It’s been well over thirty-five years since I first discovered Irish music and its affinity with the guitar. In the eighties I veered between folk and classical, making albums with Dave Townsend and Chris Leslie, before recording a CD of the music of J S Bach which I thought of as my last will and testament to the classical guitar.
The world of film music composing then took me over for the next twenty-five years. I travelled through the beauty of nature films to the intriguing stories of TV dramas such as State of Play, eventually to reach the dizzy heights of Harry Potter with an orchestra of 110 brilliant musicians playing my music at Abbey Road Studios. But like Spencer the Rover, I have now returned to my origins after a long journey.
Although I’d been playing guitar with other musicians – most notably my wife Judith who’s a wonderful fiddler – the return to the solo guitar was quite sudden. I’d been tinkering with an Irish tune called ‘The Blackbird’ for years, and I went into the Half Moon in Oxford one evening and bumped into the Irish singer Mick Henry, an old friend from the eighties. He suggested we met and did some music together. I needed to work out some guitar solos to play alongside his songs, and I rediscovered the minute but detailed orchestra of the solo guitar. My daughter Rose had a hand in this too, as she insisted that I play my guitar while she went to sleep upstairs, so I was forced to practise every day without fail.
Working in this way, I began to rediscover my old tunes, as they slipped back under my fingers, but with a new and different way of playing using my beautiful small-bodied steel-string guitar made for me by Rob Armstrong.
Mick Henry and I did a gig with Irish poet Bernard O’Donoghue, and the solo guitar worked a treat as a contrast to Bernard’s poems and Mick’s songs. That evening I also discovered the joy of good amplification – every detail of my playing could be heard by the audience, and after all those years, back in the eighties, of struggling to be heard on the classical guitar, this was a revelation.
I hope you enjoy my album. There are many wonderful young guitarists out there, but this is a bit of gentle music from an old codger with a beard who’s been on a bit of a journey. I hope you enjoy my album. There are many wonderful young guitarists out there, but this is a bit of gentle music from an old codger with a beard who’s been on a bit of a journey.