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BRUCE COCKBURN > News > Linda Manzer

Masterwork guitar exhibit honours Group of Seven painters

by Brad Wheeler – The Globe and Mail

‘The wood doesn’t lie.”

At her Cabbagetown studio, the luthier Linda Manzer talks about the organic nature of her trade. Holding a guitar of her invention, she says you can’t make wood what it is not, that you have to co-operate with it, that you have to be honest with yourself. “You can’t fake it,” is how she puts it.

Of course, the honesty Manzer speaks of doesn’t refer solely to the craft of guitar making. A novelist or a ceramist would agree with her; even a cocktail mixologist – the booze doesn’t lie? – would find common ground here.

Mt LeFroy - 1930 - Lawren Harris
Mt LeFroy – 1930 – Lawren Harris

As would a painter. The guitar Manzer cradles is a salute to the Canadian landscape rock star and Group of Seven ringleader Lawren Harris. It’s a doozy, untraditional with its grooved ridges on the bottom, icy-blue splashes of colour on the top, big mechanical drawing on the back and a second neck thrusting outward from the body like a Harris-y mountain peak.

The acoustic instrument is part of The Group of Seven Guitar Project, an exhibit commissioned by the McMichael Canadian Art Collection and set to open on May 6, in time for the country’s sesquicentennial summer.

Seven masterwork guitars were made by seven of the country’s top luthiers – each instrument an homage to a particular Group of Seven member. An eighth instrument (a baritone guitar that honours the rough-cut woodland enthusiast Tom Thomson) was a creation by committee.

While the project will be seen as a unique commemoration of Harris, A.Y. Jackson, Arthur Lismer, et al, what it really represents is a party thrown for the Canadian guitar makers themselves, a group that has carved out an impressive standing in the luthier world. Seven guitar-makers, then, as a loose-knit, supportive collective – a group, for lack of a better word.

Manzer, well known for the four-necked Pikasso Guitar she designed and built for the jazz guitarist Pat Metheny, refers to the project as an “amazing journey of discovery.”

That discovery began with her visit to the National Gallery of Canada, where she saw a collection of Group of Seven sketches in a back room. Thinking about the support the artists had for one another, she began to draw a comparison to her own experiences in the 1970s, when she was one of the first six apprentices to work with the master guitar-maker Jean Larrivée.

Doing the math wasn’t difficult: Group of Seven, seven luthiers, hmmm. And neither was it very hard to get the other luthiers – Sergei de Jonge, Tony Duggan-Smith, David Wren, George Gray, Grit Laskin and the guitar-making godfather Larrivée – on board.

Matching a luthier with a Group of Seven artist was an organic process – no drawing of straws involved. Duggan-Smith had lived in a house once lived in by Arthur Lismer, so that was an easy pairing. Laskin was attracted to the landscapes of F.H. Varley, and so on. Manzer was drawn in particular to the 1930 oil on canvas Mt. Lefroy, a snow-capped quintessential Harris depiction. “If Lawren Harris made a guitar, what would it look like?” she thought to herself. “And if one of his paintings morphed into a guitar, how would that look?”

Bruce Cockburn - Linda Manzer - McMichael Gallery - Group of Seven - Mt LeFroy - Lawren Harris
Bruce Cockburn – Linda Manzer – McMichael Gallery – Group of Seven Guitar Project

The result, which won’t be unveiled until closer to the exhibit’s opening, is an exotic six-string acoustic model with an extra neck that holds an eight-string harp-like offshoot. “Technically, it was quite hard to do,” Manzer says. “But I think the result is a little controversial, and I had fun doing it.”

The next step was an audition. The folk-rock icon Bruce Cockburn, a friend and customer of Manzer’s, would give the guitar a playing. Reached in San Francisco, Cockburn described the guitar as a “pretty spectacular piece of sculpture, which manages to sound decent as well.”

Cockburn, who has sung about trees in forests but has never made paintings of them, wrote a song specifically for the guitar that will be featured in documentary film on the Group of Seven Guitar Project. The Mount Lefroy Waltz is a solo instrumental in F minor, played by Cockburn with the strings capoed at the third fret, with the strings tuned D-A-D-G-A-D.

