After Stanley Alexandrowicz’s historical presentation, our last event of our action-packed Saturday line up for the 14th Harp Guitar Gathering was an old friend.
Those of us who answered Stephen Bennett’s beacon call in 2003 to attend what would go down in history as the first annual Harp Guitar Gathering have fond memories of those first wonderful discoveries and surprises. Arguably, nothing was more dramatic than our first glimpse of that enigmatic figure, Florida’s “Harp Guitar Guy.” Six foot seven inches tall with an incredible basso profondo voice, affable and often hilarious, he pulled out his trusty antique Dyer harp guitar (more like a “harp-ukulele” in his hands) and played.
One of only a handful of harp guitar players at that time with a web site, he had been laboring for almost thirty years – alone – or so he thought! He’s said many times that he felt like he had discovered his long lost family. A lot of us did, that weekend…and the harp guitar community was born.
Andy has been to every single Harp Guitar Gathering since (he hosted #4), and since the inception of the non-profit Harp Guitar Foundation has been a valuable member of the Board of Advisors. All this time, he’s been one of the extremely few who we not only offer, but insist, play in the Saturday night concert every single year. He’s just too damn entertaining!
In one sense, he is a throwback to (or perhaps the next wave of) Vaudeville. Broad comedy, chameleonic singing voice, vocal sound effects, and offhand instrumental virtuosity.
He’ll then do a 180 and play beautiful and often complex instrumental solos that show him to be as imaginative and chops-worthy as any of the younger contemporary players. And he continues to surprise us – the entire “Bohemian Rhapsody” on solo harp guitar being a more recent example.
We thought it was time to feature him again, giving him a whole hour on Saturday to perform old and new pieces and present his current “state of the art.”
Example: He not only played “Bennett Diction,” the wonderful piece he wrote for Stephen Bennett, but then played “Harp Guitar Guy” – the even trickier piece Stephen had composed for Andy.
My favorite was a gorgeous and sophisticated new composition called “The Colonel Waller Suite” – this was the flea-bitten motel we all stayed at for our first Gathering (and two more times). It’s also my favorite tune on his brand new instrumental CD String Theory.
Behind the scenes, Stephen had proposed to his fellow board members sometime back the concept of a Lifetime Achievement Award. This clearly gelled with the charter of the Foundation, was something well within our means and purview, and Stephen’s nomination of Andy as the first recipient was approved unanimously.
A custom, professional plaque was crafted by Joe Morgan, and at the close of his segment the entire board presented (and surprised!) Andy with the honor.
He was for once speechless, and quite moved I think, though being a true pro he quickly recovered to preen and pose for the camera.
Watch Linda Morgan’s video to see him choke up. I think he also worriedly asked “This doesn’t mean I have to retire, does it?”!
Trust us, Andy – this is just a mid-career highlight!