After some very cool and unusual Saturday morning performer presentations and some lunch hour music, we gathered for this year’s Luthier Panel.

Tony Karol, who drove from his home near Toronto, played the role of Luthier Host for the first time, though I was bummed that he himself didn’t present (apparently he hasn’t finished a new one this year).  The small group of four (builders, where were you?) had room to stretch out a bit.

Ben (Benoit Meulle-Stef) took us through a dizzying array of his recent, latest, and up-and-coming projects.  As typical, though some of them may build upon something previous, each one is completely different (below).  He remains one of my favorite designers.

Mike Doolin (retired, and still presenting) took us through the process of modifying his last acoustic harp guitar into a 7-strings on the neck version – as he now predominately plays 7-string jazz guitar (and incredibly well I must say!).  He played a tune for us on the “ironically-reconfigured” instrument (to me at least…that low 7th string does all the bass he would seem to need!).

Duane Noble’s son Reed made a wonderful 10 minute time-lapse video of the entire process of a recent (not yet finished) Duane Noble harp ukulele. After that, he had his latest completed instrument played by the lucky customer who commissioned it…

…yes, after having my hands on his first one (that I sold on Harp Guitar Music), I could not pass this up.  Do you recognize the fb inlay?

The Powell brothers, David and Anthony (Tone) continue to ramp up production while creating new instruments.  The latest are their harp mandolins.  The basic model is patterned after my c.1910 Knutsen with four subs, but Tone just built a very cool cutaway version with six subs!

To close out the afternoon, we thought it would be a great idea (and only fitting) to feature Musically Yours, the trio of our host…

…Randall Sprinkle on steel-string harp guitar,

Jayne, his wife (insert Jetsons theme here), on pedal harp,

and Diane Cox on cello.


They are the ultimate wedding band, though we all were of course curious how the instrumentation would work.  Knowing Randall’s talent and professionalism, and having heard their new CD “A Light in the Wilderness,” I expected the group to be good.  But I wasn’t prepared for the meticulous plugged-in live mix Randall has created (and controlled real-time via wireless iPad) which yielded an incredibly lush wall of sound!  It sounded very different than their recording.  Live – through the group’s painstakingly engineered pickup systems for the three instruments and killer P.A. – the instruments not only blended well while sounding good individually, they mysteriously morphed into an incredible new “sonic whole.”  I’d hear what sounded like full rock band power chords with deep bass and organ-like harmonics…but Diane was playing a counterpoint melody and Jayne was just playing melody – it was an illusion created solely from Randall’s single sub-bass strings intertwined with all the other notes.  Killer!  To answer your question “So how does one arrange for harp guitar, harp and cello, all instruments with low registers?” I can only answer “Carefully.”  Actually, it didn’t seem all that tricky, and the sound was never remotely muddy.  They simply stayed out of each others‘ way and kept things (relatively) simple.  Generally only one person on bass note duty at a time does the trick, and they’ve obviously figured it out (though I would think each new unusual song arrangement they take on would send them back to square one!).

Then it was time for the dinner break while we prepared for…

Next: Saturday Night Concert!

Previous episodes:

Harp Guitar Gathering 13 Pre-Party

Harp Guitar Gathering 13: A First Timer’s Experience

Harp Guitar Gathering 13: Friday Night Banquet and Open Mic

Harp Guitar Gathering 13: Saturday Morning Presentations