View Full Version : Howe-Orme Exhibit

Bob DeVellis
Apr-30-2006, 9:35am
NAMM's Museum of Making Music is launching a year-long exhibit on Howe-Orme instruments, featuring the full line-up of mandolin family instruments at its site in Carlsbad, CA. The opening ceremonies are on May 13. There's a nice description here (http://eventful.com/events/E0-001-000913741-2)

Apr-30-2006, 1:40pm
Can anyone make out what time the reception is?

Bob DeVellis
Apr-30-2006, 5:10pm
I suggest you drop the museum an email using this link. (http://www.museumofmakingmusic.org/explore/contact.html)

May-04-2006, 9:49pm
It starts at 6 with a tour of the museum.
7 is Turner/Levinger presentation
730 concert
You need to make reservations.

Bob DeVellis
May-05-2006, 7:52am
Actually, I think the opening night reception on the 13th is invitation only.

May-05-2006, 12:35pm
Oh, I guess that's what I meant.. If you call they'll send you one. At least, they did for me.

Gregg Miner
May-10-2006, 7:55pm
Yes, invite only, but they moved across the street to bigger quarters due to overwhelming response - so if you're in the area, try to get in! It turns out Bob and I will both be doing a quick "panel discussion" with Rick and Lowell at the top.
Don't know if he mentioned it elsewhere, but after 10 years of labor, Bob and my joint H-O article (well, a portion) will finally be published in the Fretboard Journal issue 3. Don't miss it!

Jim Garber
May-10-2006, 8:04pm
Excellent news, Gregg! Nice to see you in these parts, BTW.

I am looking fwd to that H-O article. Fretboard Journal is a great mag already and seems to cover topics that the ohter few magazines don't. Now if the PO will just get my issue #2 to me, I will be happy.


Bob DeVellis
May-16-2006, 10:39am
Boy, was that fun!!!

I was at the museum opening this past weekend and wanted to give everyone an update with some pictures to follow.

First order of business for me was actually to meet a group of people I'd been corresponding with by email, in some cases for years. Gregg Miner and I began regularly and frequently comparing notes on Howe-Orme iinstruments several years ago, culminating in our sharing authorship of an article on Howe-Orme mandolins scheduled for the August issue of Fretboard Journal. Despite this running electronic conversation, we met in person for the first time just before the exhibit opened to the public. Our respective wives also hit it off and we look forward to continuing to work together on other projects or at least continuing to annoy each other with arcane bits of musical information ferreted out of obscure sources. I also met Rick Turner and Lowell "Banana" Levinger for the first time just minutes before the masses pured in. They're the keepers of more Howe-Orme instruments than you're ever likely to see in one place outside of this exhibit, the source of most of the instruments you'll see in the exhibit itself, and enthusiastic supporters of all things Howe-Orme. For those of you who don't know them, Rick is an amazing luthier and owner of Renaissence Guitars. He also writes for a slew of music-related publications. Banana is the man behind vintageinstruments.com and a former member of the Youngbloods, who had the smash hit "Get Together" (Come on people, now, smile on your brother ...") in 1969. Rick and Banana are both outstanding musicians who continue to play in multiple groups. Gregg, too, is a first-rate musician with an excellent collection of Christmas tunes on a CD featuring his amazing collection of "Vintage, Exotic & Just Plain Unusual Musical Instruments." The other two people I'd communicated with by email that I finally got to meet in person were Michael Simmons, editor of the Fretboard Journal, and Carolyn Grant, Director of the Museum of Making Music. Michael is our kind of guy, a guy who loves music and instruments and has an astounding depth and breadth of knowledge. Carolyn has dedicated herself to making the museum a special place and has succeeded admirably. A very gracious and capable woman, as is her curator, Tatiana (whose last name, Im embarrassed to say, I didn't catch). MoMM is a great outfit with a staff of really dedicated and talented people at the helm. This was the most intelligent, warm, funny, talented, and just plain interesting group of people I can recall meeting in a long time.

The first part of the opening was a gallery viewing of the exhibit itself. Rick and Banana provided most of the instruments, and there was a wall full of them. Every size of the mandolin-family instruments was represented, as well as several guitars. There were even a couple of instruments with their backs off -- a mandolin, and a guitar with dual internal soundboards, possibly the prototype Howe-Orme guitar. People wandered about, looking at the Howe-Ormes and the other exhibits in the museum, while enjoying wine and cheese.

