HE has collaborated with Star Wars composer John Williams and recorded music for the hit film Notting Hill.
Australian born guitarist Craig Ogden is also the youngest instrumentalist to have received a fellowship from Manchester’s Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM) where he is now head tutor in guitar. Craig continues to play with some of the most acclaimed orchestras like London Symphony Orchestra, BBC Symphony, Royal Philharmonic all over the world.
He curates his own annual festival, Craig Ogden’s Big Guitar Weekend at the Bridgewater Hall and was invited by Sky Arts to be a mentor for the 2015 series Guitar Star. Welcome to the dual life of a classical musician.
Craig’s achievements have been celebrated since he studied guitar at the age of seven but chances are if you walked past him on the street you would not recognise him.
But for Craig, acknowledgement from his peers when he moved from Australia to the UK has been more satisfying than celebrity status ever could.
He said: “During my time at university it was inevitably the plan to go overseas after I’d finished there because Perth is so isolated. I had a brilliant teacher in Perth but I wanted to get further afield and be among more players.
“I studied in Manchester from 1992 and then I started teaching as soon as I left so I’ve had an unbroken 27 year association with Manchester and the Royal Northern. So the acknowledgement from the college of my career and my commitment to teaching was very flattering.”
Coming from Australia has also given Craig a greater appreciation of the UK’s grand old venues. His highlight was his Royal Albert Hall debut with the Philharmonia Orchestra for Classic FM.
Craig added: “It’s nerve wracking until you settle down but it’s amazing. It’s a lovely big space and there’s a great atmosphere in the building. It’s electric.
“I certainly get a sense of the history when I’m on a stage like that partially because I grew up in Perth which wasn’t founded until 1829. The last convict shipment to Australia was in 1868. When you’re trotting around London those are recent historical events.
“Some of these venues have a great sense of history about them. I think coming from a city and a country that is relatively young for me exaggerates the sense of history when I’m playing in old venues. I’ve played at Trinity College Cambridge and that was founded by Henry VIII in 1546 and that was centuries before Australia was settled. That’s extraordinary.”
One of Craig’s most intense experiences as a musician was when he had to learn nine new pieces in one week. He stepped in at the last minute for Miloš Karadaglic? for his concerts with the Royal Northern Sinfonia and the English Chamber Orchestra.
“That was a very intense week,” said the 49-year-old.
“I enjoyed it ultimately but seeing how much information you can get into your head and fingers in a week is an interesting discipline. For me it was a really good exercise in recognising when my brain got tired and when it was refreshed again. I managed to get it all done but it was a mountain to climb.
“I power snoozed very effectively and when I did that in the mid evening then I could work until 3am or 4am. Apparently Maggie Thatcher was a power snoozer. She’d sleep for four hours a night but 10 minutes snoozes here and there kept her going.”
Craig also regular creates music for TV and film. He admitted it is not as glamorous as it sounds as it usually just amounts to him sitting in a studio with some headphones on. But he said working on Notting Hill was special.
Craig added: “It’s always a buzz going to Abbey Road because of the whole Beatles history there. Trevor Jones was the guy who wrote the soundtrack to Notting Hill and I’d done quite a lot of work for him already.
“So I was quite comfortable enough doing the work but it was such a big and successful film and some of the music that was written for the classical guitar was lovely and also quite significant. The main love scenes had some nice classical guitar. Often with this kind of work you don’t receive a credit but on that occasion I did get a credit.
“So I was invited to go to cast and crew at 9am on Sunday at Leicester Square. That was a hoot as Richard Curtis was there and at the end nobody leaves. Everyone sits there and watches their name roll by...”