What do you like in a guitar? Is it the curve of the body as it nestles into your torso or the deep throb of the bass sound as it reverberates in your chest? Is it the action — the feel of the tension of the strings on your left hand as you reach for the sounds to complete your aural vision? Are the strings light and buttery or springy with resistance, allowing you to aggressively, percussively wrench bigger sound? Do you love the sensuous touch of an ebony fingerboard? Or maybe it’s the look of the instrument, some agile and slim, some imposing with ornate inlay patterns on the neck and headstock?
Are there certain woods that create tones that please you? Sweet spruce tops and rosewood sides and back, or a more forward mahogany, or even curly maple for sides and a carved one-piece back?
Many examples of fine woodworking and the crafting of a specific sound will be on display as local writer and guitar connoisseur Baker Rorick brings the Third (or Fourth) Annual Woodstock International Luthiers Showcase to the Bearsville Theater and its environs, and including the Colony Café, Friday, October 21 to Sunday October 23. There’ll be three days of events, concerts, clinics, tone wood exhibits, all build around the main exhibits of the musical wares of some of the finest independent guitar builders that the world knows.
“This is the third year, yes, or maybe the fourth [the first year, in the Colony Café, was open only by invitation. So this is the third year the festival is open to the public.] It’s reached the boiling point,” says Rorick, for whom shepherding the event has become a year round pursuit. “In August I went to Healdsburg, in Santa Rosa, California, the granddaddy of these things. I couldn’t take more than 20 steps without somebody saying, ‘how can I get into Woodstock?’ It’s become one of the big three [along with the Montreal fest.] It seems to have the buzz. I’ve crammed in a few more exhibitors, and we attract only the absolute best of contemporary builders. The intimacy of the thing is what everyone craves. There’ll be 50 exhibitors, 35 builders. Montreal and Healdsburg have over 100, but here, everyone appreciates the intimacy. This is also more about builders and players coming together. It’s the hang. I know I’ve said this before, but most of these guys work in solitude and only get to see each other once or twice a year.”
Slated to return this year to display their latest creations are some of the absolute top of the line in the field: Linda Manzer, John Monteleone and various disciples of his, David MacCubbin, Ken Parker, Ervin Somogyi, East Virginia Guitars, Ivon Schmukler, and plenty more. Local builders will be well represented with Martin Keith, Harvey Citron, Bruce Ackerman, Peter Head, Joe Veillette, Woody Phifer, Paul Hartmann, and Cue Gerhards.
There’s also a full roster of music and instruction. The kick-off concert on Friday, October 21 at the Colony Café (8 p.m., admission $25 at the door only) will feature, along with the Frank Vignola & Vinny Raniolo Guitar Duo, music by Kinobe and the African Sensation.
“In the past we’ve done Middle Eastern lutes and ouds,” says Rorick. “This year it’s the African kora, a big gourd body harp. Kinobe is from Uganda and has been touring since he was a kid. He’s a master and a player. His band consists of his two brothers and they make all the instruments. He’s here on a ten month work visa, doing presentations in schools and hospitals, libraries. David Macubbin, the great master builder from Maryland, has been building with Kinobe, a koa wood kora, and it will be featured at the concert.” This String Sample concert will also feature fingerstyle guitar by Larry Pattis and Peter Janson.
The other concert will take place at 8 p.m. Sunday, the Post Showcase After Show Party Show and Showcase, featuring the extraordinary fingerpicker Kinloch Nelson, Sharon Klein, who, Rorick is quick to point out, coordinated the productions and the concerts — “I couldn’t do it without her,” — George Worthmore, a fine Florida fingerpicker and, as it’s billed, other Woodstock Invitational Performers, The Left-Over Luthiers, Local Notables and Special Guests.