Music is a universal language—the language of peace. Nowhere was that more in evidence than during the Franco-American Tour of Musical Instrument Makers in France, sponsored by the Chambre de Métiers and L’Agence française pour le développement international des enterprises.
During one meal, as I was conversing with our gracious host, he turned to me in a moment of seriousness and said, “I have heard it said that the American people do not like the French.” I looked at him in surprise and said, “I have heard that French people do not like Americans.” We looked at each other for a moment, smiled, and agreed that neither statement was true. For the 14 people from the United States privileged to be on this tour, the hospitality and courtesy were beyond expectations,
and we enjoyed the thought that during these troubled times, music once again brought peace to a small corner of the world.
We were invited to participate on this tour by Stephen Glasgow, an American employed by Gestion Export Blagnac. Most of the participants were musical instrument dealers, but a few educators were invited as well. As educators
and representatives of ASTA, my husband, David, and I were pleased to be included in such an experience, the first of its kind and an experiment by the French government.
Our tour began on March 21 as we flew into Geneva, Switzerland; were driven to Annecy, a nearby town in France; and assembled in a small hotel on the shore of
Lake Annecy. After enjoying a walk about the town on our own Sunday, we gathered that evening for a fabulous dinner (the first of nightly fabulous dinners) and a briefing on what the next day would bring. In each town we visited, (Annecy, Toulouse, Le Mans), the group would meet in a large room, and musical instrument makers would be waiting at various stations. We would rotate among them for some time to visit and examine their offerings. Makers specialized in violin family instruments,
guitars, bows, violas da gamba, and other period reproduction instruments. Most luthiers made their own instruments and a few did restorations. Levels of instruments
ranged from student level models to professional quality instruments. Although we had nothing of the sort in mind when we went on the trip, David ended up purchasing a viola da gamba and bow, a viola, and a double bass. Special highlights of the trip included visiting a luthier shop in Annecy owned by François LeBeau, who made
the beautiful and unusual viola that David purchased. LeBeau took the usual viola frame and pulled it slightly out of shape to give it a unique look and give the player
an easier reach to the upper fingerboard. The design is characterized by an oval shape from the bridge that is echoed in the chin rest, scroll design, and the f-holes.
We also enjoyed a wonderful dinner in an ancient castle in Toulouse, where we were hosted by local government officials. Several tour participants gave an impromptu concert on some of the instruments, including David, who played the beautiful Christian Nogaro double bass (see photo, above left). In Le Mans, our meetings
were held at the ITEMM (Institut Technologique Européen des Métiers de la Musique), a special school providing instruction in the art and science of musical
instrument repair. We enjoyed a tour of the school and also a special nighttime tour of historic Le Mans, some of which was built during the Roman Empire.
All of us were deeply impressed by the quality and craftsmanship of the instruments. According to Roland Huthmaker of Huthmaker Violins, “This was an exceptional
opportunity to discover new luthiers and promote them in our shop. We found the quality of the instruments and the bows to be superb.” Everyone appreciated the commitment of the French government in assisting and promoting the work of its citizens. The meetings were well organized, the arrangements were thorough, and
we all enjoyed French hospitality and culture at its best. If anyone reading this article is invited on one of these tours, you will regret it if you do not participate!
Participants from the United States:
Manuel and Marina Berberian, Allegro Music Center, Coral Gables, Fla.
Edmund Wu, AMAC Violins/Satori, Strings, Arcadia, Calif.
David and Laurel Littrell, ASTA, Manhattan, Kans.
Dan Zeff, Dan Zeff Guitars, Chatsworth, Calif.
Gerard and Utta Fields, Field Violin Workshop, Highland Park, Ill.
Jay Hess, Hess Conservatory of, Music, Miami, Fla.
Roland and Dixie Huthmaker, Huthmaker Violins, Duluth, Ga.
Guolian Zhou, Strings for America, San Antonio, Tex.
Bob Page, The Classical Guitar Store, Philadelphia, Pa.
Musical Instrument Makers from France:
Catherine Baroin, Atelier Catherine Baroin, Mirecourt
Pierre-Yves Carbonare, Atelier Dalle-Carbonare, Toulouse
Patrick Martin, Atelier Du Quatuor, Toulouse
Cornelia Traudt, Atelier Traudt, Petersbach
Didier Merle, Ary France International, Carmaux
Gerard Audirac, La Selle sur le Bied
Olivier Brones, Nimes
Manuel Bustamante, Caen
Jean-Louis Despiau, Chevalets Despiau Sarl
Eric Confession, Confession Luthier, Libourne
Denis Castin, Design & Harmonie, Marciac
Maurice Dupont, Maurice Dupont, Cognac
Pierrick Brua and Eurl Steelwood, Atelier de
Lutherie Brua, Montpellier
Damien Florio, Luthier, Perigueux
Jean-Marie Fouilleul, Fouilleul Jean-Marie, Cuguen
Dominique Freguin, Strasbourg
Dominique Galand, Atelier de Violons, Mirecourt
Roland Landron, GB Lutherie, Bordeaux
Fabien Gram, Massico-Musica, Rigny-le-Ferron
Francois Grimaux, Luthier, Archetier, Monesties
Pierre Grunberger, Samoens
Pascal Halle, Archetier, Albens
Fred Pons, Kopo Guitares, Aubin, D’Aubigne
Herve Lahoun, Luthier D’Art Lahoun, Toulouse
Vincent D’Agostino, Mediaplast, Poissy
Stephane Muller, Archetier, Toulouse
Nicolas and Agnes Saumagne, La Roche sur Foron
Christian Nogaro, Luthier, Saurigues
Nelly Poidevin, Archetiere, Dinan
Olivier Pont, Pont Olivier, Dinan
Gilles Pourtoy, Ruillée-Froid-Fonds
Olivier Pozzo, Luthier, Nimes
Xavier Walger and Yannick Le Canu, Sarl Arezzo
Lutherie et Archeterie, Toulouse
Francois Lebeau, Lutherie D’Art Francois,
Lebeau Sarl, Annecy
Eric and Fanny Menard, Sarl Mister Paganini, Nantes
Yann Schoener, Luthier, Belaye
Robert Sourzac, Luthier, Paimpol
Georges Tepho, Archetier, Quimper
Vincent Thomas, Hilaire, de la Côte
Jean-Pierre Voinson, Atelier de Violon et de Violoncelle, Mirecourt
Christophe Uny, Luthier, Anglet
Christian Urbita, Luthier, Cordes sur Ciel