Monday, April 27, 2009

Handmade

A maker who specializes in instrument bows, Ken Altman. Starting at around $2800 for the basic violin version, and going up ...

Guitars were represented by at least a dozen local makers. (Above, Jay Dickinson, Portland Guitar.)

There were violins, fiddles, violas, cellos, double basses, flutes, lutes, ouds ...

Mandolins ...
High-end tuning machines ...

Small, medium, large, and all manner of shapes ... (Mark Roberts made the four ukes on the left, Abe Su'a, the two on the right.) 

The pictures are from the Handmade Musical Instrument Exhibit, held this past weekend at Marylhurst University, just past Lake Oswego, Oregon. My wife and I try to make this one every year. Just walking around in the big room is a treat -- the sights, sounds, smells.

As part of your three-buck admission fee, you can cross the walkway to the BP John Building and the Wiegand Performance Center, which was once a chapel, and listen to the mini-concerts. These are generally twenty-minutes sessons, wherein a player will demonstrate a maker's instruments to the audience. Room holds a couple hundred people, and they all sit there quietly listening. Anybody makes a noise, the whole audience turns around and shushes them.

We went yesterday, and caught five of the sets: Steve Tool, playing an acoustic steel string by Michael Propsom; followed by David Franzen on a classical guitar by George Smith; then Craig Alden Dell on a ten-string classical by Michael Elwell. Dina Fergurgur and Maria Olaya played a pair of classicals by Keith Rhodes -- one a cedar-top, the other a double-top spruce. The last player was Jeffrey Ashton, on a classical by Jeffrey Elliott. (I've mentioned Elliott here before. Staring price on his guitars is about twelve grand. The waiting list to get one is about twelve years ...)

All the players were adept. They did pieces by Bach, some Renaissance lute stuff, a piece one of the women composed herself with a South/Central American flavor, and composers like Villa-Lobos, who wrote thousands of pieces but only a score of them for guitar.

The guy playing ten-string had gone through a series of surgeries over the last year -- both shoulders, both hands -- and was supposed to be wearing a brace, which made his performance impressive. And a ten-string's resonance? Oh, my.

My favorite was Ashton, a man who was adept and into the music, and whose composition of Moorish/Spanish variations was a delight, including, for you players out there, an ending series of pinch harmonics going all the way to the second fret ...

The only problem was that my hearing aid kept cheeping feedback at me, so I had to remove it, but I was still able to enjoy the music with the good ear ...

6 comments:

gemnerd said...

Hi Steve,

Years ago, there was a store in L.A. called Candelas Guitars. They made beautiful one-piece rosewood instruments, among others. It was a lovely place.

Geri J.

Steve Perry said...

Oh, yeah. Actually been there, long ago and far away. Guy once fixed a snapped-off peg head on my cheapo guitar somebody had stepped on. Charged me ten bucks because he knew I was broke ...

I went to pick it up, nobody was in the shop -- it was on Sunset, east of Echo Park back then. So I wandered around into the back and there were all these letters on the wall from guys like Jose Feleciano and such thanking them for the wonderful instruments.

Must have been about 1968 or maybe 1969.

Dojo Rat said...

I sent this to my friend who builds some really nice Uke's

Bobbe Edmonds said...

My seven Gods, those looked mouth-watering. There's no other way to say that about musical instruments and not sound fabulously gay, but I'm willing to do so for some of those violins.

By the by, Steve: There's no difference between a violin and a fiddle. None. It's the approach of the player.

Stick that in your redundancy pipe and smoke it.

Steve Perry said...

It's contextual, you Nazi-beer swilling buffoon -- this guy marketing to the classical folks is calling his wares "violins;" across from him, the bluegrass guy calls his "fiddles." Perfectly valid for me to point this out, since that was, in fact, the case.

That they are identical doesn't matter. Like calling "automobiles" "cars," or a knife a "shiv." It all depends on the context.

msrvfx said...

Hi Steve,
I'm the builder of most of those ukes. Four on the left.
Two on the right are by a great friend Abe Su'a from Spokane.
Yea, the playing by Craig Alden Dell on MIke Elwell's 10 string was really great. Craig gave a small group of us a sample of his flamenco later in a hallway.
Mike does incredible work.