Prior to the actual opening, it became clear to the museum staff that interest had exceeded their expectations. What had originally been planned was a small panel and performance in the museum itself. Instead, the museum rented the Grand Pacific Ballroom, part of a hotel complex across Armada Drive in Carlsbad. There were probably 500 people in there, standing room only, for the second part of the opening.

Perhaps the less exciting part for all but mando geeks like us was a panel discussion about the Howe-Orme instruments, featuring Gregg Miner, Rick Turner, Banana, and myself. Rick gave an overview perspective then each of us talked a bit about specific parts of the Howe-Orme story. All off-the-cuff, but I think it went over very well. We then grabbed instruments. This part was pretty exciting as it represented the first ensemble performance on exclusively Howe-Orme instruments in a very, very long time. Rick played guitar, Gregg played mandola, Banana played octave mando, and I played mando. I basically pretty much faked it because I didn't really know the tune Banana chose (Nanners Waltz) and the mandolin I was playing (which had been hanging on the museum wall just a few minutes before) was pretty out of tune. The other three were more than able to carry me, however, and I had the good sense to leave out most of the notes, so the overall effect was quite impressive. Banana then led the group in a sing-along of a song, "Don't Leave Me on the Lone Prarie," which isn't the one you're thinking of, trust me. Great fun!

The main act, however, was yet to come. After a few questions, we relinquished the stage to the San Diego Mandolin Orchestra. Jim Trepasso served as MC and primary conductor. His co-conspirator was the other conductor, 96-year-old Gene Vascher. This was a sight to see. There was Gene, mandocello hung around his neck, using a walker to get around the auditorium and needing help getting on stage. That was BEFORE the music started! When he began conducting, Gene put aside his walker and seemed to immediately drop about 30 years. He announced each tune in a clear strong voice and conducted with gusto. If anyone needs convincing of the rejuvenating effects of music, this is the guy for the job.

The San Diego Mandolin Orchestra is an all-amateur ensemble and some of their members weren't present. But those who were gave a spirited performance of several standards from different periods in American music. As a special highlight, a group of four orchestra members put down their usual instruments (mostly Gibson, but with an assortment of other interesting things, as well) and played several numbers on the Howe-Ormes. It was fascinating hearing those mandolins from the audience rather than sitting in their midst. Also, the music played by the orchestra was quite different than our waltz and song. The sound was almost nickelodeon-like as the players tremoloed those old Howe-Ormes. Very charming and captivating.

The croud was enthusiastic, clapping along (somewhat to the dismay of the conductor, because as often happens, they weren't clapping quite in time with the music), singing along on choruses when invited to do so, and applauding energetically at the end of each piece. All great fun.

After the performance broke up, several of us want back over to the museum to swap a few more stories and sip a bit more wine. Banana, addressing the wall-full of Howe-Orme instruments that Tatiana was somewhat nervously returning to their proper places in the display, nodded and said, "guys, you done good;" a nice tip-of-the-hat to the instruments and their creators. At one point, Michael Simmons showed us all a Wegen pick he liked that was about the thickness of an Oreo cookie. Being the geeks we are, everyone reached into a pocket and produced one or more picks to pass around and admire. These are not the kinds of encounters you have every day while waiting for a bus or standing in the supermarket line! The schmoozing went on until past 10:00. Gregg had a long drive back to L.A., we were all getting a bit tired, and the museum alarm had already gone off once because the system isn't programmed to accommodate doors opening and closing after 10 PM. So we called it a night. We all congratulated each other on a collective job well-done and headed in our separate directions, confident that we'll find many excuses for our paths to cross again and again. I suspect the next thousand-or-so weekends will seem pretty dull by comparison.

Bob DeVellis
May-16-2006, 12:52pm
This interesting sign announced the special exhibit:

Bob DeVellis
May-16-2006, 1:03pm
Here I am standing in front of the instruments. The only non-Howe-Orme in the shot is the bowlback in the chair. Note the backless mandolin on the wall and backless guitar on the pedestal at the left.


Bob DeVellis
May-16-2006, 1:05pm
Here's a closer look at the mandolin with the back off. Clean, simple workmanship.


Bob DeVellis
May-16-2006, 1:10pm
The gang's all here. From left to right, Tatiana, Carolyn Grant, Rick Turner, me, Gregg Miner, Michael Simmons, and Lowell "Banana" Levinger. Rick and Banana commented that the only thing funner than standing behind the red rope was when they hopped over it, grabbed a bunch of instruments and walked out of the museum with them. Of course, they owned the instruments and were bringing them over to the ballroom for the performance but they said it still felt a bit like a scene from Topkapi.


