Some of the top acoustic guitar players in the world will converge on Quinnipiac University for the 11th annual Harp Guitar Gathering on Oct. 11-13.
The event is funded and organized by the non-profit Harp Guitar Foundation and celebrates the instrument, its players and history. It will feature, among others, Andy McKee, who recently opened for and played with Prince on tour.
“You’ve got to be good if Prince wants you to play with him,” said John Thomas, a professor at the Quinnipiac University School of Law and founder of the Harp Guitar Foundation. “Andy McKee may be the most famous acoustic guitar player on the planet. The guy has toured the world and he’s going to stop here to play.”
Two other renowned musicians will share the top of the bill with McKee: Muriel Anderson and Stephen Bennett.
“Muriel is the only woman ever to win the national finger-picking championship. She has played with everyone from Les Paul to Jeff Beck to Chet Atkins – a who’s who of guitar players,” Thomas said. “Stephen Bennett also won the national guitar championship and is only player in history to have finished in the top three in both finger picking and conventional playing with a pick. He is the king of the harp guitar.”
Bennett’s son, Will, is a law student at Quinnipiac.
Thomas, a guitar aficionado who recently published the book, "Kalamazoo Gals: the Story of the Extraordinary Women (and a Few Men) Who Built Gibson's WWII 'Banner' Guitars," described the harp guitar, with its additional bass strings, as “half of a harp stuck on a guitar.” The harp guitar was originally built in the 1700s and became relatively popular in Europe. The guitar all but disappeared until re-popularized by musician Michael Hedges in the mid-1980s.
Thomas expects about 50 to 100 musicians to attend weekend workshops and jam sessions and hundreds of music fans to attend the associated concerts. McKee, Anderson and Bennett will play a concert Oct. 12 at 7:30 p.m. in the Grand Courtroom of the School of Law Center. They will also join other accomplished musicians Oct. 13 for a 3 p.m. concert at the Rocky Top Student Center on the York Hill Campus.
“It will be spectacular musicianship,” Thomas said. ”These are the best harp guitar players in the world. It’s a way to showcase both the music and Quinnipiac at the same time.”
Past gatherings have taken place in Williamsburg, Va., Portland, Ore., Naples, Fla., Indianapolis, Ind., Dallas, Texas and Milford, Conn.
Admission for the three-day event is $125. Concert admission is $5 for students, $10 for senior citizens and $15 for the general public. For more information or to register, visit the Harp Guitar Gathering or call Thomas at 203-582-3264. Proceeds from the event will go toward the foundation’s music education programs.