Night Organs Unexpected encounter on that winter evening during which it was not recommended to put your nose out, solstice whim.
Whatever the case may be, we posted complete in the beautiful Passy Annunciation United Protestant church in Paris.
In the program were two instruments, two different kinds of organs symbol of the free reed, each believing to be alone in the world, until now ignoring the existence of the other. But that night they
discovered what it was. For the first time, the mouth organ and the great organ met during this unforgettable evening in front of a conquered audience.
Imagine the planet smallest instrument in Nami Miyata's hands, virtuoso of our mouth music, face to true Goliath, the great organ of Yves Pelras, playing pieces of our classical heritage, in perfect harmony and, more than that, Antoine Leroux who came to join them. A great world premiere, concluded by a never ending standing ovation.
Many thanks to Jean Brunet, Harmonicas de France new President, master in event logistics, organizer of this unforgettable evening.
What a night, we'll talk about it for a long long time.
Jean Labre Published March 8th 2018
An Harmonica in The Paris Garnier Opéra For the first time in its long history, Paris Opera Garnier has welcomed a musical instrument born as itself in the 19th Century : the Harmonica of Antoine Leroux, very talented harmonica player.
This event took place from March 7th to April 1st. Twelve performances during wich Antoine has played Tchaïkovski's « Waltz of the Flowers »,from Nutcracker Ballet, Antoine Leroux himself evolving on stage among the dancers of this prestigious Opera House.
A world premiere in this Opera Garnier, a historical monument as the Carnegie Hall in New York, classified Historic Landmark,in wich Larry Adler and Buddy Green obtained a triumphal success, without forgetting Claude Garden at Boston with the « Boston Pop Orchestra ».
It was the same for Antoine Leroux, complimented at the end of the last performance by the Opera Director and the artistic director.
Such prestigious places contribute to put on the front our instrument for the general public.
It can't be said now that our instrument did not collect its credentials... Finished with the ugly duckling contempt...
The Opera Garnier... The « Holy Grail » !
I have been waiting for it a very long time.
The harmonica in its present form is born in Germany in 1821, invented by Christian Friedrich Buschmann. But do not forget that its free reeds ancestor, the sheng, is born in China 4500 years ago, invented under the reign of Emperor Huangdi. Later on It will be followed, in the seventh century AD, by the japanese shö. Harmonica, sheng and shö are identical in design, based on the free reeds principle blow-inspire. It's the only instrument in the world offering this possibility. Published June 10th 2016
The Franc Pinot In Paris, you just have to cross a bridge and you are in Saint Louis island, a mythical world where many celebrities have chosen to live. Isles have always had, an undefinable magic and this is true even in the heart of Paris.
Recently, I had to cross the Marie bridge to attend a concert. At the end of it, I walked along the romantic waterfront. And suddenly found myself facing an old iron sign adorned with a bunch of grapes, the « Franc Pinot » ! Back into the past... As far as I can remember I had not walked through this place since 1954. Magical complicity of this autumn night, when I pushed the door I found myself in a place full of memories... I was 20 years old then !
I was warmly welcomed by the new boss. I instantly realised that he was looking forward to hear tales from the distant harmonica past of the Franc Pinot, he was listening to me with great interest. I told him the very beginning of the story, when Borrah Minevitch purchased The Franc Pinot at the beginning of the fifties, a place where since three centuries, middle class and artists came to slum it. Then it was the harmonicas players who patronized the Franc Pinot...
It's in the flat above that Borrah Minnevitch died in 1955. Nowadays jazz is played there.
Delighted by this return in the past my host suggested visiting the premises. Apart from a few changes in the first level, nothing has really changed in the medieval cellar with its small stage, its grand piano, or in the other vaulted cellar reserved for privates appointments... yes, nothing has changed, the decoration, the wall tiles are the same.
Time has elapsed. Borrah Minnevitch has left us a priceless heritage, a musical and scenic quality in the pure « Music-Hall » tradition, unmatched until now. Those shows around the world with his « Rascals » : Johnny Puleo, Richard Hayman, Jerry Murad, Don Less, Pete Pedersen, and the others... Unforgettable !
That night spent with my memories had been really a magical night.
Early in the morning, I crossed back the Marie bridge to return to my home, sweet home.
*Island Saint Louis is a World Heritage by UNESCO.
Situated 1 quai Bourbon, Ile Saint Louis 75004 Paris Published February 27th 2016
Anecdote An anecdote is a historical feature, a little story told pleasantly and easily remembered by appealing to feelings. The art of telling an anecdote is part of the conversation charm in any place whatsoever, usually with family or friends, in public places : restaurant, bar, coffee shop...
Our little harmonica world is not outdone. For a long time anecdotes have fed Chronics. As far as I am concerned I recenttly evoked a meeting taking place in the fifties, during which the regretted Jean Wetzel slapped the also regretted Larry Adler, for a dark history of « Grisbi ». Nobody is perfect...
An opportunity is offered us today, to meet in an appropriate place for criticizing or even praising. « Epithets, bad praise, it is the facts that are praising and how they are told » so said us the philosopher La Bruyère.
It's in a coffee bar named « Anecdote » that now will take place our monthly appointment, situated in Bercy street in Paris. It is since many years the meeting point for harmonica players, greeted there by « Monique », fairy godmother of the place renamed now by its new owner.
Henceforth, it is Isabelle who will welcome us in this place, a legend to day after a so long and faithful attendance. Memories are made of this... Published February 5th 2016
Blues Planet The Blues is life and life is the Blues. It covers from the first cry of a newborn baby to the last gasp of a dying man. It's the very existence."
All is said in this beautiful Victoria Spivey book : "The Blues is Life".
Blues... BB King was the embodiment of it. He has just left us recently, the Blues planet is in mourning.
The bluesman has the peculiarity to live the blues with two additional supports that are his voice and his instrument. Luckily the guitar is a polyphonic instrument, a single guitar can replace a whole orchestra. BB King made of it the striking demonstration during decades. "Man needs passion to exist" Goethe has told us... "Baby Blues"* has been the perfect illustration of blues for decades. In blues, not only we improvise our life, but in addition we improvise our music, all our music. Since its beginning nearly two centuries ago, the blues gradually became a simple sung literature, a philosophy at large, an art of living that rock music will spread later on all over the globe.
Harmonica will only take part in it at the end of the 19th century, adding something more to the range of bluesmen, receiving immediately a great success. Harmonica is now known as the "Mississipi Saxo".
In Memphis, in Baele street, people can discover a worshipped place, the "BB King Blues Club". Magical space where BB King and its predecessors have long since left an indelible print. It was proclaimed "National Historic Landmark" in 1966.
Like on Hollywood boulevard in Los Angeles, there is in Beale street a "Walk of Fame" where you can find, on paving stones, the names of BB King, Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson, the King Elvis... recently Pete Pedersen and many others.
We leave BB King Blues club hearing and palate completely satisfied, a place where blues and "lips making ribs" (Creole BBQ) are blending wonderfully.
BB King unfortunately died... Lucille, his guitar, henceforth is orphan.
*His nickname since his childhood Published May 20th 2015
To Be or not to Be... Depending on how people perceive it, the comprehension of this sentence is multiple. Let's forget an instant the poetic, theatrical dimensions of the Shakespeare's writing, to find ourselves four centuries later, on the morning of January the 9th 2015 when the tragedy happened in Charlie Hebdo magazine premises.
Immeasurable infringement of our freedoms.
Yes, it is important to be Charlie, we are Charlie, I am Charlie. Our harmonica little world is wholeheartedly Charlie. Many cartoonists are going on waving their pencils, their only weapons against barbarism. And us, we've only got our small instrument...
I had the chance, the happiness to live a wandering life in a world full of diversity and differences, full of all kinds of musics so enriching, always with my harmonica in my pocket... Faithfull companion, symbol of freedom and my best passeport through our wonderfull and so turbulent world...
May I daresay something that will probably make our cartoonists smile ? I remember an old time saying : "If all guys around the world may join hands..."
It's not forbidden to have a dream.
Jean Labre Published January 24th 2015
Claude Garden Biography, 1937-2004-(1)
Back in 1952. A day of this particular year remains deeply engraved in my memory . It's a Saturday afternoon ; we are in an harmonica club called
" CHARM ", founded by Albert Raisner, when Claude Garden appears for the first time in our harmonicist universe, pushing the door of this legendary place, rue des Petites Écuries in Paris. Claude was just fifteen years old. Accompanied on the piano by his mother, he plaid the Mozart Turkish March; all of us were silent, amazed to discover this young boy giving a virtuoso performance with a sensibility promising an exceptional talent. His brilliant career will later confirm it. I still remember the radiant proudness in his mother's eyes. She was and she went on being his most faithful support all along his career. She will be 99 years old this year (2004).
" I began playing harmonica the day I heard Larry Adler playing, thanks to you Larry... ", he told me one day when I was interviewing him(2). His media explosion in the fifties was favoured by the exceptional craze for our instrument during those ten years, " the mouth music golden age ", well known among us who had lived through it. Happy time during which Claude, rapidly, took his place among the greatest. Radios, concerts, recordings, followed at a pace which leaves us dreaming, nowadays. Of this period a good number of recordings still remains, you'll find them listed in the discography at the end of this article. They are mostly classical music records, plus some remarkable variety ones, and among them the " Grisbi " which I personally prefer to Larry Adler's one.
At the beginning of the sixties, the fifties vogue was waning. With the arrival of rock'n roll and the Beatles, a new attractive music mode was offered to the audience, with new instruments, electronic effects, etc. Professional harmonica players do remember sadly this difficult time.
Claude Garden told me : " The fifties quickly ended. By the end of the sixties, I told myself that, just to earn enough to live on, I was going to be obliged to widen the range of my possibilities, to become a little more chameleon. I used to play variety and at that time I was seduced by jazz. I learn jazz with Martial Solal, Nicole Croisille, Luigi Trussardi, Maurice Vander. We often met at the " Living room " in Paris. It was a jazz club where many american jazzmen used to go ". Claude, belonging to the wellknown impresario Johnny Stark's stable, had the luck to go on tour with Jacques Brel, Zizi Jeanmaire, Johnny Halliday, Raymond Devos, etc. But this adventure was going to end badly : Stark had some character... Claude Garden too !
Then came the seventies. Claude added : " Luck came to my help. Thanks to André Dassary (wellknown singer of the time), I was engaged on the transatlantic liner " France ". And there it was again, New York, Montréal, a two years cruise over the North Atlantic, from 1970 to 1972.
That's where I met Salvador Dali... sheer luck again. On the " France " liner, I was often playing Eric Satie pieces. This is how I come to know Dali, he and Satie being among the founders of surrealism, artistic movement popular at the end of the twenties, beginning of the thirties. And that's why, regularly during three or four years, Salvador Dali invited me to play at the Saint Regis Hotel in New York, where he was staying. Then I travelled the world with him. I was very disappointed by the States : in spite of Dali's help, I played there only twice, once in Boston with the Boston Pop Orchestra when I played Arthur Benjamin's Concerto, the second time in New York, at the Carnegie Hall where I played Henri Sauguet's Concerto. To have known Dali had changed my life and my view of things. "
Claude Garden discovered Canada more or less at the same moment. And he fell in love with that country ! After a TV show in Montreal, this french man from " l'aut' bord ", was adopted by his canadian cousins. Félix Leclerc (with whom he made a record), Charlebois, Vigneault, very often invited him to play with them. " Jeunesses Musicales du Quebec " will offer him a great tour in North America with a new formula ; " Duo Harmonica Guitare ", showing a new range of his talent. François Dompierre, composer native of Québec, will write for him " Harmonica Flash " that he will play in concert and will record with the Montréal Philarmonic Orchestra directed by Charles Dutoit, for Deutsche Grammophon. Not coming very often in France, he finally chose to live in Canada until 1985, adopting both nationalities. About Canada, he will say to " have found his roots there ".
He didn't go back directly to France, and always curious to discover the world, he stopped for six months in the Caribbean. He performed in the archipelago, all winter through, with a jazz quartet. He discovered Haïti and found there friends, musicians, dancers and painters who adopted him very quickly. (Claude was also a talented painter, he had studied arts, when he was young, at the Arts Deco in Paris.) During that period, he lived in Haïti, on Black Mountain (the heights of Port au Prince), where he is until now called : " Ti Blanc Gentil ".
By the end of 1985, engaged by the famous conductor Paul Mauriat, Claude toured for the first time in Japan. Discovering the country of the Rising Sun, he fell in love with it, a love that will only come to an end on a very sad autumn morning of 2004.
Since 1986, we have been, Claude and I, having a relationship, at the same time friendly and professional when I distributed two of his records under my label PSB. By the end of the eighties, during five years, he gave lessons in a music shop, the
" Ménétrier ", rue de Rome in Paris, street wellknown all around the world as the street of instruments builders.
It happened only once in the harmonica French history : the European Paris Conservatoire, rue des Francs Bourgeois, proposed Claude to open a chromatic harmonica class. There were not enough applications and so the project never came into existence. We can only regret it, this could have given to our instrument a nobility that we surely need.
In 1992, back for a tour in Japan where harmonica is king, Claude became in this country a worshipped star, giving every single year series of sold out concerts, tours and master classes, TV shows and private lessons. Following his advice an instrument manufacturer, Suzuki, created a fourteen holes chromatic harmonica, the
" Magic Garden ". Being myself often in Japan and Pete Pedersen also, we sometimes shared with Claude unforgettable moments. I keep in my mind a strong souvenir of his participation to the Atsugi Festival in 2002 ; the " Hotshot's ", the " Adler trio " and my friends Juko Saïto and Yasuho Watani were also there. Just for you to appreciate the interest for that kind of event in Japan, you must know that there were 28000 entries during this five days festival.
Since 1990 until the beginning of this century, Claude Garden, travelled from concert to concert around the world: Germany, USA, China, Korea, Malaysia, Canada, Taiwan,etc. But surprisingly, he performed scarcely in France.
But there is also Claude Garden the composer. Here is what he told me in the interview he gave me :
" My constant worry was to compose for the register of the technical and melodic possibilities of the instrument. I began writing twenty years ago. My first composition " Alexandra " was dedicated to my youngest daughter. She is now twenty three. " (Claude has got another daughter, Maud.) " At that time, my compositions were directed towards a New Age style putting particularly in advantage the harmonica tones. Then came my
" Suite enfantine ", etc. ". Claude composed many other harmonica pieces and among them, four compositions in his last jazz record " Garden Club ".
Very famous musicians composed for him : Henri Sauguet, Astor Piazzola, Charles Dutoit, François Dompierre. Here is a brief summary of what has been said, here and there, on Claude :
" I had the great pleasure to compose the " Garden Concerto " for Claude Garden. Because of him, harmonica has a new dimension, and he is the undisputed master of it. He has got the most intelligent technic and sound. " Henri Sauguet.
" I did not know that existed such an harmonicist able to play classical, jazz or latin music. When Claude Garden asked me to write him a concerto, I didn't know him. As soon as I heard him play I knew he was a great musician." Astor Piazzola.
" When I recorded " Harmonica Flash " with Claude Garden for Deutsche Grammophon, I discovered a new harmonica I had not imagined. " Charles Dutoit.
" Besides an unbelievable musicality and an unfailing technic, Claude Garden never lapsed into vulgarity. " François Dompierre.
" For me Claude Garden, being my friend... is not Claude Garden...He is the very symbol of harmonica. " Salvador Dali.
In 1995, at the IHO/FIH World Festival in Yokohama to which Larry Adler and Claude took part, during a breakfast at the Continental hotel, Larry told me : " He can do everything. With him and a few others like Watani, I am convinced that my succession is assured. "
At he beginning of August 2004, we were together at the 5th Asiatic Festival in Hong Kong. Although he was tired, Claude made once more the demonstration of his great talent during a jazz concert, greeted by a well deserved standing ovation.
It was in Hong Kong, at the Ramada hotel in Kowloon, during a hot summer evening, when, for the last time, we met Claude and I, for a friendly drink. The next morning he was taking a plane to Japan, where faithful to his audience, overcoming his suffering, Magic Garden brilliantly proved, for the last time, how great was his talent. We knew it, we won't forget it.
On Thursday December the 9th 2004, Claude died in St Joseph hospital in Paris. He now lies in Bagneux cemetery.
One day he had said : " The harmonica has been for me a symbol of liberty and also my best passport across the world. "
English translation : Josette Labre
photo c/o Claude Garden
(1) Claude Garden was born at Verneuil sur Avre (Normandie), the 27th of Februar 1937.
(2) The mentioned above interview was realised by Jean Labre, in his residence, on November the 6th 2002. All the interventions of Claude Garden in this article are taken from this interview, published in the magazine " Echos France Harmonica " N°40 (Winter 2002/2003)
It is not an exhaustive list. Claude Garden has been recording so many times in half a century that I do not pretend to give you here the integrality of his works. My friends and myself are proposing you the essential of what we have selected .
