At the Golden Gate - a musical homage to San Francisco

Earlier this year I was fortunate enough to spend some time in the magical city of San Francisco, California.  As the days and weeks passed by it became ever clearer that I was in a place with a special resonance for me; a city full of warmth, positivity and happiness.

Here is my musical homage to my time there;  a musical diary entry that reflects upon a moment that will always remain special to me... I'm looking forward to returning soon! 

2016 UK Tour - Thank You!

A HUGE thank you to all of the wonderful people who have attended my 2016 UK Tour concerts.  It's been a privilege to share the incredible beauty of the classical guitar and the chosen pieces of music with you.  In a world that is so fractious I am humbled to have a life in which I am surrounded by positive, special people and to be so often reminded of the endless possibilities that can be achieved through sharing the joy of music. 

Now is the time for me to take a short break for the summer; I will be travelling to Spain and spending a few weeks in Andalucía studying the wonderful music of Joaquín Rodrigo and enjoying the slower pace of Spanish life.  

Legion of Honour, San Francisco (Photography by Lorenzo Giraldo)

For the autumn of 2016 the buzz word is collaboration.  A series of exciting announcements are coming soon relating to a wonderful project with the flamenco guitarist Samuel Moore entitled Guitarra; El Coraźon de Espańa.  We will be performing 5 dates in the UK and preparing a new album for 2017 release, watch this space!

As always, please stay in touch.  I would love to receive photos from all of the concerts and there is Facebook, Twitter and the mailing list to make contact.  I would LOVE to hear from all of you. 

From the bottom of my heart; thank you. 

See you in the autumn, 

Michael

 

 

 

Barnard Castle Classical Guitar Festival

Michael will be appearing at the Barnard Castle Classical Guitar Festival alongside luthier Sam McClaren this weekend as they present Classical Guitarist and Luthier; an Exploration of Collaboration within the majestic surroundings of the Bowes Museum.   The presentation will take place at 12:30pm. 

The Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle

2016 UK Tour 'Classical Guitar Artistry'

Michael Christian Durrant will be performing throughout the UK in 2016! Don't miss your chance to hear this 'rising star of the classical guitar' as he presents a special programme of music entitled Classical Guitar Artistry: 

 

Wye Valley Music Society - Saturday 16th April 2016, 3:00pm

Aylesbury Concert Society - Thursday 26th May, 12:45pm

Gloucester Cathedral - Saturday 28th May, 7:30pm

Manchester Cathedral - Saturday 9th July, 11:00am

Winchester Cathedral - Tuesday 12th July, 1:00pm

 

For more information and ticket bookings take a look at the Forthcoming Concerts page. 

 

London Reflections

It's exciting to be back here in London and to have some space to reflect upon all of the amazing experiences that I have had the fortune to share over the past six months. It's taken a hell of a lot of energy to be away so much, to live out of a suitcase, but it's been a continuos inspiration to see the world, meet the people who make this place what it is and I know I am beyond lucky to have been presented with these opportunities. I'll be going through all of my photos and experiences over the coming few weeks and will be uploading these to the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/MichaelChristianDurrant/, so take a look there if you're interested in seeing more about the Adventures of a Classical Guitarist.  

The year ahead is shaping up to be my busiest yet. There are a multitude of projects that are currently in preparation with a host of amazing musicians, and I am looking forward to collaborating artistically with these friends. Of course, I continue to develop my own solo repertoire and am currently tackling some big pieces ahead of performances later this year. If you are interested in hearing about future concert performances then do head over to the Contact page and sign up to mailing list. Of course, you can always have a look at the Forthcoming Concerts page too. 

London, March 2016 - Photography by Douglas May FRPS

Sometimes the challenge of engaging with an art form, or something that you love, can seem overwhelming and difficult given the pressures of the modern world. However, it's when I reflect upon how much music has given to me through the simple act of pursuing it with all of my energy that I am encouraged to keep going as long as I can hold the guitar, and as long as my fingers can move.   