“I tried to come up with something icy sounding,” Cockburn says. “The guitar favours the higher frequencies, and I tried to write that into the piece. It played very well. I was even able to use the ‘harp’ strings that are part of its architecture.”

The process of making the guitar was a lengthy one. Manzer spent more than two years just researching Harris. The turning point in her study was reading his letters to his confidante and fellow artist, Emily Carr. “He was a cheerleader for her, and the things he wrote to her about being brave became my inspiration from him,” Manzer says. “I took those words to heart.”

Each of the luthiers worked on their individual guitars on their own, but in talking to them all, Manzer believes their processes were similar to hers. “I was going to do what was best for my journey of discovery of Lawren Harris,” she says. “I think we all did that.”

As Manzer says, the wood doesn’t lie. And neither does the muse.

Credit:


Update – 20 January 2017: From a tweet by Linda Manzer.
The shadow knows…Coming to the McMichael gallery in Ontario in May 2017

Linda Manzer - Group of Seven - McMichael Gallery
The shadow knows…Coming to the McMichael gallery in Ontario in May 2017 – ManzerGuitars


The dam over Almonte’s troubled waters by Linda Manzer

Citizens of a picturesque town outside of Ottawa lament the expansion of a hydro dam they claim will ruin a pice of paradise

Picture a lovely, quiet town surrounded by old stone mills that have scarcely changed in a hundred years. The main street is full of charming shops selling local crafts and restaurants that attract interesting visitors — including recently Justin Trudeau and family.

Right through the heart of town runs a magical river with cascading waterfalls. It’s a special, loved place where people fish, kids swim and wildlife abounds. This is Almonte, a town of 5,000 people about 50 km southwest of Ottawa, recently voted one of the 10 most charming towns in Canada by Expedia travel site.

Linda Manzer - Almonte photo:Emma Jackson

Alongside turtles and herons, this section of the Mississippi River (no connection to the famous U.S. river) is also home to the endangered Rapid’s clubtail dragonfly. You can sense the river running through Almonte is magical, but the dragonfly’s presence here highlights how truly rare this setting is.

Yet right in the centre of this enchanted river, a company called Enerdu Power Systems wants to add a massive new powerhouse to a small existing generating station, blasting the riverbed to increase water flow and installing a dam over top of the cascades.

Although the town of Almonte has fought this dam tooth and nail for years, its construction is due to start this week.

Along with several dozen other Almonte residents, I protested this dam last week by wading into the river. We stretched across it in a line, holding hands, desperately hoping for publicity to attract the attention of someone with power to stop the company at the final hour. We started a petition to Catherine McKenna, federal minister of the environment, which includes signatures from singers Bruce Cockburn and Paul Simon, as well as cartoonist Gary Larson.

This is truly a David versus Goliath story. The town of Almonte has never wanted this project and has been fighting for more than four years to stop it. Despite the strong local opposition, including from Mayor Shaun McLaughlin, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) has approved the project. Jeff Cavanagh, owner of Enerdu, is determined and has ample resources.

Yes, his dam will generate electricity. But, actually, no new energy will be added to the overall grid because the Appleton dam just upstream will lose whatever power it gains due to changing water levels, according to a report by the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists.

Cavanagh also says his project will create jobs, which is true. But they’re just temporary jobs. Once the project is done, there will be, at most, a few employees.

Unlike another power plant downstream, which is owned and operated by the town, Cavanagh’s privately owned plant will add no new revenue to Almonte.

Something is wrong here.

There is an endangered dragonfly making its habitat at the exact location Cavanagh wants to dynamite to build his power plant.

The MNR is mandated to facilitate renewable energy but it is also tasked with implementing the Endangered Species Act. So where do the MNR’s priority lie? Given that there is another power plant upstream that can easily handle increased capacity, the answer should be clear.

The MNR insists the dragonfly does not make its habitat here, even though there have been documented sightings of the dragonfly in areas impacted by this project.

We believe the entire Environmental Assessment conducted by provincial authorities on this Enerdu project was based on insufficient and outdated facts.

The report by the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalist documents how the high­water levels caused by Enerdu water control devices already in place are drowning 600 hectares of protected wetlands.

Now Cavanagh wants to expand further down the river and add a dam that will control even more of the river’s flow. Does the government of Ontario serve the people of Ontario or Jeff Cavanagh?

