Several years ago, my sister gave me a business card. Her coworker’s French boyfriend worked as a luthier and they had just relocated to Requena. “Well that’s good news for local musicians!” I thought.
A few months later, a casting for movie extras was happening in Requena. I went with someone to the casting which resulted in a few tenths of a second in the finished film–the entirety of my career as an actor!
During the shoot, the staff asked us if anyone could play the violin during one of the scenes. A guy with a French accent said he could. Putting two and two together, I asked him, “Are you a luthier?” And just like that, I met Pierre Guénégo .
Pierre was trained as a luthier in Leed College of Music in England with renowned luthiers of string instruments. There, he learned reparation techniques for all instruments and the process of making a guitar.
After school, Pierre went back to France to work for over 5 years in a longstanding Parisian Instruments store, where he restored all kind of classical instruments, as well as electric ones.
In December, I went to visit Pierre’s workshop in El Azagador, a village belonging to Requena. People from all over the country come here when they want to restore their instruments. I’ve been there several times, and through their hands have passed several of my guitars (even the one from Cuba for a small service on the tuning pegs). This time, though, I wanted to talk to him for a while and ask a few things about restoring instruments.
After a short chat over a beer, we went into the workshop. He was working on restoring some old string instruments. He had changed the fingerboard on a cello and was fixing several issues on a double bass that was more than a century old. Pierre told me about the ebony he used for the fingerboard and explained to me how he re-filled the cracks in the wood of the double bass. In both cases, the result was really impressive.
When he has some spare time from his work restoring instruments, he turns his attention to making new ones. During my visit, he showed me a double bass he was making with spruce, maple, and ebony. I’ve been aware over time of several other projects Pierre has made including multiple guitars and a Cordófono Box, which was, according to him, a crazy project that was a mixture between an Indian santoor, harp, and electric bass.
Apart from his awesome work, Pierre and I share a longtime friendship as well as similar tastes in music and other things. We played together for several years in the band I belong to, Gypsy y los Gatos Rumberos.
It’s easy to learn something new when you talk to Pierre, maybe about instruments, perhaps about music, books or films. After more than a decade I realize I was right: it’s a great thing for musicians and everyone else to have Pierre in our area.