Dear Santa…. please bring Bjorn a groovy güiro!

Urgent message for Santa: aftershave and novelty socks won’t do for conductor Bjorn Bantock as he prepares to conduct his first New Year’s Day concert in St Albans Abbey. What he really needs for Christmas is a hollowed-out gourd with holes and grooves cut into it.

Known in Spanish as a güiro, the gourd is a Latin-American rhythm instrument that can be scraped with a stick to make ratchet sounds on a rising scale. But as Bjorn discovered, it is also a requirement for the toe-tapping Danzón Cubano (Cuban Dance) by American composer Aaron Copland which St Albans Symphony Orchestra (SASO) is including as an exotic treat in its traditional programme for January 1st.

“The güiro is more of a ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ thing than an instrument you’d normally expect to find in a symphony orchestra,” he said. “We’ve got maracas, wood blocks and other kinds of funky percussion for the dance. But we do need a güiro to give the music that extra bit of zip. Rather than rely on Father Christmas it would be great if someone who owns one could offer to lend it to us for the performance.” Curiously, St Albans Symphony Orchestra anticipates less difficulty providing the other exceptional requirement for its New Year Celebration – cannons and mortars heard during the rousing 1812 Overture by Tchaikovsky.

Bjorn said: “Although real cannons are sometimes used during outdoor performances, I don’t think the authorities would be too happy about us letting them off in the Abbey. We’ll be relying on electronics to ensure 2011 begins with a bang. If we succeed in bringing the house down it will only be in the musical sense!”

Anyone able to lend Bjorn Bantock a güiro can contact him by emailing: or visiting for more details of the New Year Celebration.

Got to get a güiro! Conductor Bjorn Bantock (centre) and SASO’s rhythm section get ready to go ‘Latin’ at New Year.

For further information, contact:

David Utting (SASO Press Officer): 01727 762855 / 07930 313790