The Harmonica At War – Lili Marlene [..with tab]

LILI MARLENE [..with tab]

Underneath the lantern, by the barrack gate

Had we been shovelled onto a grimy conveyor belt and pitched alongside millions of innocents into the inferno of the Great War (1914-18), there is a strong chance we would have had a musical companion. An emollient for the mental and physical agonies of front line duty.

Portability, cost and availability predetermined the choice of instrument. And while a variety found their way to the front, it was the humble harmonica that became the proprietary antedote to the sting of industrialised warfare. And it’s probably the reason why so many Europeans still relate stories of a family elder who played the mouth organ.

This Remembrance Day is no different to any other – they are equally important.  As Santayana famously wrote: Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. It’s just that this year we have the novelty of an extra number 11. At the eleventh hour (GMT), on the eleventh day, of the eleventh month –  of the eleventh year – we remember the fallen.

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Get Out Of Jail Free

Norton & BonnieDo not pass GO

Greasy Rob the car mechanic, Otis the mailman, Stomping Stu from the village allotments and the Doc were busy playing a game of Friday night Monopoly on the kitchen table. A glazed brown pot of Rington’s Tea steamed away beside Otis who was the banker and custodian of the premium biscuit assortment. Otis had hotels on his home straight green collection, Rob had all four stations and the Doc had a strong collection of reds and pinks. Stu, meanwhile, was thumbing his Water Works and keeping an eye on the orange properties. (more…)

Jesu Joy Of Man’s Desiring – J.S. Bach [..with tab]

Switched On BachHark, what peaceful music rings!

[To the Memory of the great Herbert Harris, Choirmaster and Organist of All Saints Church, Harpenden, UK].

Welcome to the Harp Surgery, where one minute we’re honking the blues and next minute we’re power harping on a tangent. Time now to turn the clocks back three hundred years to the ornamentation and etiquette of the Baroque.

Whether or not you’ve studied classical music, it’s a certainty you’ve encountered its superstars. In absentia, these dudes have colonised elevators, call centres hold messages and even TV theme tunes (check out The Antiques Roadshow ) for decades. Our house favourite is Johann Sebastian Bach. Jesu Joy Of Man’s Desiring, composed in the early 1700’s, was regular fayre for the Good Doctor as a junior.  And somehow, Bach was hip. (more…)

I Feel Good (I Got You)…[with tab]

Funkin’ it up on the blues harmonica

What shall we play now? Well, as the late great James Brown put it, whatever we play, it’s got to be funky! Wise words from a guy who learned harmonica as a kid; as well as the guitar, drums, piano, and of course, some hefty vocals.

Harp players are – or should be – conscious of their scope for providing not only a horn line, but a whole horn section on the humble tin sandwich. By this I mean everything from a melody which might otherwise be delivered by a single brass instrument, to a fanfare or complete horn-style fill. It’s all there waiting to be mined. So let’s dig deeper… (more…)

Amazing Grate – First Steps On Those High End Holes

How strange the sound

Young Malcolm called into the Harp Surgery today, hot on the heels of our Harpin’ By The Sea event. Having witnessed Will Greener’s performance of Amazing Grace, he was keen to revisit the tune from scratch.

Using a C major 10 hole diatonic, we knew that the tune can be played using 7B as the root. But while this avoids any nasty bends, it does sound rather shrill. Also, as a beginner, it demands a strong embouchure and some dexterity around a specific triplet of notes. (more…)

Harp The Herald Angels Sing!

Christmas VoucherChristmas Carols on the diatonic harmonica

In thanks to everyone who has tuned in to the Harp Surgery this year, we would like to share some seasonal music with you. So grab your harps (and maybe a friend with a harp) and let’s look at Silent Night, Jingle Bells and Angels From The Realms Of Glory.
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