The Harp Guitar Gathering, Nov 1 & 2, 2003
Trip report by Gregg Miner


Composite group photo copyright Nicki Hobbs/Steve Bissell/Gregg Miner

The world’s first Harp Guitar Gathering was an unmitigated success!

It was also one of the most memorable moments of my musical life. I was honored (and extremely moved) to share the stage with the top players in the country. There were:

  • Harp guitar gods Stephen Bennett (Virginia)– our spiritual leader and inarguably one of the best guitar players on the planet (and my favorite tunesmith) - and John Doan (Oregon), of the angelic 20-string (make that 20-course) harp guitar, creating musical stories so convincing it makes you cry.
  • The exquisite Muriel Anderson (Nashville), who’s added steel- and nylon-string harp guitar to her already versatile and consummate guitar playing.
  • Stacy Hobbs (Virginia) – lots of notes happening all over the instrument at once in lush, intricate arrangements (this guy truly sweats for his supper).
  • Larry Berwald – also from Virginia, who I teasingly refer to as "Bennett Lite" – but he can play Laurence Juber on a harp guitar, so what does that tell you?
  • Andy Wahlberg (Florida) – a great all-around entertainer who’s played almost daily for 30 years on a Dyer harp guitar!
  • "Young studs" Andy McKee (Kansas) – talented enough to carry on in the Michael Hedges tradition – and Dan LaVoie (rhymes with "Water Boy", New Jersey) – aggressive and way cool, taking the harp guitar even further.

Many other players during the weekend got to surprise us with their skills and talents.

And not just players - several makers were represented with new instruments, all different, each with something unique and intriguing to offer. Perhaps none more so than instruments brought by the attending luthiers – young Stephen Sedgwick from England, Mike Doolin from Oregon, Jim Merrill from Virginia, and the incomparable Fred Carlson, from, presumably, outer space.

We were also treated to outrageous one-of-a-kind vintage Larson Brothers harp guitars, courtesy of presenter Bob Hartman and friend Carl Holmgren.

And speaking of presentations – though Mr. Bennett had every right (and yearning) to give me "the hook," he allowed me to extemporaneously expound on Chris Knutsen for a good two hours.

The whole event, from Friday night room-hopping at the motel to Monday morning saying our tearful goodbyes, was a very emotional time: whether re-connecting, meeting email-pals for the first time, or forming tighter friendships with our musical heroes, it was a veritable love-fest.

We all are indebted to Stephen Bennett – a warm, witty, wonderful human being – and to his family and friends for putting this magical weekend together and running it so smoothly. Thanks also to the staff of the Williamsburg Regional Library for putting up with us, and to Winter Sound, the local music store which helped support this endeavor... Thanks a zillion!

For those of you who were unable to make it – sorry I missed you, but hope to meet next time!

- Gregg Miner

 

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Joe & Linda Morgan, from Texas, who helped run the event. Thanks!

Fellow Californian Fred Carlson and I have had a Mutual Admiration Society for a few years now, but had never met.

Bob & Carol Hartman arrived via motor home...

 

The Internet has created many opportunities to make new friends, such as Benoît Meulle-Stef from Belgium (just call him "Ben"). In person, we had twice as much fun!

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Stephen Bennett with an incredible (both visually and aurally) one-of-a-kind Larson Brothers harp guitar ca. 1905. 

Thanks to the owner, Carl Holmgren, who brought the rare instrument all the way from Michigan.

The Sedgwick brothers from England: luthier Stephen and brother Simon - with 2 (very different) harp guitars by Stephen.
(photo by Joe Morgan)

Benoît, with Sedgwick harp guitar.

Steve Bissell from Oregon with his Dyer Style 8.

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Dan LaVoie is clearly amused by my Knutsen harp mandolin.

A deer caught in the headlights. Fred’s latest creation is my favorite yet!

The next  2 photos sent in by Stephen Sedgwick.

Fred Carlson in "the hat" and Steve

Muriel Anderson and John Doan
The following photos were taken by Stephen Bissell... hg-stephen_muriel.jpg (57643 bytes) hg-gm2.jpg (37725 bytes) hg-gm3.jpg (37550 bytes) hg-doan.jpg (41921 bytes)
Stephen & Muriel with Bob Hartman's Larson Bros display Hartman's "goiter guitar" - I need everyone to petition Hartman to donate this bizarre instrument to the Miner Museum! I opened my set with a demonstration of the 1927 Altpeter Double Harp Uke. John Doan plays 20 strings like the rest of us play 6...
More pics from Steve Bissell:

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hg-john.jpg (22004 bytes)

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"Youngsters" Andy McKee & Dan LaVoie co-wrote and arranged a new tune about an hour before their presentation.  The Luthier's panel, with Fred Carlson, Mike Doolin, Steve Sedgwick, Benoît Meulle-Stef and Jim Merrill. 2 pics sent in by Bob Hartman:

John Doan in concert.

Stephen Bennett joins Stacy Hobbs onstage.

Pictures from Joe Morgan:

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We set up a nice harp guitar historical display in the lobby.

Our incomparable hosts, Linda, Will and Stephen Bennett.

Andy McKee shows us the spectacular back of his Spillers harp guitar.

John Doan, the human octopus. Andy Wahlberg Stephen and Muriel
The following photos were taken by Stacy Hobbs' wife Nicki... hgt24-gm.jpg (31423 bytes) hg-gm_sb.jpg (27405 bytes) hg-group_practice.jpg (77595 bytes)

I’d waited two years to get photos of Joe Giacoio’s Knutsen for The Archives. But I was so busy I never managed to get to it – argggh! Luckily, someone managed to shoot it during my Knutsen presentation. A great playing and sounding guitar that holds its own with the Larson instruments.

A quick rehearsal for "The Water is Wide" grand finale…

Same rehearsal. The graphic at bottom is "Knutsen Harp Guitar Darwinian Evolution" from my presentation...

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And performing the finale that evening...
In the last picture, I take my solo among my heroes - now my friends and peers. But look closely - I am being completely ignored. Classic! ("thought balloon" above the group: "that's not even a guitar!")

 

More great pics at Mike Doolins site! Here's a couple of his he didn't post:

hg-andy.jpg (25161 bytes)  Andy McKee in performance   hg-muriel.jpg (23195 bytes) Muriel Anderson with her steel-string Langejans.

And photos at the Yahoo harp guitar chat group!

Sam McDonald of the Williamsburg Daily Press wrote two articles for the event. You'll have to register (took me a minute) to read the first article. Here's the second one.

Don't miss HGGII! - in Williamsburg, VA
November 13 & 14, 2004

Register NOW!

 


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