Chris Newman
Guitar virtuoso

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About Chris...

Click here to hear a composite track containing excerpts from Chris's new solo album Breaking Bach - featuring his arrangements for steel-strung flatpicked guitar of sonatas and partitas written by JS Bach for solo instruments - due for release on 23 July!

Click here to hear a composite track containing excerpts from Chris's fourth solo album Still getting Away With It:

New YouTube interview with Chris about his Breaking Bach project by mandolin ace Simon Mayor

New cover feature about
Chris and Máire in the April / May 2021 issue of The Living Tradition magazine

Interview with Chris in FLATPICK GUITAR MAGAZINE
(USA)

Video Interview with Chris for new Green Ginger series

CHRIS IN BRIEF

Chris is a "brilliant English master of the acoustic guitar" (THE DAILY TELEGRAPH) and the UK’s premier flat-picking guitarist. A "dazzling player (ACOUSTIC GUITAR, USA), whose work is "nothing short of brilliant" (DIRTY LINEN, USA), he is one of the very few guitarists who excel in Celtic, European swing jazz and American bluegrass styles. He was Live Ireland’s Male Musician of the Year 2009 and 2019. He began to play guitar at the age of four and at fourteen played his first paid gig in a folk club. A prolific composer, arranger and record producer, he's played with luminaries of many musical worlds: folk (harper Máire Ní Chathasaigh and Boys of the Lough), jazz (Stéphane Grappelli and Diz Disley) and comedy (Fred Wedlock) - receiving a silver disc for producing Fred's international hit Oldest Swinger in Town, to which he also composed the tune and which reached No 6 in the charts in the UK and No 1 in several other countries. As Fred’s Musical Director and bandleader, appearances on such iconic national TV progammes as BBC’s Top of the Pops followed. One day in 1985 he decided he'd really rather play interesting music than pursue interesting paychecks, so turned his back on the commercial world and returned to his folk roots. He has since concentrated on composition and on playing the traditional music of these islands and beyond. In addition to his work with Máire, Chris toured until 1997 as a member of Boys of the Lough in North America, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Estonia, Denmark, China and Italy. He has been principal guitar tutor for Newcastle University’s Folk B.Mus course since its inception, a visiting tutor at the University of Limerick, the University of Ulster and the Carl Nielsen Institute, Denmark, and is a popular instructor at guitar festivals and camps around the world. His book of guitar compositions and arrangements Adventures with a Flatpick was published in 2001. His fifth solo album, Breaking Bach, featuring his arrangements for steel-strung flatpicked guitar of sonatas and partitas written by JS Bach for solo instruments, will be released on 23 July, 2021. The project is quite ground-breaking - a recording of this music on steel-strung flatpicked guitar has not been attempted until now. His 1998 solo CD Fretwork was “a stunning and stylistically-varied album, heaving with good tunes, from one of the UK’s most staggering and influential acoustic guitarists” fROOTS (UK) “Revered” TAPLAS (Wales) “Spectacular” TIME OUT and his fourth solo CD Still Getting Away with It, a celebration of his 40-year career, is “Astonishing - a joy- filled romp through blues, back-porch pickin', Quebec reels, Django swing jazz chordings, bluegrass, African high- life, ragtime, latin, Irish jigs and beyond, and a must-buy for any guitar player” * * * * SCOTLAND ON SUNDAY “Amazing... One of our greatest musicians” Mike Harding, BBC RADIO 2 "Beauty and virtuosity from a master craftsman at the peak of his abilities... I couldn’t recommend an album more highly" * * * * MAVERICK “A triumph... I'm fully conscious that I'm in the presence of greatness here... one of the top guitarists of his ilk anywhere” THE LIVING TRADITION “Precision-engineered, lovingly crafted tunes... Playful and incredibly dextrous” * * *THE IRISH TIMES “Dazzling... A genuinely uplifting album of some of the most remarkable - yet accessible - guitar playing you're going to hear all year." * * * * * ROCK N REEL

WATCH CHRIS

...playing with Mark Cosgrove

...playing with bluegrass legend Dan Crary

...playing with Máire and the Heartstring Quartet

CHRIS IN DETAIL

"Guitar-playing of astonishing virtuosity and versatility” SONGLINES (UK)

