Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

THE RED GUITAR

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When young Victoria bluesman Noah Kasper suffered a virus that caused organ failure in 2000 had a six organ transplant in Toronto, we all hoped for a miracle.

Sometimes miracles arrive in mysterious ways.

Noah limped along, realising every time he relapsed that his hold on life was fragile. A friend brought him the film The Red Violin in hospital and he was inspired by the story. Ironically, the child prodigy who died of a heart attack while playing the possessed violin, was named Kaspar.

Noah decided that he would carry on singing whatever his medical outcome. He asked his mother to have a guitar made after his death. The instrument was to have his blood in the finish and his bone in an inlay.

His mother was at first horrified, but later gave in. Noah died and the guitar was made by Hakasawa, a Japanese Canadian luthier who had been interned during World War 2 and resonated the blues in another key.

The heart on the fingerboard and the eagle on the peghead are made of his thighbone. His blood in in the varnish.

When his friends played the Red Guitar, they felt possessed. No one could bear to hold the grief.

Along came blues legend Erc Bibb, who played the instrument at Old Town Strings. Unaware of the guitar's history, he would return to buy it when he had the cash.

The guitar was stolen from the shop and returned for a ransom after I alterted the managing editor of the Times Colonist who is the wife of bluegrass guitarist Dave Clark. The story brought the guitar home, but frustration over a number of incidents like this one caused the shop owner Dave Cahill to move his business elsewhere.

Bibb returned and missed his chance.

Fast forward to last weekend, at the Vancouver Island Musicfest, Noah's mother waited backstage for Eric Bibb to finish a concert with his father Leon, also a blues legend. Did he still want The Red Guitar? The answer was yes.

Bobby drove all night, from Courtenay to Victoria and back again. In the lobby of the Anco Motel, she said good by to her son and Eric took him on the larger journey he had dreamed of, to the stages of the world.

Somewhere along the way,I wrote a poem for Noah. I think it was for one of the many benefits that helped pay for his treatment. Later I changed the poem to song lyrics for Light Sweet Crude. The song is on their album, Ruin and Beauty. I'm going to attach it, so you can hear about Noah. Listen here.

It is moments like this when I realise that arts community is not an oxymororn. We help one another in the ways that we can.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

Linda Rogers

Linda Rogers is the author of the novels Say My Name (Ekstasis Editions, 2000), Friday Water (Cormorant Books, 2003) and The Empress Letters (Cormorant Books, 2007). She has also published several collections of poetry, including Love in the Rainforest (Exile Editions, 1996), Heaven Cake (Sono Nis Press, 1997), The Saning (Sono Nis Press, 1999) and The Bursting Test (Guernica Editions, 2002).

Go to Linda Rogers’s Author Page