There are many things that separate the Harp Guitar Gathering from all other guitar festivals, and none more so than the multiple levels of emotion.

Case in point:  We first set up the Registration table in the overflowing lobby area of the Hilton hotel, where, from arrival to lugging in guitar- and suit-cases to room check-in, then back to Registration, one must traverse the inescapable Gauntlet of Hugs.  This turns quickly into an extended family reunion, but also indoctrinates the many new members (more first-time Gathering goers this year than ever).  Soon, old friends are visiting, others are meeting for the first time, there is holiday-style joy and laughter, while amidst all this frivolity, cases are opened and strange instruments are everywhere underfoot.

(See previous episode for added photos).

Update, Nov 16: I’ve added (and replaced some) photos from Chuck Thompson, CHGP (our Certified Harp Guitar Photographer) below.  In addition, all of Chuck’s Friday photos are available in Galleries or Slideshow as shown in next blog.

Such is the excitement that spills into the lounge, the bar, the driveway, that it takes some time before we can herd the still-growing contingent down the halls to the banquet area.

The hotel has given us a nice little stage and Joe has set up a great PA.  As the buffet line starts to find down, host Joe Morgan begins his welcome.

Yes, this is “dressed up” for Joe

Our founder Stephen Bennett says a few inspiring words

I next gave a re-cap of key milestones of the modern harp guitar age (1970 – present).

Then it was time for an extended open mic.  I did appreciate this year (as did others, I am sure) the level of quiet attention the room awarded whoever was holding court on stage.  Luckily, we had plenty of room with comfy couches for sidebars just outside the dining area.

Stephen seems more interested in stealing Joe’s dinner than paying attention to the talent onstage…

I got suckered into starting it off.  I actually had a (rare) new tune prepared – “Glad Dave’s Rag,” in honor of my hero Dave Evans (below).

Stacy Hobbs tap-dances his way through an exciting new piece on the Stahl

First-time Gathering attendee Michael Hess, who came all the way from Stuttgart, Germany with his wife Elisabeth played (and sight-read) a complicated piece on his anonymous kontragitarre.

Sean Martin, another first-timer to the Gathering (though no stranger to the harp guitar) played one of his pieces.

Muriel Anderson arrived at the Gathering with Ken Bonfield (who again drove across the country gig-by-gig to get here).  She had joined him for part of his tour, and the two had a duet going by the time they arrived.

Andy Wahlberg treated the many newcomers to his epic harp guitar Bohemian Rhapsody.

Our photographer, Chuck Thompson, CHGP, caused comment with his custom toilet-shaped flash apparatus (Chuck, is that “flash” or “flush”?)

Chuck later played his latest McCormick “Nashville” dreadnaught-style harp guitar as accompaniment to a great song whose title escapes me.  I was rolling in the aisles…

…while back-up photographer Dennis Mitchell handles camera duty.  (There may be a crude pun in there somewhere, but I’m certainly not admitting it)

My brother Mark came up with a new tune “Transitions” which I helped him with

Luthier Benoit Meulle-Stef rarely gets up on stage, though he was obviously excited to show off his new baby.

Brad Hoyt played (if memory serves) “Here Comes the Sun” on AVC #1 (yes, there is now an AVC #2!)

Nate Blaustein, who showed up with his brand new harp guitar CD

The inimitable Hiro Takai reads the first of many carefully-prepared English announcements for the weekend.  Please listen.

Don Alder played a brand new US-made Holloway prototype (seemed ready to me)

The ever exquisite and unflappable Pete Bradshaw on one his Wingerts

Frank Doucette (on Wingert #1) surprised the room with an impressive arrangement of Metheny’s “Letters From Home”

Dan (Pease) & Bets (Swartz) do their duo thing with a tune called (I believe) “Slip Jigs & Reels.”

Another musical duo, San Antonio’s Jorge Rosales and his wife Nicole, came for the first time.  Several of the “Newbies” hail from Texas – another reason we like to hold the Gathering in different parts of the country.

Another first-timer from Texas, Robert Stallard

Kinloch Nelson plays on a borrowed Wingert short-scale HG

Dave Powell plays one of the latest Tonedevil HGs made by his and brother Anthony’s company

Caleb Sprinkle plays his father Randall’s new Tony Karol HG (a Metallica piece, someone said?).  A beautiful-looking instrument, I never got a chance to sit down with it.  Anyone else?

More to come!

HGG10 blog series starts here