Chris Wynne- Luthier
John Williams, virtuoso classical guitarist is playing on my ipod. It seems appropriate. Today I learned that my classical guitar guru for so many years, had lessons at Montsalvat from his father Len. Justus Jorgensen's son Sebastian also learnt from Len. Apparently Sebastian was very good and played professionally with John Williams at one stage. Phew what a history. In the seventies, the BBC filmed a concert given by John Williams at Montsalvat, for a documentary. How did I miss that one?
The person to pass these stories on to me today was Chris Wynne, a Luthier. What a lovely name for an equally lovely occupation. Luthier means maker of stringed instruments, in this case the guitar. Six years ago he moved his workshop to Montsalvat, an opportunity which facilitated his dream of working full time, teaching others the gentle art of making guitars and making guitars himself. Hand made guitars, created from Australian timbers such as Sheoak, Blackwood, Bunya Pine, King Billy Pine, and Mulga.
Chris treated me to a lovely little piece by Bach outside his workshop.
When I asked Chris what he would like you, dear readers, to know about him, quick as a flash he said,
"I'd like to write a book. I'd call it affectionately, The Lunacy of the Luthiery. It would be a book about the fun and stories of teaching people."
His favourite story is what he calls his "Harry Met Sally" story. I held my breath a bit with this one....I've tried to write down his description of this moment, but somehow it's not nearly as funny as when Chris told me today. So you'll have to wait for his book if you want to know the details of that one... What a tease. Suffice to say, that the book and its stories would let you know the joy and in some cases the ecstacy students have experienced as a result of making their own guitar.
In addition to his workshop at Montsalvat, several years ago, with the aid of his business partner Fiona Mitchell, Chris set up a workshop in Umbria. For three months of every year, he taught guitar making in arguably one of the most beautiful parts of the world! The only drawback of this workshop was that all of the students couldn't be accommodated there, so Chris searched around for another workshop. As luck would have it, he found a newly renovated Villa in Lucca, which filled the bill perfectly. In April of this year he will try out his new venue. I know... poor thing... I'm not jealous, really!! I just want what he's having.
If you would like to know more about Chris's classes here or in Italy check out his website.
When I was young, my dear old Dad introduced me to Dixieland Jazz. Whenever it came on the radio he would get this big grin on his face and point out features of the music that he enjoyed. As a young man, while spending many years recovering from illness at Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital, he became responsible for hosting an in-house radio show called "Swing with Bing". He loved the old crooner. On my return from New York, I had great fun showing him an amateur video (shot by yours truly) of Woody Allen and his Jazz band at the Cafe Carlyle. Now I've got another amateur video of my Dad with that same big smile all over his face while watching Woody.
Today, I attended a boogie Jazz concert at Montsalvat. The Barn was host to Jan Preston, who played boogie, honky tonk and ragtime jazz on Montsalvat's beautiful grand piano, ably assisted by her husband on drums and washboard. Together they delighted the audience with renditions of "In the Mood", "Twelfth Street Rag" and "Five Finger Boogie". Looking around the packed audience I saw lots of toes tapping and heads nodding and dare I say some smiles that reminded me very much of my dear old Dad. To say there was enthusiastic applause after each number would be an understatment. The joint was jumping.
Montsalvat regularly hosts music events. Coming up on the 20th of March is a concert titled "The North East Collective" featuring some of Australia's finest musicians. Then on 27th March one of Melbourne's favourite singer songwriters, Kavisha Mazzella will launch her latest CD "Love and Sorrow" in the Barn at Montsalvat. Take a look at Montsalvat's website for details of these upcoming concerts.
While at Montsalvat today this selection of textures took my eye. Every time I go there I see something I haven't noticed before and I'm inspired to get my camera out all over again. I think that's one of the things I love most about Montsalvat.
Discerning readers will see the influence of Montsalvat on designer/ builder Hamish Knox in the texture below.
I love the quality of abstraction these images bring out... Montsalvat, you've done it again.
There are lots more where these came from. Over the next couple of weeks I'll bring you more of these Montsalvat details.