Carolan’s second stay as part of it’s ongoing residency at Folk Beeston is with Elaine Chipchase, a guest and regular performer at the club. Elaine’s background is in classical music. She took up the guitar in her late teens at a time when classical guitar was not accepted as an instrument for study at any of the music schools and there were very few classical guitar teachers in the country so Elaine’s guitar playing is largely self-taught. At University she played guitar and accompanied singers and other instrumentalists. Work and life then intervened and she stopped playing until in her mid 30s when she tried to find a teacher. The result was that she ended up in a duo with guitarist and teacher Steve Marsh, giving recitals up and down the country. In 2014 she was asked to accompany a friend who sang Tudor songs and folk songs to Elaine’s classical style accompaniment. After the recitals Elaine decided that instead of accompanying others she would play and sing herself. So she took up singing and In 2015 she sang for the first time at a folk club. Since then has continued to play and sing in a folk environment but also continues to play classical as much as she can, enjoying playing, just before lockdown, some of the Boccherini guitar quintets with a string quartet.
Elaine’s classical background and playing of nylon string guitar gives her a unusual perspective on Carolan, initially involving some trepidation for what the steel strings might do to her fingers as she explains here.
However, after an hour so of experimentation she’s comfortable to attempt a few classical pieces. While the finger shredding is not as severe as anticipated, there is a need to adjust other differences, especially in the spacing of the frets and the width of the fretboard. Interestingly, what does emerge as being a significant difference to her normal nylon strung guitar is Carolan’s tone, specifically the balance between bass and treble strings and its sustain. The same quality that gave rise to a ringing harp like sound back in Post 80 proves more frustrating to Elaine’s classical technique as she explains.
Elaine finishes off with one more lovely piece – Andante in C major by Mauro Giuliani – or “Tales of the Riverbank” as a few of you may know it. Thanks Elaine for hosting Carolan, for taking on the new challenge of steel strings, for your insights and of course, for your lovely playing.