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Nigel Gatherer's Mandolin Diary



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Mandolin Teachers' Weekend Residential, Stoke

Friday 18th February

This weekend course was organised by Barbara Pomerenke-Steel under the auspices of the BMG - The British Banjo, Mandolin and Guitar Federation. Catering for tutors of mandolin and banjo, it really provided an opportunity for those of us who are already tutors, and those who wish to become tutors, to meet and discuss our individual methods and opinions.

I drove down to Hamilton on the Friday afternoon to meet up with Barbara and Eddie Smith; we were going to drive down together, and although we were snagged up on the motorway outside Manchester, we made the venue in plenty of time. I knew some of the other delegates, and others were new. I always enjoy meeting David Price - he guarantees an amusing time - and it was good to see David Griff Griffiths again.

It was Saturday before the conference got well under way, with a workshop on "NLP" from Griff. NLP is Neuro-Linguistic Programming and it's basically about how we percieve the world in three main ways (kinesthetically, visually and aurally) and how people use all three, but that usually one of these is more prominent. A bit deep, but most interesting. LaterPricey led a workshop on jazz improvisation which was great. I felt that he demystified the whole topic and demonstrated how you can teach the beginnings of improvisation in an easy, non-intimidating way.

Frances Taylor is an expert on Baroque mandolin, and I'd met her very briefly in Brighton last year, but it was over this weekend that I got to know her a little more. We got on well; she's a lovely person, and although we're from very different backgrounds and worlds, we instantly liked each other. I was fascinated by the way she held her mandolin, almost the opposite of other classical players I've met. She studied with an Italian maestro and learned the Italian way in everything: she held the instrument parallel with the ground, held against her ribcage with the heel of her hand resting on the strings behind the bridge. It's so close to my own way of holding it that I was amazed. Since meeting Barbara - really the first classical player I'd met - I've always been a little conscious of doing most things wrongly, as I'm self-taught, so to see a classically-trained player doing the same as me was an eye-opener!

At the end of Saturday evening we let our hair down a little. Eddie and I played a couple of tunes together, and Griff played some of his exqusite repertoire. Apparently there were two or three other group at the centre that weekend who had since cancelled, so we each had a large four-bed room to ourselves, to my pleasure. I'm not the best at sharing accomodation and sometimes I get scant sleep.

Sunday morning was my workshop, "How to Teach Celtic Mandolin". I was in a great mood, and I felt absolutely prepared. The workshop went well and I felt that the group were bonding more as the weekend progressed. Then we had Frances's Baroque workshop which was good, especially as I don't know the first thing about it!

We finished Sunday afternoon in good spirits, all of us having got a lot out of the meeting. Rool on the next one!


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