June 21, 2024

Sam Rodwell, All Saints Church, Cambridge

It was obscene, and in a place of worship too. He gave that classical guitar a right bit of slap and tickle, did Sam Rothwell. He was finishing off a great recital, with ‘Benga Beat’, a piece that required the incorporation of all parts of the guitar. It was an all over body massage. Sam even managed to scratch/elicit a contribution from the strings wound round the tuning pegs.

All the time, the rhythm, dexterity and speed of movement were a wonder to watch. His hands seemed to float over the strings, as if the guitar was a theramin.

Hoots of approval came from the back of the church, at the end.

Before Benga Beat, Sam took on a challenge from composer, Stephen Goss.  In ‘Labyrinth’ the task was to play thirteen short pieces, from different composers. But pieces two to eleven had to be played in a random order, to be decided in the heat of the moment. One of those needed to be the 4 minute 30 ‘silent’ piece from John Cage, reduced to 4 secs 30 by Sam. Silence can be kind of awkward.

Before each piece Sam would tell us about the composer, the history to the piece and something about the technical requirements of playing the piece. All illuminating and deepening my satisfaction of the spectacle.

He played Felicidade a well worn Bossanova piece, arranged for the classical guitar by Roland Dyens. Sam’s handiwork added texture, nuance, fruit and nuts.

The concert was originally sold as a duet; Sam commonly performs with his partner but she was unable to attend being under the weather and expecting.

Sam’s performance was mesmerising and entrancing. One can only wonder at what the duo would have been like.

Sam Rodwell played All Saints Church in Cambridge, 6th August 2023.


Gary Ryan, not Sam Rodwell, playing Benga Beat. Gary Ryan composed the tune.

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