by Kathryn Stevens, School Director, Musicworks

A vintage guitar has found a new home and a new voice with the help of local businesses, caring citizens, and serendipity.  At a special visit on Monday, January 21,SmithsFalls resident Ida Lalonde (McDonald) was presented with a donated guitar at Musicworks, Almonte’s own music store.  The surprise presentation was a group effort that included the guitar’s long-time owner, who wishes anonymity, George Turcotte, Musicworks proprietor, and Patty Orchard, Ida’s caregiver from Community and Primary Health Care in Carleton Place.

The guitar’s journey from the back of a closet to a new musical life with Ida is a great example of community members working together towards a common cause. The journey started when I met Patty at Nine Lives Antiques (formerly Curiosities) where I also work. Patty was looking for a second-hand guitar for her client, Ida. A senior citizen and roots musician, Ida was longing to play her preferred style of slide guitar again after many years without a suitable instrument. The antique store was fresh out of guitars, but I took the search back to Musicworks, at just the right time to meet an unexpected donor.

A long-idle and visibly well-loved guitar, acquired during high school years in the early 1960s, had just arrived at Musicworks for restringing. The owner planned to donate the guitar once it had been rejuvenated but didn’t know where to find a suitable home. When he made a chance remark revealing his intentions, the connections were quickly made.

Patty brought Ida to Musicworks on a cold, sunny morning to receive her new guitar and meet with George, me, and the donor.  Ida lost no time making herself at home in the instrument gallery.  Sitting at one of the grand pianos, she played and sang her renditions of traditional songs such as Amazing Grace, Home on the Range, and When Irish Eyes Are Smiling. She told us stories of her music and life in what is now the Lanark Highlands.

“I’m a Mc, not a Mac,” she told us, emphasizing her Irish roots.  Ida was born at Folger Station, a small farming community on the Kingston and Pembroke Railway line (aka the Kick and Push) in what was Lavant Township.  Placed in an orphanage at a young age, Ida later returned to the area to marry and raise a family. A musician at heart, she taught herself to play traditional instruments by ear, and plays fiddle, piano, harmonica, ukulele and spoons, as well as Hawaiian-style slide guitar.