London, March 2016

 

2015 UK Tour - Classical Guitar Masterworks

Writing these words, I find myself at a place of consolidation and calm following a whirlwind period of wonderful concerts, fascinating travels and colourful experiences. Another very enjoyable UK tour has now come to an end, and I have been very lucky to be able to share the music of the guitar with such consistently warm and appreciative audiences.  

One of the most gratifying aspects of being able to organise one’s own tour schedule is the freedom of choice that one retains when it comes to selecting venues. It’s completely acceptable to concede that I have become increasingly more indulgent when it comes to selecting concert venues, and indeed throughout May, June and July 2015 I have had the opportunity to perform in some of the UK’s most glorious spaces.  

I’m sure that any recitalist will agree that it is always a careful process when one is selecting a programme of music for a series of concerts, and it was my aim with this tour to deliver a programme that had some real meat in it. With this desire in mind, I set about compiling the Classical Guitar Masterworks concert programme that went on to become the over-arching theme of the tour. With this selection of music, I attempted to take audiences on a journey that encapsulated the many qualities of the guitar as an instrument capable of sublime expression. Combining a selection of well-known works with pieces that are a little less familiar, it was hugely satisfying to witness just how much the audiences at every concert enjoyed the programme.

Gloucester Cathedral, Saturday 9th May 2015 (photograph by Gabriela Wernicke-Marfo)

The 2015 UK Tour began with an evening concert in the Chapter House at the wonderful Gloucester Cathedral on Saturday 9th May. I couldn’t have hoped to begin with a more receptive audience than those that turned out in Gloucester: enthusiastic, warm and a pleasure to be in the company of. The atmosphere was sublime, and developed even further when the early summer sun went down and the flicker of the candles proceeded to light the concert. Also worth mentioning is the incredible natural acoustic that exists in the Chapter House at Gloucester Cathedral, the space being perfect for the subtle sonorities of the classical guitar.

A few days later on Tuesday 12th May I was in Manchester for an evening recital at the gorgeous St Ann’s Church. Located in the City Centre, this serene location possesses that elusive sense of calm that only urban churches seem to retain, a complete contrast to the surrounding bustle of the city streets. This was my first time at St Ann’s, and I was delighted by the welcome that I received from both those involved with the organisation of the concert and the audience alike.

St Ann's Church, Tuesday 12th May 2015

The tour continued with dates in the magnificent Cathedrals of Ripon (Thursday 12th May), Ely (Saturday 27th June) and Wells (Friday 17th July). Returning to all three of these venues, it was just great to be back to perform for what can only be described as three truly humbling audiences. It’s always a pleasure to see familiar faces, as well as to get to know new friends. I was returning to Ripon for the third year in a row, and I am proud to have developed a special relationship with the Cathedral and the committed audience of concertgoers that do so much to support music in the area. Returning to Ely for the second year in a row, it really is incredible to hear the guitar reverberating around the inspiring Lady Chapel with its seven-second (yes, seven) acoustic decay! Once again, the atmosphere at Ely Cathedral was spellbinding and this really was a special evening for me. Incidentally, I flew to Finland the day after following a meagre five hours sleep – the life of a classical guitarist is always colourful!

Ripon Cathedral, Thursday 14th May 2015 (photograph by Helen Tabor)

Following another great concert at Wells Cathedral, the tour concluded in the majestic setting of Winchester Cathedral. This is arguably England’s greatest space of worship, housing the longest nave in Europe, and is a truly spectacular place to be in. My first performance in Winchester, this was a marvellous way for the tour to end. The audience was incredibly welcoming and receptive and I very much look forward to returning there next year.

To conclude, I would just like to thank all of those individuals who helped make the 2015 tour such a great success, including everyone involved with the organisation of the concerts and, of course, the wonderful audiences. At the time of writing, I am currently in the process of organising the 2016 UK Tour itinerary. This promises to be my most ambitious tour yet, with an exciting updated programme of virtuosic proportions and more performance dates than ever before. To keep up to date on announcements regarding 2016 dates keep your eye on the Forthcoming Concerts page and sign up to the mailing list by visiting the Contact page. Looking forward to seeing you all next year!

