From classical and jazz, acoustic and electric Manchester Guitar Festival at The Stoller Hall is a celebration of the finest guitar music

From classical and jazz, acoustic, electric and even flamenco, the three-day Manchester Guitar Festival at The Stoller Hall is a celebration of the finest guitar music talent from around the world, alongside emerging musical talent.

With evening and late-night concerts, workshops, pop-up performances and talks throughout the weekend – visitors can hear and learn from some of the best in the business.

Kicking off the live concerts on Friday 20 May at The Stoller Hall is acclaimed musician Sean Shibe – the first ever guitarist to be selected for BBC Radio 3’s New Generation Artists scheme. He will kick-start the festival with an unmissable programme which includes a first half dedicated to classical guitar, featuring two delectable suites by JS Bach (BWV 996) and Mompou (Compostelana), before switching to electric guitar in the second half for Steve Reich’s hypnotic Electric Counterpoint, and Julia Wolfe’s LAD, originally composed for nine bagpipes and arranged by Shibe for the electric guitar.

Followed on Saturday 21 May by the Daniel Martinez Flamenco Company, concert – where audiences can experience vibrant and authentic Flamenco music and dance from this spectacular and award-winning Spanish group. Their Art of Believing production won the prestigious Herald Angel Award at the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and is bursting with truly stunning flamenco music, bringing to Manchester the passion and fire of Andalucia. Composer and Flamenco guitarist Daniel Martinez presents his unique musical production, where the audience will enjoy a rich variety of Flamenco styles; from the intense emotion of Seguiriyato to the joyful sounds of Alegria. The show hosts an exceptional group of musicians; flamenco singers, guitarists, a violinist and a dancer, joining Daniel in a must-see powerful Flamenco performance bursting with life and authenticity.

The Spanish theme continues throughout the Festival, with Spanish food and drink available to enhance the experience.

Rounding off a sublime weekend of live guitar music on the afternoon of Sunday 22 May is an Anglo-Australian concert where the Northern Chamber Orchestra is joined by outstanding Australian guitarist, Craig Ogden, who gave the world premiere of Andy Scott’s concerto with the orchestra at The Stoller Hall in 2017. He will close the festival performing works from Vaughan Williams to Malcolm Arnold’s Guitar Concerto, alongside the Northern Chamber Orchestra and students from Chetham’s School of Music.

In addition to these three main headliners – Manchester Guitar Festival also features late night and afternoon concerts by up and coming stars in the world of guitar. On Friday night, Lockdown legends Ben Bruant and Will Cashel – better known as Duo – will be playing ‘songs you know in ways you probably don’t’, fusing flamenco, pop and classical music. Duo were formed in Lockdown when they began live streaming gigs and performing free weekly concerts in the gardens of nominated key and frontline workers to thank them for their amazing work during the pandemic. These ‘Gigs In Your Garden’ became a huge hit and were featured on BBC Breakfast, Sky News, Jeremy Vine on 5 and in The Times, Mail on Sunday and Evening Standard. ‘Gig In Your Garden’ the album, inspired by the music played at these events, was released on Demon Records in February 2021.

Former Chetham’s School of Music students Whitford Rees and Alexandra Whittingham will also perform separately during the Saturday afternoon of the Festival. Rees – a fresh face in a new generation of guitarists – is about to continue her music education at the University of Cambridge. She will present a wide programme of pieces from early musicians such as Madurra and Dowland through to newly commissioned guitar works from emerging composers. Whittingham, whose debut album in 2021 My European Journey reached Number 1 on the iTunes Classical Chart and who has a huge YouTube following, will share her love of bringing lesser-known composers into the spotlight.

The live line up for the festival is completed by Rochdale born percussive “fingerstyle” guitarist Becky Langhan – a semi-finalist on the second series of Sky Arts’ Guitar Star 2016 – and up-and-coming folk guitarist Gwenifer Raymond and the joyous “string band swing” that is The Ukulele Uff Trio – who specialise in obscure and wonderful 1920s/30s jazz, Tin Pan Alley songs and traditional Hawaiian music.

Running alongside these eclectic and exciting live performances will be a series of talks and workshops led by musicians, Chetham’s School of Music guitar tutors and graduates. There is even an Early Years Flamenco Workshop complete with story-telling, music and art where pre-school aged children and their families can learn about the artform.

Fran Healey, General Manager at The Stoller Hall, said: “We are beyond excited to curate and run our first Manchester Guitar Festival bringing some huge names in the field together with lesser known up-and-coming performers. Together we will celebrate how vibrant, eclectic and accessible this instrument and its sounds really are. From flamenco to classical and even jazz – we have musical styles and genres to suit many tastes. We are also thrilled to welcome back former Chetham’s School of Music students who are beginning to make a name for themselves. With talks, concerts, pop up performances, late night bars and even stalls selling guitar accessories and music – we really are bringing a whole festival vibe to The Stoller Hall and we cannot wait to welcome people through our doors throughout the weekend.”


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