A ‘genealogy’ of UK classical guitar-makers? How is the craft transmitted?

Construction and repair of Classical Guitar and related instruments
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josswinn
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A ‘genealogy’ of UK classical guitar-makers? How is the craft transmitted?

Post by josswinn » Mon Jan 22, 2018 10:29 am

I’d like to construct a ‘family-tree’ or ‘genealogy’ of UK classical guitar-makers to identify who learned from who, who was self-taught, and the role that formal schools/colleges have played in the history of UK guitar-making. It may be that a ‘genealogy’ is the wrong way to look at it and that the history of UK guitar-making is too fragmented to construct such relationships between makers. If so, that is interesting in itself.

One reason for this, other than curiosity, is because I recently learned about the Radcliffe Red List of Endangered Crafts. Stringed-instrument making is categorised as ‘Currently Viable’ but they identify a number of training issues relating to the viability of college courses and the difficultly of individual luthiers taking on an apprentice. The Radcliffe research doesn’t distinguish between different types of stringed-instrument making, perhaps for good reason, but as a start, I’d like to narrow my focus down to acoustic guitar makers and, in particular, those who are known (or see themselves) as part of a tradition of nylon-stringed instrument makers. If you think this categorisation is problematic, please say so. I’m just trying to start with something manageable. I realise that this raises other questions about the amateur and professional nature of guitar-making, which has been discussed here recently. Also, it raises the question of what being taught actually means: An afternoon being shown the inside of a guitar by an established luthier is clearly not the same as spending a month or a year with them. I will deal with these issues as they arise. The main thing now, is to collect as much information as I can and then analyse it.

I’d be grateful if you could post here or PM me any thoughts or information you might have. I will do my best to verify the ‘data’ collected. If you or a maker you know, was self-taught, taught privately by someone, or went to a college (who were the teachers at the college?), then that is useful information. Once I am confident about the basic facts, I will share what I have learned and reflect on what it means for the continuation of lutherie/guitar-making in the UK.

Small disclaimer: I became interested in the teaching and learning of classical guitar making because I am having one-to-one tuition with Roy Courtnall, which has given me some insight into the craft and its transmission. Also, I am an academic working in a university school of education and therefore a professional researcher into different aspects of informal and formal education. I’d like to apply my experience of research to my interest in lutherie. Thank you.
Joss Winn

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Re: A ‘genealogy’ of UK classical guitar-makers? How is the craft transmitted?

Post by simonm » Mon Jan 22, 2018 11:46 am

josswinn wrote:
Mon Jan 22, 2018 10:29 am
... The Radcliffe research doesn’t distinguish between different types of stringed-instrument making, perhaps for good reason, but as a start, I’d like to narrow my focus down to acoustic guitar makers and, in particular, those who are known (or see themselves) as part of a tradition of nylon-stringed instrument makers. If you think this categorisation is problematic, please say so.


Could be a very interesting project. If you haven't seen it already take a look at the Granada guitar makers book that John Ray (member here) was involved in.

I know nothing of the UK instrument making scene but I suspect that many of the current older generation of guitar makers are largely self-taught and learned as a result of the folk music renaissance of the 1960's and the guitar maker sub-category is a result of this.

The traditional break down of the building skills is "plucked" vs "bowed" so guitars, lutes, mandolins, vihuelas and so on are one group. Violins, cellos, viola da gamba are the other group. Separating out the guitars is I suspect as a result of the 60's self-taught builders going in that direction.

In the strings in general area I suspect many, but not all, of the makers learned through formal apprenticeships. A quick look at some City and Guilds (or equivalent) history might be a good starting point - there may once have been instrument making Germany has a formal apprenticeship, journeyman, master system going back a long time. There a specific rules about calling yourself an instrument maker. They have slackened it a bit but in principle you must do the whole 10+ year training if you want to call yourself a master (Meister) instrument maker - the Meister title allows you to take on apprentices. Self taught / informally taught people can sell their guitars but I believe they are merely "artists" … maybe a German member can clarify the exact rules if you are interested.