9265410V FONTANA " Les Rois de l'Harmonica "
S63082 CBS " Claude Garden Harmonica "
839851 GSY PHILIPS " L'harmonica et son virtuose Soirée Musicale "
995021 BARCLAY " Inédits ORTF Garden Concerto "
AG35701 AGAVE SONOPRESS "Music Garden"
RC1443 RADIO CANADA "International Transcription"
9500999 PHILIPS "Claude Garden Mundharmonica"
G05578R PHILIPS " Harmonica et son virtuose Classique pour tous "
2531265 DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON " Harmonica Flash "
EPS 1222 VOGUE " Harmonica Concert Claude Garden "
460 072 VOGUE " Claude Garden Harmonica 1 "
EPS 1249 VOGUE " Claude Garden Harmonica 2 "
842851 PHILIPS " Texas Rider "
Collection Claude Garden Production
87701 PSB " Mes Rappels Préférés " Claude Garden Harmonica/classique vol.1 (cassette)
4232 PSB " L'Harmonica " Claude Garden
Harmonica/classique vol.2 (cassette)
AMPLITUDE/Canada/ CD Felix Leclerc - Claude Garden / Yvan Gadoua Productions
INCDCD 111 " Tender harmonica stories " INTERMÈDE COM
INCD 5001 " That's what friends are for " CD. Amplitude Canada (variety)
VICG-8069 Victor Ent. Japon " Mélodies Claude Garden " Classic CD: Gossec, Desportes, Mozart, Kriesler, and Japanese classics : Miyagi, Sugiyama
Série " Prestige de l'Harmonica " (3 CD. Bleu, Blanc, Rouge)
ILD 642206 " Claude Garden vol.1 " : Hasse, Vivaldi, Mozart, Pergolèse, Purcell, Sarasate,
Debussy, Gounod, Dinicu, St Saëns, Fauré.
ILD 642207 " Claude Garden vol.2 " : Paganini, Teleman, Bach, Schubert, Donizetti, Albinoni, Vivaldi, Grieg, Beethoven, Bartok.
ILD 64208 " Claude Garden vol.3 " : Bach, Marcello, Ibrt, Satie, Chopin, Schumann, Ravel, Katchaturian, Benjamin, De Falla.
These 3 CD are available. Contact ILD : tel : (33)184.108.40.206.41.
J.L.001 "Yokohama 95" compilation CD : Claude Garden, Larry Adler, Pete Pedersen, Charlie Mc Coy, Franz Chmel, Don Les, Mo Vint, Jean Labre, Juko Saito, Shigeaki Iwasaki... available on this website, in http://www.jeanlabre.com/english/cd.html.
Flavor of Time Flavor of the Time
Quality perceived by the senses and the taste...
Things are moving in the « Mouth Music World », initiatives are multiplying across France , every day new links are created by associations and other movements, willing to provide information needed by each of us, wherever we are. Globalization has expanded the artistic landscape. Flavor of the time which is providing us a multitude of events including concerts, festivals, meetings, chronics, publications.
Things are moving and we are not abandoned : example in Condat, a small town in the center of France, where a new Ressources Harmonica Center (PRH) is born, sponsored by an international audience, by Brendan Power and Joe Filisko, and at the initiative of the local association Harpedge.
Without forgetting those of us having no internet connection, who will now find in « Harmonicas de France » magazine information devoted primarily to local associations, groups and all harmonica players of France.
Also flavors of the spirit, without which this edito would precisely be lacking... flavor.
Everything has sense, the taste has several.
The arrival of « Beaujolais Nouveau » wine has now become a global event.
November 1999, an Air France cargo arrived in Tokyo Narita airport loaded with 145 tons of Beaujolais Nouveau. On that same evening I was invited to take part in a musical party organized by Air France to celebrate the event, in Tokyo New Otani Palace. Memorable evening...
In the plane returning home, came to me the idea of organizing in Paris, every year, the same celebration. Thus was born the first musical « Harmo-Beaujo » of which we'll celebrate this month the fifteenth anniversary ... with moderation, at the restaurant « Arts et Sciences Réunis » in Paris.
« Vinicius et musica laetificant cor »
Wine and Music rejoice the Body. Ecclesiastiques XI, 20
Jean Labre Published November 6th 2014
What's News The thirst to know what is happening on our planet and in our environment, this need exploited by the medias never ceases to increase fueled by a flood of publicity... goose that lays golden eggs ! Phenomenon generating an addiction inherent to our epoch. We are all more or less victims and the machine is constantly accelerated by the influence of internet.
A friend of mine, saturated by this system, used to say that he was dreaming of being on a desert island with only a stack of phone books to sit on. He did not, unfortunately, had time to realize his dream. I sometimes think that such a situation would probably be worth living.
In the real world, to keep you informed of our mouth music activities is not something obvious, it requires considerable work. Let's pay tribute to the editorial team of the magazine « Harmonicas de France », which relentlessly works to keep you informed on everything happening in our small harmonica world. I try to help them as much as possible.
Internet has changed everything, and if we consider that many of us do not have access to this system... it's a problem. I' am addressing them today.
Firstly I would advise them to subscribe, if it's not already done, to the association Harmonicas de France magazine, but I can't help advising them also to adopt internet, aware that nowadays almost everything is treated via this process... and believe that there is no age limit to do so, a neighbour of my friends did it at 91 years.
Internet will allow them to access to harmonica world websites. I personnaly created this jeanlabre.com website which also keeps tracks of everything happening on the harmonica planet.
Inexorably, we must admit that internet will become very shortly the only interlocutor to answer your questions... Or rejecting this system, like a Robinson Crusoe, will you end up on a desert island without phone books (they also are digital) ... Philosophy, life choice ? Why not.
Jean Labre Published May 11th 2014
New Year's Eve 2014 Confetti and fancy dress are now memories. The Three Wise Men are gone back into our imagination till next year, vagaries of time which tirelessly pursues its path.
A host of events already shows up in our harmonica calendar. It is indisputable that the 2014 flagship event will be the 10th Asia Pacific Harmonica Festival (APHF) to be held in Hangzhou (China), near Shanghai; we'll talk more extensively about it later, in this website.
Back to the past, to the event that marked the end of 2013, the World Harmonica Festival of Trossingen, Germany. Furthermore the harvest of gold medals, 10 out of 13, attributed to our friends from the Lands of the « Rising Sun ». Three standing ovations occured during traditional concerts and they deserved it. Unfortunatly this festival takes place only every four years... Tribute from an enthusiastic audience was paid successively to Keith Dunn who delivered us pure blues, accompanied only by the heel of his boots beating time on the stage floor. Masterly return to the « big bang » of the mouth music... A century later, as time passes by, our instrument have not ceased to decline its score every where. With the recent appearance of the « Hong Kong Harmonica Association Orchestra », harmonica becomes symphonic !
During the last closing concert, Yasuho Watani plaid Chopin, Astor Piazzola, with this sensibility, this virtuosity that characterizes him... Last standing ovation, we would have liked to have more.
The alchemy « blow, breath-in », privilege of this only instrument in the world able to practice this technique, has perfectly worked once more, showing us that chromatic and diatonic are viscerally connected in the same beautiful instrumental family. Let it be said to every one around us.
Happy New Year
Jean Labre Published January 1st 2014
Myth in Black Forest Like the Phoenix, it is in Trossingen, in this magical site that it found refuge since nearly two centuries, after 2500 years of a rich journey on a road full of twists, a history already mentionned many a time in jeanlabre.com.
A myth does not die, Socrate and Platon are still comfortably integrated into our contemporary life. Established from the beginning by oral tradition combined with constant instrumental practice, our mythical « mouth music » is teaching us that rational can become miraculously beneficial, one of its functions being essentially teaching. The Trossingen WHF 2013 is a perfect illustration.
The harmonica is an objet that thrills, generates an imagination going far beyond the abilities ascribed to it. Yes, far beyond, and I am looking forward to the pleasure of attending at the « Hong Kong Harmonica Association Ochestra » concert, directed masterfully by my friend Johnny Kuan, with 80 harmonica players, orchestra of high quality interpreting traditionnal classical pieces, with an execution, a gesture in the pure tradition of great classical orchestras (men dressed in tuxedos, women wearing evening dresses). That would suit our Palais Garnier, Paris Opéra House... it's sure to be a bit weepy...
If you feel like it, your piggy bank also, do not miss this Festival that take place, unfortunately only every 4 years... and don't forget your « mouth music » faithfull companion, your best passport through this wonderful and turbulent world.
Jean Labre Published October 18th 2013
Benevolat The meaning of the word "benevolat" is to donate your time and effort without any retribution to organisation, sport clubs, charitable or medical groups, intellectual societies and others.
These volunteers are called "benevoles"from the Latin "Benevolus". To be helpful and do something for someone is the goal of every
Benevoles. And this editorial is all about our Musical world and our wonderful "Benevoles".
I am back from our Mittelwhir gathering in the heart of the Alsatian Vineyard, event created by Patrice Zanardo, Zazapat, and Bernard Chemin, harmonica players, both masters of "Benevolat".
Three days during which Harmonica Players from France, Switzerland and Germany not only demonstrate their musical talents but proved they could as well hold their own when it comes to sample local wines and beers... moderato.
Same scenario continued after three days in Domancy (Haute Savoie),
during which time Gerard Perrin and his group of "Benevoles" performed their "Harmonic'Amis " festival, which will be remembered (see our website to be convinced).
This "Benevolat" is really the most important factor for the survival of our dedicated groups, without them I am afraid our associations would be in the way of disappearance.
I will close this editorial by quoting Philippe Gluck, a Belgian humorist: " By paying better salary to the benevolents it would entice more people to work as benevoles."
Jean Labre Published June 28th 2013
The Return of the Swallows The swallows, faitfull to their appointment, are back, chasing an awful winter with a lot of chirpings, heralding a year rich in harmonica events every where, with a highlight, the World Harmonica Festival (WHF2013), to be held in Trossingen, Germany, from October 30 to November 3.
You will find in our "News/Calendar" pages information about all the other harmonica events of this year. The Trossingen appointment is approaching. The World Harmonica Championship, flagship event of this festival, attracts more and more countries, including many far east competitors. The race for medals is open. Those of you wishing to take part in this festival should contact : http://www.whf-2013.de
without delay, because of hotels reservations.
The bursting out of Internet has left behind some of us, attached to the uses of the past. They have chosen to ignore all the benefits that the web has made possible : opportunities to interact with users of the other sides of the world, e-mails, blogs, tweets and forums.
But it is clear that the vast majority of players are swearing by internet, assiduously practicing the web, may be sometimes bordering addiction...It's nowadays an evidence, internet is a giant business, the proof of it is that JeanLabre.com is now visited by 131 countries.
Back in the past... Aren't we entitled to wonder where the swallows could settled before the invention of telephone ?
- Jean Labre Published April 4th 2013
About Post Apocalypse "I never think of the future, it will come soon enough."Albert Einstein
And then, after 5125 years, the Maya calendar reaching the end of its cycle, was announcing the end of the world for the 21st of December 2012...Thanks God, it did not happen.
New Year's eve 2013. I relish a refreshing lime blossom and mint tea post festivities, with in the background, the sound of the Elvis Christmas album I constantly listen to at the end of each year, a moment of musical emotion... That musical emotion, my faithful travelling companion over the years that are passing so quickly. Although scientists are predicting to our old planet nearly five billions years of existence, we are only passengers in an universe going on for ages.
The next World Harmonica Festival will take place in the mythical Trossingen city guardian of harmonica culture for nearly 200 years. There would be much to say about this little Bavarian town so inviting, so alluring in its Autumn colors.
A year 2013 which looks fertile in harmonica events, starting with "The Harmonicas de France" convention which will take place in the city of Vantoux, close to Metz (57000), under the leadership of its dynamic new President Daniel Marty and of Jean Louis Emmenecker.
Without forgetting the International Festival of Saint Aignant, the Tokyo AJHF convention and the US SPAH Convention in Saint Louis (Missouri); and many other harmonica events all around the world mentioned in our calendar section.
A year starting with the wind in its sails !
Happy New Year 2013 to all of you and your loved one...
Happy New Year to the readers of 131 countries loyal to www.jeanlabre.com.
Jean Labre Published January 18th 2013
Autumn 2012 & Such the Phoenix... Blessed are those among us who have lived during the Minevitch era. Others have discovered later this period, listening to the abundant bequeathed discography which shows an instrumental virtuosity combined with perfect orchestrations, both unmatched until now. While listening to Borah Minevitch and his famous "Rascals" , I've always said that it would not be easy to reach such a level, the bar was set very high. I was not the only one to think that.
I am back from the 9th Asia Pacific Harmonica Festival, biennial like our usual Mediterranean events, It is the meeting place of all the countries bordering the Pacific Ocean. Flawless organization in a "Thousand and One Night" atmosphere, perfect for concerts and official ceremonies.
According to the general opinion, the highlight of the festival was the international harmonica championship including 14 categories, with 2817 competitors !
For me, I consider that the culmination was elsewhere. I lived a great emotional moment during the concert "Fusion of Harmonica Arts", in the ballroom of the Berjaya palace. I was stuck listening to the Taïwan group "Judy Harmonica Ensemble", interpreting the movie "Pirates of the Caribbean" theme with a presence, a virtuosity that would not have disowned the Rascals. Yes, I realized during this evening that what I have thought impossible, the succession of Minevitch, has become feasible, in the concept so dear to him, namely : 3 chromatics, a chord and a bass. Let's pay tribute to the arranger. It has been the same with the "Sirius Harmonica Ensemble", from Taïwan, which also graced us with a flood of harmonics, masterfully interpreting "Contract", a video game theme : it moves, it's goes fast. Another bravo for the arranger. They also were five, in the same instrumental definition as the Rascals.
It is time, at last, for the epic Minevitch saga, now underground, to erupt again in broad daylight.
Undoubtedly the most invigorating news of this Autumn
Jean Labre Published October 16th 2012
Presidential Wind A presidential wind is sweeping right now over the planet. The associations are not immune to this phenomenon, such as: "France Harmonica" in Paris and SPAH at Irvin , Texas... whose members are invited to return to the polls. Without forgetting the State heads elections : France, USA and everywhere... A boom offered to the medias that are harassing us continuously.
So much so that many potential candidates don't hesitate to question their the mirror in their bathroom, in the early morning. Ah, those mirrors! They would do well to think before reflecting pictures!
There is a phenomenon drawing my attention, something that brings a breath of fresh air in this presidential turmoil. Let's go to the other side of the Atlantic to discover a beautiful love story. It concerns eight US Presidents who, for over 150 years, have lived an incredible honeymoon with our instrument. It started around 1860 with Abraham Lincoln, who according to Carl Sandburg biography, often played harmonica during his debates ; Warren G. Harding who, during his short mandate, kept a collection of harmonicas in the White House Oval Office ; Calvin Coolidge who, so it's said, amused his visitors in the same office ; Theodore Roosvelt, Nobel Prize, who often liked to play our instrument ; Woodrow Wilson, another avid harmonica player ; Dwight Eisenhower, the second World War winner, who was also a passionate of our instrument; it was the same for Ronald Reagan, a charmer, who was never tired of playing " Red River Valley " ; and then, let's not forget Bill Clinton, saxophone player, who once said : " An election campaign is made in verses... then we govern in prose."
I remember in 1972 one winter evening in Flaine, ski resort in French Savoie, during which the future French President Valery Giscard D'Estaing skilfully played traditional tunes on the accordion. This event happened in a traditional trattoria in the center of the village. My son Stephane, a baby at this time, attended this evening comfortably seated in his moses basket...
To vote is etymologically to make a wish, did you know that?
Take life as it comes, the wind as it blows... and the bright side of life.
- Jean Labre Published June 20th 2012
The Artist I've discovered silent movies in the late thirties,in the movie theater « Le Taine » in Paris, cult place at that time, rendez-vous for my childhood imagination, where I was going from time to time with my grandmother.
Time has elapsed. I'm not less fond of pantomime, with which it is the eyes that are hearing what is said on the screen. The eyes listen, and this process is greatly enhanced by the musical accompaniment which prevents the viewer of hearing the silence of the film.
"The Artist", let's salute this film and the performance of the actors, not forgetting the little dog, Uggie, first canine Hollywood star to win an Oscar, well-deserved.
At the time of the 3D it needs courage and persistence to release a silent film in black and white. Meeting between silent film and music writing, privileged stage of gestural art that offers a new reading key to the audience... a tribute to Charlie Chaplin and to the "Modern Times".
I have always been very careful to listen to film music, I even sometimes preferred to listen to the music instead of looking to the image.
This music that promotes the exchange and respect for others who do not speak our language... nor do we speak their language. Another form of language, another spontaneous gesture which is for us, harmonica players, to bring a harmonica to our lips. As the privileged dialogue with the Korean harmonica player, Lea Hea Bong, with whom I sometimes share an escape with mouth music.
Or even with Jun Fukamachi, the brilliant Japanese pianist with whom I happened to improvise "ad lib", endlessly, on the theme "Autumn Leaves", instant sharing with an ideal audience
But it goes further, I was stuck by a recent TV show (French channel 3), taking place in the polynesian Tuamotu archipelago, during which a musician began a musical dialogue with a whale ! He is Pierre Lavaque, the inventor of the "Shelltone", instrument designed specifically for this incredible adventure, based on the principle of the "marine conque", supported for the occasion by a submerged buoy hydrophone, between him and the whale. An amazing concert in which both gave us a Jam, responding alternately in four bars interventions, followed exactly by the whale ! Yes, I have counted !
The relationship Human-whale seems to have improved since Moby Dick... Well,others are said to dance with wolves.
But let the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche conclude this talk :" Without Music life would be a mistake "... Point bar.
Jean Labre Published March 15th 2012
Harmonica... Accordéon... Accordina...
The first 20 years of the nineteenth century were prolific in inventions, starting with the harmonica and its many derivatives, fruit of imaginative inventors and perfectionistic to the extreme ...
I invite you to revisit with my inventions of this period in the field of the free reed, which after a series of successive mutations will result in the birth of the accordion.
We are in 1821, in Germany, Christian Friedrich Buschmann invented a small instrument, the Aura, 10cm long, with 15 metal strips that vibrate in the breeze. The aura is simple, almost foolproof and has the characteristics of the harmonica as we know it.
1822 - Following its invention in the previous year, Friedrich Buschmann imagine to associate a small bellows to the Aura, demonstrating that it was be possible to substitute mechanical breathing to human breath. The first fruit of this experience will be baptized Handäoline (hand éoline, photo).
