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Review: 6 Hands with John Williams, John Etheridge and Gary Ryan, King's Lynn Festival

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What do you get when you get three guitars and six hands? A lot of applause as a packed Corn Exchange audience showed its appreciation for a superb evening of music from John Williams, Gary Ryan and John Etheridge.

This was Williams' first appearance back at the festival in some time and if, no doubt, he was the main draw for the punters there was much to enjoy from his sidesmen in this classical supergroup.

Williams started with a couple of his own compostions, Prelude To A Song and Another Time, moved on to the cascading Homage To Raphael before finishing his opening set with Hello Francis, which rather introduced the recurring theme of the night, Africa, as it paid tribute to a friend from Cameroon.

Gary Ryan, John Williams and John Etheridge are 6 Hands. (14217789)
Gary Ryan, John Williams and John Etheridge are 6 Hands. (14217789)

Etheridge then came on to play an electric guitar set starting, as he pointed out, with the not so appropriate Stormy Weather, followed by Mean To Me and then Billie Holliday's classic God Beless The Child. He too finished on a South African piece.

Ryan started with his haunting composition Lough Carra before ending on the extraordinary Benga Beat, incorporating slaps, singing and all sorts of virtuosity in homage to African music. A brilliant way to finish the first half.

In the second half, the supergroup played in one of the seven possible combinations available to them, starting with Williams and Etheridge (back on acoustic) on a superb rendition of a Cape Verde tune, Toy.

I particularly liked when the three came together with a stand-out section being put together by John Williams based on the music of the kora, played in Mali and other African countries.

A magical evening and interesting to see how the classical music repetoire now has become far less Iberian and much more attuned to world music.

If Ryan was the studious one and Williams the avuncular one then Etheridge was definitely the cheeky chappy. We even got a joke or two to end up with.

A memorable evening and some marvellous playing.

Mark Leslie

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