REVIEW: The 5,000 year old piece of wood that gives new life to guitar classics

Richard Durrant

Richard Durrant

It’s not often you get to hear some of JS Bach’s finest work played on a guitar.

But this was no ordinary guitar.

It’s a brand new instrument crafted out of a 5,000 year old oak tree - that had been preserved in silty mud in Norfolk until it was rediscovered and kiln dried.

Nor is the guitarist anything but exceptional.

At a glance Richard Durrant has a casual ease which disguises his intense musical skill.

But as he walked barefoot into the 13th century chapel at Bailiffscourt, near Climping, and lifted the guitar to his side you suddenly knew this was a master of his trade.

The candlelit setting of a Friday evening was a little too dim even for Richard’s instinctive sight of the strings - so a little extra light was required at one point.

Yet the atmosphere was as sweet as it was still, broken only by the sound of three unique instruments played in succession.

After the bog oak, Richard showcased another new instrument, this one made by Ian Chisholm of Ditchling, The Uffington Tenor, a tenor guitar with a silver Uffington horse on the headstock.

Finally he turned to a guitar so precious from the 1830s that he cradled it without strap.

Richard is one of the UK’s best known guitarists. He trained at the Royal College of Music and has gone on to compose for the BBC, perform throughout Europe as a soloist and play many concerts with the Brighton Philarmonic Orchestra, among many others.

He’s local too as referenced by his composition centred around the village of Buriton.

The chords hinted at a sense of the personal with this piece but it remained a deliciously closed secret, that only great guitar playing can conceal.

The evening moved from Bach across the classical range, and over continents too. Not surprisingly, Recuerdos de la Alhambra was a highlight and reinforced an underlying Spanish theme.

To echo it, the guests enjoyed a tapas dinner after the performance at Bailiffscourt Hotel and Spa - and Richard proved a fascinating host in conversation as well as in performance