Harp Guitarists to Gather in Oregon

Harp Guitarists Group PhotoAdventurous musicians will gather in September for a Harp Guitar Festival, "Beyond Six Strings," sponsored by Willamette University. The opening concert will be Friday, Sept. 2, at 7:30 p.m. at Portland State University. Concertgoers are invited to an instrument show at 6:45 p.m. with harp guitar historian Gregg Miner and luthier Mike Doolin. The concert will be repeated in Salem at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 3., at Willamette University.

Two full days of activities will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 3, on the Willamette campus, and will feature rare instrument displays, a harp guitar documentary, open mic sessions and workshops, including "Harp Guitar on Hormones," which promises to reveal "tapping, hitting and other shameless fingerstyle techniques that will amaze the uninitiated."

John DoanThe concerts will include Oregon musician and composer John Doan, whose playing has been described by The Washington Post as "an exquisite union of the ancient and the contemporary, the austere and the sensual." Billboard Magazine praised Doan's CD, "Eire: Isle of the Saints," as "one of the most original and charming guitarist/storyteller/orchestrations around," and his "Victorian Christmas" television special won an Emmy-nomination from Oregon Public Broadcasting for Best Entertainment Special of the Year. Doan, an associate professor of music at Willamette University, also organized the International Harp Guitar Festival.

Harp guitars typically combine six strings on a guitar fretboard with additional bass strings, providing a rich orchestra of sound. Some feature additional super-treble strings.

"Until recently, harp guitars graced the back walls of pawn shops and junk stores," Doan said. The Gibson and Martin guitar companies turned out several hundred instruments by the 1920s, he said, but when the days of parlor music and vaudeville came to a close, the harp guitar fell out of fashion. "Now a new generation of guitarists is experimenting with the instrument, including Michael Hedges and Pat Metheny. There are no tuning rules or method books to teach us how to play. One is limited simply by one's own creativity."

The Sept. 2 concert, at Portland State University, will be held in Room 75 in Lincoln Hall, on the corner of SW Broadway and Market, at the north edge of campus. Admission is $15, and $10 for Portland Guitar Society members and students, with tickets available at the door. The Sept. 3 concert will be held in Hudson Hall on the Willamette campus. For tickets, call the Willamette University Music Department at 503-370-6255.

"In Search of the Harp Guitar," a documentary produced by Doan, will debut Sept. 3 at 3 p.m. Admission is $5 at the door and is free to Willamette students, faculty and staff.

For more information, contact John Doan at or call the Willamette University Music Department at 503-370-6255.