There is so much wrong with this project, which will forever mar the beauty of Almonte with unsightly fences, safety notices, warning systems and restricting buoys. The part of the river where children now swim will be off­limits.

A river that was once teeming with life and the jewel of our town will be harnessed like a wild animal in a cage.

I stood beside the river last week with a native elder and asked him if this would have been a sacred place. “Most definitely,” he said.

Sometimes you do know what you’ve got before it’s gone.

Linda Manzer is a guitar maker living in Almonte.

Photo: Emma Jackson


Out & About

Bruce & Friends

 

Click on photo for a larger photo slideshow to appear.

From Pam Mark Hall on recording duet with Bruce of All The Diamonds on her new album.

Here are a few highlights from my day recording with my musical hero Bruce Cockburn. We recorded his song “All the Diamonds…



Guitars

About | At A Glance | Awards | Biography | Rumours Of Glory – a memoir |


Over the years Bruce has owned many guitars. In the last several years he has used these shown in the banner image above. [Photo courtesy of Kim Adams – Seattle Daily Photo – April 30, 2010]

Left to right:

  • Baritone guitar by Tony Karol, acquired during the recording of Life Short Call Now
  • 12-string by Linda Manzer, made for another of her customers, which found its way to me.
  • Original 6-string made for me by Linda Manzer in ’88 (?).
  • Manzer 6-string made for someone not long afterward, which came to me a few years ago.
  • Dobro I picked up new in the late 80s.
  • Charango made for me by Linda Manzer. This was the first acoustic instrument Linda made for me.
Bruce Cockburn - Guitars - Photo courtsey Kim Adams Seattle Daily Photo
Baritone guitar by Tony Karol, 12-string Manzer – Original 6-string Manzer – 6-string Manzer, dobro, Charango – Manzer

 

 

Linda Manzer Fine Guitars
Linda Manzer in her studio.

All the Manzers are roughly the same age.

~ from Linda’s website:
Bruce Cockburn – “I love them. I would not part with them. They are beautiful to look at and beautiful to hear.”
For video and audio clips of Bruce Cockburn playing Manzer Guitars, visit The Bruce Cockburn Page on manzer.com.

Bruce Cockburn - guitars Charango and 12 string by Linda Manzer - Photo courtesy of Kim Adams - Seattle Daily Photo - April 30, 2010
Charango and 12 String guitars by Linda Manzer
Bruce Cockburn - Dobro guitar - Photo courtesy of Agnes Patak - April 2014
Dobro
Bruce Cockburn - playing dulcimer - guitars - Photo courtesy of Agnes Patak - April 2014
Bruce Cockburn playing dulcimer
Bruce Cockburn's guitars at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass - SF 2014 - photo Gary Craig
Bruce Cockburn’s dobro and 2 Manzer guitars at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass – SF 2014
Bruce Cockburn - Gary Craig - Julie Wolf - Nashville 2006 - Photo courtesy of Ramcey Rodriguez
Bruce Cockburn – Gary Craig – Julie Wolf – Nashville 2006

Receives Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal

Bruce Cockburn Diamond Jubilee Gala 2013 - Photo LGOntario
Bruce Cockburn performing at the Diamond Jubilee Gala – 2013

1 February 2013 – TORONTO – The Honourable David C. Onley, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, and Mrs. Ruth Ann Onley are pleased to host a DIAMOND JUBILEE GALA to present Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee medals to members of the Order of Canada residing in Ontario, members of the Order of Ontario and other deserving individuals. This will draw to a close Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee Year, on Wednesday, February 6, 2013, the 61st anniversary of The Queen’s accession to the Throne.

In keeping with the tradition of honouring milestone years of service, the commemorative medal was created to mark the 60th anniversary of Her Majesty’s accession to the Throne. The medal serves to honour the contributions and achievements made by Canadians from all sectors of society.

Their Honours will be joined by a number of prominent Canadians who will also act as distinguished medal presenters to ensure that each of their peers receives his or her medal in a dignified and meaningful way.

Following the medal presentations, guests will enjoy a short performance by some of Canada’s best known performers, including Tafelmusik, and Michael Burgess, Liona Boyd, Bruce Cockburn and Tom Cochrane, themselves members of the Order of Canada.


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