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In Memoriam: Jeanette Fernández

In Memoriam: Jeanette Fernández

November 26, 1944 – August 14, 2022

by Ronald Louis Fernández

Originally published in American Lutherie #147, 2022

 

Jeanette Fernández, a lovely lass born Jeanette T. Wilson in Glasgow, Scotland, died in Anacortes, Washington, last summer. While not a luthier, Jeanette was heavily involved in the international guitar trade for three decades. And she was a big fan of the Guild.

Jeanette left school at age fifteen when her father died. She worked in banks in Glasgow and London for six years, then got a loan and immigrated by herself to Montreal for the 1967 World’s Fair, Expo 67. She was hired by the anthropology department at McGill University and ran the office for almost ten years under three different professors. I was a Ph.D. student there when we met, and we were married in 1973.

In the early 1990s, Jeanette became an essential part of my Spanish-guitar import business, Fernández Music. Jeanette handled the accounting, packing, and a lot of customer relations. She accompanied me on visits to stores and suppliers in the U.S. and Europe. She got to know “all the usual suspects” in our industry.

Jeanette Fernández at the 2011 GAL Convention in Tacoma. Photo by Cyndy Burton.
At the 2011 GAL Convention in Tacoma (l to r): Ron Fernández, Jeanette Fernández, John Park. Photo by Mónica Esparza.

Part of our business involved being the American representatives at the Anaheim National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Show for Esteve Guitar and Juan Hernández Workshop from Valencia Spain. At NAMM, Jeanette got to know many of the international suppliers and customers located in Japan, Germany, Argentina, Mexico, France, Canada, Australia, Britain, Spain, and Portugal. She dealt with everyone in her Scottish-accented English, but also on occasion in French, Spanish, and Portuguese.

We frequently traveled together to do business with guitar makers in Valencia, Madrid, and Portugal. She had a special relationship with Spanish guitar maker Felix Manzanero and his wife Soli in Madrid, and with Luis and Graça Penedo, who were involved in the Portuguese guitar world.

While the giant NAMM Show in Anaheim with 90,000 attendees was a part of doing business, the Guild Convention, in contrast, was a great pleasure for Jeanette. She loved meeting old friends, attending the concerts, living in the old dorms, eating in the Commons, and the nights at the local bars, ice cream shop, and restaurants. She especially looked forward to the auction on the last night. When we would get a new issue of American Lutherie, she would go through it to see the people she knew. She felt very comfortable with all the characters of the luthier brotherhood.

She was also the camera person on our French Polish for Guitarmakers DVD. She always refined my writings. She had an innate insight into the English language. Any success of our guitar business I fully share with Jeanette.

And she always made me a better person.

(We always loved seeing sweet Jeanette at the Conventions, and will miss her kindness and gifts of chocolate this summer. — The GAL Staff)

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The Portuguese Guitarra: A Modern Cittern

The Portuguese Guitarra: A Modern Cittern

by Ronald Louis Fernández

Originally published in American Lutherie #27, 1991 and Big Red Book of American Lutherie Volume Three, 2004



In Portugal, the word guitarra refers to a present-day cittern similar in appearance to and directly derived from the 18th-century English guitar. This instrument, typically accompanied by a Spanish-type guitar called viola or violão in Portuguese, is used in performing musical variations and in accompanying the fado, an urban Portuguese song form. Consequently, it is also known in Portuguese as the guitarra de fado.

While these instruments are not abundant in North America, luthiers do encounter them here, especially where Portuguese fishermen have come ashore or emigrants have settled — New Bedford and Fall River, Massachusetts; the Hawaiian Islands; Providence, Rhode Island; San Diego, San Jose, Tulare, Visalia, Artesia, and Chino, California; Newark, New Jersey; Seattle, Washington; Montreal, Quebec; Ottawa and Toronto, Ontario; Winnipeg, Manitoba; and Vancouver, British Columbia.

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In Memoriam: Felix Manzanero

In Memoriam: Felix Manzanero

July 27, 1937 – August 18, 2019

by Ronald Luis Fernández

Originally published in American Lutherie #139, 2020

 

By 1966, my father, John Fernández, was importing guitars from Félix Manzanero Cabrera. He sold most of them through Seiko Sesoko in Anaheim. Some of these were bought by Laurindo Almeida and Manitas de Plata.

I got to know Félix in 1967 when I attended summer school at the Universidad de Madrid. His shop was the first working shop I had seen, and I was amazed. We became friends and occasionally stayed out late, visiting strange eateries or playing tangos on his laud and my guitar in local mesons (traditional taverns). Among my memories in his shop was meeting Sabicas when he returned to Spain after a thirty-year absence, and playing farrucas with his brother, Diego.

Photo courtesy of Iván Manzanero

Félix was born in 1937 in Madrid during the Spanish Civil War. His father was a musician. At age fourteen he apprenticed at the shop of José Ramírez II, where he spent twelve years. He made over a thousand guitars there, and those guitars are identified by his initials stamped inside. I once repaired a “Ramírez” flamenco owned by Neil Diamond identified by that stamp. Of significance is the fact that Félix was making guitars under José Ramírez III, during the time that the modern 1a classical, which Andrés Segovia eventually embraced, was evolving.

In 1964, Félix opened a store at 12 Calle Santa Ana in the La Latina section of Madrid. There he built Madrid-school guitars from old wood and taught his two sons to do the same. He also built experimental instruments such as an elliptical guitar, one without braces, several with soundboards of both cedar and spruce, and a laud with twelve sympathetic strings. He developed a method for testing soundboards before permanently affixing them to the body.

Over the decades of his career he acquired over a hundred old instruments dating back to the 18th century. This collection is presently available for viewing on the web at: www.guitarrasmanzanero.com.

In 1985 he was invited by the Mexican Government to present a course on Spanish guitar construction in Paracho, Michoacán. This was an important opportunity for Mexican makers. German Vazquez Rubio in Los Angeles, California, told me he attended that course.

My friend Félix was fun to be with; warm, friendly, and open. He loved his wife and family. He liked to travel. He drove all over Spain. He came to visit California a few times and hand-carried an unvarnished flamenco to me. He went to Cuba and Egypt with his wife. I would refer people to see him in Madrid, and he would take them to his local bar-restaurant across the street and treat them royally.

Félix had a thick Madrid accent. His family had been in Madrid for many generations. Félix had a brother Pedro who had worked at the Ramírez shop and apparently did repairs, but I never met him.

He is survived by his charming wife Soledad and his sons, Félix Jr. and Iván. Iván makes guitars, preserves the collection, and runs the business in the original shop.

Oh, yes, before I forget: comedies and ham. Félix loved Spanish dried ham. In his Madrid flat he had a full leg of Patas Negras (the best Spanish ham) on a special holding device for easy access. And in his living room he had small statues of the Marx Brothers and Laurel and Hardy.

Adios, Félix.