The succession of inventions that will follow, starting from the same reasoning, shows that Buschmann was indeed the precursor of the accordion (which later became the "accordéon").
1827 In Paris, Marie Candide Buffet, tuner by trade, invented the metal mouth harmonica (photo below), in his workshop in Rue des Blancs Manteaux, Paris, fourth arrondissement. Buffet's company will experience a rapid and successful development, forcing him to distribute the production in private homes in town. One of them, Jacob Alexander, created in turn, in 1928, a firm specializing in the manufacturing of these instruments.
The number of instruments that will be invented at that time will not cease to grow. What will bring Buffet Marie Candide to move into larger premises, rue des Francs Bourgeois in the Marais.
Having reached the same conclusions as Christian Friedrich Buschmann, he invented a new instrument based on the principle of mechanical bellows called the accordion, of which he will he will therefore ensure the production.
It seems that with some others (Buffon, Wheatstone, Demian, Hohner, etc.), M.C. Buffet has manufacture and sell this new instrument. He will do so until 1837, in collaboration with Mathieu François Isoard, mechanic luthier, always anxious to improve the instrument. He died in 1859 at the age of 62. He will remain a symbol of the passage of the harmonica to accordion.
(Photo Marie Candide Buffet Space, Orgelet, his city of birth, National Heritage Site / Franche Comté).
1829 Cyril Demian creates the Hand Harmonica, taking out a patent in Vienna May 6, 1829, using the concept borrowed from Christian Friedrich Buschmann handäoline, to replace the human breath by a mechanical bellows.
1829 the same year in England, Charles Wheatstone invented a small hexagonal instrument similar to the accordion, the concertina, transforming his first invention, the mouth Symphonium (1825) into a Bellows Symphonium (photo below) .
Which will result in 1840/1849 with the invention of the Bandoneon by Heinrich Ban, Germany, whose first models, although square instead of hexagonal, suggested a similarity with the Wheatstone concertina, and, other similarity the gestures of the musicians, a sign of belonging to the same instrumental family.
It is clear that without the invention of the harmonica, the accordion would probably never have emerged at this time.
From Accordion ... to Accordina
1943 A century later ... The free reed, already generating multiple inventions, re-enters the creative game of musical chairs, which brings us back to square one ... back to the mouth organ with the invention of the accordina.
This hybrid instrument is naturally between accordion and harmonica.
Conceived by André Borel in the 30s, the accordina was patented in December 1943. It borrows from the accordion, its free-reed and chromatic keyboard (44 notes, three and a half octaves). It takes from the harmonica the use of wind produced by the musician and its two side flaps that can modulate the sound, as does the harmonica player with his hands.
The hybrid side of this instrument will harm it long, targeting, wrongly perhaps, an accordionistic public, excluding the area of wind instrument.
Today, Richard Galiano, Francis Jauvin , Daniel Mille, Jean Louis Matinier, Roland Romanelli and Jacques Bolognesi are using it to explore many musical styles: jazz, French songs (Georges Moustaki, touring, preferred the Jouvin accordina to the traditional accordion).
During its history, the accordina will experience several forms of manufacturing. The largest changes occur in the late 50s. The music changed, we must adapt. The brass reeds of the first models will be replaced by stainless steel. Among the new productions, there are "gold" and "silver" models made in the late 60s by Paolo Soprani.
Forgotten for a long time, the accordina rose from its ashes in 1995, rebirth due to Laurent Jarry and Marcel Dreux, since 2002 *.
The different models
The button accordina
The original was designed and built by André Borel. The 2000 version of Marcel Dreux is a true copy of this instrument with a main change : a plastic mattress. Marcel Dreux produced the 2004 model, taking into account users requirements by replacing the side vents, delicatly cut, allowing the hands to better modulate the sound, and incorporating a pullout, interchangeable (washable). Add to this a very useful coloured keyboar, making it easier to locate.
The sound is warm and powerful. The range covers 3.5 octaves from F to C.
The piano accordina
It has been designed thinking of the many accordionists playing the piano keyboard, but also of all pianists, penalized by a heavy instrument, who can now carry under their arms a tool that will allow them to more easily integrate in groups, off the cuff.
It offers a range that covers three octaves, from A to A,tuned to 442 Hz
The Diatonic accordina
This is a accordina said : "2004 buttons". It is united with a sound that matches the fingering of a diatonic 3-rows. It has a warm, powerful sound. It covers 3.5 to 442 Hz octave granted.
The sound of the accordina is so close to the harmonica that I once caught myself listening to recordings ... taking one for the other. The accordina fits happily contemporary music, jazz in particular.
What a progress since the aura of Christian Friedrich Buschmann, and even more since the Chinese Emperor Huang-ti (Huangdi), inventor, 4500 years ago of the Sheng *, ancestor of the harmonica ...
The free reed has probably not finished surprising. The future will tell, stay alert to the round of musical chairs ...
Sources : Candide Mary Buffet Biography, Trossingen Harmonica Museum, Albert Raisner, Pierre Monichon, Marcel Dreux, excerpts from « The Harmonica Encyclopedia » , Jean Labre, late in writing.
* This is a photo of a Japanese Sho, which appeared in the eighth century, extension of the Chinese sheng.
Best Wishes for 2012 This not an illusion, there are two planets that live a harmonious cohabitation...
For Planet Earth which coyly claims an age of nearly five billions years, it behoves us to light a candle over on its birthday cake. But let's not forget the other one, Planet Harmonica, which itself shows 4500 years of existence, a young one! Two candles for two cakes, ritual symbol of passing time, and to think that we usually claim for those two, at most, a relationship that does not exceed half a century... Vagaries of time!
Planet Harmonica... let's pay tribute to the Emperor Huang-Ti, who on the distant shores of the Yellow River, created the "Sheng", the first free-reed instrument based on the two fundamental principles that govern the Universe: Yin and Yang (theory that I take up in my "Harmonica Encyclopedia", at the end of write); he also created the first planetary scale, pentatonic. It will make its way... prelude to Johann Sebastian Bach, Mozart, Beethoven and others.
Back to the present time, we are switching to 2012, a promising year for Harmonica events all over the place, announced in http://www.jeanlabre.com/english/news.html. I can tell you that the highlight of the year will undoubtedly be the "9th Asia Pacific Harmonica Festival" in kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in August. Like our Mediterranean Festivals, this event brings together all the countries bordering the Pacific ocean, and other participants from around the world.
Other upcoming events: the Living World of Music -the MESSE- in Francort late March (for all harmonica makes), the AJHF Convention in Tokyo late April, the H2F Festival at Jujurieux (France) early June, the SPAH Convention mid-August in Irving (Texas, USA), etc. Planet Harmonica is doing well, thank you! Happy New Year 2012 to You all and your Families.
- Jean Labre Published January 1st 2012
Autumn Tango I'm inviting you to travel and dance through time with me... not to waltz, but to rediscover the legendary tango.
November 1965. It's springtime in Buenos Aires, we are in calle Florida, one of city main streets where, by the end of the afternoon, swarms of tourists and regulars of those"tango bars" where people use to sing and dance on this baroque music, the rhythmic style of which is a two-four time bars, the Tango, part of the Argentine's soul.
Attracted by familar harmonics, I push the door of a café-concert and find a rotund atypical musician, wonderfully playing chromatic harmonica, named Hugo Diaz and then...I forgot about it for a long time. It's only 25 years later that, by chance, I discovered his world reputation, on a double CD purchased in a record shop in Tokyo.
1971, Paris, De Lappe street, in "Balajo", a dancing place where I'm coming to say hello to my cousin, Henry Blancher, bandoneon virtuoso. And on that evening, he invites me to share a few bars of "La Cumparsita". Memories, memories...
November 2007, Tango evening in Saint Mandé (a Paris suburb). Girls who have just left their jobs are going in haste to the "Chalet du Lac", a concert place, clutching their handbags in which are their "escarpins", essential accessories to the tango ritual, that they put on just before entering the dance floor.
Joe Powers, the dynamic Americano/Argentine chromatic player, guest of this evening, plays and presents this tango night. Joe will do it again in Tokyo, Paris and many other places all over the world.
October 4, 2011, Paris, "Le Lien" café-concert. During the France Harmonica monthly meeting, Bernard Dubos (chromatic) plays "Libertango", a composition of Astor Piazzola and I invite a young lady to dance a dance she loves : a tango...
I'm not here to talk about the eternal problems between generations, but clearly, once again, our instrument demonstrates its timeless and popular talent here linked to the tango eternal legend.
I like dancing... This Libertango will surely not be my " Last tango in Paris ".
Jean Labre Published October 9th 2011
Women harmonica players " Harmonica players ", these two words are refering equally to women or men practicing our instrument. This allows me to write this edito more easily, without distinction of sex.
Harmonica player... hermaphroditism which seems ideal to get the debate out of a context often macho, it must be admitted.
" A woman artist has no muse or artifice, she must be these two things for herself " (Edna O'Brien). Above all she is a woman, with the sensibility given to her since her birth combined with pugnacity and courage over adversity. Women have to their credit a past of muse that we men are totally lacking in. " The muse alone transforms men ", told us Socrates.
There was no god of music in ancient Greece, but a muse : Euterpe. Consolation, we men had the " aède ", continuity of the muse, who sang the myths and epics with the accompaniment of the phorminx, a kind of lute with four strings. The most famous aède is Homère , Odyssey tell us more.
If in the harmonica heart lies that little blade which was already vibrating in the ancient China, it is with the Pan flute that it had learned to assemble notes and to play them by sliding the lips. Thanks to the god Pan who was the inventor, in very sad circumstances. Pan was ugly, he had horns, cloven foot and an horrible voice ; trying to escape him the young nymph Syrinx drowned in a pond. That's how was born the myth of the inconsolable god who carves reeds and brings them to his lips for one last kiss sent to the beautiful Syrinx...
2011... far from the myths and legends, heritage of humanity... In 2011, we can only rejoice at this wind of feminization that blows over our instrument, and at the increasing number of female harmonica players who are setting on fire all around the world stages, for the good cause of our mouth music.
And we welcome the opportunity for rejoicing that will be be offered to us on June 21st, day of the Music Festival .
Harmonica women... we love you... Julien Clerc (famous French crooner) would not tell us otherwise.
- Jean Labre Published June 5th 2011
Sakura*, Spring in Japan After a long journey through the hill, we came on a long driveway lined with giant cherry blossoms, the "tunnel " said my driver, a guard of honor at the end of which lies the eight century old wonderful Aoso Jinja shrine, our destination, miraculously spared by the vagaries of the planet.
Yes, we were in Sendai two years ago. That's how I discovered this magical temple where I had the privilege of giving a concert with my Japanese friends harmonica players, at the invitation of Cocoro Kaketa, my occasional driver and hostess of the place.
What about today after the cataclysm that has hit Japan? I just learned that my driver was unharmed, but I have not heard of all the other friends.
Salute the courageous people of Japan which is not of the type to give up. They've been through worse ...
Nature does no favor ... After volcanic eruptions in Iceland in 2010, here falls on the heads a "resshin" amplitude 9.1 followed by a apocalyptic tsunami sending us maybe, who knows, a warning about the deployment of research, whatever the cost, on sources of energy.
This is where we realize that our small vicissitudes of homo sapiens do not weigh very heavily against the universal order, see the disorder.
And now, Mother Nature is preparing to celebrate in a few days Sakura, 2 weeks, for the cherry blossoms, with the Japanese people, as if nothing had happened! Under the watchful eye of our Aoso Jinja which, from the depths of the hills of Sendai, reminds us that after the clouds there's always the sun ...
- Jean Labre
And during that time, the orchestra "Les Lutéciens" made an entry, very noticeable, in the arena of mouth music. Spread the word.
* Sakura is the symbolism of cherry blossom. Published March 22nd 2011
Once upon a time Albert Raisner, Biography* "Albert left us, in the early hours of this new year, at the age of 88. A life of emotions, discoveries and music. A life dedicated to the harmonica, an instrument so close to his heart, his public and his children. We are happy, in his name, of the joy he may have given to those who followed him and of the contribution he may have made to the development of the harmonica, and we thank you, daddy, for the love you gave us.
Remy and Richard "
Albert Raisner left us on the first day of 2011, the planet Harmonica is mourning. To tell you about him falls to me and I'll try to do it with the precious help of my memories.
Let's start with our common denominator : the Scouts. We both shared the joys of campfire and music, playing harmonica, long evenings with friends... life good times. One day Albert told me : "... it was the fraternal circle around the campfires that inspired me, much later, the idea of seating the audience in a semi-circle for my TV shows.
And thus, one day I arrived at the harmonica club " Le CHARM ", in Paris, where I was warmly welcomed by Albert himself, and by Robert Deasey, great harmonica player and technical director of this club, of whom the motto was "to chase away the hassles, play the harmonica". By that time I was 17.
I will now recall the personal development of a legend, a man who has been my friend for 63 years.
Albert Raisner, legally named Rufenach, was born September 30,1922, in Apolda, Germany. While attending school and later university with great success, he had begin, since his childhood, to learn music with his father who guided him towards classic. Albert studied violin, piano, clarinet, guitar and bass. But as a child living in Montmartre, he very soon had a fondness for marginal instruments such as the jazzo-flute, kazoo, musical saw and harmonica,of which his father said " this instrument is just good to make goats dance".
Having acquired a solid classical training, he started in the early thirties to study seriously chromatic harmonica in a Scout association " Association Française pour l'Expansion Musicale ", directed by Charles Rodriguez, "Monsieur Ro" (accordionist, violinist, guitarist, band man, philosopher) the first harmonica pioneer in France. Thanks to him, Albert reached a professional level, continually improving by playing in shows in which he took part here and there : " At Pigalle, at around 6:30 p.m., there used to be a musicians market. I was often "bought" for some occasional ball where I was employed in various ways (with a preference for the double bass, because it was the instrument that played the fewest notes and I could lean on it when, at around 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning, fatigue got the better of me!). Sometimes I discreetly took out my chromatic harmonica for a swing or a "valse musette". Surprise and first bravos" he told me later.
Concerning his university cursus, he was crowned with a doctorate in philology. Our eclectic Albert was passionate about foreign languages, he spoke eight of them ! He was German teacher for a few months, but the priority of the musical events compelled him to abandon this course.
His linguistic passion, ease of access to foreign languages enabled him to begin a brilliant international career. He has been rewarded when he was awarded the "Order of Merit Knight". But he did not stop there; he later devoted himself to patronymic philology.
In an other field Albert, always conscious of his figure, was a great sportsman. He has been a university champion in swimming competition (100 meter freestyle) ; he also used to be a regular jogger in the Bois de Boulogne (Paris suburb).
Back to harmonica... We are in 1945, Albert Raisner created the CHARM club in Paris. The idea of an harmonica trio was sticked in his mind, soon he materialized it, approached by Sirio Rossi who was also in quest of an orchestral group.
The affair did not drag on : Adrien Belin joined them as bassist. Sirio as an accomplish musician (also great guitarist) alternated chord and solo with Albert. Thus was born the famous Trio Raisner.
Two years later, a dynamic tap dancer Aster Day (André Dionet) succeeded to Albert Belin on bass. The size difference between the three (André measuring 1m51, Sirio 1m90), naturally generated a scenic acting in the pure musical tradition.
At first, they were hired in the "Special Service shows " (a kind of army theatre) for American soldiers. And there, they rubbed elbows with Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Marlène Dietrich, Mickey Rooney, the Max Brothers, etc.
Back in Paris,he moved in Saint Germain des Prés, lively area, with its in vogue cellars (clubs), cultural meeting places where people used to dance be-bop accompanied by famous jazzmen. The trio attended
the "Vieux Colombier" cellar, at that time fief of Sidney Bechet and Claude Luter .
We are in the fifties, the trio was now showing on at the Olympia, Bobino, ABC theatres, "Concerts Pacra", etc... not only in all prestigious concert halls, but also on the radios, as an extensive discographyµµ and many videos that we find nowadays in the internet are showing it.
The trio was involved in several French and German movies. In 1953, it won the prestigious "Grand Prix du Disque" awarded by the Charles Cros Academy.
The CHARM of the Petites Ecuries was becoming a hub for harmonica in Europe. Circumstances were favorable, beginning by the support of Hohner and its directors Jules Coulon and his brother Yves, and counting even more there was Albert's dynamism. All factors which lead on Albert initiative, to the creation of the FIH (Federation Internationale de l'Harmonica) on October 1950 in Trossingen, immediately followed by festvals such as the one at the Salle Pleyel, in Paris, in 1950, and by the World Harmonica Championships.
From that moment the CHARM was to be host, in its premises, of the upper crust of the harmonica planet : Larry Adler, Dany Kane, Borrah Minevitch, Toots Thielmans, Django Reinhardt, Claude Luter, etc. I used to be a regular visitor to these appointments, accompanied by a realistic singer, Gille who became my wife and the mother of my daughters.
In the late fifties a universal tsunami revolutionized the music world : Rock and Roll! Gene Vincent and his "Virginians", Bill Haley and his "Comets », Elvis Presley put us on fire... Albert included. The repertoire of the trio had to move towards a new style, to a Rock attitude, as many videos on internet are showing it. In London, the trio recorded "Rock Around the Clock" and "Don'be Cruel", other trios were doing the same in France. Later on, Hohner was to produce a "Marine Band" bearing the image of the Beatles.
In 1958, Albert realized an incredible challenge : "Le Tour de France de l'Harmonica" which is still spoken in the cottages! A true marathon relayed by the medias including a weekly radio show : "Three men, three Harmonicas".
