After the Festival’s day of prep, it was time for…
The Concerts: I’ll lump them both together, if that’s OK. Each of the 5 performers did a set of 4 tunes…I forget the exact order, but nevertheless:
For Saturday night, Jason used his Brunner steel-string with 6 super-trebles in an all-looping set. Never a big fan of this technique (to me it always just seems like guys who can’t play lead guitar jamming with themselves…), Jason made a convert out of me. His were meticulously orchestrated works of spontaneity, if that makes any sense – “layers of sound,” as he explained it. At times, it could become quite mesmerizing (an analogy that came to mind was: imagine something like watching Michael Oldfield record “Tubular Bells” live in front of you). I just wish one could better conceal the distracting (to me) but necessarily complex laptop and footswitch logistics, in order to highlight the musical artistry.
On Sunday, Jason did something completely different, backing up Verity (performing her own lovely English-language songs) on a Woolley flamenco guitar (with Uffa as bodyguard). All his accompaniments (and one solo) were flawlessly played and imaginative, tasteful arrangements. I enjoyed this style (of his many styles) immensely.
He later said that since classical nylon guitar is his background (and forte), he plans to trade in his steel-string harp guitars for a new 20-some-string all-nylon instrument from Sean. I look forward to that one!
Speaking of new nylon-string harp guitars… While Philippe did most of his material on his Brunner steel-string (above), he did one in each concert on his new Verglas 21-string (below), which has nylon strings on the neck. He used the supers sparingly, but I have to say that I love the nylon string HG for one of his trademark styles (i.e.: fast and faster). His flurries of complex arpeggiation and fretwork were dramatically clearer on this very nice instrument.
Recent harp guitarist Yaouen comes from a jazz guitar background, so his style is quite different than the others’, and still (I suspect) developing. I think I saw him playing with a flatpick, a thumbpick, and just fingers. Over half his originals were vocals, which I quite liked – he’s got a very nice, rich voice. Being all in French of course, I had to ask Benoit about his lyric writing – Ben said something like “quite good and poetic.”
John Doan had his travel Brunner 20-string and played as beautifully as ever. We had several conversations about the subtleties of super-trebles and how they are still surprisingly something of a “black art” to dial in for tone and clarity. Interested luthiers, players, mathematicians, and physicists could probably do a whole day on this topic.
And finally, James Kline, on his Alan Perlman 19-string arch-harp-guitar. It was nice hearing the variety of super-treble strings, Jim’s being the only (so far) in nylon. He told me he’s going to have Alan build him a new 19-string! Of course, it’s a treat to be able to hear Jim live, period. He said he got a fantastic new September gig performing in a series of old churches in Spain. Sounds like a good excuse to go on another musical vacation!
Both Saturday night and Sunday afternoon were great shows all-around, and very well-received (as one would expect!).
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