Saturday, April 3, 2010

- A Modern Stradivari

Guitar-building workshop, Walnut Valley Folk Festival, April 1967

Stuart Mossman loved to build guitars, and it shows in the people that gathered around him.

Stuart Mossman loved people and it shows in the guitars he made.

Stuart Mossman loved music and it shows in the faithful legions camping on the banks of the Walnut River every third week in September. The simple truth is: that music would not ring throughout that valley if not for the fact that Stuart Mossman loved to build guitars.

And superlative guitars they are, over six thousand of them out there getting mellower and richer day by day, year by year, as any great instrument should. Did he have huge setbacks that would have stopped other men? Yes, but he loved to build guitars. Did he train and inspire (and give jobs to) a whole generation of luthiers and technicians that we reap the benefits of every time we get a neck reset or a treasured instrument repaired? Yes, because Stuart loved to build guitars. Did he develop a bond with every person he ever handed a guitar to? Yes, because he not only loved to build, but he also loved to share guitars.

So time passes, the guitars gain strength from the varied and endless vibrations of the strings, the woods learn new tones from mountain air or sea breezes, and men and women too change with the winds and tensions needed to be able to coax the music from the air itself. For a world of reasons, the festival carried on without and beyond the man who simply knew where music came from. In it's forth decade, there is no mention on the website or in any of the Walnut Valley literature of the man whose passion made it all happen so many years ago. That may change with the upcoming release of the feature documentary produced and directed by Stu's friend, acclaimed film artist and Hollywood renegade Barry Brown: "The Legend of Stuart Mossman - A Modern Stradivari". Not that Mr. Brown's work had any intent beyond his own personal celebration of Stuart's amazing dedication to his craft, it just seems that the power of his portrait will open the floodgates of both memory and awareness among those legions whose lives revolve around those magical days in September. The film has been submitted to The Tallgrass Film Festival, and hopefully will receive it's premier Kansas screening in Wichita in October. You can easily follow the film's life from it's Facebook page, and certainly check the Tallgrass schedule from their website and from local media. All of us who love this music and cherish the community it has spawned owe a huge debt of gratitude to Barry Brown, Scott Baxendale, David Carradine, Stuart's family, and all the other wonderful musicians and artist who came together to put the Mossman story to film. Bless them all, and help them make sure the film reaches all of those whose lives are permanently enriched by six lengths of wire stretched over a finely hewn wooden box. And remember, and tell your friends, it all came about because Stuart Mossman loved to build guitars.


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