Guitar - John Edwards

John Edwards with classical guitar
John Edwards
I was given a guitar for my fifteenth birthday, not a particularly good instrument, but it served to learn a few chord strums and pick out pop songs of the early 1960s. A little later, and very dissatisfied with my skills, along with my brother I enrolled for classes at the Spanish Guitar Centre in Bristol, and we got our first taste of a more formal approach, from Gordon Saunders, and later Michael Watson. Judging by the music we were able to play at the end of our first eighteen months, we must have made very rapid progress indeed, and after about four years of tuition I began to teach, full-time, for the Centre. When the Associated Board introduced a syllabus of guitar exams--1967 I think--I took grades 6 and 8 passing both with distinction in the same year.

Thomas Hartman playing Emilio Pijol's La Libelula
Thomas Hartman
Later, during a period of living in Oxford, I performed my first solo recital for the Oxford Guitar Society, and later met the American guitarist Thomas Hartman, who gave me monthly lessons, culminating in performance diplomas from both Trinity College and the Royal Academy of Music. These qualifications helped me to obtain the post of guitar tutor at the Jamaica School of Music, in Kingston, Jamaica, but before taking this up, I attended a summer school near Lerida, Spain, with a great figure in the guitar’s history--Emilio Pujol, who had been a pupil of Francisco Tárrega. Over the three weeks of the course, morning classes were devoted to the guitar, and afternoons to the music of the guitar’s two ancestors--the vihuela and the five-course baroque guitar. I became very interested in the latter instrument particularly, and a few years after, during some research at the British Museum, I unearthed 17th century tablatures of Santiago de Murcia, Roncalli and Corbetta. I persuaded a luthier friend to built me a reproduction of one of the few surviving instruments of the period-- the Stradivarius, which can be seen in Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum--and subsequently I played this instruments in various recitals, and I continue to have a great interest in the style and authentic performance of early music generally.

During my time in the West Indies (1973-76)I was very grateful to receive a French Government scholarship to study with Alexander Lagoya, at the Académie Internationale d'Eté which took place in Nice. Here I met Sarn Dyer -- an excellent guitarist/composer with some very stimulating ideas -- and I have benefited greatly from our long friendship ever since. In 1975 I undertook a short concert tour of the Caribbean Islands, playing a recital in each Island starting at the Cayman Islands and finishing in Trinidad. That same year I performed twice at the Wigmore Hall in London, one concert being a complete solo recital containing some quite substantial works from our repertoire, including the Twenty Variations and Fugue on Folia de España by Manuel Ponce.

John Edwards with flautist Nicky Russell
Nicky Russell and John
On return to the UK to my home town of Bristol, I once again, built up a teaching practice, with a good deal of free-lance performing work as well, and enjoyable collaborations with baritone Robert Williams--I learned to play the lute sufficiently well to accompany songs of the Elizabethan period-- flautist Nicola Russell, and later organist Penny Weedon.

In the late seventies I began to suffer with neck and shoulder pain -- also frequent headaches -- which prompted me to take lessons in the Alexander Technique. These were so beneficial that I decided on a change of career, and from 1984 I spent the next four years in Totnes, Devon training to be a teacher of Alexander Technique. Since qualifying, I spent some years living, and teaching both guitar and Alexander in Swansea, but more recently in Dorset and Hampshire. During my time in Swansea, I commissioned Simon Ambridge -- the well-known British luthier -- to build me an eight string guitar, which is really a standard guitar but with two extra bass strings. The reason for this was to be able to play the lute repertoire of JS Bach with greater fidelity to the original works, and without the need for omission of voice parts, or transposition of bass lines. The practice of this repertoire has been a principle source of interest during the last fifteen years or so and is still very much an on-going project.

For the last ten years or so I have been living in Bournemouth, where I continue to teach the Alexander Technique and the guitar. I am currently Chairman of Dorset Guitar Society and greatly enjoy playing in the Dorset Guitar Orchestra, as well as participating in the many concerts the orchestra give in and around the surrounding area.

My most recent performance (July 2022) was in Soundstorm's concert - Around the World in Eight Days - at the Bournemouth International Centre, playing the solo guitar part in the UK premier of 'Spain' by local composer Stefan Defilet.



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