Playmakers to Air on ABC Radio

by | 26 May, 2008

Workshop featured on ABC’s ‘Into the Music’

Submitted by Stephen Loss for the Australian Bluegrass Blog.

Instrument making is usually a solitary pursuit, but when professional and amateur makers gathered in


Albany in south-western Australia, there was a palpable sense of camaraderie and collaboration. The weekend workshop held in February this year was part of the Perth International Arts Festival and featured world-renown luthiers Steve Gilchrist from Victoria with Paul Duff and Scott Wise from Western Australia.The southwest of Australia is producing an expanding number of passionate amateurs who make various instruments in their spare time. The workshop was a valuable opportunity to discuss techniques with some of the best instrument makers on the planet and celebrate the craft. ABC’s Robyn Johnston and sound engineer David Le May spent the weekend with local members of the Great Southern Lutherie and the visiting master makers, exploring their passion for a complex and rewarding endeavour, and discovering what happens when amateurs overcome their wood fear and create something precious.

During the workshop the humble player bowed to the skills of the maker, putting the instrument in the spotlight and making it the star of the show. Visiting bluegrass virtuoso Mike Compton gave a fascinating insight into the Gibson F5 Loar mandolins made famous by Bill Monroe, and how modern luthiers are reproducing the Loar sound, and in some cases, surpassing it. Mike uses a Gilchrist F5 and recently purchased a mandola made by Paul Duff. Each of the beautiful instruments is a witness to the maker’s long quest in his craft. Built to give birth to music and song, the instruments are also the bearers of courage, commitment and tradition. On a less serious note, Mic Conway in his own affable style ran a popular session for kids, making instruments from toilet rolls, straws, rubber gloves and various other bits and pieces.

Not only are the instrument makers experts in their trade, many are also excellent players. As part of the workshop there was a Saturday evening concert featuring Steve Gilchrist accompanied by Mike Compton, and Mic Conway, Scott Wise and Bluegrass Parkway (including Paul Duff) also gave highly entertaining performances.

The Playmaker’s workshop will be featured in the ABC Radio National (8:10AM) ‘Into the Music’ program at 5:05pm Saturday 31 May, and will repeated at 3:05pm Friday 6 June 2008. The program can also be downloaded from the ABC website after it has gone to air. If you’re interested in musical instruments, then don’t miss it.