In case you needed any more reason to come one of our Harp Guitar Gatherings (see Andy Wahlberg’s surprise award last issue), here’s a little inspirational tale of the kind of magic – and friendship and opportunity – that seems to routinely pop up at these events. As so much goes on there, I wasn’t aware of this myself until one of the perpetrators later mentioned it. I suggested he share it with us, and – once the mission was accomplished – he did!
You all remember Alex Anderson, who we featured this year in our “Introducing” segment, playing his two “new Dyer” harp guitars. You may also know the name Steve Silva – an old friend of Frank Doucette’s (the Silva’s bought Frank’s old house in Boston, which tops the list of the Registry of Boston’s Narrowest Habitable Homes). I blogged about my own visit to the Silvas last year and can attest to their incredible hospitality and generosity. Steve’s also the engineer who tediously measured all my Harp Guitar Music strings’ unit weights on a sophisticated tension machine he built “just for fun.” Steve also owns a harp guitar by Michel Pellerin, who should need no introduction, other than mentioning his new proposed line of “Dellerin” harp guitars.
So here’s what happened, in Steve’s own words and a couple pictures:
“I thought that you might be interested in this little connection between me, Alex Anderson, and Michel Pellerin, as a result of being together at HGG14. During a break between sessions, Alex was checking out my Pellerin 7-sub harp guitar, and asked if I would mind if he played it. Being a newly self-appointed ambassador for all things harp guitar, I was delighted to have him give it a test drive. Of course, I am always looking for opportunities to get players introduced to Michel and his amazing craftsmanship.
“Even in the noisy lounge area outside the session rooms, Alex was really digging the instrument – from its sound to its play-ability to its fabulous woodwork. He said it was really cool, and wished that the subs were set-up for Bennett tuning and he could plug it in.
“Well, the rusty wheels in my head started turning as he was attempting to pick his way through some tunes using my 7 sub set-up (whole tone increments, from D2 down to E1). I must say, he was doing a credible job, but muscle-memory could not help him.
“So Alex, where do you live I ask. Western Connecticut, well that is only a few hours by car away from my home in Waltham, MA. So I say to Alex, “I am going to make you a special deal, given that you are an up-coming star and all.”
“I had been toying with the idea of having Michel install his custom K&K contact transducer system in my instrument. As I have always enjoyed listening to Claude Laflamme play his instrument plugged in, it seemed like a logical thing to do. If he could make that bazillion-string wonder sound so good, it should be a simple matter to do the same for my measly guitar plus 7 subs. (I am sure my wife Nancy wouldn’t mind the expansion of the family budget…right Nance?)
“So I say to Alex that I will I give him the instrument, with new subs set-up for Bennett tuning (plus a bonus 7th string), and a slick new K&K custom pick-up system, to take home to his studio for a couple of weeks. Well, the way he lit-up over that offer convinced me that we were going forward with that plan, family budget be damned!
“I then updated Michel on what I had cooked up, and he was excited! So great momentum was building in support of getting my instrument into the hands of Alex, so that he could really give it a try in a suitable environment.
“The next day Michel and Marie, who were also at The Gathering with their two wonderful kids, Jeremie and Florence, suggested that they come to my house for a weekend “Christmas Trip” to Boston, which would include Michel installing the pick-up system in my instrument. Such a deal!
“So this past weekend Michel and the family arrived at my house for a fabulous weekend, which included plenty of Nancy’s fine cuisine, and a full Saturday at the Boston Museum of Science. On Sunday, Michel was up a tad after 6 AM, and began to work his magic in my modestly-heated garage workshop.
“Just after noontime on Sunday, Alex arrived with his usual smiling face which seemed to be just a bit rosier than usual, if you can believe that. We watched Michel finish up and chatted a bit. Alex had many questions on what could be done, should he commission an instrument. Then Alex took the instrument upstairs to run it through my stereo system, by way of my trusty Mackie 1202 mixer.
“From the first string struck, we were blown-away by the sound emanating from my speakers. With a tiny volume adjustment to balance the subs and guitar using the on-board pots, Alex was off making beautiful music.
“Given the rather complex transducer arrangements in his own instruments, he was immediately impressed by the seven contact bridge transducers being mixed into a single channel output. He will of course probably find some things that he would like to change while he has the instrument in his home studio, but it was certainly a great first listen!
“We popped the instrument into my Colorado soft case for the car ride back to CT, and he was off to head home and run some errands per his wife’s request. Later Sunday evening, he was already posting some videos on Facebook. You gotta love it!”
Great story, Steve – you’re too much! And Alex responds:
“Great write up, certainly accurately describes the visit! I gotta say- I’m absolutely loving this guitar, to the point I almost have to stop playing it in fear of not wanted to go back to the Dyers (for at least a year or two hopefully)… definitely think there will be one in the works after I can gather the funds for deposit. 😉 Thank you all so much again for setting it up to my liking and the generosity to let me really sit down with it and spend some quality time- it was WELL worth it!! Happy Holidays everyone!