But the wind was turning, especially since the CHARM rue des Petites Ecuries had disappeared. Hohner was moving and settled Van Loo street in an severe building... without CHARM ! With a sole survivor from the fifties, Helmut Hohner (descendant of the famous family), a genius for harmonica tuning and repairing .
1960, Albert allowed himself a break, a time for reflection during which he presented on France Inter radio " The 1000 Francs Game ". As an astute businessman he had felt that times were changing and that nothing would ever be as it has been afore. After careful consideration he dissolved his trio and turn to match the outbreak of TV.
Building on the success of a radio program "Salut les Copains"(Europe 1, by Daniel Flipacchi) gathering numerous young people, he also relied on youth and set as an objective to undertake the same approach on our good old TV with only one channel, in black an white!
Bet won! With the first issue of " Tender Age and Wood Head ". The tone was given by a young and enthusiastic participation, dancing the Twist on the TV stage ! Albert invented "Wooden Head", escaped from a small puppet animation, to which he lent his voice. With an innate sense of logistics and the ability to adapt himself to all direct TV situations, we may consider that Albert has been the forerunner of TV variety shows in France. The proof is that his show is still in the top 5 of the best TV shows of the past century.
" Tender Age " disappeared in 1966, renamed " Wood Head and Tender Years". This issue disappeared definitively in 1968. Albert played host in others TV shows, like Europarty, Point show in which he received Jimmy Hendriks.
For over a decade, many artists will scroll on the sets of his program, including : Johnny Hallyday, Sylvie Vartan, Dick Rivers, Sheila, Claude François, Jacques Brel, The beach Boys, Michèle Torr, and some more.
13 Juillet 1979, Albert married Brigitte Konjovic, they had two sons, Remy and Richard.
The late eighties and early nineties changed all that, improved communications, the beginning of internet and the concomitant birth of I.H.O. (International Harmonica Organization). I am grateful to Albert for having urged me to join this association, of which I later became Europe vice President.
Therefore, I didn't not fail to keep him to date as it was the case during a radio show on "radio Montmartre". Albert has been Honorary President of the International Festival FIH/IHO, October 1999, as evidenced on the photo, appearing from left to right : John Walton (UK), at this time president of I.H.O., Albert founder of the FIH and me.
He also has been an enthusiastic guest of our Autumn rendez-vous Harmo-Beaujo until 2002.
What about the writer ? Further his writings on philology, his
" Book of the Harmonica " (editor : Editions du Temps Passé), is still nowadays our mouth music bible. Other books : "L'aventure Pop" (Editor Laffont), a subject that fascinated him as an outcome of his rock adventure, then his " General Method for Harmonica" (editor Hohner), preface by Darius Milhaud. I won't forget the press man with, in 1960, the output of the magazine " Harmonica Magazine " printed in 20.000 copies, sold on newsstands. He often spoke in " Harmonica, Accordion and Music » magazine, featuring repeatedly on the front cover.
Such a journey deserves to focus on the personality of Albert Raisner, on his qualities : I would like to put first pugnacity associated to a subtle intelligence , allied to a virtuosity to practice lobbying ; our Albert always very spruce, often attracted attention at trade shows and other public events. But in such circumstances people doesn't always become friends ! He did not pay attention to that, ignoring the critics. To summarize, we can say that he was seasoned to overcoming obstacles, subtle like a Stradivarius, powerfull like a Ferrari. An Albert to whom later something extraordinary has arrived : " My harmonica played nothing but lullabies! Between two bottles it has found four extremely attentive little ears : Remy and Richard were given to me like a double sun! " This is where we discover the hidden face of the man.
His health condition was worsening, it was now in his home that I was going to visit him, each time bringing him from Germany klösse, a traditional German course he loved. I saw him for the last time two years ago,he was greatly weakened by the disease, but this didn't prevent us from recalling memories of our Enlightened years...
Our long journey ended at the dawn of January 1, 2011.
God be praised, myths are immortal.
- Jean Labre
Photo: Albert's two sons Remy and Richard with the celebrate singer Michèle Torr Published February 11th 2011
Happy New Year 2011 At the dawn of the industrial revolution, the first part of the 19th century was already rich in many different inventions. At the beginning of this New Year, I'll mention two of them : the harmonica, essential for us, and the postage stamp,in 1840.
With this later, the new year wishes tradition appeared, wishes sent to loved ones, like carrier pigeons.
A hundred and fifty years later, the Internet* advent has changed the situation. Paper cards are now virtual cards.
The question is to know which of the two possibilities will gain the public favour ? I wouldn't commit myself on this debate on this first day of the year 2011, especially since the web is allowing me to visit you today, in a very convenient way ! But I must confess my preference for our carrier pigeon... And I am not alone seing the great number of greeting cards already cluttering my desk.
The greeting card is palpable, it's like a CD or a good book, it's comfortable. We must admit that internet is depriving us of this feeling, of the human presence we need, simple as a handshake, eye to eye, a gesture that is increasingly rare.
Some scattered confettis and gifts wraps are bringing me back to reality, to that first day of the year, with, in the background, the sound of the Elvis Christmas album I constantly listen to, by the end of each year, moment of musical emotion... This musical emotion, my faithful travelling companion, probably yours also, over time.
These emotional moments that I wish you to live very often this new year, moments to share with loved ones around you. Happy New Year 2011 to all of you.
With a special thought for harmonica players of the Aruba Republic, a small island off Venezuela, the 130th country to attend www.jeanlabre.com . Welcome to the Club.
* Internet, Speaking about it, I found myself without access to the web for two months (since October 28th), therefore, unable to update my site regularly. Fortunately, Josette, my brother's wife, and my webmaster son Stéphane, came to my rescue a few times by intervening lineup. I thank them. Sincerely sorry for any inconvenience. Published January 1st 2011
Web Address Book of Friends' Websites
You'll find here a list of friends' web links, all occupations included, that I particularly advise you to consult. Some are official sites of the persons, others are just websites with dedicated and interesting pages. Good visits, good contacts.
Eastern Winds They blow from the "Rising Sun" countries... And this time from Singapore. Every year, people are expecting the "Asia Pacific Harmonica Festival" as they are expecting every year the new Champagne wine. And as very often, it goes on well. In fact it keeps improving every time. The event offers everyone a chance to find his good place to share it, whatever they are: virtuosos, beginners, competitors, visitors and fans of all ages. Every year, it's easy to predict that the Festival will meet a great success. And it was the case this year (*).
The Guinness Book would be delighted to know that the committee of the Singapore Festival has received 2530 hosted applications... quite a deal for the jury of this competition, faced with candidates who did not renounce and with repeated efforts tried to reach the required level. Our instrument is used to challenges to obtain its indisputable credibility. Mission accomplished by Singapore winners.
The event reach its climax with a sparkling final, resolutely positive about the future of "The Asia Pacific Harmonica Festival" which will be held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in 2012. Let this be.
Many thanks to Boh Teck Keong and Victor Tang Yuen Wai, organizers of these festivities.
Easterly winds conform us in the idea that it's worth living on a planet on which Harmonica is a passion shared without frontiers. This is the mission of www.jeanlabre.com visited by 129 countries.
In Paris, Autumn favours us with a rejoicing Indian Summer, with a beautifully coloured carpet of dead leaves, as a prelude to the next "Harmo-Beaujo".
- Jean Labre
(*) You will find an article on Singapore events in our "Articles" section (http://www.jeanlabre.com/english/article.php?id=111), and also in the next edition of the magazine "Harmonicas de France". Published October 12th 2010
Harmonica culture in the Merlion Country The 8th « Asia Pacific Harmonica Festival » took place in Singapore from the 30th of July to the 2nd of August, in this surprising modern State/City, the architecture of which is easily revalising with our western megapoles. The Festival was placed under the presidency of the Culture Minister Lui Tuck Yew, and under the protective gaze of the symbol of the city, the Merlion.
As I have already informed you in a precedent article, it is usual, in Asia, to share all harmonica festivals with neighbouring countries. Apart from the organizing countries (Singapore, Japan, Malaysia, China, Hong Kong, China, Philippines), Australia, New Zealand and USA were present on this festival. Together with a few Europeans, representatives of Germany, France (Hotvill's Trio and myself), and also this year, the remarkable presence of India and Thailand.
In Singapore, the harmonica culture and its practice are worth our attention. A lot of facts are contributing to assure its development : sponsors, TV, medias, etc. and more specifically the institutions are considering that harmonica is an instrument in its own right, like other instruments (in classical, jazz, variety and folk musics), and this position is generating official helps like the recognition of the harmonica professors, help for adjustments of teaching and practicing premises, help to the association "Harmonica Aficionados Society" associated to
" The Singapore Harmonica Instructors and development Center " (under the impulse of the dynamic Victor Tang Yuen Wai). The poster (below) already gives you an overall view of the activities generated by these associations.
Concerning the "8th Asia Pacific Harmonica Festival", we must say that its organization was perfect, as it was well run since 16 years. Everything was going crescendo from the opening ceremony with the fantastic traditional acrobatic dance of the dragon to the closing ceremony, apotheosis of this Harmonica "Jamboree".
The outstanding fact of this Festival was indisputably the Harmonica Championships consisting of 7 categories (youth, junior, senior separated in each category).
I had the pleasure to be a jury member for the chromatic and ensemble categories in company of my friends Willy Burger, Yasuo Watani, He Jia Yi, Johnny Kuan. Exciting job
in spite of the large number of candidates.
Let's pay a tribute to Victor Tang Yuen Wai who was in charge of the logistic organization of these Championships.
Attractive workshops and conferences had drawn people interested in many subjects, technical or cultural, concerning our instrument. As far as I am concerned I led a workshops on the theme : " Birth and History of a small instrument : the Harmonica ".
During four days a lot of harmonica makers had booths in which people could compare the possibilities offered by the instruments, with technicians at their disposal.
The site " Suntec Singapore International Convention ", in which the Festival took place, was perfectly adapted to this event, air-conditioned and with a very good sound system, ideal conditions for three days of open stages encountering a great success.
Another open stage place was " The Universal Studio ", stick-copy of the Los Angeles one, there visitors coming from everywhere had a chance to see an extra show with harmonica players also coming from everywhere.
It is difficult to evaluate the number of participants in this Festival, people are agreeing to say around 15.000, may be more, including families competitors, harmonica players, harmonica associations, technicians, and visitors.
And to crown it all, the concert which took place in the so beautiful architecture of the " Esplanade Concert Hall " with featuring : the Hong-Kong Association Symphonic Orchestra, Juko Saito, Chong Ah Kow, Lee Hea Bong,, He Jia Yi, Yasuo Watani, Jens Bunge, Willy Burger, Brendan Power, Jean Labre, the Hotvill'Trio.
The closing ceremony was exceptional with a great number of awards distributed with enthusiasm, punctuated with shows of competition winners, a retrospective
show of musical comedies (West Side Story, etc.), " The King's Harmonica Quintet " and
" The Harmonica Malaysia Orchestra " (60 harmonica players) directed by Chong Ah Kow.
By the end of this evening, Malaysia was nominated as the country in charge of the organization of the next " 9th Pacific Harmonica Festival " which will take place in Kuala Lumpur, in 2012.
Many thanks to my friendsBoh Teck Keong and Victor Tang Yuen Wai.
"Twenty Years Later" An opportunity is given to me to borrow the title of the famous Alexandre Dumas novel,also author of the best-seller the"Three Musketeers" of which Hollywood has accumulated the productions.
The novels "The Three Musketeers" and "Twenty Years Later" are and will remain for a long time symbol of human friendship. The phrase always quoted, "all for one, one for all"... is a dreamed metaphor to start this edito.
Yes, it was 20 years tha "France Harmonica" association was born of which I am still nowthe Founding President.
On the 11th of June 2010, a 20th anniversary has been celebrated at the foot of the "Mont Blanc" mountain, in the village of Domancy (French Alps).
A great moment, very well organized by the local association "Savoie Harmonica" associated with H2F/France Harmonica. A warm "rendez-vous" where generations merged, a celebration of which our "Musketeers" would have been proud... Memories are made of this.
The instrumental cultures do not stop getting married harmoniously. The mouthorgan is not the last, gathering influences, surfing here and there ,from a continent to another, from a Japanese koto to the shivers of Argentina tangos, from Paganini to the Parisian "valse musette"... "All the music I love", is singing so well our French star Johnny Hallyday.
The 8th Asia Pacific Festival, in Singapore will be the perfect illustration of our cultural adventure. I shall have the happiness to be part of it... music part, part of life.
"Life is like music, it ought to be plaid twice" (Françoise Sagan)
Jean Labre Published June 21st 2010
Mouthorgan Culture in the Batavian Country
Netherlands have been for a long time up among the leaders of the mouthorgan culture. The "Veldhoven Festival 2010"(*1)has been one more time, a brillant demonstration, under the sign of the diversity, celebrating at this beginning of May the 25th anniversary of the "Veldhovense Mondharmonika Vereniging" orchestra, created in 1985 by the lamented Peter Janssen. A period rich in major international events including the foundation of the IHO (Internationa Harmonica Organization),at Peter's initiative,and of which he will be the first president.
It is in the same time that the NOVAM will be created, an association which includes together accordion and harmonica players.
Back to the past
I invite you to discover with me the "Mondharmonika" road so dearly travelled over by our Dutch friends. The departure point was, at the beginning of the thirties, with Max Geldray (1916-2004), Van Gelden for the civil registration, who in 1932, while he was only 16 years old, received as a gift, a chromatic harmonica. Admirer of Borrah Minevitch he lost no time before falling in the pothole. He to began with the creation of the "Mondharmonika Band" group, with Geert van Driesten, followed by "The Hollander Boys" quartet creation. In 1934 he began a soloist career which will come to an end one day of Autumn 2004 in Palm Spring (USA).
Named all over the world, and indisputably as "The First Harmonica Jazz Player", he established himself, over the decades as being a musician endowed with a "swing", with an innate sense of outstanding improvisation, that will gain him the right to play with the biggests : Coleman Hawkins, Jo Bouillon, Ray Ventura, Duke Ellington, Django Reinhardt and the "Hot Club de France", Michel Warlop, etc.
On the initiative of Borrah Minevitch, during a European tour of the famous "Rascals"; he will be occasional soloist in the quintet The Hotcha Boys" at the end of the thirties.
Our globe trotter will stay a last time in Holland in 1995, before returning definitively to Palm Spring, dedicating himself till the end of his life to harmonica therapy, contributing in the association "Jazz Without Booze" as well as with patients in a friendly private hospital; never missing an opportunity to take part in jam sessions, here or there, in café concerts of Palm Spring, harbour of rest of the Hollywood stars.
It exists à boxset of 2 CD's ofMax Geldray, under the label "Frémaux Associés", reference "Harmonica Swing Années 20.30.40 50". Contact: http://www.fremaux.com & fax (33)1-43652422.
The harmonica current of the fifties will see the appearance of the traditional Harmonica trios, including the chromatic solo, the chord and the bass.
The trio "Hotcha"(1949-1970) is the perfect illustration of it (*2).
This trio remains, even nowadays, one of the world references, with the Dutch peculiarity of giving to the bass player the leading position in the trio, usually devolved to the soloist chromatic. Geert Van Driesten, legendary bass player, was the first one to do so, efficiently assisted by at the chromatic Joop Heijman and Jan Vink playing chord, vinetta and polyphonia. Some other partners will arise during decades (Eddie Sernie, Henk van Dipte, Lee Kuipers, Gijs vd Wiel, Wim and Cor Belder, Johan Janssen and few others).
From there will born the Dutch bass culture that we rediscover nowadays in the performances of Ronald Kaminga, with "Fata Morgana", with the young Lucïen Winterberg, son of Joop, celebrated chord player, in the "Multicats" trio as well as in many other ensembles, from trios to orchestras.
Geert Van Driesten was also the founder of the first harmonica school of Rotterdam, assisted by his wife who conducted in this period an orchestra of 35 harmonica players.
People can consider that it is in this period that a national craze for harmonica orchestras was born, so adding one more jewel to the dutch cultural range.
Since the eighties, at the instigation of dynamic executives such as: Peter Janssen, Frans Bosmans, Meine Segveld, Joop Winterberg until now with Viola Barends (photo left), the vogue of ensembles has not stopped growing, with the providential help brought by the NOVAM.
I still remember "The Veldhoven Festival 2002" during which, as a jury member, I had to note 12 orchestras of 11 to 30 performers ;, and this year 5 orchestras which have met, during the competition in 2010 Festival a well deserved success... it was not easy to come to a choice between them.
If I had to quote names of dutch players wich became famous during the previous decades , other than those already quoted in this article, I would retain, in an approximative chronological order, those of : Lee Kuypers (fifties) an itinerant concert performer, notably in France, "The Snapshots" (fifties and sixties), Larryson, Larry Robert and his "Chromonika Group Da Capo", Karel Jansen, Frank Verwey (sixties, seventies), Rinus Gerîsten (seventies, eighties), Wim Dijkgraaf... Sorry for those whom I may have forgotten.
It's time now to greet Art Daane for the work he's done (http://www.artdaane.nl). He is a tirelesss archivist and historian of the global adventure of the mouthorgan, and he is also a talented bass player.
I'd like to pay tribute to Rob Janssen under whose leadership the trio "Fata Morgana" ensured a world reputation. Achieved musician, Rob plays brilliantly all the harmonicas inherent to harmonica ensembles, he has also been jury president of the world harmonica championships for several years ; jury of which I have had the great pleasure to be member.
And where ever Max Geldray may be, his mind can rest, the jazz succession is assured by Hermine Deurloo, player of great talent.
Before ending this article, I'd like to thank the organizers of the "2010 Festival" for the warm welcome they have given me. Thank you to Jack Mikkers, mayor of this dynamics city.