The International Language

The past few months have been a whirlwind of travel, concerts, recording and teaching. Throughout this period I’ve travelled over 40000 miles and had experiences that I feel incredibly lucky to have had. I’ve also been lucky enough to come into contact with a group of people who have contributed through their own presence in order to make these experiences all the more special - thank you all. I’ve travelled in a small boat on a misty day in Halong Bay, Vietnam. I’ve sat and relaxed with a beer in the sunshine near Sydney Opera House ahead of a performance of Madama Butterfly by Opera Australia, and I’ve wandered around Hong Kong on a busy Sunday morning taking in the energy of that fascinating city. Here is an account of some of these experiences and a collection of photographs that show what have been the most wonderful times, people and places.

Sydney Opera House

Sydney Opera House

In the final two weeks of February I was fortunate enough to perform a series of concerts aboard the luxurious Seabourn Sojourn on a portion of her world voyage between Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (Saigon) and Hong Kong. We visited Da Nang and Halong Bay en route to Hong Kong, and it was fascinating to experience a culture that is so acutely different to ours in the UK.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong

Our visit to Halong Bay was magical, and this collection of over 2000 islands rising out of the sea is a true sight to behold. Halong translates as ‘where the dragon descends into the sea’, and legend claims that the islands of Halong Bay were created by a great dragon from the mountains. It is not hard to imagine such an event occurring here, and it is impossible not be inspired by this place. I certainly came away with a feeling of awe for this most original of landscapes.

Halong Bay

Halong Bay

Following my time in the Far East, I then travelled back to England for 6 days of teaching and concerts before heading Down Under at the beginning March! 

With my friends Sayaka and Songae in Hong Kong

With my friends Sayaka and Songae in Hong Kong

I flew out of London Heathrow on the evening of Monday 9th March, and about 27 hours later landed in Sydney. This was a very long journey and physically exhausting, but it was worth every second the first time that I laid eyes on Circular Quay. I vividly remember the metro train coming round the bend into Circular Quay station and seeing the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge coming into view for the first time - it was a magical experience and one that I am certain I will never forget. I joined the Queen Mary 2 on 12th March for a series of concert performances on her voyage around New Zealand, and was humbled by the spectacular scenery and vivid landscape that New Zealand has to offer.

Circular Quay, Sydney

Circular Quay, Sydney

On the voyage we visited Picton, Auckland and Bay of Islands, before returning to Sydney at the end of March. I spent a few days in Sydney having disembarked from the Queen Mary 2 and was taken aback by the positive atmosphere of the city, the warmth of its inhabitants and the overall vibrancy of the place. It’s safe to say that I was pained to leave Sydney, and was really very tempted to ‘miss’ my return flight to London.

Performing in the Royal Court Theatre aboard the Queen Mary 2

Performing in the Royal Court Theatre aboard the Queen Mary 2

However, I knew that I could not as I had a UK Tour beginning a few weeks later, and I was really excited to get back and finalise preparations for these concerts. That said; I have already set about making plans for an Australian tour in the near future so that I can return to that vibrant country!

Sydney Opera House

Sydney Opera House

Circular Quay, Sydney

Circular Quay, Sydney

As mentioned from the outset, these past months have been a whirlwind of activity, and at times I have had very little opportunity to sit still and just ‘be’. It is priceless to have the chance now to sit and compose these reflections on my journeys, and to share them with you all. I am truly humbled to have been presented with the opportunity to see these wonderful places, meet so many colourful people and to experience this world. What fills me with an overriding sense of positivity is that this has all been made possible through playing the classical guitar and committing to uncountable hours of practice and work. For those of you who share my passion for music, never lose sight of how you can communicate internationally with this language and how, if you stay true to your goals, the world will come to you.

Bay of Islands, New Zealand

Bay of Islands, New Zealand

Royal Photographic Society - The Essence of Music, by Douglas May FRPS

The Essence of Music by Douglas May was published in issue 58 of the Royal Photographic Society's Contemporary Photography journal. This fascinating photographic project highlights the collaboration between Michael and the English luthier Sam McClaren. Within the article, May discusses the three essential elements of music: a composition, an instrument and a player. Within his wonderful photographs, May uses the Five Bagatelles of William Walton to highlight the element of the composition, Sam McClaren and his guitar as the instrument and Michael as the player. The full article can be viewed below by clicking on the image to cycle through the article. 

