Festival International de Harpe-Guitare, Part 3

Besides the two public harp guitar concerts, the festival featured a small Luthier exhibit, courtesy of the four builders previously mentioned.  There were the 3 instruments by Sean Woolley, 2 of Cedric’s (owned and played by Philippe and Yaouen), a 10-string by Steve Sedgwick, and Benoit’s giant, thousand-string Mozzani-inspired beastie (first seen at HGG10)…I am still hankering for this one, and almost convinced Ben to donate it to the Miner Museum (one day…).

Sunday saw a few new people wandering in and out.  One fellow, musician Robin Launder, came from England and stayed for the day (or was it weekend?).  He was doing some serious shopping for his first harp guitar.

They had me scheduled to go on mid-morning.  I showed Philippe the print-out of my notes (well-bulleted, with ad-libs kept to a minimum so he could translate) – but he thought it still a bit too technical and challenging, so we had Benoit translate.  Ben hardly had to even use my extensive script, as he knows most of this information (and me) well.  Too well.  He of course went “off book” at will.

After my talk (they gave me 2 hours, but I probably only went an hour, used to being “reined in” by my Gathering dictators…), the four luthiers did short presentations.

Benoit Meulle-Stef

Steve Sedgwick

Sean Woolley

Cedric Verglas

After lunch came the second concert (see last blog), and a final curtain call with some of the hosts and helpers.  I let Philippe know that instigating this event has put him in the harp guitar history books!

With this event, the extended harp guitar “family” continues to grow – I was touched to have been included in theirs.
(with Jason above and Yaouen below).

Again, thanks to Martin Scott for donating his professional photographs, and also Steve Sedgwick (most other photos are mine).  The Festival’s official Facebook page has many additional pictures.

And a final Thank You for the invitation and friendly hosting to the Guitare en Sarthe crew: Gwenael, David, Jerome, Pierre Louis, Jean Pierre, and all of their helpers – along with Philippe.  Thanks also to Gwenael for the accommodations (and especially his charming daughter who had to give up her bed for “some crazy American” [my words, not hers]).

The Future: While the Festival was deemed a financial and artistic success, I think all were disappointed that concert audience and general harp guitar aficionado attendance was smaller than hoped for.  Since the presenters are much too polite and professional to mention it, here’s my own personal lecture; take it or leave it as you wish:

(Addressing all of Europe now): Dude! Where were you?!  I had heard of several people from England, Netherlands and Italy that planned to come (but didn’t make it), and I can certainly think of a hundred European readers of this blog alone who would have definitely enjoyed the festival had they made the extra effort to attend.  On an even more personal note, I was saddened to have come all that way and not have met more of you.  Knowing that a majority may still be financially or logistically unable to make the trip to the States for one of our Harp Guitar Gatherings, this also seemed like an ideal opportunity for the European contingency to experience a taste in their own “backyard.”  Yes, it still takes planning and funds, but if not now, then when?

As I said earlier, while this was “the first French/European harp guitar festival,” it was really a one-time event put on by Guitare en Sarthe (i.e: it may have been your only opportunity).  Of course, much like the “afterglow” of the first Harp Guitar Gathering, all expressed an interest in seeing something like this continue in Europe.  Luckily, someone stepped up to try and make that happen.  Jason Carter and Sean Woolley volunteered to plan a harp guitar festival next year in Nimes.  Let’s all wish them luck in making that a reality!

I hope to have paid off my own VISA bills by then so I can go.  How about you?!

Next: A Day with Philippe and Leonardo Da Vinci

  1. Jon Pickard Says:


    Thanks so much for posting your reviews of this event. I am certain that those, like me who wanted to come but did not, all appreciate the chance to see some of what went on there, albeit second hand.

    Congratulations also to everyone involved for making this event happen and for raising the Harp Guitar banner in Europe. You are all a great inspiration and credit to Harp Guitars, and to musicianship in general.

