This wonderful wood, bearing the marks of a long life, was a treasure discovered by our friend and luthier Adriano Sérgio in the Lisbon area: a number of old wine barrels, dating back to the Oeiras Palace wine cellars of the Marques de Pombal, the man who rebuilt Lisbon after the devastating earthquake of 1755.
Inspired by the historical context of the wood Adriano and his friend and colleague Ulrich Teuffel created a project with four other luthiers: six luthiers would each apply their inspiration and craft to this unique 250+ years old Carcavelos Mahogany and create a collection of six unique guitars.
Thus, The Guitar Barrel Project was born. In 2018 Adriano Sérgio, Andy Manson, Claudio & Claudia Pagelli, Michael & Tania Spalt, Nik Huber, and Ulrich Teuffel met in Lisbon to discover the wood for themselves and to share it among them. The collection of completed instruments was publicly presented in Lisbon, May 2023 at the Oeiras Winery.
Please visit the Guitar Barrel Project website for more on the project and images of the 6 project guitars!
Michael's 'Guitar Barrel Project' piece references the 1755 earthquake, with a symbolic carving of seismic waves dominating the body, covered in gold leaf to suggest the immense power of the tremor that destroyed Lisbon, then one of the richest cities in the world. It separates the medieval darkness of superstition and bigotry below from the clean, rich natural core of the wood above. The fossilized mammoth ivory pickup cover recalls the shattered buildings of the city and the abalone and pearl inlays on the neck represent the countless souls of the people who perished in the fires of the Portugese inquisition, the smoke ascending and moving towards the final pearl square displaying a question mark.
A turning point in the intellectual history of the world, the Lisbon earthquake called into question religious and church orthodoxy and heralded the coming of the Age of Enlightenment, scientific thinking and the political revolutions that led to today's democracies.