Norfolk String Kings master complex classical works

Blind guitar duo Edward Bates, left, and Chris Alderson. Photo: Bill Smith Blind guitar duo Edward Bates, left, and Chris Alderson. Photo: Bill Smith

Saturday, May 24, 2014
10:57 AM

He has no idea what a guitar looks like. But musician Edward Bates, who was born blind, and friend Chris Alderson, who lost his sight aged 16, have learnt to master a string of complex classical duets.

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Blind guitar duo Edward Bates, left, and Chris Alderson. Photo: Bill SmithBlind guitar duo Edward Bates, left, and Chris Alderson. Photo: Bill Smith

The blind guitar duo performs as the String Kings, and they hope to carve out a career in music.

Mr Bates, 23 of Winterton, and Mr Alderson, 24 of Marlingford, first met around eight years ago at a support group for the blind.

Mr Bates’ enthusiasm for music was renewed when Mr Alderson started to learn guitar after losing his sight, and both said performing together has helped them push themselves further.

“I never thought I’d get any further with the music, then Chris got into guitar and that changed,” said Mr Bates. “He was someone else I could talk music with, and as I had something to practice for I got into it.

“When I was playing on my own I didn’t care if I didn’t play something properly.

“I definitely think more now about how I’m getting on.”

Playing in time without visual cues - especially after silent pauses mid-song - has its difficulties.

But the duo refuse to settle for easier songs,

Mr Alderson said: “We’re conscientious people and if we’re performing live we don’t want to sound rubbish.

“You can’t just expect people to turn up - you’ve got to be totally on it.

“Often when I’ve been busking people have said ‘I’m giving you money, not because you can’t see but because you’re a really good guitarist’.

“We don’t want people to like us just because we can’t see.”

He added they had devised techniques to grow as a duo, counting with their feet to stay in time.

Mr Bates said the learning curve had been particularly steep for him, as unlike Mr Alderson he has never seen a guitat before.

“I just go by what it feels like,” he explained. “I’ve never had to think about what a guitar looked like.

“I had been holding it a completely different way that felt comfortable.

“I’m not getting used to it and I can’t change that.”

He first started to learn guitar when he was at primary school, and said people are often curious about how he does it.

“It doesn’t bother me that people ask questions but we don’t want a sympathy vote,” he added. “We’re playing a lot of clasical duets now.

“To start with we were playing Blink 182 and now we play classical concert pieces for two guitars.

“We’re working really hard on our repertoire.”

The name String Kings was picked by an audience vote at a charity gig at Little Melton Village Hall last November.

Follow their progress on Twitter @string_kings or on Facebook

Do you have a story? Email newsdesk@archant.co.uk

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