Six Decades of Listening to Wood Sing
By Michael O'Brien
Introduction by Gregg Miner
The Harp Guitar Gatherings are
always full of different yearly surprises. One of them at HGG16 in
2018 was a gentleman named Michael O’Brien, who brought with him an
intriguing work-in-progress harp guitar of his own design and
construction (at right). I was quite impressed with his original modern design
elements, including the “two-color” top, with the arm made of
cherry highlighted against a “standard guitar shaped” spruce top.
It reminded me somewhat of a Doolin 6-string dropped into a hollow arm
harp guitar…turns out it was Michael’s own similar double cutaway
6-string top plantilla. While clever, this is a tricky aesthetic look
to achieve (Mozzani and Maccaferri come to mind) and I looked forward
to its completion. Michael, already an accomplished 6-string guitarist, was clearly anxious
to see it finished himself, as it would be the first time he tried
playing harp guitar!
That same weekend, I gradually
learned about (just some of)
Michael’s background – including the fact that he had once been a
member of AMIS (the American Musical Instrument Society, of which I am
now on the Advisory Board) before my own time. Guitar-related? No,
harpsichords! And that was just the start. I’m glad he wrote his own
introduction in his article because I couldn’t possibly do it
justice. Though I notice he did leave out some of his other
accomplishments and sidelines, such as “professional farrier” (Google
it for the surprise).
In October, 2019, Stephen
Bennett featured him at HGG17 (he’d been doing harp guitar Skype
lessons with SB all this while). We heard his talent on not one, but
two, great-sounding custom O’Brien harp guitars, after which he was
joined by his similarly talented daughter Emily, a virtuoso recorder
It was a busy weekend and I regret that I didn’t get the chance to play the instruments myself, but I was duly impressed with Michael’s ideas and results. Oh…and (naturally!) he’s a terrific writer as well. Take a look!
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