By Tommy Loose
3 flights? Why not? I’ll TELL you why not…!
Each year, this Englishman heads over to the USA with a funny shaped instrument and a pair of shorts. That’s more or less all I bring. Other than my wits. This was my third Gathering and it was to be a very emotional event all round.
Martin (Pleass) and I left my house at around 345am to head to Heathrow. Up until that point, it was all going pretty well. But fear yet not – Air Canada and Delta had other plans for us 🙂 Planes were delayed taking off, delayed landing, turbulence, cancelled flights, incorrect flight info, gridlocked roads between terminals and dodgy looking guys looking after cars. But after much faffing about, we arrived (HUGE thanks to Noah Sprinkle for picking us up from the airport!).
As always, we met up with whoever was already milling around on the Friday morning, whilst making friends with the hotel coffee table. I hadn’t been to North Carolina before, but it was a lovely hotel, situated in a nice local area. We went out and about for Mexican food whilst hammered by jet lag and the 27-hour door to door trip, which seemed to help a little – that and the company 🙂 (Benoit, I’m looking at you…).
Upon meeting up with SB for the first time this year, it was a shock to see that his signature moustache had left the building. It was a bit like looking at a portrait that you see every day (granted I don’t see him every day) and suddenly, someone has painted a pair of subtle/thin John Lennon sunglasses onto the face. Either way, I checked his drivers license from his wallet whilst he went to the restroom – it was definitely still him.
This year involved something slightly new for me. Gregg kindly asked me to give a little presentation, covering Harp Guitar related happenings on Facebook this past year.
A little background on this:
I run a group on Facebook called ‘Fingerstyle Hub.’ Long story short, I was added to the group by one of the chaps behind the Acoustic Uprising Film, Mark Fisher, back in 2014 or so. I noticed soon after being added that I was getting notifications that people were requesting to join the group. I didn’t accept them as it wasn’t my group, so I just let them build up. After a month or so, there were around about 300, so I got in touch with the guy who ran the group. His response was ‘oh I forgot about that group, I can’t really be bothered, you do it if you like mate.’ So I did 🙂 For a good few years, I didn’t really do a great deal with it, I admit. I posted the odd thing here and there, but not much else. All the while, it continued to grow bigger and bigger. As of today, we’re at over 15,200 members! Back in September 2018, a friend of mine and I were talking. He works for a music promotions company based in London. I told him about the group and he told me to stop being so damn lazy and do something with it! I’m glad he did 🙂 I’d experimented a little with going ‘live’ on Facebook before, but never in a group. I thought I’d test it out, so I did a live session from my house for about 45 minutes. I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of interaction I got. I saved the stream afterwards so that people could rewatch if they wanted. Then the requests started coming in…
Before I knew it, I was running two streams per week, from players all over the Globe. To date, we’ve had musicians live stream in Fingerstyle Hub from the UK, USA, Canada, all over Europe, Africa, Australia and New Zealand amongst others. This got me thinking a little more and wondered if the same idea would work with the Harp Guitar group. Only one way to find out!
I offered myself up as the guinea pig once again (glutton for punishment) and gave it a go. Once again, I was very humbled by the amount of people who tuned in and watched afterwards. I started speaking to other Harp Guitarists and we started to get some others streaming too. The streams in the group haven’t been as frequent (in all fairness we’ve not been running them for anywhere as long as Fingerstyle hub and there are far less players to choose from!) But alongside players, makers such as Michel Pellerin, Rich Mermer and Michael O’Brien have kindly live streamed from their workshops to show us a little about what they do as makers of these fine instruments.
Huge thanks to Gregg, Nate and Jeff Titus for allowing me to try out the live streaming. It led to me giving the presentation about anything Harp Guitar related via Facebook and it was a lot of fun – I look forward to similar future presentations and PLEASE – if you’d like to stream, just let me know! firstname.lastname@example.org or hit me up on Facebook.
Some particular highlights this year include the following:
Piece for Hiro – ‘Please Listen’ – by Stephen Bennett
This one goes without saying really. I was fortunate enough to meet Hiro back in 2017 at the California Gathering. He was a gentle soul who lit up the room every time he walked in. I can remember seeing the Facebook post by Gregg back in December of last year giving us the news. The piece was a beautiful tribute and surely has to go down in history as the most Harp Guitars in one room playing a piece together at any one time. No less than he deserved.
This was an interesting one! I hadn’t come across this before, but I like a challenge. Stephen hit us with a tune on the spot. We had 20 minutes to look it over, but as I recall, we all just kinda dived in and went for it. I was quite happy with mine, but then again, the first time you do anything is always the best you’ve ever done it (and also, the worst 🙂 ) – it definitely made me think about working on my sight reading a lot more (who knew I wasn’t already perfect, other than my ex- girlfriends?).
This is always fun 🙂 A bunch of us get up and do one tune in the main venue. I opted for Coldplay’s ‘Fix You’ – I opened the show and there are a few reasons I chose the song. Firstly, I just love the melody and the simplicity of the song. A lot of people have covered it and it’s been used a lot in TV and films etc. I’ve always liked it, but back in March, I took my Mum and my daughter to see an acapella group from New York called Naturally 7. I got into them 10 years ago at University and had never gotten to see them. They came to a nearby town and we were fortunate to catch them on a special night. Normally, they support the likes of Michael Buble in 20,000 seater venues. There were around 60-70 people in the small theatre in Hunstanton, a seaside town an hour or so from where we live. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life and my Mother and Daughter were there to share it alongside me. Poppy (said daughter) just sat there open mouthed for 2 hours whilst they did their thing. She’s a keen singer and I know she’ll never forget that evening either.
As usual, thanks as always to everyone for their kindness (particularly Andy Wahlberg and Paul Price for giving me so many lifts!) – another fantastic year and looking forward to Connecticut in 2020!
Now – direct flights, yes?