We have been generously loaned a guitar for practicing while we are here in the UK, but didn’t realize that it would be a fine handmade instrument, carefully crafted from local woods. The luthier, Les Backshall, has built forty guitars in the last decade or so and is now making ukeleles for his grandchildren (lucky kids!).
The top of this guitar is European Spruce, common in modern guitars as well as earlier instruments such as lutes and vihuelas. However, unlike most classical guitars which have backs and sides made of Rosewood (either Indian or Brazilian), the backs and sides of this guitar are made of Yew (taxus baccata). This yew is a tree that figures importantly in English history. Yew needles and seeds are also toxic to humans which has led to many references to it in mythology (think Druids – this is England!).
The Yew tree is indigenous to England. A slow growing conifer, it has a beautiful, distinctive grain and bright sound. It is perhaps similar to Maple, which is what one usually finds on the backs and sides of early nineteenth-century guitars, including ours. We came across a very old Yew at the Oxford Botanical Garden on a visit there last week.
Yew was a much favored wood for the making of longbows and lutes. It conjures images of King Arthur and traveling bards. As we’ve wandered castle ruins and cathedrals these past few weeks, adventure tales of Medieval England come to mind.
The Willamette Heritage Center is a particularly apt place for a performance of early nineteenth-century music on guitars from the period.
Located across from Willamette University at 1313 Mill St SE, in Salem, Oregon, the Willamette Heritage Center preserves buildings that date from the 1840s when Euro-American missionaries and immigrants settled in the Mid-Willamette Valley, home of the Kalapuya. It is likely that these settlers would have brought guitars with them very similar to the ones we will be playing on our concert!
The concert will take place in the Pleasant Grove Church, built in 1854 by Oregon Trail immigrants. The Heritage Center includes many other historic buildings and the 1896 Thomas Kay Woolen Mill (where Neil’s mother shopped for fabric for her sewing projects well into the 1960s!).
The mill is a National Park Service-designated American Treasure, vividly telling the story of industrialization of the Mid-Willamette Valley. Concert-goers are encouraged to stay and visit the rest of the Willamette Heritage Center to experience the life and culture of early Oregon and the era in which the Caulkins’ music would have been heard.
The concert is Free to the Public. Donations to the museum will be gladly accepted.
Join us for a concert of early nineteenth century music on period guitars at Central Washington University, Department of Music, Jerilyn S. McIntyre Music Building Recital Hall, Tuesday, January 10, 2017, 7:00 PM. Admission is Free to the Public.
Grand March, Op. 21 – (Benigne) Henry (fl. 1818)
The Polonesi Concertanti, Op. 137 – Mauro Giuliani (1781-1829)
No. 1 Allegretto/Trio in D major
No. 2 Allegretto/Trio in A major
No. 3 Allegretto/Trio in E minor
Duet Op. 34, No. 3 – Antoine de Lhoyer (1768-1852)
Ich Denke Dein – Johann Kaspar Mertz (1806-1856)
Thank you to everyone who came out to our Redmond House concert on Saturday, November 12! It was an honor to have so many knowledgeable aficionados of the guitar in the audience and a pleasure to meet many of them afterwards.
Merci to our gracious hosts, Matt & Cathlyn!
Thank you to everyone who came out to our noon concert on November 11th at Gallery One! It was a privilege to play to a packed house on Friday. The lively acoustics and natural light of the Eveleth Green Gallery proved to be a splendid place to play guitar duets. And what a wonderful and attentive audience! We feel so blessed to live and play music in this community. Merci à tous!
Neil’s guitar was built by Luthier Scot Tremblay. Scot specializes in building early nineteenth century guitars and has studied hundreds of old instruments in his quest to build them authentically. He has a long waiting list so when this instrument unexpectedly came available, Neil was thrilled. He had been wanting to commission an instrument exactly like this one: a French instrument with an added seventh string – essential for playing the music of Napoleon Coste (1805-1883).