The Season of Creativity

One of the greatest things about living in England is the huge variety that one can expect to experience on a daily basis in the natural world around them. The seasonal changes in this country happen on a grand scale, and a place can take on a completely different character in only a matter of weeks. In fact, a scene can sometimes be unrecognisable from one season to the next. This can be a strange idea for those who live in a more equatorial region, where the weather tends to remain fairly constant throughout the year and the world around doesn’t seem to change in response to seasonal variation.

For me, autumn has always represented a time of reflective thought and a slow movement towards a more introverted state of mind. As the weather grows colder we begin to spend more time indoors and find ourselves beginning new projects. I usually find the inspiration to explore new repertoire in the autumn, as I enjoy being inside the house with my guitar and I have the patience to commit to my studies. In contrast, the summer is a time for me to be outside with friends and family, to explore nature and to travel. Conversely, I have always found the summer months a time of outward thinking, of having new experiences and of finding inspiration to help sustain my creativity throughout the autumn and winter to come.

Sometimes I do join a vast multitude of others who live in England and I wish with all my heart that I lived in a warmer country, a place where I could bask in sunshine all year round! However, as wonderful as this sounds on the surface, I do know that I would miss the flow of the seasons in England, and the way in which I have grown to respond to these changes in my own life. 

With the presence of electric light, central heating and the Internet showing us real-time images from all over the globe, it is becoming increasingly difficult to remember that we are a part of the natural world. Seemingly, as technology advances we are separating ourselves from the natural order of things and manipulating the elements in order to create a constant state for ourselves to live in. As a result, for many the onset of winter becomes a hindrance and there is a general melancholy that arises as a result of the days becoming shorter and colder, and the nights becoming longer and darker.

What I suggest is to use the seasonal changes to your advantage as a creative individual, make the most of the autumn as a time to lay down the plans for your practice over the coming months and use the darkness and solitude of the winter to work on these projects in peace. With this approach, perhaps you will find yourself awakening in the spring of 2015 feeling a sense of renewal and satisfaction and you will be able to embrace the warmer weather and longer days with a welcome sense of achievement.  Thinking about this practically, perhaps choosing three new pieces to learn and memorise would be a good project to begin now, in the autumn, and to enjoy throughout the coming winter months. 

In summary, don’t become frustrated with the autumn and winter, wishing that the weather was warmer and the days were longer! Instead, try to accept these wonderful seasons of creativity for what they are and make the natural seasonal changes work for you. This will undoubtedly take patience and a different perspective to that with which one usually views the seasons, but it will show that you are in harmony with the natural changes that are occurring around you, and just maybe you will feel more positive as a result, which will undoubtedly help when the energy bill finally arrives, as it always does so! 

Michael

Ilkley, October 2014

2015 UK Tour Dates - Gloucester Cathedral - Saturday 9th May 2015

At 7:30pm on Saturday 9th May 2015, Michael will be performing in a very special evening concert performance at Gloucester Cathedral. Having performed at the Cathedral during his 2014 UK Cathedral Tour, Michael will be returning to Gloucester for a candlelit concert to present a colourful programme, including the music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Fernando Sor, Johann Sebastian Bach, Isaac Albeniz and Agustin Barrios Mangore. 

Book you tickets now for what promises to be a very popular event and a magical evening of music in the truly noble surroundings of one of England's most beautiful Cathedrals. 

Gloucester Cathedral Box Office: 0845 652 1823 

Online Box Office: http://gloucestercathedral.admit-one.eu/admitone/event.php?_evt=GC63

A Matter of Context

The past few weeks have been a period of new experiences and new places. I have been extremely fortunate to visit the diverse countries of Norway, Greenland, Denmark and Canada and I have enjoyed my travels across the Northern Hemisphere immensely!

