The Water is Wide in C#

The 9th annual Harp Guitar Gathering will hereafter be remembered as the “Year of the Infamous Water is Wide Half Step Fiasco.”

And no more painful to anyone than myself, Recipient No. 1 of the cruel joke.

It seems a young man (a new first timer to the Gathering, who shall remain nameless…for now) was tasked to tune Stephen’s Dyer for Saturday night’s performance.  He did a beautiful job, although it seems to have been his first time with a digital tuner, as well.

After Stephen played his last song, the plan was that he would start playing Water is Wide (our traditional grand finale).  I was instructed to join in immediately, with other featured players of HGG9 following, until the whole roster would join in on verse 2 or 3.

Mind you, I had just that day worked out the chords on my new Dunn harp-uke (what I played in the concert this year) and was pretty careful to make sure I was in tune as well.  Right on cue, I strode confidently up – to the live mic! – played my first chord, and realized immediately that I had entered the Twilight Zone.  The inexplicably discordant chord made no sense whatsoever.  Nor did the next one.  What was going on?! I knew I was in tune.  I “knew” Stephen must be in tune.  It was as if all the musical laws of physics had just been turned upside down, because in my panic, I could not figure out what could possibly be wrong!

Nancy Bennett said later she saw Stephen give me a look (and not a kind one) – and everyone else in the audience must have been thinking I was a complete idiot.  I didn’t know what to do. In one of the most musically embarrassing moments of my career, I tried to casually walk away from the mic as I fished for notes – any note – that would fit the chords I was hearing from Stephen.

Meanwhile (I heard later), some of the other players preparing out in the audience were realizing that their harp guitars were also “out of tune,” and some were starting to re-tune.  Finally – seemingly hours later – Andy Wahlberg came up and shouted to SB, “You know you’re in Db” as he took over the performance, re-setting the song to its proper D key for us.

Yes, our volunteer guitarist had inadvertently tuned Stephen’s instrument a perfect half step down.

That’s why he’s not playing in this photo and why I’m laughing my head off – out of relief that I wasn’t actually insane, I suppose.  He was telling the audience “I’ve never heard Gregg suck so bad…!”  We were all pretty slap-happy the rest of the tune, as was the audience.

An encore that will live in infamy.

Here’s a fisheye camera shot from staff photographer Chuck Thompson:

  1. Michael Schreiner Says:

    Gregg began to play and knew something wasn’t right. Then I found myself front and center saying to Dennis Mitchell that someone retuned my guitar. Then we moved up a half step and I felt MUCH better. It was one of the funniest things to ever happen to me but a real character building experience.

  2. Dan and Bettie Says:

    Being the self-appointed actual title holder of Worst Harp Guitarist in Connecticut (or whatever state we happen to be in), I began a frenzy of retuning, only to discover–thanks to Sir Andrew W.–that I was actually in tune with the rest of the group, save one. This in itself is cause for news bulletins worldwide. At my request, dear Bets was capturing the event in high-speed bursts of digital still shots, which will likely be stolen by WikiLeaks or some such troublemaker.

    The proper authorities WILL receive copies–and all other right-minded participants (are there any other kind?) who are so inclined.

  3. Bruce Labadie Says:

    I was sitting in the choir loft behind Stephen Bennett as we stumbled through beginning moments of “The Water is Wide”.
    I watched as Andy Wahlberg gracefully plunged toward Stephen with a look of nervous excitement saying,”Hey, you’re in C#”.

    Stephen’s expression was one of bewilderment & surprise. As I looked about, it was as if someone had blown stupid dust on everyone’s face. Then all at once SB stood up, and well Gregg Miner has his version of the rest of the story.

    It was one of the most beautiful chaotic moments I have ever been a part of.
    Brings to mind the Beatles cut off the double White Album “Number 9”
    Now we have HGG9’s version of it. Cool huh!!!

  4. Dennis Mitchell Says:

    After fishing around for the right notes, I looked at Nate, and he looked as lost as I was. We all felt there was no way Stephen was out of tune, so it had to us, right? Needless to say there were a LOT of “deer in the headlights” looks on our faces until we learned the culprit was indeed, Mr. Bennett’s harp guitar. What else can you do in front of an audience except laugh at yourselves and finish up the tune. One of the most memorable moments of this years Gathering, and in a good way!

  5. Geezer Says:

    Ouch! That must have hurt ’till it got straightened out! I’ll bet that everyone smiled when it was over!

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