If you look back at Panorma times, I think some of that is documented - maybe even here but certainly the UK instrument collection such as Edinburgh University must have quite a lot about this.

Good luck with the project.

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Re: A ‘genealogy’ of UK classical guitar-makers? How is the craft transmitted?

Post by gjo » Mon Jan 22, 2018 11:58 am

The „Classical Guitar Companion“ by Sue McCradie from 1982 lists some of the english makers and the old Guitar Magazine might be helpful in finding some interviews and portraits, and probably some more useful informations.

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Re: A ‘genealogy’ of UK classical guitar-makers? How is the craft transmitted?

Post by prawnheed » Mon Jan 22, 2018 12:34 pm

I don't think you'll be able to restrict the study to the UK as so many luthiers learn their craft in Spain. Casting the net wider might yield more interesting results.

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Re: A ‘genealogy’ of UK classical guitar-makers? How is the craft transmitted?

Post by josswinn » Mon Jan 22, 2018 11:01 pm

Thanks for your comments.

@simonm I have the Granada guitar makers book and will look at it again for ideas. It's a nice piece of work that blends historical and contemporary research with interviews and good photography.

@gjo I've just ordered the McCradie book. I also seem to remember Summerfield's 'Classical guitar : its evolution and its players since 1800' also having a chapter on Luthiers so will have to borrow that again from a friend. I'm hoping to look through back issues of Classical Guitar magazine tomorrow when I visit the British Library.

@prawnhead yes, I suspect you are right. We'll see.

Here are three initial connections: David Rubio (1934-2000) was self-taught. Paul Fischer (1941-) learned guitar-making from Rubio in 1969 (he taught Rubio how to make harpsichords). Fischer worked with Rubio until 1975. Edward B Jones studied and worked with Rubio from 1973-1979. Jones taught and worked with Nicholas Scott.
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Re: A ‘genealogy’ of UK classical guitar-makers? How is the craft transmitted?

Post by Stephen Kenyon » Mon Jan 22, 2018 11:37 pm

josswinn wrote:
Mon Jan 22, 2018 11:01 pm
...
Here are three initial connections: David Rubio (1934-2000) was self-taught. Paul Fischer (1941-) learned guitar-making from Rubio in 1969 (he taught Rubio how to make harpsichords). Fischer worked with Rubio until 1975. Edward B Jones studied and worked with Rubio from 1973-1979. ....
The Rubio line is the only one I'm aware of. Add to your list Christopher Dean, who worked with Paul Fischer I think after Jones but not sure.

If you want a fairly comprehensive, if out of date list of UK makers visit http://jacaranda-music.com/UKGuitars.htm and for a few more PM me and I can supply some addresses that await the rewrite of the website.

To get really historical look at the Panormo dynasty, but there was no continuity after they emigrated as far as I'm aware; James Westbrook would be able to say.
Simon Ambridge Series 40 (2005)
Trevor Semple Series 88 (1992)
Louis Panormo (1838)
Alexander Batov Baroque Guitar (2013)
Simon Ambridge 'Hauser' (2018)

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Re: A ‘genealogy’ of UK classical guitar-makers? How is the craft transmitted?

Post by bacsidoan » Mon Jan 22, 2018 11:56 pm

Don't neglect to mention Romanillos & Son who started out in the UK.

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Re: A ‘genealogy’ of UK classical guitar-makers? How is the craft transmitted?

Post by josswinn » Tue Jan 23, 2018 8:12 am

Stephen, thank you. That's really useful. I was reading James Westbrook's article on Panormo the other day. Very interesting. He writes:

"It is very probable that the London guitar-makers of the mid-19th century saw this shift coming—from the solo instrument some of them had helped establish, to one used only for accompaniment. Most probably not wishing to compromise, they chose not to compete with the cheaper, imported guitars that were adequate for that purpose. Louis Panormo, and Joseph Panormo’s assistant Antony Brown, and probably many more, chose to start new lives in the New World. Hence there were no longer luthiers of Panormo’s class to keep abreast of developments abroad, and London’s period as a centre of guitarmaking was over."

