Jackdaws – guitar, food, friends, and more guitar!

Chris and I have just come back from the Jackdaws Guitar Ensemble Weekend and I’m feeling refreshed and re-invigorated! Spring has most certainly sprung at Great Elm in Somerset. The sun shone, daffodils were in abundance, the birds were singing – and the guitarists? Well – they were all inside playing like their lives depended on it!

Our Jackdaws guitarists certainly have a very dedicated mind-set and enjoy having their days crammed full of guitar, and I don’t think we disappointed on this front!  The schedule went like this: warm-up – guitar – coffee – guitar – lunch – more guitar – tea & cake – even more guitar – more food – much more guitar – wine – and even more guitar – sleep! I don’t think I need to go on and describe the next day.  If we had wanted to test the reserve of our intrepid bunch then starting with finger aerobics at 9am on Sunday after losing a precious hour’s sleep with the switch to British Summer Time was the right way to go about it, but I’m happy (and rather surprised) to report that they were as keen as mustard!

Jackdaws had passed on the news that the course was full, so we emailed out pdf scores of Chris’ new piece, ‘From Lulworth‘ which he had written for the weekend. I was just putting a couple of finishing touches to my arrangements of two Spanish Folk Songs, El Pano moruno and Asturiana, on my laptop in the back of the car on my way over to Great Elm on Friday.  I had also packed a few other scores and parts as I know the participants like to kept as busy as possible.

Our students had tireless enthusiasm and energy, and rehearsals were long and tested concentration levels to the full, but everyone managed to respond positively to our encouragement, suggestions and musical ideas.  Good humour abounds on these weekends and everyone enjoys each other’s company which encourages those who might not have played in the final concert to have a go – even if they felt slightly nervous. In this spirit all levels and abilities of players are able to contribute to the music making.

The BAPAM pre-practice warm-up stretches helped to gently loosen everyone up first thing on Saturday and Sunday mornings before we all embarked on some finger aerobics. Work here focused on slow and rhythmic technical work to re-enforce good habits such as posture, left and right hand positions, right hand string crossing and planting, left hand shifting, and the importance of relaxing and releasing finger muscles after they have completed their movements.

You might have noticed from my previous post on Jackdaws that I seemed to be very preoccupied with  the fantastic food. Well Lou (our in-house chef) didn’t disappoint! All participants were well catered with scrumptious home made food, cakes, and fresh supply of coffee & tea, all served with effortless ease. I can’t believe I took pictures of these cakes, but they were delicious!

Our first Jackdaws took place in 2000 and we have never tired of coming to this beautiful location every year. Thanks to Maureen and her team for warm, welcoming hospitality. Perhaps you might fancy coming and trying it for yourself, dear reader – but do book early! Mark.


  1. Chris and Mark’s enthusiasm and sense of homour make this such an enjoyable weekend. Lovely music for us to play too. Jackdaws is a lovely place. They have agreed to take part in the Cambridge Guitar Weekend October 2010 which I organise. This is a great coup for us and eagerly anticipated. Well done Chris and Mark you deserve official recognition for the work you do for the guitar and particularly for young people.

  2. But Tony, there’s a photo of you on Mark’s Facebook looking like your pet hamster has just died. Where was your cheeky grin mate?
    I second your remark about recognition for Chris and Mark, though Mark also works with the elderly… see the next story down in this blog!

  3. Hi Guys – Looks like you had a wonderful time again – so sorry we missed you and all that scrummy food!! We’ll be there next year!! Looking forward to seeing you both on 2nd May with VIDA – we know it’s going to be an awesome day!!! 🙂

  4. Missed you both – but as you both couldn’t join us there was more food to go round!

    Looking forward to the 2nd with VIDA. Details of workshop and concerts at http://www.vidagq.com

  5. Wondrous course as always. It really is my favourite one. Can’t wait until next year and I think that early January will be just right. It will cheer me up in the post Christmas blues.

  6. Mark + Chris thanks for a wonderful weekend. I always come back from your festivals with renewed energy.
    I’ll definitely be back there next year, especially now that I have found my way around country roads!

  7. Hey boys! Just a side question: How often do people call you the Eden Estelle duo? Sometimes I stay up at night wondering about these things………

  8. Many thanks for comments … and please don’t loose anymore sleep Louis. We’ve been called many things but not Estelle (although I quite like it now you’ve brought it to our attention).

  9. looks and sounds like a great way to spend a weekend.


Leave a Reply