Linda Manzer talks guitars

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by Edith Cody-Rice 

Linda Manzer and Terry Tufts with one of Linda’s custom guitars

Linda Manzer, internationally renowned luthier who has a studio and home in Almonte, entranced a packed hall at the Old Town Hall tonight with her explanation of the type and quality of guitar woods and their transformation into guitars. Her lecture, entitled I Hear Music in the Forest was sponsored by the Mississippi Mills Beautification Committee, and hosted by their Tree Working Group as part of their 2017 Arbour Week celebrations.
Linda makes custom acoustic guitars and has created models for such artists as Bruce Cockburn, Connie Kaldor, Liona Boyd, Gordon Lightfoot and Stephen Fearing.

It was a privilege to gain an insight into the artistry that results in a truly great guitar. Accompanying her was Terry Tufts, a professional guitarist with an impressive resume of albums and awards who demonstrated her guitars for the audience. Linda said that she first became interested in guitar making when she attended a Joni Mitchell performance at the folk festival Mariposa as a teenager. Dulcimer’ were on sale for $150 but for half that price, she could buy a dulcimer kit. She took a kit home, snapped the pieces into place, attached the strings and, as she explains, the dulcimer came alive. She was hooked. After attending art school, she apprenticed with Jean Larrivée for three years and later with James D’Aquisto in New York. She has now been making guitars for over forty years.

Linda took the audience through various kinds of wood, their respective qualities, how they are cut from the tree and then modeled into the various elements of a guitar. She told us that the back and sides of a guitar are made from hardwood while the top is formed from soft wood that will vibrate with sound. She showed how pieces of wood are “bookmatched” so that the grain matches and she tapped pieces of guitar wood to illustrate their varying resonance.

Some of Linda’s guitars have multiple necks and a significantly larger distribution of strings than traditional guitars. The Pikasso, pictured below, was created for renowned jazz musician Pat Metheny in 1984.

Linda proudly explained her current project, just completed, Group of Seven Guitars,  which was inspired by a visit to the National Gallery in Ottawa. Upon strolling through the Group of Seven exhibit, she hit upon the idea of gathering six of her fellow luthiers, Sergei de Jonge, Tony Duggan-Smith, David Wren, George Gray , Grit Laskin , and Jean Larrivée to create a group of guitars honouring the Group of Seven plus Tom Thomson who died before the group was established. The Group of Seven comprised artists Franklin Carmichael, Lawren Harris, A. Y. Jackson, Frank Johnston, Arthur Lismer, J. E. H. MacDonald, and Frederick Varley. Each luthier chose one member of the group, researched him and created a guitar. As a last effort, the group collaborated on a Tom Thomson guitar. Linda chose Lawren Harris and researched him for three years before setting to work on the guitar. The Group of Seven Guitars will be on display at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Kleinburg commencing May 6, 2017. The Tom Thomson guitar was sent to Terry Tufts to allow him to record music he composed and recorded for the exhibition. Terry played us out with his composition.
Admission to this lecture and demonstration was free of charge and Tiffany MacLaren,  Community Economic and Cultural Coordinator, provided coffee, tea and cookies made by Fern Martin and Baker Bob to a delighted audience.