Beauty at NEFFA

Every year, for the last 68 years, there has been a New England Folk Festival. Held each year about the third weekend of April, the festival is a wonderful event, and is a truly extraordinary, all-volunteer effort. If you’ve never been, here is a word of advice.


My trip to NEFFA was to play (guitar) with the Woods Hole Folk Orchestra, to help provide tunes for Marcie Van Cleave’s International Folk Dance Medley event on Saturday night.

Some of the nice things about NEFFA  include meeting old friends, making new ones, playing and hearing music, dancing, going to performances, attending workshops, joining jam sessions, and more. There is also a “folk bazaar”. And there are crafts and craft workers.  Exploring the craft area, having been attracted by some astonishingly beautiful instruments, I had a conversation with Al Carruth, luthier extraordinaire, of Newport (which is not a port), New Hampshire.

His discussion of the physics and mechanics of strings and sound production, and of his craft, stretched my ability to comprehend. The man has been making instruments for decades, and knows a lot about musical instrument making. He graciously gave me permission to photograph his work, and below may be found some of the vistas that turned up during a close tour of these instruments.

AC, talking "viola"

trying a viola

Not just any viola. Count the strings…

Five strings

Add to his knowledge some extraordinary craftsmanship and artisanry, artisanry  that moves to art, and you have a man who makes objects that could end up in museums some day. I’ve seen lesser work at the MFA in Boston.
detail of guitar cutaway

adjustable bridge on archtop guitar

The photographer and a(nother) guitar, reflected from a guitarback.

soundhole and rosette


fretboard inlay

The "starship enterprise" view of heel and back, upper bout.

Another view of the sculpted cutaway.

We live in the Golden Age of guitar building. Al is not the only luthier working in the world today. There are more people creating work of this quality. Al says that there are young luthiers, coming up, whose work will surpass that of their elders. The future is going to look back with awe and appreciation at the instruments made in the late 20th and early 21st Century.

Al Carruth’s website is:

If you missed this year’s NEFFA, there’s next year!

NEFFA website is:

2 responses to “Beauty at NEFFA

  1. Hey I was there during the day on Saturday… wish I knew you were there,I could have stayed longer. Next year , Let’s talk! I had a blast- hope you did too.

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