When one is travelling so much it is so easy to overlook the significance of the experiences that one is having. In fact, some of the more remarkable scenarios that one can find oneself in can quickly begin to resemble the mundane. It pains me to say that I have been at fault in this sense over the past few weeks. On consideration, perhaps my thoughts have been lacking context…

There have been a number of airport departure lounges, train carriages and utilitarian hotel rooms that have gone towards shaping my experiences, but there have also been beautiful sunsets, stunning architecture and meetings with new people. What strikes me is how quickly the remarkable can become unremarkable, and eventually predictable, all in the space of a few days. Perhaps this highlights a flaw in my own capacity to be content as opposed to a shortcoming of the whole human condition, but I rather suppose that I am not the only person who takes things for granted, we all tend to overlook the small, wonderful things that are happening around us in the present moment.   

My view of the beautiful Terrasse Dufferin in Quebec City, Canada

For example, I am currently on a train journey; something that is, for most English people, a rather normal occurrence. Perhaps it is true that there is absolutely nothing remarkable about this experience that I am having. However, if one chooses to look deeper it becomes apparent that there are a number of special things happening at this very moment. Firstly, the speed at which I am traveling is an incredibly impressive feat of engineering, and would have been unimaginable only one century ago. Coupled with the fact that I am facing in the opposite direction to the direction that I am moving in, drinking a cup of tea and typing my thoughts into a computer that houses technology that would have been inconceivably complex only a few decades ago - things begin to appear quite remarkable very quickly.

Being able to see the remarkable things that occur in our everyday lives corresponds to our ability to be able to live in the present moment, and to see what is happening around us right now. Just stop what you’re doing and look around you, is it possible for you to spot something remarkable? 

At this point my thoughts turn to Quebec City, a place that I was lucky enough to visit only one week ago. As I wandered along the Terrasse Duferin that leads one alongside the wonderful Fairmont Le Château Frontenac I was struck with the thought that this was a truly beautiful experience. As I looked out over the St. Lawrence River it was easy to be struck by the remarkable beauty of the city and its surrounding area. However, I put forward to you that somebody who works and lives in Quebec and walks along the very same boardwalk every day takes this sight for granted all the time.

This thought reminds me of a man that I met when I was teaching classical guitar at the Conservatorio Benedetto Marcello in Venice, Italy. As it was incredibly hot whilst I was there in early August, I made a habit of calling in to a store near to Campo San Barnaba that sold cold drinks with the added allure of promising twenty minutes of WIFI access when you purchased an aforementioned beverage. As you can imagine, over time I became friendly with the owners of the shop and began to have rather interesting conversations with them. They were true Venetians, born and bred, which I found fascinating. In fact, I couldn’t get enough of these Venetians, I asked about their lives in detail, the history of their family, where in the city they lived and whether they enjoyed being Venetians. I was shocked to hear that they really did not like living in Venice at all, and even more so when they described the Serenissima as "an amusement park". In fact, they couldn’t wait to get away from the place and had a holiday booked for the next week. It struck me as a remarkable thought that most people in the western world want to visit Venice but that these people who lived there wanted to escape. So, I asked "where does a Venetian go on holiday?” ‘Well, that’s easy" my friend answered, “we are going to Edinburgh, it’s the most beautiful city on Earth, we would live there if we could!”.

The idea that even Venice, the infinitely beautiful place that it is, could become predictable to somebody who lives there really does eloquently summarise the thrust of what is being discussed here. Anything can be normal. Then again, anything can be remarkable. So often it’s to do with whom we share these things with, and how receptive we are to noticing just how interesting the world around us is.

Every decision that I have ever made has led to this moment, a moment when I am sat on a train on my way to another new experience, and this is the most remarkable thing about this discussion: the fact that I have no conception as to what the new experiences, places and people that come my way over the coming week will bring into my life, or I into theirs - and this is the way that our lives pan out. Let’s find beauty in the small things, things that you can’t pay for: an embrace from a relative, a beautiful view, and an hour alone with your guitar. There is beauty there if you’re prepared to see it; it’s all a matter of context.

Michael

Ilkley, September 2014

Halfway to Somewhere

A new month, a fresh perspective. We are now into the second half of 2014, and one's thoughts turn to reflection on what has passed during January through June, and what will come to pass throughout the remaining six months of the year. 

