Yeoman of the Month September 2015 – Manus Noble

It was my guitar teacher at the Royal College of Music, Gary Ryan, who really opened my eyes up to what was possible on the guitar. It’s actually pretty much entirely down to Gary that I am playing the guitar professionally at all today. I, like many, was quite familiar with the usual sort of Classical, Spanish and South American repertoire on the guitar and plodding/plucking my way merrily along, but the sounds that emanated from his instrument and the sound worlds that he explored had me utterly transfixed when, at the age of 16, I saw him play.

I’ve since made it a sort of mission of mine to try and break down audience perceptions of what the guitar is about. The instrument has so much to offer and an incredible array of sounds can be coaxed from it, but I sometimes feel the way it’s presented to the public, and its strong identification with Spanish music, does it a slight disservice. At my concerts, people rarely mention the repertoire they have heard so many times before. Instead, they are energised and buzzing about a new Japanese, Irish, Minimalist or Arabic piece they hadn’t heard before. A comment I get fairly regularly from listeners is that they didn’t realise the guitar was so versatile/capable of so many sorts of sound. This truly warms my heart every time and is something I will continue to try and do for a long while. If I can inspire just one kid the way Gary Ryan did me, I will consider my career a success.

This brings me on to the subject of teaching. I’m very passionate about teaching the next generation of guitarists well and getting them thinking creatively with the instrument, and feel it’s a vital part of every musician’s career. As well as doing the usual sort of teaching in schools, privately and giving masterclasses at festivals, I’ve done a lot of work across London with the Worshipful Company of Musicians’ Outreach Programme . I’m also involved with projects such as Bach to Baby and Do-Re-Mi Babies.

Composition is also quickly becoming very important to me – it’s great to see a tradition emerging with musicians adding to the classical guitar repertoire and performing their own original works. The guitar is a comparatively young instrument with a somewhat sparse repertoire (although not as sparse as you may think!). I feel it’s a duty for every guitarist to help add to this, whether that be through commissioning new works or composing themselves. I’ve started writing for the instrument over the last few years and have published a few pieces along the way using altered tunings, modern techniques and trying to think creatively about sound in order to explore various sound worlds such as Arabia and my homeland of Ireland. I’ve also been very lucky to have had composers write works for me – a particular highlight being Gary Ryan’s Hot Club Francais, which always goes down a treat!

I’m not terribly good at blowing my own horn in terms of where I have played and what competitions/awards I have won, but I feel very lucky to have been successful in a few endeavours here and there and to have played in some stunning venues over the last few years. I also recorded my debut CD Nightshade with the fantastic John Taylor and am planning a second release at the end of 2016. If you’d like to find out more about those sorts of things or myself in general, there’s more at www.manusnoble.com and various videos about on YouTube!