Take your pick at the Woodstock Invitational Luthiers’ Showcase

(Dion Ogust | Almanac Weekly)

(Dion Ogust | Almanac Weekly)

The seventh annual Woodstock Invitational Luthiers’ Showcase (and Tonewood Festival) returns to Woodstock’s Bearsville Theater with three days of high communing with the wood and wires of fine acoustic guitars – flattops, archtops, manouche, resonators, hybrids – plus mandolins, lutes, ouds, ukuleles, banjos and stringed oddities. The event, taking place on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, October 23, 24 and 25, also includes much music – small wonder, much of it made on the extraordinary instruments that more than 50 artists and craftsmen and women have produced and are on display.

Baker Rorick, the founder and producer of the weekend, calls it “an intimate gathering for the community of acoustic stringed-instrument builders, players, collectors and aficionados.” But the truth is that it can hardly be called that, these days, as the show itself has become known worldwide. “In the small world of manmade acoustic guitar festivals, this little Woodstock show has somehow developed a reputation as a significant event,” says Rorick. “In the past year we developed cooperative associations with all the European festivals, with the Osaka festival. We schedule our events around each other…exchange ideas…”

In the main theater at Bearsville (291 Tinker Street, Woodstock), the finery is displayed in rows:, dazzling exhibits from some of the finest builders of the day, from local Bruce Ackerman to archtop giants John Monteleone and Ken Parker; Paul Beard brings some of his incredible resonator guitars; Paul McCubbin displays; Woodstock luthiers Joe Veillette and Harvey Citron have entries, too.


In the lounge area at Bearsville, there is a continuous concert (all included with the price of admission) with guitarists demonstrating the wares – but not just any guitarists. You’ll find jazz stars Bucky Pizzarelli, now 90 years old, with Ed Laub at around 1 p.m. on Friday; fingerstyle expert Kinloch Nelson will demonstrate mastery for several different luthiers over the span; the amazing open tuned-and-tap-technique guitarist Vicki Genfan will do a 40-minute set around 3:20 p.m. on Saturday; Eddie Diehl and Lou Pappas come out for their once-a-year show at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday; Sunday will feature Jay Ungar & Molly Mason with Mike + Ruthy and Friends to close the show at around 5 p.m.

Then there’s the String Sampler concert Saturday night at the Woodstock Playhouse, featuring Jorma Kaukonen, David Broza and Doug Wamble (see ulsterpub.staging.wpengineplayhouse.org for tickets.) There is a series of instructional clinics and workshops for players, plus seminars and colloquia for builders, by separate admission.

There’s a new component, facilitated by grant money that the Festival has received from the Bluestein Family Foundation: free events, such as the screening of David Broza’s documentary East Jerusalem, West Jerusalem, about the making of the album (produced by Steve Earle) by Israeli and Palestinian musicians, recorded in Palestine, at 7 p.m. on Friday, October 23 at the Kleinert/James Center for the Arts at 34 Tinker Street in Woodstock. Sunday will offer a free concert and demonstration: “The Extended Family of Mexican Guitars: A Showcase of Mexican Folk Stringed Instruments,” live with two-time Grammy-nominated group the Sones de Mexico Ensemble (www.sonesdemexico.com).

Frazzled with the non-stop details of the preparation, Rorick nonetheless points out that the event – much as it has grown, now in its seventh year – is more about and for the community of guitar-builders, who, he is fond of pointing out, “work in solitude all year” and finally get to come out, show their stuff and have a good hang. But that doesn’t stop the rest of the population who can come out and touch the artistry.

For more information on the Woodstock Invitational Luthiers’ Showcase, Friday, October 23 through Sunday, October 25 at the Bearsville Theater and other Woodstock environs, hours, tickets, schedules, history, links, updates, directions, lodging et cetera, see ulsterpub.staging.wpengineinvitational.com.