Classical guitarist Chris Nicholson fires up Kigali

Revellers at Goethe Institut were treated to a sumptuous array of classical music last Thursday evening.  Chris Nicholson, a renowned classical guitarist delivered sensational classical music to a fairly sizeable crowd in a nonstop one hour show from 7pm to 8pm.
Chris Nicholson performing at the Goethe Institut. Photos by Lydia Holter.
Chris Nicholson performing at the Goethe Institut. Photos by Lydia Holter.

Revellers at Goethe Institut were treated to a sumptuous array of classical music last Thursday evening. 

Chris Nicholson, a renowned classical guitarist delivered sensational classical music to a fairly sizeable crowd in a nonstop one hour show from 7pm to 8pm. 

The pleasant compositions that were mainly a fusion of both Brazilian and Spanish classical music delivered a relaxing aura to the listening audience.

The crowds’ favourite, however, was the adlibbed version of the 1930 classical guitar piece called The cathedral; an infamous original composition by Agustín Barrios Mangoré, which has over decades been the most challenging piece any classical guitarist of this age can without trepidation deliver as Nicholson said. 

At the introduction of the classical piece, he said he had over the years been challenged by one of his students Jolyon Dunn, to master the piece, and now Nicholson’s adlibbed expression rather than the acoustic notes differ from the original 1930 version but above all, sounds as great.

The cathedral derives its name from the rich history of a Spanish cathedral called Seville; that was at first a catholic cathedral and later became a mosque after the Muslim conquest in712 before it was again taken over by the Spanish. The song is a fusion of both Arabic and Spanish traditional tunes.

Nicholson said he draws his inspiration from the infamous Andre Segovia, who revolutionised the globalisation of acoustic classical guitar music. He added that he started playing the guitar at the tender age of six. Now working with an NGO called Musicians Without Borders, he seeks to use the power of music to connect communities, bridge divides and heal the wounds of war and conflict. 

In an interview after the show, Nicholson said that he also plans to nurture young Rwanda talent. He most times trains young children and teachers at Kigali Musical School.

None of his original compositions were played but nonetheless, it was a show worth attending.

After graduating from London’s Royal Academy of Music, Nicholson’s performing career took him around the world. He has performed at the Edinburgh Festival, Bolivar Guitar Festival, the 1st International Guitar Duo Festival, Japan 2001 Festival, Battersea Contemporary Music Festival, and at the live televised finals of the Velez-Malaga Concurso Internacional de la Guitarra.  

From 2004, Nicholson created and performed his unique show A 21 Guitar Salute, showcasing music from Rodrigo’s Concerto de Aranjuez, to Jimi Hendrix.  

Today, the guitarist works in Kigali as music therapist and project manager with Musicians without Borders, an NGO that works with the Rwanda Youth Music. Rwanda Youth Music provides music therapy, training and support to thousands of vulnerable, marginalised children and the youth.  

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