You saw some of us at the Gathering Before the Storm on Thursday night, but now it’s:

Day 1 of the 14th Harp Guitar Gathering in Milford, CT!

Below, registration begins in the late afternoon at the Hilton Garden Inn.  The hotel was on top of their game when we were here five years ago…this time, not so much.  My wife, Jaci (Rohr), Nancy Bennett start out as giddy as clams (while helper Frank Doucette looks on).  It wouldn’t last…

As Stephen welcomed this year’s group, the banquet dinner line had started winding down so I decided it was time for the staff and latecomers to eat.  We were pretty darn ravenous.  It was then I happened to remark to Jaci “Don’t we need more tables and chairs?”…she was out and back in a flash with “That’s not the only problem – there’s no more food.

Even in hindsight, I’m unable to laugh.  Yes, they had screwed up and switched the count for Friday and Sunday dinners.  Eventually we all managed to have something to eat, but certainly not enough to drink.  Happily, Jaci did her usual thing and we were later fully reimbursed for this fiasco.

Meanwhile, leave it to harp guitarists and their kith and kin to be the most non-stressful, go-with-the-flow sector in musicdom.  We just got the party started earlier.

We typically hold a raffle during the evening, and once again, some of our constituents donate some not-insubstantial items.

Dan Pease & Bets Swarts brought their Iowa souvenir grab bag, while not to be outdone, Tom & Mary Pat Cook presented their own Wisconsin gift basket.  Yes, each required detailed indigenous explanations, after which our $1 tickets sold by the thousands!

Ed Dowling (who needs no explanation or introduction to HGG regulars), also kindly donated two of his homemade washboards, seen below.

At the end of the evening, winners Nancy Bennett and Craig Keever were beside themselves.
(That was a pretty great pun, incidentally)

So that you wouldn’t hear our stomachs rumbling, we decided to start the open mic early.  Pretty much everyone that can play, did — a tradition we’re very proud of.  It’s a great opportunity for everyone from newbies to pros to mingle and play to an appreciative, completely non-judgemental audience of their peers.

In order of random “C’mon, get up there!” appearance, were:

One of our Features, Alex Anderson started things off.  I don’t know which I like better — the tree-of-life on his Holloway Dyer fingerboard or on his arm.

Another guy who…well, we may as well now just call him “He Who Must Be Featured” — Andy Wahlberg, in a typical quieter moment.

Dan & Bets doing what they do best, with Ed on washboard.

Derek Gooderham (whose dad, John, took most of these Friday photos for us) came with yet another new Tonedevil creation, Derek’s idea — the world’s first harp mandola with sub-basses.  (Sadly, I never got a chance to steal, er, try it.)

John Riley once again drove to the event with most of his growing harp guitar collection.  This is the latest, which he had just finished restoring — the Walton baritone HG I blogged about and helped find a new home.  The bass neck “frets” are decorative inlays only.  Great job, John!  (and great sound!)

The Cooks played an elaborate duet, with Mary Pat going from tenor recorder (at her feet) to harp mandolin.  Tom’s HG is a custom Jim Worland.

Another Feature this year (and playing another Worland HG), triple threat singer-songwriter-harp-guitarst Lou Alano unburdened his heart and soul in every lyric.

Gathering regular Bruce Labadie chuckles over his Tonedevil and the lyrics to “Blackbird” which he insists on singing “Bedbugs”…it’s a long story.

Pete Bradshaw plays a wonderful piece by his latest esoteric discovery — Swedish classical guitar composer Per-Olov Kindgren — on his Wingert.

And Frank Doucette (playing his Wingert HG#1) rarely doesn’t have a new piece by a surprise composer — this year it was an obscure carol by the legendary Alfred Burt.

Enjoying themselves immensely — every instrument, every player — were luthier Steve Klein and Wilson Schuneman, who runs and is every bit as passionate and friendly as Steve.

Someone else who likes to drive long distances to the Gathering (maybe we should start calling it the Harp Guitar Pilgrimage…): The Sprinkles came “straight from a gig” in North Carolina with Randall’s PA and Jayne’s harp.  Randall is playing his brand new toy — the Allan Beardsell harp guitar I sold on consignment just a few weeks ago.

I could not resist bringing this as my player this year.  Funny story — literally the day that Randall wrote with “love it, keeping it!”, Esau Simmons (who came with it to HGG9) emailed me to say he was giving his up.  One thing (price) led to another, and I couldn’t resist picking it up for myself (Randall and I love ’em – these are #1 and 2, Esau’s being Allan’s first commission, Randall’s the prototype for working it all out and sold later).

Mine had arrived just 2 nights before our flight — needless to say I rocked this surprise!

OK, I admit it — 7 subs and sharping levers can come in pretty handy!

Tony Barnard, jazz pro-turned-21-string-virtuoso in less than a year.  I’d hate him if I didn’t love the guy.

Ed plays his version of harp guitar blues on the most interesting collection of commissioned harp guitars (this one a Worland “arch-guitar”).

Stephen Bekessy rocks a Buckey.

Last year’s Newbie, Noah Altritt is back and having more fun than ever.

Brad Hoyt with his Sedgwick AVC #2 — we’ve missed him in the last couple years.

Feature Kinloch (rhymes with “your inlaw”) Nelson.  His custom instrument should technically, A) not be playable, and certainly, B) not sound great.  But it is and does.  More on Dr. Frankensteinloch’s creation later…

Feature Dan Schwartz, with his Charles Hoffman harp guitar.  I think I’ve convinced him to shoot and create a video montage of him at his regular Minneapolis Airport gig showing him not getting through a single harp guitar piece as he has to explain to each passing commuter what it is.  What a trouper!

Mark Farley plays an all-nylon-string Woodley White HG.  Last year he attempted an abbreviated version of the difficult early 19th century Regondi piece he’s been working on.  This year, he pretty much nailed all 12 minutes!  Or did it just seem that long?

Claude Laflamme, long a Gathering regular and still 100% clam-free!

Our founder and host, gets us ready for bed, Bennett-style.

I don’t remember much after this, but they finally kicked us out, some of the folks going to the lobby for more caterwauling, some of us hitting the hay for the big day tomorrow:

Next: Saturday’s Features!