As a member of the WhiskeyDicks, Ryan Enns will be purveying high-energy “Celtic Gypsy Punk Rock” on Friday and Saturday at Foxy’s Cabaret.
Come Sunday, he’ll offer a more intimate performance of solo voice and acoustic guitar at Whitehorse United Church.
The second half of that concert will feature his own compositions as a singer-songwriter. But it’s the opening set the Whitehorse-raised musician wants to talk about in an interview from Vancouver.
“The entire first half of the concert will be songs that I’ve chosen mostly in order to really honour this new guitar that I’m playing.”
Those songs are by Paraguayan guitar legend Augustán Barrios.
“His music is some of the nicest music that’s been written for the guitar. It really showcases the instrument better than just about any other music, because Barrios was such a fantastic guitarist and he knew the instrument so well.”
The guitar Enns will showcase was built by the late Todd Hardy and bequeathed to him by the Hardy family after the Whitehorse Centre MLA died of leukemia last year.
“It’s such a massive gift to be given something like that,” Enns says. “But it’s also a giant responsibility using it because, you know, whatever you believe about the afterlife, Todd is alive in that guitar.” Enns says.
The instrument had its origins in a trip Hardy took to a monastery in Spain a few years ago to study with José Romanillos, perhaps the world’s foremost builder of classical guitars.
“I spent a lot of time talking about the guitar with Todd and the construction of it and the amount of work that goes into this style of guitar that is absent in most styles of guitar building,” Enns says.
“And Todd just being an excellent craftsman, I knew it wouldn’t matter that this was his first Spanish guitar. I knew that it would sound good.”
The guitar remained unfinished through the latter stages of Hardy’s illness, but Enns had no question of its potential.
“It never had strings or a bridge put on it when I saw it hanging in Todd’s shop, but you can kind of sing into a guitar and tell that it’s going to sound good. And the thing that makes it sound really great is the body work on it,” he explains.
“The top is very, very thin. If I put a light inside the guitar, it shines right through the top. The wood is very high quality German spruce on the top and Indian rosewood back and sides, and those things also contribute a lot to the sound.”
The other characteristic of a Romanillos-style guitar is a series of small fan braces running lengthwise in the body, combined with tone bars carved so that they don’t actually touch the fan braces.
“It’s very, very labour intensive to build one.”
Enns said he and Hardy spoke about what was needed to finish the guitar.
“In fact it needed a bit more work than either of us thought. But the end result sure is fantastic,” he says.
The final work was done by Vancouver luthier Geza Burghardt, whom Enns describes as “probably the best person on the planet to finish the guitar” because of his friendship with both Hardy and Romanillos.
“He taught Romanillos how to French polish guitars, which is the type of finish that we use on these guitars,” Enns explains. “The final product is really pretty incredible, and I’m really glad that I was able to have this guitar finished without any compromise.”
Even with the limitations of an internet video call, the instrument’s mirror-like finish and crystal-clear tone are obvious.
Enns picked up the finished guitar on March 5 and played it at a concert the next evening.
“To me that’s where music is meant to happen, right in the concert setting with an audience,” he says. “It was really nice for me to be as surprised by the instrument as everyone in the audience was.”
In December, Enns moved to the coastal town of Yamba, New South Wales, with his Australian wife Greta and two-year-old son Oscar.
“It’s just a little paradise town with nobody there,” he says. “To find a job in Yamba is kind of like winning the lottery, and we both found good jobs where we get to live in paradise and I get to come home on holidays and play with my band.”
Sunday’s concert is at 7 pm. Admission is by donation.