Last weekend we held a house concert in our home for an English musician from Scarborough in North Yorkshire.
His name is Chris Stern, and we met him about 10 years ago when he came to a guitar gathering we attended in Whimberley, Texas, and the three of us became instant friends. We were at a chili supper later in the weekend, and Ken Johnson suggested I write a Reflections column about Chris, so here goes!
Following our first meeting, Chris came and gave house concerts in our home on several occasions. He sang at the Crazy Water Festival twice, and once he sang at a friend’s home on Lake Granbury.
We advertised his appearance in the Index, but we had a small turnout. However, we all liked it better that way, as we were able to listen to Chris’ music and stories, to discuss the differences between English English and American English, and we had time for the musicians present to share, as well.
Next year, the last weekend in October, we plan to do it again. We are going to use a song circle format with Chris singing a set followed by a couple of songs from each of the musicians present, and then Chris singing another set. It should be a lot of fun.
For those of you who have never been to a house concert, we simply ask for donations to help the musician pay for his expenses. We also ask everyone who is attending to bring their tipple of choice, be it soft or hard, and a covered dish of some sort so that we can share a meal as well as music.
Chris has been entertaining audiences for over 30 years. He has performed in Japan, Australia and several countries in Europe, as well as the United State, where, for a short while, he owned a sandwich shop.
He plays acoustic guitar and covers some of the greats like Bob Dylan and Phil Ochs, as well as his friend, Paul Simon, who Chris has known for years – since Paul first visited England, where Chris was a close friend of Sally, of Paul’s “Sally’s Theme.”
Chris’ voice is outstanding, melodious, beautiful, and memorable.
Chris is also a collector of guitars, owning several from independent luthiers, such as Jamie Kinscherff in the United States. His favorite music stores are The Acoustic Music Company in Brighton, England; Mandolin Brothers in Staten Island, New York; and Hill Country Guitars in Whimberley, Texas. He has owned about 80 musical instruments in his lifetime, and right now owns 12 acoustic guitars. In 2007, Chris displayed some of his guitars at the Cheltenham Acoustic Guitar Show.
Chris has K&K pickups installed in all of his guitars, and he prefers John Pearse strings and Shubb capos. He uses a Bose L1 Compact PA with a Shure Beta 59 vocal mic, although for house concerts he uses no electrics.
Chris plays other instruments, as well as the guitar, including the banjo and the walkabout dulcimer. Right now he is learning to play the mountain dulcimer. He is a multi-talented individual.
Chris majored in business at university and owns his own firm. He has three children, a daughter and two sons, all of whom are grown.