The 9th annual Harp Guitar Gathering will hereafter be remembered as the “Year of the Infamous Water is Wide Half Step Fiasco.”

And no more painful to anyone than myself, Recipient No. 1 of the cruel joke.

It seems a young man (a new first-timer to the Gathering, who shall remain nameless…for now) was tasked to tune Stephen’s Dyer for Saturday night’s performance.  He did a beautiful job, although it seems to have been his first time with a digital tuner, as well.

After Stephen played his last song, the plan was that he would start playing Water is Wide (our traditional grand finale).  I was instructed to join in immediately, with other featured players of HGG9 following, until the whole roster would join in on verse 2 or 3.

Mind you, I had just that day worked out the chords on my new Dunn harp-uke (what I played in the concert this year) and was pretty careful to make sure I was in tune as well.  Right on cue, I strode confidently up – to the live mic! – played my first chord and realized immediately that I had entered the Twilight Zone.  The inexplicably discordant chord made no sense whatsoever.  Nor did the next one.  What was going on?! I knew I was in tune.  I “knew” Stephen must be in tune.  It was as if all the musical laws of physics had just been turned upside down because in my panic, I could not figure out what could possibly be wrong!

Nancy Bennett said later she saw Stephen give me a look (and not a kind one) – and everyone else in the audience must have been thinking I was a complete idiot.  I didn’t know what to do. In one of the most musically embarrassing moments of my career, I tried to casually walk away from the mic as I fished for notes – any note – that would fit the chords I was hearing from Stephen.

Meanwhile (I heard later), some of the other players preparing out in the audience were realizing that their harp guitars were also “out of tune,” and some were starting to re-tune.  Finally – seemingly hours later – Andy Wahlberg came up and shouted to SB, “You know you’re in Db” as he took over the performance, re-setting the song to its proper D key for us.

Yes, our volunteer guitarist had inadvertently tuned Stephen’s instrument a perfect half step down.

That’s why he’s not playing in this photo and why I’m laughing my head off – out of relief that I wasn’t actually insane, I suppose.  He was telling the audience “I’ve never heard Gregg suck so bad…!”  We were all pretty slap-happy the rest of the tune, as was the audience.

An encore that will live in infamy.

Here’s a fisheye camera shot from staff photographer Chuck Thompson: