Harp Guitar Working Vacation: France Part 3

Mulhouse, France Day 2 Evening > Day 3

The last episode of our serial adventure ended with a classic cliffhanger…the public was starting to arrive and mill about, I was due to present my PowerPoint lecture in 15 minutes, and there wasn’t a computer in sight!  I frantically ran around polling the group and just one – Cedric – had brought a laptop.  Luckily, we were able to hook it up, and it had some form of PowerPoint that played my presentation.  A close one!

Benoit did his usual incredible job of translating as I went off-book and ad-libbed the whole thing (an extended version of the Entire World History of the Harp Guitar bit I do before our Gathering concerts).  It was only hilarious during the question and answer session, where I would go on at length about some specific topic for 5 minutes, then stop and realize Ben and the French half of the audience were still sitting there, clueless.  And he’d manage to repeat it!  Well, I can only assume so (he knows most of this material as well as I do).  As usual, I think he snuck in his own unsolicited viewpoints during his French version…

We then took the stage in the midst of all those massive trains now lurking silently in the dark.  Using photos from both nights’ concerts (thanks to Yaouen and Martin Scott), and in rough order of appearance:

Yaouen, the instigator and host of this year’s new European Festival, playing his Cedric Verglas steel-strung 20-course harp guitar.  Like two years ago, I would have enjoyed hearing more of his beautiful voice.

No, I’m not singing(!), I must have been announcing, perhaps mentioning that I was playing America’s typical harp guitar, in this case Merrill #1.  I don’t know what was more distracting: the slap-back echo in the monitors and room, or my unnerving friend in the “box seat” in my peripheral vision.

James Kline was smart the second night and just had them turn off the monitor.  He then played his brand new Alan Perlman arch harp guitar exquisitely (see his Facebook page for details on it).

Neither noise, nor trains, nor creepy dummies can throw master entertainer Andy Wahlberg off his game.  What fun it was to hang with my old pal and share the stage on a whole different continent!

Another friend, from several Harp Guitar Gatherings now: Claude Laflamme (playing his original Pellerin 20-string.

A newcomer to harp guitar is Jan Vanek, who I can’t possibly describe, as he’s more of a “force of nature” than a guitarist.  He played contemplatively on his Sedgwick harp guitar…

…then brought out his “crazy invention” he couldn’t wait for us to see (built by Thierry Carel of France).  It starts out as a fairly normal nylon-string guitar, goes into a bank of metal sitar-like drone strings, then a couple drone basses (all of these can also be fretted), and finally a curiously-tuned metal-strung zither-like bank, everything amplified nicely.

He even used it to amplify his voice through the pickups as he engaged in some genuine Tuvan throat singing into the soundhole!  Then a fiery finish with rapid-fire triplet fingerings, flamenco-style strums and castanet-like full throttle percussion on the guitar top.  Wild!

Jason Carter playing one of Sean Woolley’s nylon strings.  Another one who can go from quiet introspection to high energy and back again.

Taking a group bow for the substantial and very appreciative audience.

And that wraps up the first show on Saturday night!   After a little nightcap with Andy back in our hotel bar (before he headed back to his child’s bunk bed), Jaci and I hit the hay ourselves, with no commitments until the next evening’s show.

About mid-morning, we decided to meet up with Ben, Jim and Andy at the town center for breakfast/lunch (at those outdoor tables at right, with incredible weather).  This is where we were the day before, though it was very different without the book festival going on.  The carousel was covered up, but we now had a clear view of the entire square, where I tried to capture the Mulhouse dichotomy of ancient-meets-modern with that huge office building in the background.

The wonderful fountain was allegedly fed from clean, mountain water, and Andy gamely drank from it.  I wasn’t thirsty.

Jaci, meanwhile, had been snapping wonderful new architectural discoveries like the obsessed art major tourist she is…

…before snapping the rest of us tourists.

Ben – who just somehow knows all this stuff – led us through a tour of the old Protestant church.  Other than a single docent, we had the place to ourselves.

Upstairs choir loft view of the organ undergoing repair.

Jaci spent some time observing the play of stained glass light on the ancient, dusty choir benches.   All very atmospheric.

During lunch, Ben had mentioned an intriguing sightseeing option in the vicinity; he told us we really needed to go.

So with the rest of the afternoon open (except for Ben, who wanted to head back for the luthiers exhibit), the remaining four of us headed off for another inspiring afternoon!

Next: We tour the outdoor Ecomuseum…and final time with harp guitar friends!

  1. sean woolley Says:

    The 25 string guitar played by Jan Vanek was made by Thierry Carel.

  2. James Kline Says:

    Was great to see you and the rest of the motley crew, a super fun time!

  3. thierry Says:

    Thanks ,Sean ,for the update 🙂

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