(*1) Programme of the Festival 2010
8th of May
Saturday morning: national competition, ensembles, orchestras and soloists. (jury: Ronald Kaminga, Thierry Crommen, Jean Labre).
Saturday afternoon: workshops Thierry Crommen, Ben Bouman and concert Barefoot Lano.
Saturday evening: concert at the auditorium of the cultural center, opening by the "Velhovense Mondharmonika Vereniging" orchestra, directed by Viola Barends, guest soloist Jean Labre, following by the shows: Jean Labre, Thierry Crommen, the "Blue Kings" group, Brendan Power and the trio "Fata Morgana".
(*2)Trio Hotcha, 1997, publication of a casket compilation of 100 titles (3 CD) under the label "A brilliant Compact Disc" (Holland).
& "Hotcha" is a latin-american word meaning rhythm. Photos: Frans Bosmans / Fata Morgana Published June 7th 2010
The revenge of the Ugly Duckling The Ugly Duckling... I have loved this Hans Christian Andersen's tale since my tender childhood. Best memories are made of this.
Nowadays, as an adult confronted with the vicissitudes of life, I often have opportunities to compare actual behaviours with what I remember of what they were when I was a child.
Unfortunately, as a harmonica player, I had the bad surprise to discover, many times, that my dear instrument was considered as the Ugly Duckling among the music instruments family. What a pity ! Poor little duck !
By chance, our mouth organ universe is generous with its abiblity to innovate, for instance its entrance in medical therapy.
"Interest in the science of harmonica playing is a recent phenomenon. Besides the fun and joyful aspects of playing harmonica, there is the added value of providing an harmonica player with therapeutic and preventive health benefits" has written Dr. Sung Hee Yun, Chairman of the SPAH Harmonica Health Commitee.
You will find more information concerning this subject in this website. You will discover that the intense vibrations created by harmonica reeds get transmitted throughout body and mind and stimulate uplifting of player's inner energy, more : you'll discover that certain psychiatrists and neuropathologists support the notion that playing the harmonica may produce psychosomatic benefits, etc.
Let's pay tribute to the French association "Musique et Santé" (godfathers Jean Jacques Milteau, Steve Waring), which has recently set up several "Initiation Musical Therapy" training periods. You will find all necessary information about these training periods in our calendar (clic "News").
Let's pay tribute to the association "Musique et Santé" and to Doctor Sung Hee Yun for the great job accomplished in the Harmonica Therapy development in USA.
Our Mouth Organ universal calendar is incessantly moving, you will find all information concerning the world events in our "News" column.
I particularly draw your attention to two important Festivals in our billboard next summer :
the 20th "France Harmonica/H2F"Anniversary Festival", which will take place in Domancy (in the French Alps mountains area), from the 11th to the 13th of June and the "8th Asia Harmonica Pacific Festival", event of the year, which will take place in the wonderful city of Singapour.
Burundi is the 123rd country visiting jeanlabre.com. Welcome to all the harmonica players of this country.
Jean Labre Published April 1st 2010
Harmonica Therapy / Music for Life Following my preceding article " Musique et Santé/ L'harmonica et le souffle ", concerning Harmonica Therapy in France, http://www.jeanlabre.com/article.php?id=86 , I approach today the so important question about the harmonica therapy out of my country.
In prelude, I have to pay tribute to Doctor Sung Hee "Victor" Yun who gave me a lot of positive information about this subject when I met him in the 2008 7th Pacific Asia Festival in Hangzhou (China).
He has been writing several interesting articles in the magazine " Harmonica Happenings " published by the SPAH (USA)*. An article published in this magazine (Nr 42 summer 2008) about Harmonica Therapy has particulary drawn my attention. It will be my guide for what is following (Translation in French with his kind permission).
Dr. Sung Hee "Victor" Yun writes :
"The concepts presented in this article are based on consolidation of my existing body, of knowledge, wisdom, traditions, anecdotal testimonies and evidences not only from harmonica playing communities and general public but also from medical science communities. Working hypothesis regarding the physiology of harmonica playing and the theoritical implications for health benefits have been steadily on the rise in recent years. This article offers guiding principles for researching the supportive elements of harmonica, an instrument believed to be a source of life power and energy that harmonizes mind, body and soul. Thus harmonica therapy can be regarded as an integral part of the mainstream music therapy.
SCIENCE OF HARMONICA PLAYING : THEORY AND EXPERIMENTATION
Interest in the science of harmonica playing is a recent phenomenon. Besides the fun and joyful aspects of playing harmonica, there is the added value of providing an harmonica player with therapeutic and preventive health benefits.
When playing the harmonica, a number of body movements are involved. Playing engages multiple body parts and human organs : mouth, lips, tongue, cheeks, jaws, theeth, neck, eyes, ears, muscles, arms, hands, joints, bones, ribs, throat, lungs, heart, diaphragm, legs, feet, etc.
As many parts of the body are engaged, harmonica players can derive therapeutic and salubrious benefits from playing while enjoying music at the same time. Intense vibrations created by harmonica reeds get transmitted throughout body and mind and stimulate uplifting of player's inner energy.
The breathing required to play the harmonica can heighten and enhance elasticity, capacity and flexibility of the thin muscles of the diaphragm (approximately 4mm thickness). It in turn stimulates the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide in some 300 million air sacs, or alvéoli, in the lungs. The increased supply of fresh oxygen is transported throughout the body to various cells, tissues, organs and brain. The increased oxygen flow to the brain can help to rejuvenate the mind, while the increased oxygen supply throughout the body can enhance body functions, which in turn may provide a boost to immune system to prevent from disease.
Harmonica music may also have the power to uplift the spirit and provide psychosomatic benrfits. Some people believe that harmonica music has nostalgic effects. In some cases, harmonica playing may cause repressed memories to become released or subconscious thoughts to be tapped salubrious effects.
Certain psychiatrists and neuropathologists support the notion that playing the harmonica may produce psychosomatic benefits.
Harmonicas in general are made out of a combination of wood, plastic, nickel, brass and stainless metal. If emission of any chemical from the materials were to occur, or if accumulated bacteria existed inside and outside the harmonica, health and hygienic concerns may arise. Also, moisture of saliva from the mouth or the body into the harmonica may provide a harbor for bacterial growth so that cleanliness and hygienic care are must.
The multi-faced purposes in formulating and establishing a proposed non-profit, private, and voluntary organization called "Harmonica Therapy International" whith the prevailing concept and practice of established "Music Therapy" also help to increase SPAH membership,to continue to promote and popularize harmonica music in America and around the world with the aim of increasing the number of harmonica players and performers, to serve people in need for better health, to foster stability and sustainable social development and people happiness and most importantly to have fun and enjoy harmonica.
Harmonica therapy is a very recent and exciting phenomenon, which has been in existence for less than eight years. There are at least a handful hospitals and health care establishments, mostly in the East and mid-East regions, where harmonicas are being used to treat or cure certain breathing problems, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, chronic bronchitis, emphysema,and other breathing-related conditions.
Trained and licensed respiratory therapists and music therapists are among the key healthcare providers that are involved with these conditions. They are directly in the practice of harmonica therapy along side medical doctors and nurses. There are a growing number of hospitals and clinics where certain designated "harmonica therapists" are assigned to provide this therapy in addition to, or sometimes in lieu of, existing medical therapies such as inhalers peak flow meters or similar machines. For example, there is a large hospital in mountain View, California, called "El Camino General Hospital" where there is a regular bi-weekly harmonica therapy class held under the auspices of its Cardiovascular Pulmonary Rehabilitation and Wellness Center and supervised by a trained respiratory therapist. The official title of that person is "Harmonica Therapist".
The scope and range of the study areas vary : pain, management depression, anxiety, stress, cardiovascular disease, breathing difficulty, sleap apnea, Parkinson's disease, pulmonary fibrosis, smoking cessation, mental disorder, emotional or mood problems, loss of memory,and learning disabilities.
UNIQUE CHARACTERISTICS OF HARMONICAS FOR HEALTH BENEFITS :
In comparison with the other musical instruments, including wind instruments, harmonica stands out and shows certain comparative advantages in terms of its handiness, portability, affordability, acceptability, accessibility, universality, diversity, flexibility, variability, versatility, simplicity, tonality and musicality.
BE AN ACTIVE HEARER OF HARMONICA MUSIC, AND SO BE A PROACTIVE PLAYER ALL THE MORE !!
Dr.Sung Hee "Victor" Yun"
& More recently, the Dr. Sung Hee Yun took part in a "Harmonica Health Power" seminar combined with the panel discussion which was carried out during SPAH's 2008 Annual Convention in St. Louis, Missouri, which has drawn much attention to, and renewed support for, the health benefits of playing the harmonica. The speakers and panelists who attended were Tom Stryker, David Barett, Joe Filisko, Mary Jane Gormley, John Schaman,, Terry Ran,Victor Yun and representatives of the three harmonica manufacturers : Steve Baker (Hohner), Os Leguizamo ((Suzuki), Rupert Oysler (Seydel).
It's a real pleasure to observe that competitor manufacturers sat around a table for a noble cause discussion.
Following this SPAH Convention, Dr. Sung Hee wrote a very interesting article in the "Harmonica Happening" (Fall 2008, Vol.42 No.4), about this seminar.
May I add that Sung Hee "Victor" Yun is a sensitive diatonic harmonica player. Who, if not him, could obtain a so intense complicity with the reeds vibrations...
& You will find several other articles concerning this subject, in the "Harmonica Happenings" magazines (Summer 2001 by Tulsa READ, etc.)
*"Harmonica Happenings" magazine, annual subsription will cost you 45 US $
Information & contact : http://www.spah.org & SPAH Inc. P.O. Box 865 TROY MI.48099-0865 USA Published March 2nd 2010
Music and Health or Harmonica and Breath
" For more than two decades Art has been caring of Hospital. Into a traditionally sanitized universe, art introduces color, sounds and humain passions... in a single word LIFE."
Nowadays it's a topical theme and it brings me up to take up, as an introduction, the article* published in the magazine "Echos France Harmonica" (N° 37, summer 2002), written by Josette Koch Labre, under the title "L'Harmonica et le Souffle" (Harmonica and Breath), in collaboration with the association "Musique et Santé".
The association Musique et Santé
Working on the assomption that each child, each adult, whichever be their age, their culture, their original language, are touched by music, actors involved in the medical world are considering that it can be an extra therapeutic tool.
The association was born from a meeting and the collaboration between musicians and health and culture professionals. At the beginning the name of the association was "Enfance et Musique", it's now an association in its own right.
Now autonomous, its involvement in the hospital sector has contributed, since more than twelve years, to speed up taking in account music and culture in the daily life of hospitalized people.
The godfathers of the association are the musicians Steve Waring, Jean Jacques Milteau, Dédé Saint Prix, Sarah Nemtanu and the professor pedopsychiatrist Marcel Rufo, in charge of the medico-psychological service for family and child in the two most important hospitals in Marseille, Sainte Marguerite and La Timone. They are assisted by a paediatrician professor Yanick Aujard. Its President is the doctor Didier Cohen Salmon, the director is Philippe Bouteloup.
The idea of treating by music is not really a new one. Since the Antiquity, people had been aware of its real curative virtues such as curing spiritual illness.As for its real curative virtues, results of the works carried out in this domain are often contradictory and people may say that there is no musical pharmacopeia.
However, they are domains in which music has a really positive action with children and teenagers, and also with adults. In the different caring places where they are received, music can weave links between the parents and the medical staffs : then music becomes a mean of exchange, communication and improved well-being, a way to creation and shared of concretepleasure.
Then, the concrete intermediates to achieve these objectives must be chosen.and among these intermediates the choice of the instruments.
This small instrument has got a lot of qualities : it is cheap, it is light for transportation, rather easy to play. It isn't frightening, it is at the same time intimate and evocative of multiple subjects : folk musics, journeys, men's history via the instruments genesis, breath, air...
But, principaly people may say that we breath music through it. It uses as well "breath in" as "breath out" air (it is the only one doing so on the planet). More, the harmonica doesn't need to blow it strongly, it doesn't need much effort to obtain a sound. That's what makes of it a tool particularly adapted to the breathing diseases such as asthma and cystic fibrosis.
In otorhinolaryngology, the harmonica helps children with breathing difficulties to get a better consciousness for their breathing act by offering them recreational activities based on the musical breath.
Initiatives, actions, experiments
Jean Jacques Milteau and the association "Enfance et Musique" ("Childhood and Music"), followed by many others in the medecine world, created workshops such as the one in Bullion hospital, created by the speech therapist Caroline Raimbault. In the brezath through the harmonica a speech therapist can evaluate inspiration and expiration and the abdominal breath.
Since a few years, in Marseille, a research has been carried out on music, in the professor Rufeau pedo-psychiatry department, and it extremely beneficial effects have been observed. The same research with the same results was conducterd in Toulouse in professor Raynnaud department and in professor Garabedian departement in Trousseau hospital in Paris.
The results of these actions are very positive : harmonica is a breath therapeutic instrument, bringing pleasure and an opening on the world outside the hospital.
We mustn't forget to speak of harmonica players such as Toot's Thielemans who probably is the most famous asthmatic player in the world ! John Walton was also a harmonica player following musical therapy who obtained very good results, and the president Ronald Reagan who was found to be playing the harmonica while recuperating from his near-tragic gunshot wound (in 1981).
Musico-therapy is a real big issue and only a few aspects of it had been mentionned here above. It obviously deserves further developments that we will tackle very soon.
Until then and without waiting, bravo to the association "Musique et Santé" and its godfathers and bravo to the Harmonica.
France Harmonica Public relations
Echos France Harmonica magazine Editor
*CD "Manque pas d'Air"
Please contact "Musique et Santé" association
Price : 18 euros, mailing included, payable by international money order
WHAT HAPPEN NOWADAYS ?
The situation is in constant progress and engaged in a common action which generates an awareness, traducted in positive actions such as "Enchanted Paediatrics association" in Lorraine (east of France), run by Jean Louis Emmenecker ("Harmonicas de France" vice president) in collaboration with the "Bon Secours" and the "Bel Air" hospitals in which therapeutic treatments are offered to asthmatic children by multidisciplinary teams (school nurses, physiotherapists and psychologists), action permitting also to the children to discover the pleasure of music.
We can also notice the positive actions of the harmonica player Greg Zlapczynski in several medical departments. These actions are joining the "Musique et Santé" project, about which Josette has written here above. It's all about the work of the breath with a little harmonica that the children can bring home (a Hohner gift), work presented like a game that the children arer waiting for with impatience.
The psychological benefits of this treatment are unquestionable. I've already observed it in the past when I've had opportunities to play in Necker children hospital, in Paris, in Mrs Blezat department and, also in Paris, in the Saint Mandé Blind Institute, on the movie star Danielle Delorme's initiative.
Let's wish a long life to all these positive actions. Let's pay tribute to the medical world, to the harmonica world and to the actors of Musique et Santé Association.
May I give you a last advice :
Never lend or borrow an harmonica... germs and virus are ready and waiting for such a moment, to the detriment of your health.
An harmonica is like a very dear person... that you wouldn't like to lend...
- Jean Labre
Photos J.J.Milteau, "Musique et Santé", J.L. Emmenecker Published February 6th 2010
Happy New Year 2010 It's an event which has been happening since the birth of humanity, with the same scenario occuring on the last stroke of midnight, where ever on earth people are standing at that moment, near the Fontane di Trevi, the Corcovado, the Grand Canyon or on the Champs Elysées decorated with millions of incandescent lights.
On midnight's Eve rendez-vous, people are traditionally recalling the outstanding events of the preceeding year. As far as we are concerned, 2009 has been marked by the "World Harmonica Festival" (WHF) which included as usual the "World Harmonica Championships". It took place in the mythical city of Trossingen.*
The competition has reached a considerable level due to the participation of harmonica players coming from Far East Asia. They have reached a high technical level in all competition categories, and they have finally won 11 gold medals out of 14 awarded. France has obtained a silver medal with Christelle Berton and a bronze with Antoine Leroux.*
People have had exceptional opportunities to attend to several dream concerts, with,featuring, our alien Howard, the fabulous "Hong Kong Harmonica Association Orchestra", Olivier Ker Ourio, etc.
What a shame that people have to wait four years before the pleasure of sharing the next WHF2013 with the harmonica planet!
It's always an enthusiastic rendez-vous, and it's a pity that, unfortunately, a lot of harmonica players can't afford the expenses of being part to an event like that. In the antique Greece, during the Sophocle period, rich citizens sponsored the shows, and spectators were paid to be present... Times have changed, we must accept event logistics working only with the help of a new race of "mecenes", not easy to convince,"the sponsors". Let's pay tribute to the organizers who are sparing no efforts to obtain money to organize harmonica events, such as the "8th Pacific Harmonica Festival" in Singapore, top event in 2010 summer, and also, in spring, our "20th H2F/France Harmonica Festival" in Domancy city, Savoie.
Time is passing so fast, make the most of it and as it flows past there will be more and more people who won't have had the chance to know and listen to Claude Garden... that's life.
Automn rendez-vous in the Black Forest Back in the past... We are in the heart of this legendary forest at the beginning of the nineteenth century.
A family is having its daily dinner when a peddler knocks at the door ; his high figure stands out against the entrance framework, holding a solid stick in his hand, carrying a huge wicker basket on his back, he proclaims : "God bless this house", instantly the father answers by the traditional saying : "God bless you, come in and bring us happiness".
That's how the magic link was tied between peddlers carrying the smallest instrument in the world and the people eager to discover fresh news and discoveries.
Let's pay tribute to these peddlers coming from Germany, France and everywhere, who arrived later in USA coming from Europe, harmonicas in their pockets which were welcomed with enthousiasm by people of this new world.