“Guitar players don’t come any better than Chris Newman... I’d blithely cross snow-capped mountains and ford raging rivers to see him play” THE LIVING TRADITION (Scotland)

In the Beginning...
Touring and working with Diz Disley, Stéphane Grappelli, Clive Palmer, Pigsty Hill Light Orchestra, Fred Wedlock, Brenda Wootton, Kathryn Tickell, Danny Thompson...
Solo projects and critically-acclaimed solo recordings, plus recent solo videos...
Duo with Máire Ní Chathasaigh…
Quartet with Máire, Arty McGlynn and Nollaig Casey (The Heartstring Quartet)…
Touring and recording with Boys of the Lough and Aly Bain, and guesting on Norma Carthy's Mercury Music Prize 1996 live BBC2 performance and Rory Gallagher's album Wheels within Wheels
Record Production...
Chris's activities as a Composer
Chris's activities as a guitar instructor...
More praise for Chris Newman

In the Beginning...

Chris was born into an artistic family in Hertfordshire and grew up in in Bushey and in Leeds. He began to play folk music on guitar at the age of four. His mother had been a professional actress and performing was in his blood. At fourteen he gave his first paid concert in a folk club.

Touring and working with Diz Disley, Stéphane Grappelli, Clive Palmer, Pigsty Hill Light Orchestra, Fred Wedlock, Brenda Wootton, Kathryn Tickell, Danny Thompson...

He met the great swing guitarist and humourist Diz Disley in his late teens and played with him in folk clubs the length and breadth of the UK for a number of years. Diz was responsible for re-launching Stéphane Grappelli onto the world stage after a period of relative obscurity, and through him Chris had the good fortune to play with Grappelli’s band for a while. Chris still cites guitarist Denny Wright, then a member of Grappelli’s quartet, as the primary influence on his distinctive and melodic style of improvisation.

He toured for six months with Clive's Original Band (COB), Clive Palmer (of the Incredible String Band)'s solo project, before moving to Bristol in 1973.

He soon involved himself in Bristol’s musical life, becoming involved initially in the hugely-popular comedy band Pigsty Hill Light Orchestra and subsequently in a number of other outfits, including White on Black and a couple of his own projects, the wonderfully-named Overdraft and Fallen Arches. He became a regular on regional TV and radio, and presented BBC Radio Bristol’s Folk Tempo programme for a short period. In the midst of all this, he started working with folk comedian Fred Wedlock. Spotting the commercial potential of Fred’s material, he applied his compositional, production and arrangement talents to it, thus launching Fred’s career into the mainstream. Chris received a silver disc for producing Fred’s 1981 hit The Oldest Swinger in Town - to which he also composed the tune and which reached No 6 in the charts in the UK and No 1 in several other countries. As Fred’s Musical Director and bandleader, appearances on such iconic national TV progammes as BBC’s Top of the Pops and Pebble Mill at One, and ITV's Tiswas, followed.

In the mid-1980s, Chris was bandleader and Musical Director for the French tours of Cornish singer Brenda Wootton - a big star in France at the time. He toured with her for about seven years at the height of her fame and with her played on national French TV programmes such as TF1's "Champs Élysées", in iconic venues such as the Paris Olympia, Théâtre Bobino and Théâtre de la Ville (where they regularly played sell-out three-night runs) and at prestigious festivals such as the Printemps de Bourges and the Fête de l'Humanité, the largest in France, where they played on the main stage to 250,000+ people. At this period, when he was spending almost six months of the year in France, he also got to know and share stages with the revered Colette Magny and the even-more-revered and then-exiled Argentinian singer Mercedes Sosa. Here is a lovely new and beautifully-made video (more like a TV programme really) about Brenda, in which Chris is interviewed.

In the late 1980s Chris toured widely with famed Northumbrian piper Kathryn Tickell and legendary bassist Danny Thompson, and recorded the album Common Ground with them.

Solo projects and recordings, plus recent solo videos...

In this whirlwind of activity, Chris’s own musical interests were not neglected: he produced his first solo album
Chris Newman in 1981, followed by Chris Newman Two in 1983.

