Ben at SPAH  —   latest from the harmonica festival    —  15.8.13

Up early to sample some American culture at a Waffle House – coffee, bacon and maple syrup with some no transfat white substance. An alternative to the $17 breakfast in the hotel.  This to make sure I got to Madcat Ruth’s seminar on acoustic tone at 08.30am and I was only a little late.  He is a great harmonica player and gave us a wonderful write up in one of our Sonny Terry books so I wanted to thank him and hang out a bit. We’ll try to get him to a UK festival some time.  He’s such a character;  you have to love him and I learned about a bunch of new things including his ‘loo-roll’ amplifier and his swanee whistle auto bending machine…!!

My own one and a half hour seminar teaching ‘How to play in 7 keys on a C harp without bending a note’ went down really well with a flurry of interest and a swarm of people came up wanting more at the end of it.  My workshop followed two hours of the Joe Filisko Teach-in.

There were so many seminars of great interest but I just couldn’t get to many.  These included:

Harmonica Collecting and History             Chicago Blues with Joe Filisko          Chromatic playing for diatonic players

Group playing by ear                      X-Reed harmonicas with Brendan Power              The craft of Country harp

Traditional Quebecois music                      Adding color to music                    Singing and harmony                 Better bending

Playing by ear                     How to be a frontman                 Breath control for blues harp

Just so much great stuff.    So much going on that you can really only catch 10% of what’s available.

Then in the evening there was a 4-hour concert with Winslow Yerxa, Pierre-Luc Dupuis, Paul Rishell, Annie Raines, John Sebastian, Hot Shots, Gateway Club followed by and blues jam, a jazz jam, a country jam, a bluegrass jam all very high quality especially the jazz.
I had to leave at 1.30am to get some rest but sat for a while listening to a little hallway jam with Madcat Ruth, Richard Sleigh, Steve Baker, Dennis Greunling and friends. Astonishing.
Crawled down for breakfast at 08.30 this morning to find the stage in the lobby bouncing to the sound of a chord/bass/chrom trio playing ‘When the saints’ to rapturous applause.
Harmonica festivals – what are they like!!