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From sublime Bach to electric angst, guitarist Sean Shibe's ambitions for both himself and his instrument know no borders, as he tells Martin Cullingford
Recording Sessions image foxbrushfilms.com
Follow an artist for a period of time, through performances, studio sessions and a spot of socialising, and the chances are that you'll end up with a rich portrait of a creative spirit. Few artists, though, would produce a portrait quite so psychedelically diverse as that hurled at the canvas by a season in the life of Sean Shibe: a season that takes us from exquisitely fragile folk songs, to an ear-shattering electric epic delivered in a costume of fabulous flamboyance, via sublime Bach sessions in an isolated church nestling in nature, south-east of Edinburgh....
.. the [BACH] sessions really were a privilege to witness. Crichton Collegiate Church, where they took place, is about 7.5 miles outside Edinburgh, but may as well be 75 miles. Sitting in tranquil mid-Lothian landscape, it dates from the 15th century and fared somewhat precariously through the politics and religious upheavals of the intervening half millennium, but survived to be beautifully restored relatively recently. It's now beloved by musicians, not least artists on Delphian, a label with a firm commitment to exceptional recorded sound. Small in stature, the space feels just right for the intimacy of Bach's lute suites, perfectly proportioned to gently cradle their fragility and their strength, to let the colours bloom and the themes to dance delicately in the air. On this cold winter's morning, the surrounding frozen fields silent, the experience was almost meditative: the world stilled, nothing disturbing this most profound music.
.. Shibe sat alone in the nave flanked by two electric heaters, a model of poise, while, in a small vestry, those of us in the makeshift control room observed a library-like intensity. Talking between takes almost felt like an intrusion...
This article originally appeared in the May 2020 issue of Gramophone.