One day in 1985 he decided he'd really rather play interesting music than pursue interesting paychecks, so turned his back on the commercial world and returned to his folk roots. He has since concentrated on composition and on playing the traditional music of Ireland, Scotland and the USA - and on his other love, swing (or as it's often called these days, manouche or gypsy jazz).

His fifth solo album, Breaking Bach, featuring his arrangements for steel-strung flatpicked guitar of sonatas and partitas written by JS Bach for solo instruments, will be released on 16 July, 2021. The project is quite ground-breaking - a recording of this music on steel-strung flatpicked guitar has not been attempted until now.

His fourth solo CD Still Getting Away with It (2010) is
“Amazing… great soul and wonderful feel… from one of our greatest musicians” Mike Harding, BBC RADIO 2 (UK)
"An astonishing, joy-filled romp… a must-buy for any guitar player." * * * * SCOTLAND ON SUNDAY
“A triumph... I'm fully conscious that I'm in the presence of greatness... one of the top guitarists of his ilk anywhere”
THE LIVING TRADITION
(Scotland)
"Beauty and virtuosity from a master craftsman at the peak of his abilities... I couldn’t recommend an album more highly." * * * * MAVERICK
"The exuberance of Newman's dazzling playing... would leave you open-mouthed if you weren't too busy smiling. A genuinely uplifting album of some of the most remarkable - yet accessible - guitar playing you're going to hear all year.”
*
* * * ROCK n REEL

His third solo album Fretwork (1998), a vehicle for his trademark eclecticism, was
"A stunning and stylistically-varied album, heaving with good tunes, from one of the UK’s most staggering and influential acoustic guitarists” FOLK ROOTS
"Dazzling" ACOUSTIC GUITAR (USA)
"Nothing short of brilliant” DIRTY LINEN (USA)
"The John Williams of folk guitar…takes the breath away. Newman wears his virtuosity lightly and his music has immense vitality and charm” THE INVERNESS COURIER (Scotland)
“A veritable feast of immaculate guitar playing - a marvellous achievement… A testament to Newman’s ability to make the guitar grab your attention and never let you go. A great album from a respected and revered folk guitarist” TAPLAS “Guitar players don’t come any better than Chris Newman.. I’d blithely cross snow-capped mountains and ford raging rivers to see him play” THE LIVING TRADITION (Scotland)

In 2015 Chris uploaded some videos of himself flatpicking three parts of J.S. Bach's Partita No 3 onto Facebook - the Preludio had 8,000+ plays within three days! He later uploaded all three videos on to YouTube so everybody can see them.
Watch these YouTube videos of Chris flatpicking three parts of J.S. Bach's Partita No 3 (something that had hitherto never been done on a steel-strung flatpicked guitar):
Chris playing the
Preludio from Partita 3
Chris playing the
Gigue from Partita 3
Chris playing the
Bourrée from Partita 3

Of course he has now recorded a whole new album of Bach's music, to be released on July 16, 2021, but it doesn't include these three pieces!

In 2011 Chris formed a new trio - called Still Getting Away with It - as a vehicle for his music and toured extensively with it.

Duo with Máire Ní Chathasaigh…

In 1987 he established a duo with Irish harper Máire Ní Chathasaigh (they made their début at the Cambridge Folk Festival that year) and together they’ve presented their unique musical vision in twenty-two countries on five continents to venues ranging from the tiniest of village halls to palaces in Kyoto and Istanbul, London's Barbican, Sydney Town Hall and the Philharmonie in Cologne - a breathtaking blend of traditional Irish music, hot jazz, bluegrass and baroque, spiced with striking new compositions - and what THE WEST AUSTRALIAN calls "Chris's delightfully subversive wit"! "In a class of their own" THE GUARDIAN "Sublime" THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD "Remarquables de virtuositŽé et de grâce" TRAD Magazine (France) "Their stagecraft was masterly and their introductions informative and funny" THE CHRISTCHURCH PRESS (New Zealand) "Their blinding technique, sizzling Irish reels and hot jazz improvisation brought an extended standing ovation... Newman has the great gift of being informative and hilarious simultaneously" THE WEST AUSTRALIAN “Stately Carolan tunes, jazzy Django-ish numbers, dazzling Doc Watson style flat picking fliers, driving Irish dance tunes - he can nonchalantly do the lot. Guitar players applauded and went sadly home to burn their instruments!” THE BELFAST TELEGRAPH (Ireland) “So moving - technical brilliance and beauty that brings tears to the eyes" IRISH MUSIC MAGAZINE "The mood is ever changing - sometimes haunting, sometimes boisterous but always magical. The pair's imaginations know no bounds…” THE BRISBANE COURIER-MAIL "Spectacularly good and technically brilliant guitar and traditional Irish harp duo at the forefront of the renaissance of Celtic music. Simply stunning" TIME OUT

