Invitational Luthiers Showcase returns this weekend
Woodstock Celebrates the world of handcrafted string instruments with the return of the Woodstock Invitational Luthiers Showcase Friday through Sunday.
“A luthier is any string instrument maker,” Baker Rorick, the event’s founder said.
“Luthier” derives from the lute, a stringed instrument from the medieval and renaissance period that stringed instruments ranging from mandolins to violins to guitars and cellos descended from, he said.
“You can see and hear these instruments,” Rorick said. “Some of them are very simple form and function, many examples have gorgeous inlays, exotic woods, it’s artistry.”
These instruments can be heard during seven hours of live music each day.
The String Sampler Concert at the Woodstock Playhouse at 8 p.m. Saturday will feature 14-time Grammy Award-winner bluegrass guitarist Gerry Douglas and 90-year-old jazz guitarist Bucky Piterzerelli.
Woodstock’s own Teresa Williams performs with Larry Campbell at Bearsville Theater at 4:40 p.m. Sunday.
Sonas De Mexico Ensemble, of Chicago, offers two free programs aimed at families on Sunday.
At noon is “Fiesta Mexicana,” which features Mexican songs and storytelling. At 2 p.m. is “Beyond the Music” which uses 30 to 40 different Mexican stringed instruments to teach Mexico’s musical geography.
“They’ll explain and perform 12 different regional Mexican musical styles,” Rorick said. “It’s incredibly exciting stuff, the music they make.
“They’ve performed at the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian and as far away as China.”
On top of the performances, the Showcase offers a chance to see some of the best instrument makers in the world, Rorick said.
“I’m very excited, we have a number of Europeans and Japanese makers,” he said.
Other luthiers, like Martin Keith of Saugerties, are travelling just a few miles.
“He’s one of own local builders pushing the envelope,” Rorick said. “His workmanship is fantastic.
“He’s just one example of a new generation.”
Rorick said Keith specializes in flat top acoustic guitars, but also makes a solid body electric bass.
Rorick said Keith’s acoustic guitars feature carbon graphite elements for reinforcement and an individual design aesthetic. “It’s an instrument with incredible tonality,” Rorick said. “He’s developing an international reputation for his instrument.”
Martin and another musician are slated to perform on his guitars at 5:10 p.m. Saturday at the Bearsville Theater.
The handmade boutique instrument movement has taken off in the past 30 years, Martin said.
“These are legacy instruments,” Martin said, adding that many handmade instruments are passed down generation to generation and some even end up in museums.
“A few of the builders have had their works in the Smithsonian, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts,” Rorick said.
These modern luthiers are to acoustic guitars what the Cremona makers were to violins in the 1700s, he said.
While they are both stringed instruments, guitars are quite different than violins, Rorick said.
“Why is a violin less than a pound, but is louder than a guitar that weighs five pounds?” Rorick said.
These differences haven’t stopped some luthiers from adapting violin techniques to guitar making, he said.
As for what luthiers talk about when they get together, Rorick said it often isn’t guitars.
“They talk about their tools, their varnishes,” Rorick said, adding that the event serves as great networking event for luthiers.
“That’s one of the purposes of this,” Rorick said. “It’s very different from the larger musical instrument industry.
“It’s very much a community, with incredible generosity.”
Longtime builders support younger builders and there are no secrets, he
“If somebody comes up with a better way, they inspire makers to make better instruments that make better music,” Rorick said.
While the Showcase is one of the smallest events of its kind, it’s gained the reputation as one the most prestigious, he said.
It’s a juried exposition, he said. “We like to feature luminaries and big names,” Rorick said. “This year there’s a significant percentage of younger builders, mostly from the U.S. and Canada, who are building their reputation.”
Rorick said they look for diversity in exhibitors.
The show highlights all kinds of guitars including flat tops, hybrids and harp guitars with extra long necks and an array of up to 24 strings that give them the range of a harp, he said.
“They were popular in the late 1800s,” Rorick said. “There’s been a revival in the last 10-20 years of these.”
The show also features mandolins, dulcimers and ukuleles.
Rorick said he’s worked in the larger guitar industry in sales and marketing and as a journalist who has written for major guitar magazines, but he hasn’t made string instruments himself. “In the past eight years, this has become my calling,” Rorick said.
Over the years he said he’s become a bit of a historian as well.
Guitars first started to take off in the Baroque period in the 1700s and their popularity boomed in the late 1800s in the U.S. when every major city had mandolin and harp guitar orchestras, Rorick said. “The guitar is fairly easy to play and it accompanies the human voice well,” he said. That popularity exploded with the folk revival of the late 1950s and 1960s, Rorick said. Then came the Beatles. “The Beatles came along, and everyone wanted to play guitar,” he said.
String instrument-making offers a return to a kind of simplicity in an increasingly technological age, Rorick said.
“It’s a calling, artistry,” Rorick said. “Any of these builders, even the most successful and revered, will say this is my art, this is my craft.
“If I wanted to make money, I’d be doing something else.”
PHOTOS PROVIDED A past Woodstock Invitational Luthiers Showcase at the Bearsville Theater.
Fourteen-time Grammy Award winning bluegrass musician Jerry Douglas plays at the Woodstock Playhouse at 8 p.m. Saturday as part of the Woodstock Luthiers Invitational Showcase’s String Sampler. The Showcase, which runs from Friday through Sunday highlights the best in handcrafted string instruments and their makers.
Chicago-based Sones De Mexico will offer family-friendly performances at noon and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Kleinert James Center on Tinker Street in Woodstock as part of the Woodstock Invitational Luthiers Showcase, which runs from Friday-Sunday. The noon program explores Mexican music and storytelling, while the 2 p.m. program explores Mexico’s musical geography through 30-40 different stringed instruments.