    Thanks too, Gregg for the friendly chastisements – all fair points! Lets not forget though that, in fairness many of us are facing the continual challenge of keeping our financial heads above water and providing food and support for our families in these difficult times. Those of us who are self-employed and do not have the luxury of a salaried position / annual leave etc. not only have to pay for the expenses of the trip but also take the double whammy of lost income, and so have little choice but to keep the ‘nose to the grindstone’.

    “Where were you?” “If not now then when?” Both fair questions. I for one feel the need to reply. Where? – I personally was working hard (musically) for my family and clients. When? Sometime not in a primetime weekend in the middle of my busy season would have been easier… As a working musician with hungry mouths to feed I feel compelled to take work if I am offered it. 🙂

    Wish I could have been there – quite gutted not to have been actually, but family responsibility comes first. I’m sure many feel the same.

    Best of luck to Sean and Jason for next year! Can’t wait to see the videos of this year too.

    With respect.


  2. Philippe Fouquet Says:

    This adventure has been fantastic. From musical and human point of view, it was a very rich experience. My wish is that something will continue after this departure point in Europe. Through harp guitar music, we are building beautiful human relationships. I feel really glad with that.
    I want to say that without Gregg and his non ending encouragements, passion and friendship, this would never had happened.
    I think I remember the first mail exchange we had something like 10 years ago. I wanted to introduce myself as a new HG player having bought an old Kontragitare. for sure, at this time, I couldn’t imagine what was going to follow!
    OK, let’s continue the story!
    Thanks for being here my friend…

  3. Gregg Says:

    Thank you very much, Philippe. And for reminding us that the main reason to come to these events is for the wonderful connections and friendships.

    Thanks also for your considered response, Jon. I had hoped, with acknowledgment of the financial and logistical difficulties, that my “lecture’s” intent would be seen as a general, global observation. Honestly, I haven’t made make a mental list of personal friends and pen pals who “ditched the festival”! (So we needn’t post the hundreds of individual excuses unless you feel compelled to). Likewise, this answer is not directed to you, nor anyone specific (each having different options and obligations), but as a general observation.

    My passion (which, for better or worse, by its very nature shows itself in both the positive and the negative) undoubtedly stems from my own example, which is perhaps an unfair comparison: For those who don’t know the story, I almost didn’t go to the first Harp Guitar Gathering in Virginia. I wasn’t playing the instrument (concentrating on a completely different musical project), I didn’t think I had anything to contribute (Stephen: “Well, you can talk about that Knutsen stuff”…) and I didn’t have the money (and that trip was certainly much less, even at 2002 wages, than this year’s). In short, it would have been much easier to just stay home. Needless to say, the rest is history, and from that single weekend (similarly, the first and only time a Gathering was then expected to take place) all this has sprung.

  4. Yaouen Says:

    Gregg, thank you very much for coming to France to share your passion.
    It’s beautiful, Congratulations!

  5. sean woolley Says:

    Hi Gregg, hi all.
    Just to say thankyou, for all this work you have done in documenting this event.
    I had a great time and the two shows were fantastic, and I am really looking forward to seeing some of the video footage soon. A couple of days later the blues really hit me. Was that 1600kms drive really worth it? Why had I mentioned organising the next one! All that time, effort and money…
    I read again your blogg. Of coarse it is. So to all of those that the next festival might interest. Spread the news, get in touch, share the bloggs and video links.Create some momentum.
    So I’m back in my workshop dreaming of supertrebles, listening to John Doan’s “Hommage to Sor” cd, and just trying to improve my work.
    My thanks to all of you, and I look forward to greeting you all again next year.
    Take care.Sean.

  6. Rob Launder Says:

    Hi Gregg – better late than never.
    The weekend I spent at Le Mans was memorable. I was, as you say, doing some serious shopping. I have since placed an order for a 20-string HG with Steve Sedgwick. He has recently started construction and I’m eagerly awaiting completion. Hoping to travel down to Nimes for the next gathering.

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