Gregg Miner

A Christmas Collection, Miner Music, MM01 & MM02

Gregg is the curator of the Miner Museum of Vintage, Exotic, and Just Plain Unusual Musical Instruments. His collection is truly wide-ranging and eclectic. Some years ago he took on the monumental task of restoring and properly stringing everything in his collection, and then compounded it by learning to play every one of them well. Fortunately for us, he's shared the result in this fascinating pair of CDs of Christmas music.

There's a high probability that you'll hear instruments you've never heard before, and an even higher probability that you'll hear ensembles that you're never heard before. How about "White Christmas" on four harp-guitars, harp-mandolin, and harp-ukelele, all built by an obscure luthier of the early 20th century… But none of it is done in an off-hand or disrespectful manner. The arrangements are thoughtful, imaginative, and lovely. The members of the ensemble (all the same player, of course) move gracefully in and out, trading lead and accompaniment, each lending its own unique sound.

This package is probably worth about 4 times its price… First, it's two discs full of music. Second, it includes elaborate and informative program notes discussing every instrument. Each disc has its own accompanying 52-page book. Every instrument is pictured, and the pictures are all to the same scale (no pun intended) so it's easy to understand the instruments' relative size. Third, the discussion is refreshingly irreverent. Though he obviously loves all his "children", he's not averse to wry observations of their idiosyncrasies. I was laughing out loud by the time I got to the text for the third cut.

And fourth, this may be your only opportunity to hear a recording of a Hawaiian Tremoloa, played honestly (or at all). Of course my favorite cut is the one that features the family of instruments which is this website's specialty. In addition to the aforementioned Tremoloa, there's a Zithoharp, a Ukelin, a Marxophone, mandolin-harp, autoharp, fretted dulcimer, and guitar. He's even got enough chords in this group to modulate between C and F. And though these instruments beg to be taken somewhat less than seriously, the arrangement is once again imaginative and elegant.

Speaking of the Tremoloa, let me quote from the liner notes (by permission) - "The mechanical devices reach their most ridiculous in the tremoloa, a sort of Hawaiian guitar for draftsmen. It has the same four chords, but only one melody string, played automatically with a slide bar attached pantagraph-style to a thumbpick. Quite difficult and hilarious."

Highly recommended… Visit his website for more information on the man, the museum, and the recording.


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This page was banged out with Word 97, 27 Oct 99.