Like Harp Guitar Gathering 9 in Milford, CT (was that really five years ago?) hosts Stephen and Nancy Bennett kindly invited any and all early-arrivals to stop by Thursday night.  Coming from L.A., we always seem to arrive last, but at least it makes for a nice, dramatic entrance.  Old and new friends there to greet us included:

Dan (Pease) & Bets (Swarts) with Sally and Ed Dowling (making himself comfortable)

Steve & Vickie Farmer

Tony Barnard, all the way from the U.K. for his 2nd Gathering (a harp guitar brexit?) on the left.  Center: newcomer Matt Farr, Maryland Naval Commander by day and Skype student of Stephen Bennett by night.  (By typical HGG luck, Matt went home with his first harp guitar, which you’ll see later.)  Longtime Gatherer Bruce Labadie on the right (with wife Cindi along).

Nancy Conescu with Joe Morgan (Linda Morgan as always diligently taking photos)

SB & NB making massive amounts of salad and chili for whomever might show up.  Nancy’s son Andy is behind Stephen.  Nancy’s nephew Stephen Bak, an amazing home brewer, was also on hand with a keg of his best IPA and a brand new brown ale creation dubbed “Big Mama” for SB’s Dyer.

Nancy’s marina makes a spectacular backdrop for a party, especially at night.

We finally got to see Tony’s custom Sedgwick harp guitar, a beauty!  Fellow jazz guitarist Mike Doolin watches Tony improvise on 21 strings.  We were fairly blown away and anxious for Tony’s first CD of solo harp guitar (coming soon).

Once again, Benoit Meulle-Stef (right) lugged a giant case all the way from Belgium – containing another new creation – a retro, Steampunkish “vintage harp guitar” idea.  I love this grainy shot of Claude Laflamme from Quebec (a lower pixel count seems to suit his penetrating gaze).  Ben’s pointing out his genius to Bob and (hidden) Carol Hartman.

Frank Doucette (with Bob, Linda off to the right) examining another new find of Dan Pease – a Gibson A mandolin owned by one C. E. Fouts, who served with Co. B of the 28th Division.  The back and sides are signed by the entire regiment along with General Pershing – a fascinating historical document Dan hopes to research more.

It sounded great, like all Gibson A’s do, but of course anytime we get together, we’re more interested in great laughs than mediocre music.  No idea what the punchline to this moment was – it’s all one hilarious cathartic blur.

Will the music and hilarity continue?

Find out next issue: Friday Night Banquet: Food in Short Supply but Music in Abundance!