During my 20 years in the flute trade, I’ve met many great performers and makers. Three stand out as being most influential in this journey, One continues in that capacity, one hasn’t spoken to me in about 9 years, and the third is dead. That third, was an inspirational breath of fresh air by the name of Leonard Lone Crow McGann. He passed away at 61. back in 2013. We first met at the Oklahoma Flute Festival in 2007, where I humbly won first place in the flutemakers competition. I purchased one of his instruments at that event.
Thereafter, my first effort to contact him was by phone. His wife Ms.Kitty, answered the phone, and after introducing myself, stated “He’s down the road cuttin’ firewood for the stove”. After hearing that, I asked myself “Where the Hell does this guy live?”……His address, in the hills of Virginia, was on Difficult Creek Road, outside Bedford. That began 6 years of late night phone calls talking about anything, and everything. During one such call, I did a Google Earth search during our conversation, and found his property, predictably, in the middle of nowhere. I saw a circular dirt driveway, passing a barn, the main house, some sheds, and a small vegetable garden. There were 3-4 trees in the center of this drive, and an odd blue dot, among the trees. Since the photo was taken from space, the blue dot looked completely out of place. I asked, “Leonard, do you have a Jacuzzi out there in the middle of your property?” He thought a moment, and said “Aw, no. It’s a poly tarp tied to the trees so my dogs can get out of the rain.”….That was Leonard. His birthday is this month, and he would have been 70 years of age. I just finished a flute in time for his birthday.
This flute has a different tuning. Specifically it’s tuned to modes 2 and 5. Pioneered by Leonard, this tuning has the player hold down the 4th or 5th hole from the mouthpiece, as opposed to the 3rd or 4th, providing celtic and other major chromatic options. Leonard typically built these from cedar, with a ¾” bore diameter, and are very manageable. Mine on the other hand, not so much. Mine is cut from Indonesian paldao, with a 1” bore diameter and is almost two feet long. The hole closest to the foot, is 20” from the mouthpiece, so a long reach is necessary as well as greater lung capacity. The term “Go big or go home” has some practical limitations. Having said that, I wanted to create an homage to Lone Crow for his birthday month. Happy Birthday Leonard. Ingredients of this instrument include African ebony, alowood, amboyna burl, hematite, Ukrainian pyrite, almandine garnet, abalone, and powdered Arizona turquoise, chrysocolla, and New Mexico pipestone.