The Non-Producers

by Mark Greenberg
September 2006

Being a Few Notes on the First Hamptons Guitar Festival Ever

Mel Brooks warned us: “The first rule is: Never, never, never use your own money.” But did we listen? No. Did we make money? No. Did we have fun? See below.

It all started innocently enough with my great friend and teacher, Herb Levine, moving out to the Hamptons. Herbert is one of the finest unknown guitarists of his generation, but has been, shall we say, estranged from the six string community for lo these many years. Recently, he has been getting his tremolo together again. And even more recently, he discovered the Vail-Leavitt Hall in Riverhead, available for rental for an evening for a measly $500.

A consortium of four patrons of the nylonistic arts — my main luthier, Darren Hippner, this writer, Bill Braunstein (of Fleta fame), and Herb’s friend, Vince Simione, put up a hundred twenty-five smackeroos each and we were off.

Herbert worked long and hard getting the arrangements in place, but that is another story. The outcome was a very interesting concert on 26 August 2006 and another event (at another venue) the following day. But I was gone by then. Thus, I can attest only to the outcome at Vail Hall.

First, the good news: as Herb reported, Vail-Leavitt Hall is a lovely and charming late 19th-century building, well-maintained, with very suitable acoustics for unamplified guitar.

The bad news: Not much in the way of an audience. Clearly, the classical guitar is a hard sell. If there is any area in concert production that requires professional help, it is publicity. Another note: we should have papered the house.

Further good news: Those pioneers (as Don Witter called them) lucky enough to attend this first Festival heard some fine music-making.

Herb, with John Olson and Denise Bonnet accompanying, did a fine job on the Vivaldi D major Concerto, as well as a last-minute transcription of the Air on a G String (from the Broadway show, Gypsy?)

Also superb were John Olson and his wife Gioia, presenting a set of delightful David Leisner songs for voice and guitar, as well as some songs by Gershwin, served up with style and elegance. John did an equally elegant job (as he always does) on Fred Hand’s beautiful solo masterpiece, “Missing Her.”

Don Witter was wonderfully entertaining during his set of jazz/Jobim.

Iman Probawa played magnificently and was especially superb in “Close to You,” as well as the beautiful David Quale tremolo study.

Herbert and Denise presented some lovely voice and guitar songs by Granados, with charming commentary and text translation (as well as wonderful singing) provided by Denise. Kurt Toriello played the Britten Nocturnal (on a Hippner cedar Hauser) with great skill and considerable emotional involvement.

All things considered, the performance had much to recommend it as a first effort.

Watch this space for our 2007 effort. I can see great things coming. You hear me, Mr. Fred Hand? We want you out there next year.