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- Subject: BHF '94 Report
- From: "JACK ELY"@mrgate.mec.ohio.gov
- Date: Mon, 18 Apr 1994 11:40:00 EDT
- A1-type: DOCUMENT
- Posting-date: Fri, 22 Apr 1994 00:00:00 EDT
Warning! This is a Jack ELy post and it's Looooooong. But HARP-L has been
kind of slow the last couple of days anyway.
Report on BUCKEYE HARMONICA FESTIVAL '94
Hello harmonica fans,
Well it's over, whew! Lots of work - I almost had all the harmonica
socializin', playin', plannin', workin', worryin', phone callin', phone
call returnin', stickin-my-neck-out-for-big-bucks'n, etc. that I can take.
I said almost. It was a gas and if you missed it - well you missed it,
kind of. We plan to have audio & video tapes available RSN (real soon
now). We have to work out royalty details before we start dubbing tapes.
Although BHF is a 2 day festival I got almost a week's worth of harmonica.
4/5/94- Things started early for me and the SHORT HARP SIG. We flew Eddie
Gordon in on Tuesday so he could make a special visit to the Tuesday
evening meeting. There were eight of us including a visitor from
Connecticut (typically 4 - 6 is a good turn out for the Short Harp SIG).
Eddie gave us some pointers on playing the special tunings like "country"
and "melody" tuning. Also talked and demonstrated how you can make a song
sound better - and maybe fit the harp better by playing in 2nd or 3rd
position. (Don't ask me to get technical here). I should have recorded
this session because I take lousy notes.
Question: What can I do when my mouth gets dry when I play.
Answer: Try a salt water gargle just before you play. Some carry a little
atomizer or spray bottle of salt water and use it between songs.
Other Eddie Gordon topics: (Most of the following was compiled by my
E-mail buddy and fellow Short Harper, Jeff Boggs, from Dayton, OH).
(1) Double stops and other tonguing techniques such as the twiddling
(wagging back and forth) of the tongue. His use of double stops,
creating two note chords, gave the music character, making it sound
distinctively cajun or dixieland or bluesy. Also, the double stop
bend fiddle sound was stunning. The latter accomplished by blocking
one hole with the tongue and playing the holes on either side
(sometimes referred to as fifths) -- and then bending the lower of the
two notes - giving the audio illusion that both notes are being bent.
(2) He demonstrated an embouchure exercise and a diaphragm exercise.
Embouchure: Purse your lips out as far as possible (like reaching for
a kiss) and then open your mouth real wide stretching your jaws and
facial muscles, putting all the muscle in it that you can. Repeat
several times. Strengthens and makes your facial muscles supple -
improving your embouchure.
Diaphragm: Take a deep breath, let it out. Take another deep breath,
let out a very small amount - and then breath in and out real fast,
panting like a dog except with you lips pursed. Notice how your lower
abdomen, not your chest, moves in and out.
(3) He pointed out that playing the harp was the same as singing thru the
harp. (meaning you can be as expressive as the human voice - shaping
the sounds and applying vibrato, as vocalists use, on the harmonica).
(4) He demonstrated circular breathing (which I was not convinced that it
is actually what we think it is -- breathing and blowing at the same
(5) He suggested experimenting with mixing reed plates to get various
harps. (I'm working on this one) Also, retuning.
(6) He demonstrated that not playing or the space between phrases of notes
is important in varying the music and once again giving it character.
(7) He demonstrated the use of the hands with the harp, pointing out that
beginning playing with the hand uncupped and then cupping can be as
effective as beginning cupped and then uncupping.
4/6/94- Wednesday we had a similar treat except this time for the
chromatic fanatics. Eddie gave us pointers on conducting a good
(productive) group practice session. Also gave us some ideas on stage
presentation. Rather than individual mics (of varying quality) for 12 or
more harmonica players, as we now do, he suggests we put 3 on a mic and
invest in some good cardioid mics (i.e., Shure SM58) and get some boom mic
stands. He encouraged us to continue using our new found ukulele virtuoso,
Mack Tooil. He feels the uke and chord harmonica compliment each other and
adds a dimension to our sound.
4/7/94- Thursday was a day of preparation, setting up sound, etc. for the
official festival kick off Friday Morning. Thursday evening, local club
members enjoyed dinner and an evening of socializing and getting to know
our professional entertainers -- "Dinner With the Stars", a BSHC
tradition. The evening highlight for me was when Ron Kalina asked me for a
lift to a local restaurant (94th Aerosquadron) which is near Port Columbus
and is styled after a WW I era French farm house. Ron was invited there to
sit in with the Rick Brunetta band for a couple dance sets. Well, to my
surprise and delight, the band was a BIG band, 16 pieces plus vocalist,
and Ron's harmonica (he's also a studio musician and can cut the charts
with the best of them) was an exciting addition - the crowd loved it.
