Eric Roche

Rising star of fingerstyle guitar
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The Independent Online

Eric Roche, guitarist, singer and writer: born New York 4 December 1967; married (one son, one daughter); died Haverhill, Suffolk 6 September 2005.

The guitarist, composer and writer Eric Roche was on the verge of making it at the time of his death. Over the last few years, he had been steadily developing a reputation for his workshops, masterclasses and lectures, as well as his energetic performances in Europe, North America and Asia.

He was also becoming more widely known as a writer, with The Acoustic Guitar Bible (2004) the most recent and widely acclaimed of several books he had written on the subject most dear to him - a thorough outline of his expertise on guitar construction, music theory, technique and so on. Until illness prevented him, he also wrote regular columns on fingerstyle guitar (that is, polyphonic as opposed to strumming) for the magazines Guitar Techniques and Acoustic.

His own playing was marked by a particularly percussive, rhythmic technique influenced by the likes of Bert Jansch, Michael Hedges and Preston Reed. Although difficult to pigeonhole, his eclectic repertoire of covers and original material incorporated a wide array of styles, including folk, country, rock, jazz and classical music. It was also sometimes tinged with the melancholia of the Irish traditional music he was exposed to as a child.

Though both his parents were from County Kerry, Eric Roche was actually born in New York, in 1967. However, he spent his formative years in Tralee, where the family relocated, and his childhood passion for the guitar was developed with classical tuition. To make a living, he trained as an accountant, and briefly practised while living in London. His heart wasn't in it, though, and by the early Nineties, he had decided to refocus his life on music, in 1992 becoming a student at the Musicians' Institute. By the end of 1996, he was head of the guitar department there, and his most recent formal role in education was as head of guitar at the Academy of Contemporary Music (ACM) in Guildford from 2000.

His efforts as a solo artist first bore fruit on the album The Per-U-Lator in 1999, which was followed up by Spin (2001). He then recorded With These Hands (2004), the first of a four-album deal with P3 Music. His onstage presence is faithfully captured on the DVD Eric Roche in Concert at the Electric Theatre, recorded in May 2003. And, although his recorded output was entirely instrumental, close acquaintances will know that he was also a very shy but rather fine singer.

Roche was diagnosed with cancer in May last year. His colleague Martin Taylor was one of the performers who organised a benefit concert in Bath three weeks before Roche's death, which resulted in the CD For Eric. Taylor had produced With These Hands and said:

Eric was a unique talent because he was a guitar virtuoso, he was also a great composer for the guitar, and on top of that was an incredible live performer. He had a great way of communicating his music. I can think of many people that have one, or maybe two, of those attributes, but he had all three in abundance, really. The tragedy is that he was just coming into his own.

Eric Roche had also just started a family with Candy, his partner of 12 years, whom he married this summer in a ceremony at the hospice in Suffolk where he spent his final days.

Jon Lusk