I often measure periods of time by the pieces of music that are relevant to me throughout the given period. Throughout June 2014 I have almost exclusively been listening to Beethoven's String Quartets, a body of works that, up until now, has escaped my radar. It's now impossible to imagine my life without these wonderful, vibrant pieces of music.  

Michael

Ilkley, July 2014

2014 UK Cathedral Tour

Throughout the spring and early summer of 2014, I embarked upon a UK tour of eight Cathedrals. The places in which I performed are undoubtedly some of the most beautiful buildings in the UK, and perhaps even the world. From the performances in the sumptuous surrondings of Wells Cathedral to the final concert of the tour within the modern surroundings of Sheffield Cathedral, I found myself  humbled on many levels.

I was humbled to be playing music in spaces that have been concert venues for hundreds of years. I often found myself stopping for a moment or two during my pre-concert warm up and thinking about all those figures who would have performed concerts in the cathedrals since they were constrcuted. 

Just as humbling were the warm, gracious and attentive audiences at each of the eight concerts throughout the tour. Each audience had their own unique quality for me, and I have been lucky to meet a host of diverse and fascinating individuals at each one of the venues. 

Then there is the true magnificence of the cathedrals in which I performed, as you will see in the photographs that are placed throughout this blog, I have been fortunate enough to give concerts in some exquisitely beautiful surroundings. 

Discussing the programme at Ely Cathedral

The tour then led me to Ely in Cambridgeshire, the most southerly location of all the dates on the itinerary. Ely Cathedral is sometimes referred to as a ship that appears to be sailing through the surrounding countryside that is topograghically very flat. This is an understandable ananlogy, as whilst approaching Ely on the train the Cathedral appeared to rise up into view as we became closer and commanded the horizon with unquestionable authority. The concert was given in the Lady Chapel, a space that is just perfect for a guitar recital, with an acoustic sound decay of seven seconds. Within this environment sound truly did soar and fly around the hall, and pieces took on a new character. 

Ely Cathedral is a place of truly rich heritage. The original monastery was constrcucted in 673 by the princess of East Anglia Etheldreda. This monastery flourished for 200 years until it was destroyed by the Danes, after which it was refounded as a Benedictine community in 970 and the old monastery at Ely became the richest abbey in England except for Glastonbury.

When one is performing in surroundings of such historical depth the mind quickly begins to wander towards considering how much has occured in this space since 673. That’s 1341 years for any of those amongst you who were beginning to do the maths. To put that into perspective, in the seventh century the stirrup was introduced in Persia, in 653 King Anna of East Anglia, Etheldreda’s father, was killed in the Battle of Bulcamp by Penda of Merica, The Irish monk St Aidan moved from Iona to establish a monastery at Lindesfarne and in 674 the construction of Ripon Minster began. England as a country was divided into conflicted regions and and a place that can accurately be described as utterly unrecognisable from that which we know today.

With the pace of life that most people currently adhere to, it’s easy to forget that some of the buildings that are present throughout the British Isles have been around for so long. It’s a hugely humbling thought to have in one’s mind when approaching a concert performance. 

The audience applauding Michael's performance at Ely Cathedral

The programme for Ely Cathedral was made up of the music of Mozart, Bach, Walton and Albeniz. When reflecting upon the time-scale that we have already referred to, it’s truly fascinating to note that when the first monastery at Ely was established there were still 1012 years to pass before a young Johann Sebastian Bach was born into the world over the seas in Eisenhach, Germany. How grounding it is to realise that we are so much closer now to Bach’s generation than to Etheledreda’s, and that his music is in fact relatively close to ours historcially. 

When days, months and years can sometimes feel like over-bearing swaythes of time, I find it incredibly soothing to connect with our past in this way and to feel a link to it. 

And so, when I sat down to perform in the beautiful Lady Chapel, and heard Bach’s music wash around me in the wonderful acoustic environment I felt strongly connected to the past and also to the present moment, thinking about what we will do in our lives to be worthy of people’s reflections in 1341 years time. 

Michael

Ilkley, July 2014

© Michael Christian Durrant 2018