Thursday, February 20, 2020

Guitar Obsessions

I should have realized early on that I was not like most other guitarists. I'm not quite as obsessed with the instrument as some players are. The Wall Street Journal has a case study: When Your Husband’s Hobby Takes Over the House. That is probably behind the paywall, so here are some quotes:
I have been battling the guitar problem for years—guitars on the sofa, guitars in the kitchen, guitars on the bed, guitars in the bathroom. Guitars tripping me when I walk through a room. And now, despite all efforts to contain them in the garage, they are multiplying like Tribbles.
I'm an eccentric. Way back in 1983 a friend called me up to alert me to a guitar builder named Robert Holroyd in Vancouver. He built just three or four guitars a year, each one a meticulous masterpiece. And since they were spoken for even before he built them, it was rarely possible to try one out. But my friend informed me that he had just finished one and I could go over and try it. After five minutes of sitting down with the instrument, I asked him for his next one. I am still playing that same guitar, one of the finest I have ever seen and I have seen and played instruments belonging to Manuel Barrueco, Pepe Romero and Andrés Segovia. But for many guitarists, owning one is not enough. Pepe in particular has a large collection that thirty years ago was approaching a hundred instruments. But back to the WSJ:
“I just want to sit on my sofa in peace,” I said to psychologist Susan Krauss Whitbourne, an emerita professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst whom I called for advice. “But my husband’s guitars are taking over the furniture. This can’t be good for our marriage.”
“Without knowing anything about your husband, I don’t know if this is a phase or if he plans to keep them forever,” she said.
“He’s joined a dad band,” I said darkly.
You know you have a problem when your husband's guitar collection makes you go into counseling! I remember hanging around outside a masterclass in Salzburg when I was there as a student waiting for Pepe Romero's class to begin when his wife came up and asked where Pepe was. I said he was inside trying out a guitar by an Italian builder. She rolled her eyes and exclaimed "oh no, he's buying another guitar!"

Actually, reading on in the article, it seems that the husband only has a few guitars. Perhaps no more than five or six. He's a piker. Imagine Pepe's wife's problem. Some of his guitars are so famous they have names. Not only that, but Pepe jr has become one of the leading builders of the next generation. I think they are going to need, not an extra room, but perhaps an extra house.

Here is Pepe Romero playing a piece by Sebastian Yradier:


Dex Quire said...

Questions about the article (sorry I didn't get past the WSJ paywall): Guitars on the sofa? Why not take them off the sofa? Hard on their marriage? Doesn't husband play the guitars? Doesn't the wife like the husband's guitar playing? They can't take up that much room, can they? I can see that the guitar cases might take up some room but it can't be all that unmanageable .... do they have an extra tiny house?

Anyway, I'm like you, Bryan, in that, I treasure a single classical guitar, made in Seattle, by a friend of mine (Jay Hargreaves; I wonder if he knows your guitar maker; seems like Pacific Northwest luthiers include Vancouver, B.C. in their get togethers). On the other hand, if I had lots of money I might have many guitars around; I would take them off the sofa though, no use making my wife mad ...

Great Pepe Romero story. I love that these world-masters of classical guitar are so accessible -- at least in master classes. I remember in the late 1970s, jazz greats like Herb Ellis and Barney Kessel would come to Seattle and play in the most intimate club settings ... tell us more guitar stories...!

Bryan Townsend said...

it is rather a silly and contrived article, but it sparked some reminiscences for me. My mother was a fiddler who also played some other instruments so in my house growing up there were instrument cases under and behind every piece of furniture!

If you poke around the blog, I'm sure you will find a few guitar stories! In the meantime, have a look at today's miscellanea--a Friday feature.