Acoustic Guitarist Of The Year finalists announced
Six finalists have been selected from hundreds of hopefuls to compete for the coveted accolade of Acoustic Guitarist Of The Year in association with Takamine.
The finalists are: Ben Powell, Brian Viggars, Paul Garthwaite, Will McNicol, Jose Albela and Robert Castellani. The six will compete in the live finals held at The Queen Elizabeth Hall, as part of the London Guitar Festival 2011, held at the Southbank Centre, SE1.
The winner on the day will walk away with a Takamine EF341SC courtesy of Takamine Guitars, plus the opportunity of a series of concert dates at IGF Festivals in 2012. Most importantly, they will be crowned Guitarist magazine’s Acoustic Guitarist Of The Year 2011.
Previous winners have gone on to great success in the music industry, and we expect this year to be no exception. Come and cheer for your favourite - entry is just £3.
Click onwards for more information and to meet the finalists...
Name: Will McNicol
Track entered: Emma
Current main guitar: Taylor NS32ce
A guitar player since the age of six, 21-year-old Plymouth University student Will has focused on the acoustic since hearing his teacher play Asturias by Albeniz. "I am a big fan of all things acoustic and fingerstyle," says Will, "but my tastes are pretty eclectic, from Gypsy jazz to post-rock."
Influenced by players such as Antonio Forcione, Thomas Leeb and Paco de Lucia, Will is excited about the final: "The opportunity to play at Southbank in front of the panel will be an experience I will cherish for a long time. Winning it would obviously be brilliant."
Random fact: Will has a sizable scar on his chest from a heart operation when he was just three years old.
Name: Jose Albela
Track entered: Dijeri
Current main guitar: Larrivée parlour-style
London-based Jose, 23, started out by picking up an acoustic guitar in his childhood home - and hasn't looked back since. "I distinctly remember sitting in front of the TV with the guitar in hand and to my astonishment was able to play along with the music I heard off the telly," he recalls. "I'll never forget the buzz it gave me."
Now favouring Flamenco and Celtic styles, Jose says: "To win Acoustic Guitarist Of The Year would be my biggest achievement, to have that kind of recognition for doing what I love the most would be amazing."
Random fact: Jose’s February birthday fell in a leap year, making him, er, only five years old.
Name: Robert Castellani
Track entered: Song For Eric
Current main guitar: Lowden O23
A music lecturer at Suffolk New College, Acoustic finalist Robert, 23, lists Stevie Ray Vaughan and Frank Zappa alongside John Martyn and Michael Hedges in his list of favourite players. "I've been playing for 10 years," he says, "after being inspired by Jimi Hendrix."
With Song For Eric, however, he demonstrates the fine technique he has developed on the acoustic. "Music means so much to me and is my life, so winning the competition would give me a great boost and would also help me promote my playing in so many extra ways."
Random fact: Robert has been finalist before - he’s hoping this will be third time lucky.
Name: Brian Viggars
Track entered: The Torrent
Current main guitar: Taylor 414CE
As a multi-instrumentalist and teacher, Brian's journey to the Acoustic Guitarist Of The Year final has been an all-encompassing one. "At the age of eight, with The Beatles and The Shadows in the Hit Parade, I picked up the guitar and haven't put it down for almost 50 years," he says.
Inspired by "anything with lush chords and moving internal harmonies", Brian is excited by the opportunity of performing in the final. "Having been inspired by so many great guitarists, it would be a privilege to share my music, techniques and arrangements with others," he says, "promoting the acoustic guitar as an instrument capable of playing melody, bass and harmony at the same time."
Random fact: Brian’s entry was was inspired by a Welsh river cascading down a hillside, no less.
Name: Paul Garthwaite
Track entered: Ocean
Current main guitar: 22-string Manson Classical guitar
Initially inspired to pick up the guitar by Led Zeppelin, full-time musician Paul, 44, has since taken his playing down some less familiar paths.
"I want further the multi-string guitar, composition and work full-time as an acoustic musician," he says of his ambitions for the Acoustic Guitarist Of The Year competition. "Also, I have bought Guitarist from the very first issue. I have grown up with the magazine and it has been a big influence on me as it is a big ambition to be Acoustic Guitarist Of The Year."
Random fact: Paul used to play in a showband where he used to sing O Sole Mio in his boxer shorts!
Name: Ben Powell
Track entered: The Chalice Well
Current main guitar: Lowden O25
Another finalist to have crossed over from the world of rock and blues, 34-year-old Ben explains his transition: "I spent my early years trying to imitate the tone of Eric Clapton and Peter Green. I was 26 before I heard Martin Taylor's album Solo. From that moment I locked myself in a room for the next seven years and taught myself how to play fingerstyle."
Currently busking around Italy, Ben says of the competition: "As a lifelong reader of Guitarist, to win would make a boyhood dream a reality. I am also aware it is a huge accolade, and puts the winner in very fine company indeed."
Random fact: Ben suspects he is allergic to cheese, but still consumes it with reckless abandon.
More info & ticket booking
PLUS! The evening of Friday 3 June will feature an incredible perfomance from Eric Bibb.
Don’t miss this internationally renowned blues master in the fantastic visual and sonic setting of the Queen Elizabeth Hall.