Needless to say, I stayed for the show.
4/8/94- Friday officially opened BHF '94 - The Janis Center doors opened
at 9:00 A.M. and the coffee pot was on. Morning hours were spent meeting
and greeting and jaming in the large multipurpose hall. Registration and
sales tables were staffed and F & R Farrell Co. was doing business, he had
a crowd around his 16' table the whole feastival, selling harmonicas and
related items like they were going out of style. -- meanwhile, final sound
system tweeking and some sound checks were going on in the auditorium
through lunch hour. At 1:00 P.M. the BHB (Buckeye Harmonica Band) kicked
off the open mic sessions and we had wall to wall harmonica music with
many groups participating until dinner time. After dinner was our first
evening concert featuring Harmonica Chazz (Charlie Henderson from
Richland, SC); the Harmonica Junction Quintet (Al & Judy Smith - Akron,
Rudy & Doris Michelin, & Bob Forgione - Detroit) 1989 harmonica champion
of Ireland, John Murphy; Mo Vint, Canada, did his one man show with self
recorded backup; and the Don Les Harmonicats (Don Les, diatonic, Bud
Boblink, chord, Frank Robinson, bass). A great 3 hour and 45 minute show.
Afterwords a bunch of entertainers and 'groupies' went to Max & Erma's for
burgers and conversation.
Some interesting points about a couple of the acts: Mo Vint wears an
Engineer's suit and rolls out a replica of a steam engine, almost big
enough to ride in. The cab containes his various harmonicas, tape machine,
mixer and is even rigged with an amp & speakers which he uses on outdoor
shows. His act is so popular with resorts, fairs, malls, etc. that he has
to turn down work. He travels the USA and Canada year round and says he is
busier than he's ever been. He says booking a harmonica act these days is
tough so he bills himself as a singer who happens to play harmonica. Mo
plays all the harmonica parts on his backup tracks (no pun intended) and
does live vocals and harmonica over them. Another act that I really like
(I saw them at SPAH in 1993 and decided to see if we could hire them) was
originally called the Qwazy Quintet - now known as Harmonica Junction.
There was something very nostalgic about seeing five people huddle around
one mic - reminiscant of the Borah Minevitch Rascals and later Johnny
Puleo's Harmonica Gang playing over one of those old radio mics. Quite a
visual effect and a unique sound.
4/9/94- Saturday morning opened with a panel of professionals fielding
questions from the audience - this has been a popular seminar format and
we use the auditorium so everyone can attend. The two hour session
provided plenty of information on all aspects of harmonica playing and
show business and was dotted with humor from the panel. I acted as
moderator, repeating questions over the PA and directing them to the
proper panel member. Near the end of the session I asked the panel to
introduce themselves once more and gave them one more question -- "How
were you influenced to start harmonica, what are you doing with it now,
and will you share a funny or strange show biz related story". This
produced some interesting anecdotes. This seminar will be transcribed from
tape and published in monthly installments in the Harmonica Dispatch. I
may post the transcripts here later for those who don't receive HD. The
afternoon was open mic time again. After dinner was our second concert
night with Chazz opening the show again with another selection of solos on
the 2'chord harmonica. He was followed by Harmonica-Nection (Bob Williams,
Val Bachleda & Gordon Mitchell, all of Detroit); the Hot Shots, Al
(formerly from San Jose) and Judy Smith, both now residing in Akron -
Their highly polished act with their precision choreography and schtik is
always a show stopper; The incomparable Eddie Gordon, Fresno, CA, played
diatonic, chord, chromatic, harmonetta and Millioniser (harmonica
synthesizer) all with astonishing virtuosity. Our MC, Sandy German,
Cincinnati, joined Eddie along with Bud Boblink for some impromptu
numbers. Few would want to follow that act but our headliner for Saturday,
Ron Kalina, Los Angeles, CA, was up to the challenge with his mastery of
harmonica and keyboards. Sometimes playing harmonica and keyboard
simultaneously - other times showing us more state-of-the-art
entertainment by using programmed effects on midi keyboards. He also uses
the fairly new Yamaha QY20 very effectively. (The QY20 is an orchestra in
a box about the size of a VHS video tape, very powerful. The show ran 1
hr. 15 min. over the scheduled 3 hr. time but no one seemed to mind. After
the show a large group again went to Max & Erma's to wind down.
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