There was quite a bit of sadness when arborists in Yarmouth made the difficult decision this winter to cut down the ancient elm tree known as Herbie. It started growing in 1793, so Herbie’s demise represented a tangible loss for generations of people who had come to know and love the stately old tree.

But the story has a happy ending, thanks in part to New Gloucester furniture maker Chris Becksvoort.

“I had heard they were going to take that huge tree and turn it into knickknacks,” recalled Becksvoort. “I stuck my foot in my mouth and suggested we make the wood available to all the craftsmen in Maine. The folks in Yarmouth said, ‘Good idea, go ahead.’ “

The tree came down in January, resulting in 8,000 board feet of gnarly old elm. It’s not the easiest wood in the world to work with, as anyone who has split elm for firewood knows. But it has beautiful color, and the grain lines are gorgeous.

Becksvoort distributed the wood to 60 or so woodworkers from around Maine. The result of their efforts will be the subject of an exhibition later this fall, but we’ll get a small preview this week.

Becksvoort took a piece of Herbie and made an elegant adjustable music stand. The stand will be debuted at the Maine Festival of American Music: Its Roots and Traditions at the Shaker Meeting House in New Gloucester, hosted by the Portland String Quartet.

The stand will be featured at the festival’s closing concert on Saturday, along with handcrafted music stands made in wood by other outstanding Maine craftsmen, Robert Cariddi and John Stass.

Julia Adams, the quartet’s violist, said Saturday’s program will be a bit unusual in that the musicians will make time for the craftsmen to discuss their relationships to music, and the relationship between craft and music.

A solo work for viola and piano by Ernest Bloch will feature the premiere of the Herbie stand. This will be followed by a duet movement by Mozart for violin and viola, using a double-stand of cherry made by Cariddi. To close the first half of the program, the quartet will play a movement from a Dvorak trio for two violins and viola using a tall stand from each of the three makers.

Becksvoort inscribed the horizontal slats of his stand like this:


“New England’s Largest Elm


Perhaps the most interesting fact about the Herbie stand is that the tree’s initial year, 1793, coincides with the establishment of the Sabathday Lake Shaker Community and plans for the construction of the 1794 Meeting House, where Saturday’s concert will take place.

It’s almost as if it were meant to be, Adams said.

“It’s just amazing, the coincidence. It’s just fabulous,” she said.

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at:

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