His successor was his nephew, George Lewis Panormo, who vacated Louis Panormo's "Guitar Manufactory" when it was sold in 1854 and is recorded as a Guitar Maker in London until his death in 1877.

@bacsidoan Thanks :-)
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Re: A ‘genealogy’ of UK classical guitar-makers? How is the craft transmitted?

Post by simonm » Tue Jan 23, 2018 10:38 am

josswinn wrote:
Mon Jan 22, 2018 11:01 pm
... I'm hoping to look through back issues of Classical Guitar magazine tomorrow when I visit the British Library.
...
As an academic, you should be able to get stuff easily enough from places like the Edinburg collection - unless university interlibrary loans have changed a lot. Another thought: ring the Edinburg Uni museum (or any other in the UK) and ask to talk to the restorers. Such people are an amazing font of information and usually super happy to pass on info if approach in a friendly way.

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Re: A ‘genealogy’ of UK classical guitar-makers? How is the craft transmitted?

Post by Martin Woodhouse » Tue Jan 23, 2018 10:45 am

Put me down as another Rubio pupil.

I think it was Julian Bream who really restarted classical guitar making in the UK in the 1960s, by supporting and working with Rubio and then Romanillos, who then went on to teach another generation or two of UK guitar makers: Paul Fischer, Brian Cohen, Edward B. Jones, etc… and me.

James Westbrook was working on a biography of David Rubio a while ago, but I haven’t heard any news about that recently.

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Re: A ‘genealogy’ of UK classical guitar-makers? How is the craft transmitted?

Post by josswinn » Tue Jan 23, 2018 6:48 pm

Using Stephen's list, I've pulled together some initial details from the makers' biographies on their websites (where available). Please consider it a work-in-progress and may contain errors.
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Re: A ‘genealogy’ of UK classical guitar-makers? How is the craft transmitted?

Post by RedCliff » Wed Jan 24, 2018 9:54 pm

Robert Welford and Donald McCleod who wrote a guitar making book in about 1970 also used to teach courses. I bet there is a generation of makers who came through their stable? Of course, that is purely speculation on my part.
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Re: A ‘genealogy’ of UK classical guitar-makers? How is the craft transmitted?

Post by josswinn » Wed Jan 24, 2018 10:46 pm

Thanks, Giles. Have added them to the list.

Stephen Kenyon sent me a few more links to luthiers, who I have also added to the list.

A rough categorisation of 57 makers indicates:

Self-taught: 10
College: 12
Luthier (one-to-one): 16
Unknown: 19

Interesting that 38 of the 55 with websites all make a point of stating how/who they learned, suggesting that their education/training and their connection to the tradition is important (or they think it may be important to their customers).
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Re: A ‘genealogy’ of UK classical guitar-makers? How is the craft transmitted?

Post by James Lister » Wed Jan 24, 2018 10:49 pm

A few additional details...

It's Pete Beer, not Beers.

I studied at London Guildhall University (under Dave Whiteman) before going on to Newark.

Maybe worth noting that London Guildhall, London Metropolitan, and London College of Furniture are all one and the same.

I think Earl Marsh also studied at Newark.

Sam McClaren studied at Newark (under me, and I think Adrian Lucas, or possibly Mal Brady) after Totnes.

Richard Newman studied at London Guildhall.

I think Michael Ritchie was a student at Anniesland, but not sure about that.

You should have Michael Gee on the list. I think he studied at, and possibly later taught at London College of Furniture.

James
James Lister, luthier, Sheffield UK

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Re: A ‘genealogy’ of UK classical guitar-makers? How is the craft transmitted?

Post by josswinn » Wed Jan 24, 2018 10:57 pm

Thanks a lot James. Have just updated the list. There's a note on the side that London College of Furniture = London Guildhall University=London Metropolitan University.
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