The beginning of the industrial revolution cared for the rest, with the instigation of Hohner and some others (see my article : http://www.jeanlabre.com/english/article.php?id=3)
In the city of Trossingen, in Löwenstrasse, there is a Museum of Harmonica, unique in the world, in which is recounted the story of our instrument, a 150 years old adventure and Martin Häffner, the museum director, takes care of the collections and is permanently attentive to our harmonica planet events. http://www.harmonika-museum.de.
By the end of October, if you'll have the opportunity to go for a walk in Löwenstrasse, in Trossingen, don't hesitate to pay a visit to this wonderful place.
I invite you to take your walking stick and come to this Black Forest rendez-vous, this friendship jamboree at the 2009 FIH Harmonica Festival (The News section). Enjoy this event which happens, unfortunately, only every four years.
Jean Labre Published October 15th 2009
Automn rendez-vous in tne Black Forest Back in the past... We are in the heart of this legendary forest at the beginning of the nineteenth century...
A family is having its daily dinner when a peddler knocks at the door ; his high figure stands out against the entrance framework, holding a solid stick in his hand, carrying a huge wicker basket on his back, he proclaims : "God bless this house", instantly the father answers by the traditional saying : "God bless you, come in and bring us happiness".
That's how the magic link was tied between peddlers carrying the smallest instrument in the world and the people eager to discover fresh news and discoveries.
Let's pay tribute to these peddlers coming from Germany, France and everywhere, who arrived later in USA coming from Europe, harmonicas in their pockets which were welcomed with enthousiasm by people of this new world.
The beginning of the industrial revolution cared for the rest, with the instigation of Hohner and some others (see my article : http://www.jeanlabre.com/english/article.php?id=3)
In the city of Trossingen, there is a Museum of Harmonica, unique in the world, in which is recounted the story of our instrument, a 150 years old adventure and Martin Häffner, the museum director, takes care of the collections and is permanently attentive to our harmonica planet events.
By the end of October, if you'll have the opportunity to go for a walk in Löwenstrasse, in Trossingen, don't hesitate to pay a visit to this wonderful place.
I invite you to take your walking stick and come to this Black Forest rendez-vous, this friendship rendez-vous at the 2009 FIH Harmonica Festival.( The News )
Take advantage of this event, it happens, unfortunately, only every four years.
Jean Labre Published October 15th 2009
The taste of Others June 21st... That day is a gift ! One more time, I have had the great pleasure to take part in the "Music Fest Day" with the Mirajazz Quintet, in the Paris mythical area of Saint Germain des Prés, in a café just across the legendary cabaret "La rose Rouge" (1946-1974), full of souvenirs, souvenirs...
But the today's world compels us to get back to the current affairs, with the media and the web which are inundating us with millions of pixels, among which sometimes emerge some news concerning our instrument... We shall not complain about it, of course, judging by the number of harmonica websites, of which I have tried hard to make an inventory that you'll discover, for the most part of it, in my column "Address Book": http://www.jeanlabre.com/english/article.php?id=74.
After the "King" Elvis, Michael Jackson... The King of the Pop Music has gone back to his planet ! That's life. Larry Adler and Claude Garden, that the media have more or less forgotten, had also left, leaving us their inconsolable orphans.
We should put into perspective the dimension that celebrity sometimes reaches. The essential and the priority should lie in our preferences and our feelings.
May the destiny take care of Howard Levy and Toot's Thielemans, our so matchless aliens !
It's the beginning of the seasonal migration to summer pastures in Var, a department in the south Alps, to which I am deeply attached. Sheperds and flocks heading up the mountain spaces...
Thousand of years old choice of life, a total gap with what we are living today, in our so-called civilized world... which allows us to believe in a better future.
Let's have the taste of others and of the world around us... If only people would accept to push the door behind which everything becomes possible...
Jean Labre Published June 28th 2009
Reeds and Stars The great international French singer Alain Bashung died of cancer a week ago.
I remember him during his last TV Music Awards appearance, it was at the beginning of March. At the end of his last piece, he plaid harmonica with an incredible sensibility ; it was a great moment of emotion... one of the magic secrets of our instrument.
It has been noticed, for a long time now, that many star singers are enjoying the complicity of the mouthorgan to improve their shows. For example : Jacques Brel, Serge Gainsbourg, the Beatles, John Lennon, Mac Cartney, David Bowie, Bob Dylan, Mike Jager, Elton Jones, etc.
A few bars are often enough to leave a mark in the popular memory.
Mouth organ is going on well, since a long time and hopefully for a long time in the future...
The 21st of April, a mythical concert will take place in the Aoso Jinyia Shrine (VIIth century) at Sendai, Japan, announced as
" 4500 years of life for a universal instrument ",
with, in the first part of the concert, the young virtuoso Yuu Takahachi, Shô* player. And I'll have the great honour to play different harmonicas in the second part.
Back to the present time now... Azerbaïdjan is the 121st country to visit jeanlabre.com. Welcome to the Club !
If you wish, don't hesitate, join us for the yearly festival
" Harmonicas de France " at the end of May*.
*Sheng and Shô, reeds ancestors of the mouthorgan.
*I invite you to have a look at our events calendar, click on "News". Published March 21st 2009
New Year's Eve 2009 The times are changing and that's well. The Three Wise Men of the New year's Eve are the opportune perfect demonstration of this movement...
The times are changing, everywhere around the world. The Harmonica Planet can only be delighted about it... I am taking for examples, all the "Harmonica's Jamborees" which are flowering here and there.
I am just coming back from the "7th Pacific Harmonica Asia Festival" in Hangzhou (China). This event is a perfect demonstration of the phenomenon (have a look to my article devoted to this festival)*. The year 2009 will not be in rest, several events are already registered on the international calendar. The most important will be the "World Harmonica Festival 2009" which will take place in the 150 years old legendary city of Trossingen.
In our column "Calendar" we are informing you in time about all the important events of the year.
The times are changing... and we have to accept it...
"Time is the best builder of friendship" (Tahar Benjelloun), but everything has a beginning, Honduras is the 115th country visiting jeanlabre.com. Welcome to all the harmonica players of this country.
Happy New Year to all of you !
* We remind you that the column "Calendar" is included in the Column "News", it's about actual news. The column "Articles" includes essential articles with more important texts. Published January 1st 2009
Asia Pacific Harmonica Festival 2008
This event took place in the city of Hangzhou, China (1.932.600 inhabitants), near Shanghai, from the 1st to the 4th of November. An event succeeding to the preceeding festivals in Taipei, Kuala Lumpur, Seoul, Atsugi (Japan), Hong Kong and Taipei a second time.
This Asia Festival, organized every two years, is one of the most important events of our Harmonica World. I already wrote an article about this phenomenon in this website under the title : "World Championships and World Competition Story" (click on "Articles").
The festival organization was perfect, due to an efficient Festival committee supervised by miss Cui Xia.
For instance : the organization of the competition which included 1669 competitors (15 categories, orchestras included). This competition took place in a university in which people discovered a surprising museum which standing comparison with the Trossingen museum.
In the same place, people discovered the most important harmonica school of China, associated with the city of Shanghai.
My friend Jia-Yi was in charge of the artistic organization of the festival, including a service of permanent translation of all the events (meetings and concerts). He also took part several times to the show, giving us the opportunity to rediscover a great harmonica player.
It is used in Asia sharing all harmonica festivals with Pacific neighbouring countries. Apart from the organizing countries (China,Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Philippines), Australia, New Zealand, Hawaï and California (including Sung Hee "Victor" Yun, SPAH Chairman) were present in this festival... together with a few Europe representatives : Germany, Italy, Finland and France.(Photo : Jia-Yi He, Gerhard Müller and myself)
Three evening concerts took place in the"Hangzhou Theater". A beautiful Opera concert building. For the circumstance, TV cameras transmitted live all concerts on outside giant screens in the city and also in the university during the competition.
Three evenings including top concerts were so many opportunities to discover, or re discover great quality shows. For instance, the famous "Harmonica Orchestra of Hong Kong Association" (74 harmonica players, out of 80 musicians) directed by Johnny Kuann, a prestigious performance ! Equal to an evening concert in Paris Palais Garnier Opera !
I've appreciated a lot of very good harmonica players and orchestras... among them the marvellous japanese "Kojo No Tsuki" played by the legendary tremolo player Kan Manaka. I was very happy to participate in this concert.
I've also enjoyed taking part in an improvisation meeting with my australian friend Tony Eyers.
The close ceremony had a warm and enthousiastic awards giving. The competition has reached an impressive technical level. As far as I am concerned, as adjudicator, I've lived a thrilling moment... with a headache as reward !
But I've shared intensive days with my planet harmonica friends...
The rendez-vous is already taken, the next 2010 Asia Harmonica Festival will take place in Singapore. Start from now saving up to go there... it's really worth it.
And don't miss the 2009 Trossingen rendez-vous next year !
A planet harmonica... we all have a dream somewhere.
festival poster Zhou Wenqing, photos Jean Labre Published November 29th 2008
Sublime Voice "Back in the Past" ... We are in China, in the 27th century BC, under the reign of the emperor Houang-Ti, the "Yellow King", who lived, according to the legendary history, from 2697 to 2597 BC. With the inventions of the compass, a calendar and ceramic, he is also credited with the invention of the sheng (cheng), first instrument with free reeds, recognized ancestor of the mouth organ, based upon the fundamental principles governing the universe : the ying, female and passive, and the yang, male and active.
Listen also to the legendary harmonica player, Albert Raisner, who described poetically the birth of the sheng, in his book "Le Livre de l'Harmonica" :
" Yin and yang are musically related and tuning in harmony, said Houang-Ti, that's why we recognize in music the ultimate truth to which body, mind, human society and the whole universe are obeying. The five music notes are corresponding to everything that can be seen on earth : colors, seasons, elements, planets. To the note Kyo is corresponding our liver, to Tche is corresponding our heart, to Kong our spleen, to Chang our lungs, and to Yu our kidneys. Music is the remedy to our body and soul aches. It is also the supreme key to wisdom. Human being, like everything in the Universe, is a chord of a great symphony".*
It shoud be noted that the above mentioned five notes of the sheng, are in order : E, A, D, G, C, forming the pentatonic scale. Consequently, this scale is the first important step taken on earth by human music.
"Back in the past" ... Here we are: I've got my introduction to announce the "7th Asia Pacific Festival" in China, in the city of Hangzhou, near Shanghaï. And I am very flattered to be invited to take part in this international rendez-vous.
Welcome to Guam, 111th country to pay a visit to JeanLabre.com.
- Jean Labre
* "Le Livre de l'Harmonica", Presses du Temps Présent,
published in 1961. Published October 14th 2008
Solstice in Music What's better than a tradition ? Every year, summer is coming with its procession of events and entertainements of which people never get tired of. The summer solstice on June the 21st is the longest day of the year... a gift for our Music Festival Day which encounters more and more success year after year. This is a universal "rendez-vous" for all generations, and an opportunity for me to play every year with the "Mirajazz band" at Saint Germain des Prés, in the heart of Paris.
Have a look in our "Calendar" for more information.
This summer will offer you a lot of events all around the world : the Russia tour of the "Harmonicas de France Orchestra", the 45th birthday of the SPAH Convention in Saint Louis, Missouri, and, in the first days of Autumn, the "7th Asia Pacific Festival" at Hangzhou, China, to which I'll participate.
I have also the pleasure to welcome Zimbabwe, the 104th country to join jeanlabre.com, and more specially its anonymous cybernaut, symbol of the universal harmonica family.
The first warmth will soon be there. To get some fresh air, if you should give in to the temptation to go to the beach, beware of the sand... it's the worst enemy of our mouthorgan !
-Jean Labre Published June 23rd 2008
Harmonica Trio in the Pocket
Tombo Musical Instrument company has introduced into the market two small instruments named "Pocket Ensemble" (n° 1160 and 1161), invented by Juko Saito* and intended to be used by harmonica ensembles. These instruments have been rapidly adopted in Japan by the A.J.H.F.* Federation, and the primary schools have already introduced this small trio instrument in their music classes.
The model 1160 is a small bass, " Pocket Bass " ; its dimensions are : lengh 143 mm, width 57 mm, heigh 44 mm. This bass contains only 10 notes : F, C, G, D, A in his upper part and D, A, E, B, F# in the lower part. Its sound is interesting, it reminds me of the old Hohner bass sound (called " black bass " in France).
The model 1161, " Pocket Chord ", is surprising because of its small dimensions compared to the other standard chord models. Its dimensions are : length 145mm, width 35 mm, height 25 mm. The " Pocket Chord " contains 8 fundamental chords : F, C, G7, D7 in the upper part and D minor, A minor, E7, B7 in the lower part. This chords permit to play easy accompaniments like the " anatole " : C, A minor, D minor, G7, C. And many other chords combinated with the bass, in the F key. Juko Saito has very explained these chord combinations in a book containing 50 arrangements written by him.
The result of this accompaniment formula makes me think of the sound obtained by the Hohner " polyphonia 7 " (3 branches).
I was present last month at the A.J.H.F convention concert during which I discovered the surprising "Pocket Ensemble Trio". I think that this formula is going to be interesting for every one, from young to retired people ! Hoping that they will be soon sold in France at a not too expensive price. In Japan, their prices are : 70 euros for the pocket bass and 68 euros for the pocket chord.
*Juko Saito is also the creator of the pentatonic harmonicas Tombo (discovered in Tokyo by Pete Pedersen and me in 1995 !).
*A.J.H.F. All Japan Harmonica Federation photos : Tombo - Jean Labre Published May 22nd 2008
April Spring Fever It is interesting to notice that in many different countries, the first days of April are celebrated by the same sort of events : days of foolishness and tricks.
The 1st of April is in France the day of "Poissons d'Avril" (April fishes) when French children used to fix a fish drawing to the back of their schoolmates, shouting "Poisson d'Avril" when the prank is discovered.It is also the use to tell false news really unexpected and unrealistic ones.
Kids will also be amused to know about flying church bells, a Christian tale linked to Easter. On their way back home from Roma, where they went to be blessed by the Pope, the church bells traditionally drop Easter chocolate eggs to be found by little French children in their rooms, yards or gardens... with, of course, the complicity of their parents !
I claim a child's mind. I love April !
I did not found any egg in my garden on the 1st April this year. That very day I was in front my computer when I received an unexpected message, an Easter present coming from Khazakstan, the hundredth country paying a visit to jeanlabre.com. A warm welcome to Khazakstan harmonica players.
By the way, who knows how the bells know where you live ?
Nobody...but the web knows !
- Jean Labre Published April 1st 2008
World Championships and World Competitions Story The harmonica is the best-known and most popular instrument in the world. That's why it was desirable and even necessary to create an organisation which will bring adepts together on an international basis.
The originators of this idea met in Trossingen on October 2nd and 3rd 1950 and representatives of no less than ten different countries took part in the Constitutive Meeting. These countries were : Belgium, France, Eire, Germany, North Africa , North Ireland, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland and UK.
It was agreed to found the FIH (Fédération Internationale de l'Harmonica) .
The assembly examinated the project statutes, and then the project was unanimously adopted.
One of the essential FIH tasks is to promote harmonica in the international spheres of music. An appropriate work plan had been decided during the assembly. It included advertising for recruitment, the foundation of national organizations and preparation of World Harmonica Championships...
The first World Harmonica Championships took place in Duisbourg (Germany) 1953, followed by Strasbourg (France) in 1954, Winterthur 1955, Rotterdam 1956 (Holland), Luxembourg 1957, Pallanza (Italy) 1958, Innsbruck (Switzerland) 1959, Barcelona (Spain) 1960, Strasbourg (France) 1963, Delph (Holland) 1965, Karlsruhe (Germany) 1967), Winterthur (Switzerland) 1969, Eindhoven (Holland) 1971, Ypress (Belgium) 1973, Offenbourg (Germany) 1975. People generally admits that during that period the championships were more european than worldwide because of an inadequate international communication.
Then, a crossing desert period succeeded to this first period (a few european competitions, more often in Germany, excepted).
Eighties and nineties will give a new world dimension to the World Harmonica championships, due to the creation of the IHO (International Harmonica Organisation) founded by Peter Janssen, Holland (President), and Norm Dobson, USA (Vice-President), associated to FIH !
After these events things have changed... People coming from everywhere have now a chance to win a medal in a real world championship, for instance : Chong Ah Kow (Malaysia) who wan a gold medal in Trossingen (1989).
In 1990 Jean Labre, France Harmonica Founder President, joined IHO. He became IHO Vice President for Europe and also IHO ambassador, in association with, for the Far East Area, with Yasuharu Mano (Japan Vice President) who made a very good job, rallying to IHO 7 countries (China, South Korea, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan).
FIH and IHO decided to organize International Championships to each his turn, every two years.
One year in Trossingen, the following year in a country chosen by IHO.
The championships have been organised since 1991 in the following countries :
Detroit (USA) 1991, Trossingen (Germany) 1993, Yokohama (Japan) 1995, Trossingen 1997, Bournemouth "Millenium Festival"(UK) 2000, Trossingen 2001 (that year FIH took back the hand, in full agreement with IHO, for organizing the Championships every four years). Consequently the last championships (2005) have been organized in Trossingen.
The competition jury is made of a representation of harmonica players and musicians coming from everywhere around the world, who, during 4 days, have to do a considerable work, to decide, with impartiality, between hundreds of competitors, divided in 10 (or more) categories.
I have been jury member for 25 years. People have generally a confused approach to the member of a jury role . I'm giving you here more information concerning the work of a world championship jury:
The jury is made up of qualified adjudicators. They have been appointed by the festival organization. The organization committee is supervising the jury. The jury in each category is made of at least generally three members. They elect a foreman. The adjudicators are responsible for evaluating the entries according to the guidelines stated in the regulations. The juror decision is strictly confidential and final. Each adjudicator member is obliged to attend the juror's meeting before, during and after the competition in order to discuss procedure and evaluate entries.