Bob DeVellis
May-16-2006, 1:15pm
Rick is the guy who really made this event happen, with Banana playing a strong part, as well. Here they are with Tatiana, who also was critical to the exhibit's coming together.


Bob DeVellis
May-16-2006, 1:19pm
Here's the inspirational Eugene Vacher conducting the San Diego Mandolin Orchestra. The other conductor, Jim Trepasso, is filling in on Gene's mandocello, on the right.


Bob DeVellis
May-16-2006, 1:25pm
Here's Gene Vacher addressing the SRO audience. Remember, this guy's 96 and needed a walker to get to the stage!


Bob DeVellis
May-16-2006, 1:34pm
The shots I wish I had are of the panel discussion and our performing the couple of numbers we did. Alas, as I sat there on stage, I realized that my camera, which I was supposed to hand off to my wife, Brenda, was still in my pocket. So it goes.

Bob DeVellis
May-17-2006, 3:32pm
At the risk of beating this to death, here's a link to some other pictures that an audience member, Glen Krouse, took and has posted on the web. Find it here (http://www.racernine.com/06-05-SDMO-MuseumGigWEB/)

May-17-2006, 4:09pm
Hi Bob,

That was a great evening - it was nice to finally meet you! Sorry I didn't have a chance to stick around - it sounds like you guys had a wonderful time after the concert too. I have a couple of shots from the panel, but this one (from your link) is the best of the lot:

All-Star Howe-Orme Quartet (http://www.racernine.com/06-05-SDMO-MuseumGigWEB/images/DSC00182.jpg)

That cello mandola (I think that's what it was) that Banana was playing had amazing tone. And Rick's guitar was a CANNON.

My one beef with the SDMO performance was their music stands were in the way.. The only way to get a shot of the instruments being played was to walk up and shove your camera in front of their faces, which I wasn't about to do. Luckily someone "official" did it for me.

IOW, most of us saw this:

Obstructed View Seating. (http://www.racernine.com/06-05-SDMO-MuseumGigWEB/images/DSC00195.jpg)

when we would've loved to have seen this:

On-Stage View. (http://www.racernine.com/06-05-SDMO-MuseumGigWEB/images/DSC00191.jpg)

Oh well. Thanks to all for an entertaining, informative, night! http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif


Rick Turner
May-29-2006, 4:57pm
Hi, folks; I just registered here...something I should have done years ago.

The HO show was really wonderful; there's nothing like a bunch of red blooded boys hanging out with HOs...

But seriously, it was a great event, and as Banana said about our involvement with the Museum of Making Music, "This was just a first step." The staff of the museum was incredible even as we kind of blew them away with the success of this opening. Their facility at the NAMM building can hold about 120 people...and they had gotten a good 160 RSVP comfirmations two weeks ahead of the event which had very little publicity...none nationally and only a bit in the San Diego area. When they hit 200 reservations, they freaked and realized that they would have to move the show across the street to the hotel ballroom. Even that was barely big enough; the show was standing room only and it looked like nobody left because it was still SRO at the end of the evening.

We had a ball. I've known and played in bands with Banana since 1962, but had never played with Gregg before, and I'd never met Bob 'til that night. We managed to pull off playing together on stage, thanks to Banana having sent us MP3s of the tunes, but on stage was our first rehearsal for the gig!

The San Diego Mandolin Orchestra was wonderful, and we really got the vibe of how things must have sounded a hundred years ago. Jim Trepasso did a great thing by bringing he orchestra in, and Eugene Vasher...what can I say...he proved to be an inspiration to all of us. We all want to be him when we grow up!

Please, if you're in the San Diego area, go see the Howe Orme show called "Forgotten Voices Remembered", an incredibly apt title that museum director Carolyn Grant came up with. Tell the museum staff you hear about the show at the Mandolin Cafe, and if you can, please give the museum some financial support so they can continue to bring in special shows like this.

We're thinking of a Loar show...to include the ViviTone era..

Oh, Tatiana's last name is Sizoninko!

Rick Turner
Jul-01-2006, 1:21pm
Ping! I just wanted to remind people that this show of Howe Ormes will be up and alive for a good ten months longer, so if you're going to be in the San Diego area or even in lower Orange County, this is well worth your effort to attend. We're in the talking stages of maybe loaning the exhibit to another museum on the East Coast, but nothing definite yet, and it does get complicated, but we're trying. At any rate, the Museum of Making Music is reasonably convenient to anyone in Southern California, and there's always Lego Land for your kids...or for the wonderfully immature among you. It's right down the street from the MoMM.