Saturday, February 7, 2009

Vancouver Flashback - II

Chapter 14

Those first weeks learning to play went by quickly. Since George Bowden had loaned me one of his new guitar models to try out I practised for hours every day, enjoying the mellow sound of a real Spanish-made instrument. After I'd been studying for three months Bill Lewis asked me if I would come in and start teaching the youngest of the beginner students. It was a great compliment and I was eager to try.

Renoir jeune espagnoleJeune Espagnole Avec Une Guitare - Renoir

At that time folk music was in a peak and many young people wanted to emulate Bob Dylan, Joan Baez or The Beatles and become popular as the one who could play and sing for their friends. Old guitars were being taken down from walls to be handed over to the youngster of the family and both were brought into the guitar shop in the hope that lessons would help their child learn the basics enough to at least play simple tunes, and hopefully go further.

Unfortunately many of those basement room wall guitars should have just stayed on the wall as a decoration since they were unplayable, and had warped necks which raised the strings an impossible distance above the fingerboard so that tiny fingers would not be able to press them down. I had to communicate this to the parents in the hope that they could afford to buy a minimum quality student guitar. As is true for most musical instruments, they must have a certain level in order to be playable, and produce a sound decent enough that a student feels encouraged by his efforts.

renoir - La joueuse La Joueuse - Renoir

I started teaching both classical technique and folk accompaniment to my young students and was careful to start them off with correct body and hand positions, making sure they established good habits which didn't have to be undone later when they attempted to play more difficult pieces. It was challenging but I enjoyed teaching immensely and was soon taking on older students and adults.

The Mediterranean Shop was a happy place, filled with interesting people coming in to visit or take lessons as well as attracting an increasing number of experienced guitarists who were willing to give lessons or were interested in new instruments. Bill Lewis and George Bowden had a workshop set up in a back room where guitars were repaired and adjusted. I loved the smell of the wood and breathed deeply of that familiar aroma whenever I entered the guitar shop. Then Mr. G.(Bowden) decided to send Bill Lewis to Spain, to his factory in Palma de Mallorca in order to better learn the guitar building techniques used there.

Matisse la musique La Musique - Henri Matisse

Meanwhile many of the classical guitarists as well as those who played flamenco or jazz were congregating around the Mediterranean shop and visiting the large old rented house that my husband and I had up in the Dunbar area of Vancouver on west 27th Avenue. We wanted to establish a Classical Guitar Society so we started having meetings there about once a month. The classical guitarists would congregate on the main floor, the flamencos in the attic and the folk players and jazz aficionados were in the basement. Those were fun times and more than once the remains of my Sunday roast ended up as roast beef and pickle sandwiches to feed a hungry group at the end of our meetings.

Turner Organistrum
The Turner Organistrum - photo from the Canadian Museum of Civilization

At that time my husband started a little factory in the basement, producing 5-string banjos. We also had a basement room which we rented out for a period of time to our friend Ted Turner, (Edward R. Turner) who had studied at the École des Beaux Arts de Montreal and in later years became world famous as a graphic artist, lecturer, builder of harpsichords and replicas of early stringed instruments, such as the organistrum. He also produced reproductions of historic aircraft and designed sailboats. (Ted I'm glad to hear you survived my rather inexperienced cooking from those days when you shared our table, and so happy to hear of your success.)

Edward R.Turner
Photo from the Canadian Museum of Civilization

Here is a link from the Canadian Museum of Civilization about Edward R. Turner, and another link about him from the Canadian Encyclopedia of Music in Canada.

There are more interesting people from this group of friends who have gone on to add their talent to Canada's musical heritage. I will write about them in the next pages.

And one day, after much writing and rewriting of our constitution and charter, over coffees and sandwiches in that old house on west 27th Avenue, we officially became The Vancouver Classical Guitar Society.

Continue on to Chapter 15...... Vancouver Flashback III - Mike Dunn & Ray Nurse

Go back to Chapter 13......Vancouver Flashback I - The Mediterranean Shop
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