The criteriums for the notation of the competitors generally are :
1/ MEMORY : secure, choice of the piece
2/ ACCURACY : knowledge of music, notes, cleanliness, phrasing, dynamics, legato, staccato
3/ RHYTHM :continuity, correctness of beat/count, tempo
4/ TECHNIC : holding of the harmonica, tongue blocking, puckering, breath control, tonguing, intonation, vibrato : hand, throat, lip
5/ MUSICIANSHIP/MUSICALITY : interpretation, style, tone quality, articulation, appropriate tempo,
6/ GENERAL EFFECT : stage presence, appearance, poise attitude, body position, music too easy, difficult
Rating : points are given by the adjudicator on a personal rating sheet (the preceeding 6 points were the criteriums selected for the 1991 Detroit Championships). (photo : Trossingen World Championships 2005 : Naoko Takeuchi/Japan, Michal Gronich/Israël, J.Labre, adjudicators)
Consequently, the taste and the appreciation of the public, the spectators, will never be the same to the ones of the adjudicators. It's technically impossible. People are noticing it constantly in all public shows and contests.
Never the less, we ought to have confidence in our championships adjudicators, they fully deserve it.
Others World Competitions
The success of the World Championships has created a dynamic all over the world and given the idea of organizing competitions on the same concept to different countries.
Particulary in the far East, where countries are very much engaged in musical education... competition spirit at the key, often from the primary school !
In these countries, medias are very interested in this cultural and very popular phenomenon and consequently... sponsors also !
That is the reason why the Asia World Festival is holding the maximum score concerning visitors, for instances :
2002, 26.000 entrances registered in the Atsugi (Japan) 4th Asia Festival.
2010, 2530 competitors registred in the 8th Singapore Festival Championships.
You must not think that we are in front of a number of visitors competition between West and Far East... on the contrary, you must realise that now, there is a positive and efficient complementarity, for the best of the future of our Harmonica Planet.
The "rendez-vous" is already taken. Don't miss this out of the common traditional event.
Like the Big Canyon or the Taj Mahal, Trossingen cannot be described. It's like a pilgrimage, lived intensely and kept engraved forever in one's memory.
Photos : IHO, Swaran Singh Arri, AJHF Published March 4th 2008
Happy New Year 2008 PLANETS
Once upon a time, two planets lost in the Universe infinity, two specks of dust in our galaxy.
One is the Earth. It's already known that its length of life is estimated to five billions years !
After reading those lines as an introduction, you must have already guessed the name of the second planet... the " Harmonica planet "! And of course, its life is intimately connected with that of the preceeding planet !
Back to the future... Let's try to imagine what will happen, during this gigantic period of time, on our little mouth organ planet. Let's try to figure out how many editors will have to succeed me to take care of jeanlabre.com, until the announced end of time.
Back to the future... Let's go on picturing an inevitable cross-breeding " human-aliens " and improbable harmonica jamborees in the stars !
It's New year's Eve ! Let's make the most of this opportunity and share a moment of foolishness...
But now... back to the present time and the today reality, with its scattered gifts wraps and empty champagne glasses... back to this morning to welcome Malta, the 94th country visiting jeanlabre.com and most of all, back to wish you all a very
Happy New Year.
With my best wishes
Jean Labre " Published December 26th 2007
Autumn on the Web It is often said that humanity has been going through three great cultural revolutions since the beginning of our era. Without forgetting all the preceeding human great steps, just before blowing out our second autumn anniversary candles, let's consider these events to see what might be of concern to us, harmonica players.
The first event of this revolutionary trilogy is, in the middle of the 15th century, the discovery of printing by Johannes Gutenberg. The second one is the industrial revolution in the 19th century (let's pay tribute to the Hohner saga).
Following this event, its consequences and developments, the humanity, its morals, habits, lifestyle, have been carried away in an uninterrupted wirlwind of discoveries and inventions, the latest being the invention of the World Wide Web.
And here we are ! It's what allows us to communicate and to be there for our rendez-vous on the web.
That's also where we meet Sourav Chowdhury, symbol of the world music, who recently sent us a video clip recorded in a Taj Mahall scenery, with sweet tremolos at the Key.
And finally, to stay on the same tonality, we have the pleasure to inform you that Mongolia is the 86st country to join us.
Jean Labre Published October 16th 2007
The Music Day Welcome to the Music Day. Winds coming from everywhere are blowing on the web like messengers opening a large range of discoveries and announcing favourable unexpected meetings. For example we are discovering that Bruce Willis will take part this summer in a chromatic masterclass organized by Robert Bonfiglio in Copake, New York state. Stars and celebrities are good promoters for our instrument.
Harmonica events are also goods opportunities, for a large public, to discover our "mouth music", for instance the concert of tireless French group "Armos", running everywhere in our "baguette" country to promote our small but great instrument. This band of five (to ten) harmonica players, teachers in several music schools, can play, on stage, the Aria in D major by Johan Sebastian Bach, chromatics and diatonics in unison ! We great them with a loud applause.
Thank you "Armos", thank you Bruce and Robert.
Last minute : Malta is the 76th country to pay us a visit on JeanLabre.com.
Have a bright Music Day !
Jean Labre Published June 21st 2007
It's Spring Time !! Spring time is here, flowers are blooming everywhere and birds are singing, flying high in the blue sky. It's time to rejoice and to celebrate in harmony with the nature revival.
Before all the Summer events, let's announce the Spring ones. First of all, in Japan, the time of the cherry trees flowering is celebrated by numerous events among which, at the end of April this year, a "French Fortnight", marked by harmonica among others themes (see in our "News").
This is only the first of a series of world events to begin with the yearly May festivals, the Saint Aignan festival, followed by the H2F festival in Auxerre, and many others to come...
We received this morning an e-mail from someone in Togo. This is the 71st country to pay us a visit on our site. We are happy to have so many international visitors. John Walton, my friend would have been also very pleased by this success. Hello John ! Is it also Spring time in the harmonicist paradise ?
- Jean Labre Published April 7th 2007
Let's talk about Hohner Survivor of the 19th century industrial revolution in Germany, to which the mouth organ will always remain linked, this prestigious company celebrates this year its 150 years of existence. Happy birthday Hohner !
On this occasion Hohner proposes 3 new "Hohner 150th Anniversary" models, attention it's a limited production*.
Our website has been receiving frequent technical requests concerning all sorts of harmonicas, old as well as new ones, from every where.
Concerning the XB40, I am going to quote and supplement an article I had writen for "France Harmonica" revue (n° 43), in which I said : The XB40 or an easier way to practice bending.
But it's not as easy as that and it's a new training if you want to master this new revolutionary instrument.
Before giving the technical description of this instrument, people must know how to practice the bending on a 10 holes Richter harp.
Bending is accomplished by partially isolating the air in the your mouth cavity from the rest of the vocal tract and adjusting its resonant frequency to the desired note. The back of the tongue is raised up against the palate the same way you change the mouth'vowel shape from AHH to EEE, without actually vocalizing. The tongue is then slid backward or forward to a position that will pull down the pitch of the note being played. Hight pitched notes are bent with the back of your tongue placed toward the fraont of the mouth and lowernotes are bent with the tongue farther back.
Beginners will find more bending information in the master's teachers methods, books and CDs written and registred by well known masters like : Howard Levy, Jean Jacques Milteau, Michel Herblin, Joël Hanriot and some others.
Well, after this necessary preamble, let's have a more precise look at the technically revolutionary XB40 and to the possibilities it offers to obtain 40 bending alterations, whereas a standard 10 holes Richter offers only 12 alterations. For a better understanding, look attentively at the following table :
After reading it, you can see by yourself that the concept of this instrument avoids the practice of overblows. The XB40 design not only creates a complete chromatic scale, it offers you multiple ways to play most notes. You just replace an overblow by a simple bending as indicated in the chart. The player can, for instance, play in g2 note in the standard manner, with the 6 (blow) unbent,include a sliding bend up to it from f2, or play a g2 as a bent note on the 6 (draw), adding a sliding bend down to it from the unbent a2.This feature significantly increases the expressive capability of the XB40 in a way never before possible on any other harmonica.
These surprising performances are due to the brilliant find which consist to set 2 reeds by note. The main reed note is obtain with the main reed. The second reed doesn't react upon blowing, but it will react after a turn off effect from a valve system set up in the comb.
This new mouth organ concept enables to obtain 60 notes as indicated in the preceeding table.
As usual Hohner has made a serious job, with a perfect air tightness secured by 10 cruciform screws.
The dimensions are bigger than those of the legendary Marine Band , which is natural considering all the technical components of this little wonder.
To each one his own instrument philosophy, some will tell you that the slide is more efficient for practicing chromatic scales. ! Unconditional fans of the overblows will retort...bull sheet...! I reassure them, Howard Levy is for ever going on astonishing us all !
To each one his point of view. As far as I am concerned, I think that people have to go ahead. A plunge has been taken, it's an honourable mention for Hohner... and many thanks to Rick Epping, father of the XB40 . Congratulation Rick, good job !
Keep blowing !
Among other recent models, I'd like to draw your attention to the Chromonica 270 de Luxe which has received a warm welcome among the traditional 12 holes Chromonica fans.
The technological innovation of this new model is that Hohner had the good idea to replace the mouth piece square holes by round holes. This apparently insignificant detail is, in fact, a judicious marketing operation to win back the harmonica players round holes adepts who were obliged to turn towards other labels to have satisfaction (here, I don't include the CX12 model which is meant for a different clientele).
In addition to this new mouth piece, Hohner has particulary taken care over the finish of this model, with reed plates carefully screwed on a pear wood comb, an association which ensures a perfect and comfortable air tightness. Let's add to it a new gadget, intended for the left hand players, consisting in the possibility to reverse the slide ; and lastly, a new metal cover, without tin, more attractive.
Are you interested in more information about Hohner products ?
Don't hesitate to consulttheir site : http://www.hohner.fr
*Have a look to our previous article : "Birth and history of a small instrument"
*I have received several questions concerning the instruments on which I use to play.
I play on the following Hohner models : Super 64X, CX12, Marine Band Special 20, Golden Melody, the Chord Akkord and the Bass model 268.
Photos Hohner Published March 9th 2007
Franco de Gemini - The Moovie Soundtrack Music "Caro Franco, La tua esecuzione con l'armonica è, ancora una volta, degna del film e dell'idea musicale che l'accompagna. Grazie encora." - Ennio Morricone
"Dear Franco, the way you are playing the harmonica is, once more time, worthy of the movie and of the musical idea accompanying it. Thank you again." - Ennio Morricone
The mouth organ has often been courted by movies directors as an essential ingredient closely involved with movies. It sometime happens that the music has more intensity than the picture on the screen. Being a musician, I'll never complain about this situation.
The movie soundtrack has been celebrated last January in the honor of Franco De Gemini during the Midem Festival (international music publishers and records business convention) in Cannes, France.
Franco de Gemini is the example of an artist who has not got a wellknown name, even though millions of people around the world have come accross his work. Even many films-goers are not aware of De Gemini's name. And yet, they have heard De Gemini's haunting harmonica playing in the most dramatic moments of Sergio Leone's spaghetti westerns, Once Upon In The West. The score was written by an other italian, Ennio Morricone, who have received a Career Oscar at the Academy Awards Ceremony in February.
De Gemini who, like his friend Morricone, is a couple ot years short of his 80th birthday, has played on over 800 soundtracks which means more than 8600 hours of recording sessions, and for this, he surely deserves to have his name in the Guiness Book of Records.
In order to celebrate the label 40th birthday, he has published a book* entitled : From Beat to Beat /Memoirs Of The Man Of The Harmonica, 40 Years of Music and Cinema as Experienced by Franco De Gemini. The book is accompanied by a 77 minutes compilation CD : Dream Of Music (with harmonica themes but not only), and is written at the same time in Italian and English. This enables De Gemini, who is a born raconteur, to share with the reader,some of his more entertaining musical memories.
You may order this book at : http://www.beatrecords.it
information : .
Composers, producers, movies stars, Franco has been moving in the very best of the movie system for more than a half century : Joe d'Amato, Visconti, Vittorio de Sica, Sergio Leone, Ennio Morricone, Henri Mancini, Italo Zingarelli, Leonard Bernstein... Sophia Loren, Gina Lollobrigida, Charles Bronson, and his double the french actor Lino Ventura, etc. As many celebrities, as many movies success : Once Upon in the West, A Fistful of Dollars, The Good the Bad and the Ugly, My Name is Trinity, Dead in Venezia, Manhattan, Bread, Love and Fantasy, Mission Cobra, The Battle of England, Holocauste, "The Ruffian, West Side Story recorded in 1985 in Roma, direction Leonard Bernstein, etc.
A CD "Franco De Gemini – The Man With The Harmonica has been recently produced in Germany (label "All Score Media", catalogue N° ASM 023). Including The Man of The Harmonica (2 versions) and many other unforgettable pieces. We discover successively a great player, a great director, a great producer... and sometime the three at the same time !
You may order this CD at : http://www.allscore.de or .
In a recent interview realised by Bayern 11 Radio (Germany), Franco De Gemini related the story of the record session of "The Man of the Harmonica" : " I had a very pleasant time with Ennio Morricone during the record session of The Man Of The Harmonica. When I arrived in the studio he had already recorded the base of the score. He told me : Do you know the story of the film ? (Sergio Leone had already described me the story). You have just to play 3 notes ! Is that so ? This is more difficult than a Mozart concerto ! Where is the score ? – There is no score, you have just 3 notes and you play as you feel it, with your harmonica ! I told him : The actor has his hands tied in his back ! How can he move his hands for playing harmonica ? That's where we have to follow the scenario, the harmonica jamed between his teeth, he has hardly the possibility to play more than 3 notes ! Well, I played 3 notes... everyone knows what happened next."
Franco de Gemini is always attentive to the harmonica life. He remains faithful to the "Club Harmonicisti Torinesi" spirit he founded during the fifties. I met him in several circumstances, as many opportunities to share a passion with a great musician and a so kind man. During the Midem Franco confided us : "I'll die first, then, I'll think about retiring"...
Franco de Gemini is not the only harmonica player to distinguish himself in movies soundtracks. We all have in memory a long list of harmonica players who won awards in this so thrilling speciality : Jerry Adler, may be the first to be admitted in the so exclusive Hollywood world, followed by is brother Larry who won an Oscar award in 1953 for "Geneviève", Tommy Morgan who has recorded soundtracks for more than 500 films, Toot's Thielemans, Pete Pedersen, Richard Hayman, Charlie Mc Coy, Eddy Gordon, Albert Raisner, William Galison, René Gary... And I beg your pardon if I am forgetting many other friends.
"Le Grisbi", "Le Riffifi", "The Man With The Harmonica", "La Manon des Sources", "Bagdad Cafe" and so many other timeless successes are engraved in the memory of the public. A very good reason for the directors to go on courting the mouth organ.
* Franco de Gemini has recorded his first soundtrack movie "Bread Love and Fantasy" in 1950.
Photos : Beat Records (painting portrait Sandro Symeoni). Published February 23rd 2007
Happy New Year 2007 Time is going by so quickly... 2006 is already the past. Memories, memories... We must look towards the future and the New Year 2007 is already promising events of which we'll talk here very soon. Let's be confident in the flow of time which sometimes brings good surprises.
Next February we'll see a very important event that will go down in the mouth organ history. It's a concert with Howard Levy, in Bad Elster, Germany, on the 3rd of February. This exceptional virtuoso will perform his composition, the "Concerto for diatonic harmonica and symphonic orchestra". He will be accompanied by the "Chursächisten Philarmonic Orchestra".
For us harmonica players, the accession of the diatonic harmonica to the rank of instrument in a classical concert will surely be the main event of 2007 and may be of the century.
Thank you very much, Mr Howard Levy. You are making us a great gift and I am happy to share it with you all, as a New Year present. I wish you all a very Happy New Year !
Jean Labre Published December 30th 2006
Pentatonic harmonicas The Tremolo Pentatonic Harmonica enjoys a great popularity in the traditional music in Japan.
This new instrument has been created by Juko Saito, A.J.H.F.*, chairman and itinerant harmonica teacher everywhere in Japan (a top reference).
Here is a technical summary of what he had explained me during an interview he gave me in Tokyo.
If the Tremolo Pentatonic appears as a new instrument in the mouth organ family, the pentatonic scale has got a long history. This scale is born 4500 years ago in China (have a look at our article "Birth and History of a small instrument" on our website).
The Pentatonic Harmonica offers a range of new musical possibilities because of the pentatonic scale concept, with only 5 notes, unlike the diatonic scale (7 notes) and the chromatic scale (12 notes). We will note that these two last scales appeared lately during the Meiji period (1868-1912).
The japanese music includes 3 pentatonic scales :
1/C.D.E.G.A. This scale has no F and B, it's the major pentatonic scale.
2/A.B.C.E.F. The quarte and the seventh are excluded (no D, no G). This is the minor pentatonic scale.
3/C.E.F.G.B. Second and sixth are excluded (no D, no A). This scale is very popular in Japan and is called "Okinawa" pentatonic scale.
Juko Saito has created 6 pentatonic harmonica models in accordance with the preceeding 3 scales definitions. These harmonicas are manufactured by :
Tombo Musical Instruments Company in Tokyo : http://www.tombo.co.jp E-mail :
Here are the technical characteristics of these 6 pentatonic tremolo harmonicas :
1/ Major Pentatonic Harmonica (ref : MA-1).
G major model "Noma-3" (blow/draw). To agree to traditionnel japanese music arrangements.
