Chromatic Harmonica Music from Tommy Reilly Tribute Concert

Douglas Tate, Jim Hughes, Philip Achille, Frank Semus, and Ola Braein perform music for the chromatic harmonica at a concert organised by Ena Reilly in Frensham Church in 2004, accompanied by Chris Collis (piano) and the Quartet Pro Musica.

Music includes three works for Harmonica and String Quartet – ‘Divertimento’, ‘A Yorkshire Tale’ and ‘Somerset Garland’ – plus solo pieces by Fauré , James Moody, David and Tommy Reilly, Tchaikovski, and Norwegian traditional music.

The original concert included performances by singers Hannah Poulsom and Jim Heath, but this video only includes the harmonica performances. The start times for the individual artists and pieces of music are given below.

An evening sponsored by The Tommy Reilly Appreciation Society in Frensham Church in 2004

Concert Programme

Douglas Tate and Chris Collis (piano)
0:01:00 – Berceuse (Fauré )
0:04:30 – Three Irish Dances (arr James Moody)

Philip Achille and Chris Collis (piano)
0:07:20 – Little Suite, 3rd and 4th movements (James Moody)

James Hughes and Philip Achille with String Quartet
0:14:40 -1771 (James Moody)

James Hughes and String Quartet
0:18:00 – Divertimento for harmonica and string quartet (Gordon Jacob) – 4 movements
0:29:00 – A Yorkshire Tale – Ronnie Hazelhurst

Frank Semus and Chris Collis (piano)
0:37:40 – Canzonetta from 2nd Movement of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto
0:43:59 – Age of Innocence – David Reilly

Ola Braein and Chris Collis (piano)
0:47:33 – Wedding march
0:49:21 – Visetone (Norwegian traditional)
0:52:00 – Lord, look upon our joy (Norwegian traditional)
0:53:28 – Vårsøg (wind of spring) – Henning Sommerro
0:56:40 – Spanish folk song (traditional)

James Hughes with String Quartet
0:59:00 – Somerset Garland (Paul Lewis)
1:13:05 – Bavarian Woodpecker (Tommy Reilly)

Concert End
1:15:24 – Thanks to Ena Reilly


My harmonica video archives on YouTube and Vimeo

My uploaded harmonica video archives can be found in several places.

YouTube – My first attempts at video production were to capture the annual National Harmonica League (NHL, now HarmonicaUK) concerts in the Folk House in Bristol, starting in 2001 until they were moved after 2018. I also began to digitise some earlier NHL concerts from VHS tapes and early camcorder tapes mainly from recordings by Victor Brooks. Around 230 videos can be viewed on my YouTube site.

Here is the video introduction for this channel.

Vimeo – I prefer the videos to be viewed without ads, and I like the control that a paid Vimeo account allows. The downloading and embedding of the videos can be specified and if a video needs updating or editing it can be uploaded over the original without affecting the original link/url.

My more recent harmonica videos have been uploaded to Vimeo where they can be linked to my websites like this blog. There are over 75. You can view them here

The videos are organised into Showcases where similar videos are grouped together.

Playing the Thing – One group of the Vimeo videos is part of a project to reverse engineer a harmonica film from 1972 – ‘Playing the Thing‘ – directed by Chris Morphet. These are now embedded on a dedicated web site for this project which is recreating the original interviews which were edited to create the original film – Larry Adler, Sonny Terry, James Cotton, Cham-Ber Huang, Duster Bennet, Bill Dicey, Andy Paskas, Hohner’s Factory, Dutch Harmonica Championship … You can watch the original film here

Chromatic Harmonica Music from Douglas Tate Memorial

This video contains all the chromatic harmonica music played during the Memorial Service held on April 21st, 2006, in Olney Parish Church. Douglas Tate was a charismatic UK harmonica player, engineer and teacher. He had played in World Championships, broadcast on the BBC, and written books on the maintenance and playing of the chromatic harmonica. He became President of SPAH in 2000 but his term was sadly ended by cancer.

Douglas had been involved with the National Harmonica League (now HarmonicaUK) for most of his adult life and the musicians who took part in the Memorial Service were friends from the organisation. Gerry Ezard, Colin Mort, and Harry Pitch were long time friends and Philip Achille, Eddie Ong and Jamie Dolan were youngsters that Douglas had encouraged.

