Metro-West Daily News, MA
May 7 2006

Blumenau: Magic of Mgrdichian
By Kurt Blumenau/ Surf~Rs Up
Sunday, May 7, 2006

A musical maestro died just a week or so back, and somehow we didn~Rt
hear a word about it.

Of course, that~Rs what happens when your chosen instrument is the
oud -- a fretless, 11-stringed Middle Eastern instrument that looks
like a cross between a guitar and some kind of exotic seed pod.

George Mgrdichian, who died April 30, was one of the world~Rs
best-known oudists (oudistes? Oudeours? Oud-slingers?), performing
with everyone from the New York Philharmonic to jazz saxophonist Phil
Woods. An Armenian-American Juilliard graduate, he appeared on more
than 100 recordings, one or two of which we recall stumbling across
in our travels.

We~Rre pretty much fascinated by string instruments of all kinds,
and by people who toil honorably outside the limelight. So -- you
guessed it -- this week~Rs Surf~Rs Up is all about George Mgrdichian.
He wasn~Rt exactly an Internet star, but we found a few tidbits: -- You~Rll probably want to start by learning something
more about Mgrdichian~Rs chosen instrument. This page, by Greek oud
player Nikos Dimitriadis, details the oud~Rs long history, as well as
the baffling variety of ways in which it can be tuned. The oud~Rs
complexity probably explains its relative obscurity -- it sounds like
it~Rs just too ornery for some MTV-idol guitarist to pick up and idly
tinker with. -- Speaking of
MTV, George Mgrdichian~Rs agility on the oud would be the envy of more
than a few prominent guitarists we can think of. This page offers
three RealPlayer recordings of Mgrdichian showing his business.
(Check out the prolonged, speed-picked runs in just the first 30
seconds of "Nehavend Longa.") This ain~Rt stereotyped Middle Eastern
restaurant background music; this is soulful, musical, even fiery
stuff. -- What better
way is there to learn about somebody than to listen to the words of
his or her good friend? This link takes you to an all-oud discussion
board (isn~Rt the Net wonderful?), where a user named Saffet announces
Mgrdichian~Rs death and sums up his contributions to the oud
tradition. Would that we are as well-remembered, or as important in
our field, when we check out.

More heartfelt comments can be read at another oud discussion forum: p?tid=3708. stID=15320 --
Just how big was George Mgrdichian? Well, a program from a 1967
Central Park concert is selling for more than $1,500 at this pop
memorabilia site. OK, we admit: The concert was actually a festival
of 50-plus acts, among them Stevie Wonder, Jimi Hendrix, Duke
Ellington and John Lee Hooker, with Mgrdichian among the more obscure
names on the bill. Still, it illustrates what kind of company he was
capable of moving in, and we wish we~Rd been there.