Of their seven albums together, The Living Wood (1987) was THE DAILY TELEGRAPH’s Folk Album of the Year and one of its top ten Folk Albums of the 1980s; Out of Court (1991) was "stunning: one of the most refreshingly innovative releases in recent years" FOLK ROOTS; The Carolan Albums (1994) was “a masterpiece of virtuosity” THE DAILY TELEGRAPH; Live in the Highlands (1995) was “Music of fire and brilliance from the high-wire act in traditional music” THE IRISH TIMES, showcasing their “blazing guitar and dancing harp” DIRTY LINEN (USA) and “capturing the essence of these remarkable performers in a rare and priceless way - absolutely essential“ FOLK ROOTS; and Dialogues was “Terrific: brilliant, beautiful, rich, virtuosic, delightful, classic, perfect!” * * * * THE SUNDAY TRIBUNE (Ireland).

Of their sixth CD, FireWire, the critics said: “Dazzling virtuosity... guitar-playing to be marvelled at” THE DAILY TELEGRAPH “An eclecticism and spirit of adventure that is quite thrilling" THE TIMES “Brilliant, innovative harping and guitar-playing of astonishing virtuosity and versatility” * * * * SONGLINES “Album of the Year” LIVE IRELAND “Best Celtic Instrumental Album” 2009 Just Plain Folks Music Awards Nashville, Tennessee.

Their newest duo CD, the seasonal Christmas Lights, is “A delightful... satisfyingly original, often refreshingly unpredictable take on festive favourites… Gorgeous and uplifting" THE LIVING TRADITION - and their Celtic Christmas Strings tours play to sell-out audiences: “(Their) mastery and magic... produced a rapt response” THE GUARDIAN

For further information about the duo, click here.

Quartet with Máire, Arty McGlynn and Nollaig Casey (The Heartstring Quartet)

In 2008 Chris and Máire recorded a quartet CD, Heartstring Sessions, with two of the most important names in Irish music, legendary guitarist Arty McGlynn and Máire's sister, virtuoso fiddler Nollaig Casey. “Inspired... a contender for album of the year” fROOTS “Traditional music at its very best” THE IRISH TIMES "An amazingly eclectic mix... Astounding" THE ULSTER HERALD "Magnificent... Virtuosic... Outstanding" THE SCOTSMAN “World-class” IRISH MUSIC MAGAZINE “Two of the mightiest pairings in current folk combine to give a tour-de-force of breathtaking order. Classic.” THE LIVING TRADITION "Exceptionnel… brillant…" LE PEUPLE BRETON "Attention - chef d'œuvre! Bravo!!!” TRAD Magazine (France) “A dream quartet - the sweetest and most exciting music to emerge for a long time. Amazing virtuosity matched with sheer good taste.” DIRTY LINEN (USA). Heartstring Sessions was TRAD Magazine's Album of the Year 2008.

Other projects - touring and recording with Boys of the Lough and Aly Bain, and guesting on Norma Carthy's Mercury Music Prize 1996 live BBC2 performance and Rory Gallagher's album Wheels within Wheels

In addition to his work with Máire, Chris toured for three years until August ‘97 as a member of Celtic band Boys of the Lough in the USA, Canada, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Estonia, Denmark, China and Italy. He played with them in famed venues like New York Town Hall, San Francisco's Great American Music Hall and Atlanta's Spivey Hall; on festival main stages around the world, - most memorably, Edinburgh's Hogmanay Festival on New Year's Eve 1996 in Prince's Street Gardens, when they were the last act to play on the main stage before midnight of a concert in front of 300,000+ people that was televised live by the BBC. THE SCOTSMAN said of his performance with them: "His fluid, wonderfully assured expansiveness produced a burst of quick-picked harmony here, some dense, resonant undercurrents there and flashes of snazzy, jazzy syncopation all over the place"; "His brilliant grasp of the idiom and swingy, authoritative playing give a tremendous rhythmic and dynamic lift".

