Freedom Tree finds new life in unique instrument
By DEVIN HEILMAN /firstname.lastname@example.org | Updated 2 days ago
COEUR d’ALENE – If you’re wondering what happened to the Freedom Tree that towered over McEuen Park for several decades, you may want to perk up your ears.
Wood from the Freedom Tree has been used to create a “harp guitar,” a unique, two-necked instrument which is a combination of a harp and a guitar. Freedom Tree wood has been used on the exterior of the instrument as well as the bracing on the inside, which makes up a large part of the sound.
“It’s how the instrument is voiced,” said Dave Powell of Sandpoint.
Powell and his brother, Anthony, constructed what they call the “Freedom Harp” at Tonedevil Guitars, their luthier shop in Sandpoint. Dave said the idea came about a couple years ago during a jam session when they heard the Freedom Tree would be felled. A friend suggested they procure some of its wood for the special instrument.
“We wanted to make sure that this memory lives on,” Dave said. “This is one of the ways to honor those fallen heroes and the ones who are still around.”
“The other inspiration is that our dad is a Vietnam veteran,” he added.
The Freedom Harp is currently on display downstairs in the Coeur d’Alene Library, where visitors can view it during the month of September. The Powell Brothers will feature it in a “sneak peek” showcase concert at the library at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 29, preceding numerous harp guitar festivities at North Idaho College that weekend.
At 7:30 p.m., Oct. 4, the Powell Brothers will co-headline the 12th annual Harp Guitar Gathering in NIC’s Schuler Performing Arts Center. Dave and Anthony have attended every gathering since 2005 and were asked by organizers to host this year’s event. It changes location each year and has been held in cities such as Dallas, Indianapolis, Williamsburg and Portland.
“We just thought Coeur d’Alene is a great place for conferences like this,” he said.
Dave said although it takes place in the U.S., it is really an international event because it draws musicians, scholars, luthiers and fans from all over the world, including countries such as Japan, France, Canada and Germany. A variety of harp guitars will be present, including a display of vintage instruments. The weekend will be full of presentations, performances and clinics made possible by the nonprofit Harp Guitar Foundation.
“It’s the only time in the world you’ll ever see that many performers performing on harp guitars,” Dave said.
Harp guitar master Stephen Bennett and a veteran friend wrote a patriotic song for Bennett to play especially on the Freedom Harp during the gathering.
“He’s just a real heavyweight guitarist,” Dave said. “He’s a fantastic player.”
Among the headliners for the concert are Bennett; finger-style expert Alex de Grassi, who will perform a short set; arch guitar prodigy Jon Mendle; Jeff Titus of San Francisco showcasing his Fred Carlson harp sympitar; and KPBX “Guitar Hour” radio host Leon Atkinson, who will debut on his new classical harp guitar.
The Oct. 4 concert is $20 general admission, $10 for veterans and seniors and free for students with IDs. Tickets can be purchased at Kelly’s Irish Pub and Lundin’s Violins in Coeur d’Alene, Eve’s Leaves in Sandpoint or online at www.thepowellbrothers.com.
Concluding the weekend will be a recital at 3 p.m., Oct. 5 in Boswell Hall Rehearsal Room 102 for up-and-coming harp guitarists to showcase their talents. The recital is open to the public.
For preregistration, schedule of events and info: www.harpguitargathering.com.