Since 2009 I own this beautiful 1917 the Gibson harpguitar. Initially, I borrowed this instrument for the recording of ‘When the Caged bird Sings’ but afterwards I couldn’t do anything else than just buy it.
Here’s an excerpt from our CD.
‘When the caged bird sings’ is an anthology of poems by the 19th century Afro-American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906), selected and set to music by vocalist Roderik Povel.
There are many stories to be told about harp guitars in general (here), Gibson harp guitars (here) and my instrument in particular. There is a very amazing picture gallery which shows Gibson harp guitars in the hands of their original owners, go take a look!
Every time I look at those images, I ask myself the following questions: would it be possible to recognize my very own guitar? Can I trace back (parts of) its history? What did it sound like in those days and how did it survive in such a great shape for almost a century?
One day, I was at the Amsterdam Public Library browsing the guitar history books. First, I opened up ‘Acoustic guitars and other fretted instruments: a photographic history’ by George Gruhn & Walter Carter. Quickly, I scanned the pages. And yes, there were harp guitars, but no, it was not mine. A reviewer wrote: ‘The chapter ends with two pages on the harp-guitar, again probably a true reflection of their (lack of) general importance.‘
And then, there was this book: ‘the Chinery Collection – 150 years of American Guitars’. Easily found the pages on the harp guitars and there she was, in full glory… I recognised every scratch and every dint, no doubt about it, I found her!
So know I knew the guitar was part of the Chinery Collection. But who was Mr. Chinery and how did the guitar end up in my hands? Many questions remain unanswered at this point, but there are some clues on this page at harpguitars.net. An interview with Scott Chinery in his guitar room – including a glance of my guitar – can be seen here.