Around that time he recorded the critically-acclaimed The Day Dawn with Boys of the Lough and the equally-acclaimed Lonely Bird with world-renowned fiddler Aly Bain, legendary bassist Danny Thompson and revered Shetland pianist Violet Tulloch.

In 1996 English folk legend Norma Carthy's solo album was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize and Chris guested on her live performance at the awards with Martin and Eliza Carthy - broadcast live on BBC 2. Watch it here (starts c. 12 minutes in) and note the guitar solos!

Chris and Máire both guest on Irish rock legend Rory Gallagher’s posthumous album Wheels within Wheels (BMG).

Record Production...

As a respected record-producer and arranger in the field of traditional and folk music, he’s been responsible for such ground-breaking albums as Brendan Power’s New Irish Harmonica, Boys of the Lough band-mate Christy O'Leary's critically-acclaimed solo release The Northern Bridge, Clive Carroll's Sixth Sense and the classic Of Moor and Mesa by Steve Tilston and the late Maggie Boyle. He actually launched Clive Carroll's career by offering the then-unknown student a record contract, recording and producing his first CD, Sixth Sense, and equipping him with a publicist and an agent! Other artists for whom he's recorded and produced albums include Tom McConville and Roddy Matthews. Chris received a silver disc for producing comedian Fred Wedlock’s 1981 hit The Oldest Swinger in Town - to which he also composed the tune and which reached No 6 in the charts in the UK and No 1 in several other countries.

Chris's activities as a composer...

Chris composed the tune for Fred Wedlock's 1981 hit The Oldest Swinger in Town, which reached No 4 in the charts in the UK and No 1 in several other countries. He received a silver disc for producing the record, which sold over 330,000 copies in the UK alone.

A six-month stint on Noel Edmonds’ Sunday morning BBC Radio 1 show followed - as composer-in-residence of tunes to topical ditties!

Chris's composition "Fretwork" (from his solo album of that name) has been used as the signature tune for BBC Radio Wales's weekly "Celtic Heartbeat" programme for a number of years, and was used for an advertisement on Sky TV for four years.

One of his compositions was used as the signature tune for RTÉ 1's John Creedon Show for a number of years.

Chris composed all the music for TSW (Television South West)'s fishing programme "Off the Hook", which ran for some years in the late 1980s.

Chris's activities as a guitar instructor...

Chris has been principal guitar tutor for Newcastle University’s Folk B.Mus course since its inception and many of his alumni form the new wave of British acoustic guitarists currently to be seen gracing festivals around Europe. In addition, has been a visiting tutor at the University of Limerick, the University of Ulster and the Carl Nielsen Academy of Music in Odense, Denmark. He has been an instructor and performer at many acoustic, folk and guitar camps, including Folkworks (UK), Sore Fingers (UK), Milwaukee Irish Fest Summer School, Gaelic Roots (Boston), Beppe Gambetta's guitar camp in Slovenia, Roberto Dalla Vecchia's guitar camp in Vicenza (Italy), the Wrigley Sisters' Fiddle & Guitar Festival (Orkney), Tony McManus's Elora Guitar Festival (Canada) and has been a flatpick guitar instructor and performer at Steve Kaufman's Acoustic Kamp, held annually in Maryville, TN, on eight occasions.

Profiles...

Chris has been profiled in a number of magazines over the years, including fROOTS (UK), THE LIVING TRADITION (UK) and FLATPICK GUITAR MAGAZINE (USA) - a transcription of the latter is here.

More praise for Chris Newman…

“Newman is the John Williams of folk guitar” THE INVERNESS COURIER

“Chris is one of the best flat picking guitarists there is, with a remarkable sympathy and feel for traditional music” fROOTS (UK)

“Guitar players don’t come any better than Chris Newman” THE LIVING TRADITION (Scotland)

“Newman is a real treasure of a string player” DIRTY LINEN (USA)

More info about Chris

Chris Newman
Guitar virtuoso

ChrisplayingwithGrapelli

Chris playing with Stéphane Grapelli's band, 1970s

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