2/ Major pentatonic Harmonica (ref : MA-2).
We obtain pentatonic minor scale with the draw notes, these notes are : A.B.C.E.F. These pentatonic scale is an application destinated to the traditional japanese music, for example the famous tune : "Mago-Uta".
You must know that there is no harmony in the japanese traditional music, but these pentatonic scales are highlighting this very melodic and very popular music.
3/Major Pentatonic Harmonica (ref : MA-3).
Scale based on the sixth and the second, allows to play with a 2 notes chord base.
4/ Major Pentatonic Harmonica (ref : MI-1).
Harmonica based on a minor mode without D and G#. The blow notes are : A.C.E. This instrument allows to play western musics.
5/ Minor Pentatonic Harmonica (ref : MI-2).
The blow notes are : A.B.C.E.F. (minor pentatonic), a F# has been introduced in the draw notes.
6/ Minor Pentatonic (ref : MI-3).
This instrument is based on A minor chord. It is possible to play 3 chords with this harmonica : A minor (with blow notes), E minor and G (with draw notes). It allows to play it giving a different colour.
As western harmonica players, we still have to find applications in our traditional and present musics for this new instrument. This has been already made, for example, by Pete Pedersen in a "My Blue Heaven" recording... and by me in my CD "Humanitas".
A new way is now open for all harmonica players.
Many thanks to Juko Saito, great musician and talented innovator.
*A.J.H.F. : All Japan Harmonica Federation Published October 20th 2006
Autumn leaves... Autumn leaves... the wind is brushing them over the web. This is a good sign announcing an intense activity in the harmonicist world, for the end of this year 2006.
Being seven months old, our site is very happy of the numerous visits from people from everywhere in the world : people from 61 different countries.
Thank you very much for your friendship and encouragement. We've noted your suggestions and will give them our best attention.
During those last , three months you'll find here new instrumental and technical articles, more news and also articles on basic problems.
"L'Automne est un andante mélancolique et gracieux qui prépare admirablement le solennel adagio de l'hiver." George Sand said it so well.
J. Labre Published October 4th 2006
Jean Labre's letter We are the 21st of June and in France as in other countries it is the Music Fete.This is for me to send you this first letter.
Our website is four months old and is visited, we could nearly say,by people from everywhere. People from fifty one countries have already paid us a visit (last of them were Chile and Bulgaria). Welcome to all of you !
Internet harmonicist communication has been one of the subject debated in the Japanese Convention in Tokyo last April. In my presence, the President of the AJHF*, Mr Yasuharu Mano, gave this website "jeanlabre.com" as an example of what can be done. I had then the opportunity to insist on the fact that by internet the information is nearly without delay and less expensive than it is by means of associative press although this one is absolutely necessary and complementary.
Please use our mail "contact" to tell us your suggestions and remarks,we are listening in.
And enjoy this Music Fete... mouth music fete of course !!
*All Japan Harmonica Federation Published June 21st 2006
Sunlights on the St Aignan Festival 2006 - France I am just back from the 4th "Harmonica sur Cher Festival", which I had announced here in march. I want to come back to this festival which is a true giant success, essentialy due to the association Mediator and its dynamic president Christophe Minier.
Four days full of events, it's nearly a full time job for the public to participate to concerts, workshops, conferences and night free concerts for the numerous noctambulants.
Four evening concerts with artists coming from different part of the world. They have offered us the best and I want to quote them :
- Barefoot Lano, australian, barefooted as his name tells us, generous bluesman who, with the three others of his quartet, he makes you feel happy with his compositions. Barefoot Lano, it is "dancing with kangaroos".
-Orlando Poleo Venezualian percussionnist with his group Afro-Venezuala Jazz had the idea of playing with Laurent Maur chromatic, exposing all the repertory with chorus : very brilliant !
-Sébastien Charlier and his quartet gave us a demonstration of what is his best : overblows. Charlie Mac Coy named him a "Richter alien" and he proved it once more with a jazz quartet at the same high level.
-I give the first price of this festival to an exceptionnal showman, Jason Ricci from Nashville with his quartet New Blood.
A look evocative of David Bowie, he is a sensitive, rugged, engaged bluesman with a strong presence on the scene. We were charmed by a show of an international level. And we must not forget his guitarist Shawn Dustin Stachurski with his very rocker style. They light the fire !
-To temperate these decibels floods, in the Saint Aignan collegiate church, Claude Saubestre made an excellent demonstration of the possibilities of chromatic harmonica in classical and genre music, accompanied by the talented Japanese pianist Nami Miyata.
-The program was very reach with also various good groups : Olivier Goulet et le Monde Kota, Emmanuel Frangeul in the Franco-American group Karl W. Davies & the Milkmen.
There was also a wednesday afternoon when Eric Frère Jacques told to all children a beautiful story, the Mississipi tales.
We lived those days with passion, I was like in a dream and it made it easier for me to deliver my conference on the theme : Once upon a time, a history of the harmonica, 4500 years old.
Harmonica sur Cher is one of the top worldwide harmonica festivals and will obviously keep on so. Congratulations to Mediator, to his president Christophe Minier and to all the so efficient volontaries.
Photos : Jean Labre et Jason Ricci Bluesunday Published June 5th 2006
Birth and History of a small instrument : The Harmonica We are in China, in the 27th century BC,under the reign of one of the " Great three ancestors ", the emperor Huàngdi, the " Yellow King ", who lived, according to the legendary history, from 2697 to 2597 B.C. With the inventions of the compass, of the chinese calendar, of oceanic boats, armours and of ceramic, he is also credited with the invention of the sheng, first instrument with free reeds, based upon the two fundamental principles governing the universe : the yin, female and passive, and the yang, male and active.
" Yin and yang are musically related and tuning in harmony, said Houàngdi, that's why we recognize in music the supreme truth to which the body, the mind, the human society and the whole universe are obeying. The five music notes are corresponding to everything that can be seen on earth : colors, seasons, elements, planets. To the note Kyo is corresponding our liver, to Tche is corresponding our heart, to Kong our spleen, to Chang our lungs, and to Yu our kidneys. Music is the remedy for our body and soul aches. It is also the supreme key to wisdom. Human being, like everything in the Universe, is a chord of the Great Symphony. " ( " Harmonica Book " Albert Raisner, 1961, Ed. Presses du Temps Présent, out of print).
It should be noted that the above mentioned five notes of the sheng, are in order : E, A, D, G, C, pentatonic scale. Consequently, this scale is the first important step taken on our earth by human music.
But it will only be in 1990 that pentatonic harmonicas are going to be created in Japan, by Juko Saito for " Tombo Company ", also manufacturing a re-creation of the sheng.
Let's go on travelling through time.
1295 AD, Marco Polo coming back from China, brings the sheng to the West ;
Marin Mersenne (1588-1648), French scientist, corresponding with Descartes, Pascal, Toricelli, studies the sheng in great detail and introduces the free reeds principle in Europe. This helps him to determine the frequencies ratio of the notes scale ;
1796, Father Amiot, missionary priest, brings back from China to Paris several shengs ;
1780, in different places in Europe, instrumental experiences based on the study of free reeds are conducted ;
1816, a german organ builder, Johan Buschmann invents the terpodion, keyboard with free reeds, which is predecessor to the harmonica and the harmonium ;
1821, his son, Christian Friedrich Buschmann takes out a patent on an harmonica he names aura. In 1828, he will write to one of his friends : " I have invented, in Barmen, a new very strange instrument.This small device is four inches diameter. It has twenty one notes. You can play piano, crescendo or ad libitum. It has no keyboard, it produces harmonies with six notes, fast or other movement. The sound can be hold as long as you are blowing it. My invention is aiming at playing the accompaniment with our instrument (terpodion) and the melody with the small device, this giving a very surprising effect. "
1825, birth of the first twenty notes/ten holes. A new configuration developed by a man called Richter, born in Bohemia (Czechoslovakia). Configuration used more and more, named after him : Richter diatonic. It will experience quite a revolution by the end of the 20th century with the discovery of overblows, (Howard Levy) and other bendings ;
1827, in France, in his workshop rue des Blancs Manteaux in Paris, Marie Candide Buffet, tuner, creates the metallic mouth harmonica. The manufacturing of it expands so quickly that he must share the production with private people, and among them, Jacob Alexandre who, in 1828, will have his own workshop specialized in manufacturing the same products.
They are so original and of so good a quality that Cyril Demian, Austrian, may be drawing inspiration from them, creates his hand harmonica or accordion, and takes out a patent in Vienna on the 6th of May 1829. After many improvements it will become the accordion we know to-day. The same year in Great Britain, Charles Wheatstone invents a small hexagonal instrument similar to the accordion, the concertina, thus changing the mouth symphonium, his first invention, in a bellows symphonium. In a way, we might say that the accordion would not be born at that time without the invention of the harmonica.
1827, Christian Messner, watchmaker in Trossingen, Germany, begins manufacturing in small quantities harmonicas Mundharfe model, with the help of his cousin Christian Weiss ;
1829, beginning of the first mass production, in Vienna, Austria.
- 1847, Christian August Seydel started his harmonica production factory in Klingenthal, Germany. This company is still alive nowadays.
1857, beginning of the Hohner saga, with Matthias Hohner producing the first year 650 harmonicas. Hohner S.A. will produce its thousand millionth harmonica in 1986 with the model Comet.
Did you know that the first famous harmonicist to be listed in 1860, was Abraham Lincoln ? We couldn't find a better symbol to begin the human adventure of our instrument.
At the end of the 19th century, in the USA, country music pionners are going to take a major part in the harmonica development, as a result of the emigration of people from across the Atlantic melting there their original traditions : Anglo-Irishes, Spanishes, Franco-Acadians, Poles and other people from Central Europe. They were bringing in their travel bags the first Hohner diatonic harmonicas ; the black population discovered the instrument and adopted it straight away. But they will always distance themselves from the country music, knowing only the hardline blues culture.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Japan will know in its turn an impressive take off with Hidero Sato who is going to marry the tremolo harmonica with the traditional japanese instruments : koto, shamizen, sakuhashi and various percussion instruments. So much that, nowadays, the tremolo has become a totally traditional instrument in many Far East countries.
In 1927, Hidero Satoh will receive the Jury Special Award in Trossingen, for his whole work. Today he is still the idol of millions of asian harmonicists .
Over the years, other types of harmonicas are going to come out that will bring different styles enriching our instrumental range. Apart from the above listed models, successively will appear
the chromatic harmonica and then the accompaniment harmonicas : the vinetta, the wellknown polyphonia with its three branches, the black bass, then the white bass, the chord and more recently the harmonetta. (We will give you the technical characteristics of these instruments in the instrumental pages of our website).
The beginning of the 20th century will see the birth of legendary players who are going to give our instrument its illustrious history. We owe them to be there today. Among many more we can name : Larry Adler, Tommy Reilly, John Sebastian, Sonny Boy Williamson, Sonny Terry, Little Walter, Borrah Minevitch (the best and unrivalled), Jerry Murad and his Harmonicats... with the recording of " Peg O my Heart " brought out at eight million copies !
During the fifties, glorious years, the harmonica becomes very popular. Trios are a trend : Stagg Mc Mann, Raisner, Marny, Harmonicats, Hotcha, Candido as well as new chromatic soloists completing the range : Jean " Toots " Thielmans, Jean Wetzel, Dany Kane, Claude Garden, René Gary, Franco de Gemini, they have recorded many film music such as the famous " Touchez pas au Grisbi ". Franco Gemini holds the record in this category with, for him alone, eight hundred film musics.
Many great composers have been interested in our instrument. Many classical pieces (concertos, etc.) have been written by famous names : Darius Milhaud, Villa Lobos, Sauguet, Dutoit, Piazzola, Dompierre, etc. Gerschwin and Ravel were enthusiastic about Larry Adler interpretations of the " Rhapsody in Blue "and of the " Boléro ".
Were reaching the end of this chapter of the past history and of what we must remember about it.
The sixties are our time. It's up to us to build the history of today mouth music and to pass it to the future, without letting the past sink into oblivion.
This page is amply developed in the Harmonica Encyclopedia I am writing. I'll later inform you of the publication date.
- Jean Labre Photos: M. Vicent-Roubert and Harmonikamuseum Trossingen Published January 16th 2006
World Harmonica Festival 2005 (WHF 2005) We invite you to read Jean Labre article ; he was logistical coordinator for the French delegation and jury member for the international competition during the 2005 event.
Like the Big Canyon or the Taj Mahal, Trossingen cannot be described. It is like a pilgrimage, lived intensely and then kept engraved forever in one's memory.
Trossingen, mythical town, was celebrating this year its 148 years of a life dedicated to harmonica and its world influence. This is also where, on October the 3rd 1950, was born the F.I.H (Fédération Internationale de l'Harmonica) during a constitutive meeting with the participation of 11 countries (1) ; the purpose of this association was to promote and organize, with the logistical support of Hohner Company, international harmonica events.
Then followed many Festivals with " Championnats ", which were more european than worldwide, because of an inadequate international communication.
In 1985, the I.H.O. (International Harmonica Organization) birth, helped to improve the international relations and to give a real world dimension to the competitions, always with the cooperation of the F.I.H. And so, in 1989 in Trossingen, took place the first World Festival worthy of the name.
During the nineties, FIH and IHO alternatively organized the events : Detroit USA in 1991, Yokohama Japan in1995, and between, the WHF in Trossingen every 4 years.
This naturally leads us, in this November, to the 2005 WHF .
49 French were there to take part in it.
Organized by the FIH, this WHF was sponsored by Hohner S.A., DHV (Deutscher Harmonica Verband) and Trossingen town. The presidency has been entrusted to Gerhard Müller (present FIH president), vice presidency to Steve Baker and the jury presidency to Rob Janssen (Fata Morgana).The competition jury was made of a representation of players and musicians coming from 13 countries, who, during 3 days, have had to do a considerable work, to decide, with impartiality, between 520 competitors from 27 countries, divided in 11 categories.
The level was high. This is usually an opportunity for new talents to emerge, but I must say that the competition is becoming more and more difficult with the breakthrough of asian countries formidable competitors walking off with a good deal of medals. An example is the excellent Hong Kong orchestra of which the demonstration was breathtaking.
But we mustn't forget the Laakirchen (Austria) praiseworthy orchestra, conducted by Walter Buchinger, and praiseworthy as well, " Harmonica 17 ", conducted by Pierre Couteau, which took the fith place with a mention of excellency.
Apart from it, France won only a silver medal, in free chromatic category. Antoine Leroux accompanied at the piano by Nami Miyata (the most parisian of all of us), won this medal with the mention " excellent ".
Ten other French, in different categories, won honourable excellent mentions.
But we must realise that we are to-day, far away from the past France Harmonica successes, mostly because of the " Rising Sun " countries performances.
Anyway, this event is an opportunity for every one to compare with harmonica players from everywhere and to measure his own skill, thinking, as he leaves the place, that he'll try to do better next time.
Trossingen is also the place of many events, exceptionnal rendez-vous, offering to visitors a great variety of programs accorded to their specialities and likings. A good example are the three evening concerts, and among them the "Ladies night ", novelty to which participated virtuoso ladies : Naoko Takeuchi (Japan), Michal Adler-Gronich (Israël), Kathrin Gass (Germany), Hermine Deurloo (Holland) and the last evening, Beata Kossowska (Poland), the diatonic" Madonna ". A real pleasure for the ears and also the eyes.
We can also add the success of the 18 workshops, managed by internationally known specialists.
The only negative point was the competitions places dispersal, which meant a lot of walks through the town. But Trossingen has its charm and the weather this year was an " indian summer " favourable to this kind of exercise. It has also permitted to many of us to visit for the first or even the second time, the wellknown harmonica and accordion museum, alone of its kind, always remodelled by the tireless Martin Häffner.
It is in Martin-Luther-Kirche that Yashuo Watani, the King's Harmonica Quintet and Ulrich Müller Fross gave with a great success, on the Saturday afternoon, a chamber music concert. But each one has his place of worship, the diatonic and chroma-jazz hardliners met every night until early hours for a late night session , at the Kesselhaus, with Steve Baker and his guests.
This 2005 WHF has been a big success. The offer of events was so large that you wished you could be in different places at the same moment. This is Trossingen magic.
I wish to thank the organizers, the Hohner Company, the FIH and more particularly Gerhard Müller and his team who welcomed so warmly the French delegates.
This is Alexander V. Savelyev. He arrived from Ukraine, after a three days tiring journey, with a total of 42 hours in bus and train, and many troubles to cross over frontiers, etc. He is one of us, he shares the same passion, what ever may be the country where you are born.
" Si tous les harmonicistes du monde voulaient se donner la main... " Well, it's done !
See you soon, Alexander, in Trossingen, in 2009 and thank you for coming.
France Harmonica Founder Président
(1) The 11 countries were : North Africa (...), South Africa, Germany, Belgium, Eire, Spain, France, Great Britain, Holland, Northern Ireland, Switzerland.
English translation Josette Labre
photos : Swaran Sing Arri/WHF2005 and Phil. Delbourg. Published December 15th 2005
Welcome on Jean Labre's website ! Times are changing and I give up today my participation to the « France Harmonica » website. I'll devote myself, from now on, to the « JeanLabre.com » site, with always the same objective : to keep you informed about the international life of our multifaceted instrument.
Welcome to all of you, faithful friends and all the others to come. I propose you to browse through mouth music actuality, culture, technic and much more. Following your curiosity, have a look at the different sections you'll find in it. It's in English and French so that cybernaut harmonicists from all countries can meet and join us.
Good surfing on a site of which the only ambition is to rise and keep your interest.
- Jean Labre
France Harmonica Founder President
IHO Europe Vice President Published October 14th 2005