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GuitarTown

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Last Updated: 08/13/2013 3:59 pm
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For much of the public, the guitar and the elder relatives from which it’s descended—the European lute, the Middle Eastern oud—are simply the utilitarian tools one uses to make music. To their blind eyes there’s precious little difference between a $115,000 prewar Martin and last year’s $115 Chinese knockoff. But for more serious guitar aficionados, especially those who play the things, the better-made examples of such instruments are absolute works of art. For guitar heads these beautiful, exquisitely crafted objects not only sound and feel magnificent but also rival the David or the Mona Lisa for sexy visuals. And in celebration of this lavish instrumental decadence comes the second annual Woodstock Invitational Luthiers Showcase, which on October 23 and 24 will see the town become a veritable orgy of guitar porn.

Organized by local picker Baker Rorick, the event takes place over the two afternoons at the Bearsville Theater and features hundreds of fine handmade acoustic guitars and stringed instruments exhibited by over 30 makers, a guitar show and sale, live demonstrations by expert luthiers, and continuous performances by classical genius Frederic Hand and other top musicians from the US and abroad. Also in the afternoons, next door at Alchemy Cafe will be a series of instructional clinics and workshops led by oud master Ara Dinkjian and jazz great John Hart, among others. The evenings offer showcase-sponsored concerts at the Colony Cafe by Dinkjian and his trio, fingerstylist Sharon Klein, singer-songwriter Viki Genfan, and folk/jazz artist KJ Denhert.

But of course the real stars of this summit are the instruments themselves. “Fine handmade instruments such as these are not usually available in music stores or other retail environments,” says Rorick. “This is a rare opportunity for the public to see, play, and experience the instruments and meet with their makers.” In addition to the numerous nylon-stringed classical and flamenco-style, steel-string flattop, archtop, crossover, and hybrid guitars, mandolins, and banjos on view will be dozens of Middle Eastern ouds, baglamas, and sazzes brought by two master luthiers from Istanbul, Turkey. “Many have two-to-four-year waiting lists [to order] one of their instruments, which are the modern guitar equivalents of the Cremona makers: Guarneiri, Amati, and Stradivari,” Rorick says. “Most of the musicians who are playing are offering their services just for the chance to play some of these instruments.”

Among the modern master makers showing at the invitational is Woodstock’s Joe Veillette, whose custom-made instruments reside in the hands of James Taylor, Dave Matthews, and other big names. “[The event] is special because it’s all about the independent builders, one- or three-person operations that still make everything by hand as opposed to the bigger manufacturers, who these days use a production-line approach,” says Veillette. “And Woodstock is the perfect place for this show, because it has an energy that really lends itself to what smaller makers like me do.”

The Woodstock Invitational Luthiers Showcase takes place on October 23 and 24 in Bearsville and Woodstock. (845) 679-9025; www.woodstockinvitational.com.

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