed, for the first time, with British Isles folk tunes.
“Obviously Bach is the intruder in there! But Bach is actually the finest thing that humanity has got to offer.”
The inspiration for Stringhenge was Richard’s ‘life-changing’ concert guitar, built by Gary Southwell – the Lincolnshire Luthier. The fascination for Richard is the fact that the back and the sides of it are made from an English black oak tree that was growing more than 5,000 years ago and then preserved in the anaerobic mud of East Anglia.
“It was growing and then it fell over in the mud… and now it has become my guitar. This guitar has an almost sacred presence, and Stringhenge grew out of my relationship with it. It led me to commission the Uffington Tenor Guitar from Ian Chisholm, to write loads of new music and to gather the images for an entirely-new show.”
Richard admits that at first he didn’t know what to do with his new guitar or how to approach it.
“I was just looking at it for a month. I was just trying to make sense of this Neolithic wood and to see its potential. It was summer holidays, and I was actually out walking on the Downs when I started to see what I could do, and so the whole idea of Stringhenge started coming together, ending up being this mix of British folk melodies, J S Bach and things I have written. I struggled to know what to do, but now it is really paying dividends.
“I have played this gig half a dozen times now, and it has been really interesting. I think a lot of people find it really difficult now to express their love of the landscape because it gets taken to be some kind of misplaced patriotism. But the fact is that I do love the British countryside, but I have become afraid of saying that and it becoming mixed up in all sorts of right-wing nonsense. It has been hijacked by UKIP and the right and the frightening side of patriotism. But at the CD table after the gigs, people have really responded to what I am trying to do and what I am trying to express.”
And Richard is now looking forward to bringing the show to Chichester Cathedral, a place he doesn’t reckon he has played since doing a solo spot in a Christmas concert around the turn of the century.
“I think it is absolutely fabulous. It really suits the guitar. I think it has got a really flattering acoustic. It is very reverberant. If you were playing in a rock band in there, it would not work so well, but for me, with a guitar, it is just heaven. I always tend to love the big churches. The stone and the high ceilings just add so much to what you are doing.”
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