  • 01:20 mins – Douglas Tate – Sonata for Harmonica (Peter Jenkyns)
  • 06:00 mins – Jamie Dolan – Mulberry Cottage
  • 09:00 mins – Harry Pitch – Last of the Summer Wine
  • 13:00 mins – Philip Achille – Ashokan Farewell
  • 17:50 mins – Jang Ming – No Place Like Home
  • 19:00 mins – Ensemble – Bach Double Violin Concerto
  • 27:40 mins – Jamie – Dark Island
  • 30:00 mins – Douglas Tate – Trio Sonata in F major (Jean-Baptiste Loeillet)

You can learn much more about Douglas Tate and his life from my articles in the Harmonica World magazine issue shown in the video above. It can be viewed here.

Here is a link to a page of Douglas’ recordings and sheet music put together by Barbara Tate.

Gianluca Littera – Chromatic Harmonica Teacher and Performer

Gianluca Littera was born in Rome in 1962. He graduated in Viola in 1985 at the G. Rossini Conservatory of Music in Pesaro, and afterwards he performed with many famous orchestras and conductors.

Whilst playing the Viola, he heard Toots Thieleman playing the chromatic harmonica and became fascinated by its sound and potential.

In the following years he taught himself to play the instrument, as there was no agreed way or didactic path dedicated to it.

He went on to perform as a classical soloist as well as leading his own jazz ensembles.

Following extensive research, consulting libraries, archives and contacting publishing houses, Gianluca Littera became aware of the existence of a large repertoire of music written for harmonica. Due to the absence of any educational path for the training of players, much of it has never been performed except on rare occasions in concert by the few players who have dedicated themselves to it.

These works include composers such as: Villa Lobos, Darius Milhaud, Malcom Arnold, Arthur Benjamin, Graham Wettham, Michael Spivakovsky, Robert Farnon, Alan Hovhaness, Paul Patterson, Gordon Jacob, Vilem Tauski, Vaughan Williams, Henri Sauguet…

In 1996, Gianluca recorded the Villa Lobos Concert for Harmonica and Orchestra with the Gran Canaria Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Maestro Adrian Leaper.

Since then, his career has grown exponentially. Gianluca Littera has played as a soloist with numerous orchestras all over the world, inluding the Orchestra of the National Academy of Santa Cecilia in Rome, both in concert and in recording projects with Maestro M.W. Chung. He has performed many new works for harmonica including a work by Ennio Morricone.

In the Jazz field, he has worked with international artists such as Ute Lemper, Ivan Lins, and Eugenio Toussaint. He has toured internationally and appeared at the Shanghai Jazz Festival in China, Erl Festival (Austria), Edinburgh, Belfast etc…

In addition to his concert activity, Gianluca Littera is the author of various compositions that he has performed with numerous orchestras. In 2007 he released the CD “Sconcertango” with the chamber group “Ensemble Project”, with compositions and arrangements mainly by him.

Starting in 2014 he held harmonica courses for several years at the Conservatory of Rome Santa Cecilia and the Conservatory of Frosinone and Vibo Valentia.

In 2019 he submitted an application to the Ministry of Education – with the support of the director of the Conservatory of Rome, maestro Roberto Giuliani – for a three-year university degree for the study of the harmonica, an instrument that had been absent from the Conservatory. It was accepted and marks the official recognition of the harmonica, putting it on a par with other musical instruments. You can read more about the degree course here.

In addition to his specific teaching activities, he has taken part in academic conferences and meetings where he was able to illustrate the technical and expressive possibilities of the harmonica, the literature and history of the instrument.

The prestigious Japanese harmonica manufacturer, Suzuki, commissioned a series of 11 video tutorials in English by Gianluca on the correct approach to playing the instrument. These videos, made by Gianluca Littera, can be viewed on Suzuki’s YouTube Channel.

He has also written two books which are the backbone of the lectures and workshops used by his harmonica students and those who are interested in the instrument – 70 exercises for Chromatic Harmonica from basic to Intermediate / advanced level and Theoretical and Practical Treatise for Chromatic Harmonica.

He has also recorded many CDs.

Here is a video about his recent CD – A Breath Between the Strings (Music by Gordon Jacob, James Moody and Tony Kinsey)

Here is his Facebook page

You can read more about the degree course and how to apply on my blog page about it.

Chromatic Harmonica Degree Course – Gianluca Littera

Most musical instruments can be studied, and performances can be graded from beginners through to degree level. Unfortunately, the harmonica is not one of them. I have reviewed some previous attempts in a separate blog.

Recently I became aware of a new university degree course for the chromatic harmonica which has been developed by Gianluca Littera at the Conservatory of Santa Cecilia in Rome. This looks very impressive and much more comprehensive than anything else I have come across. I had the help of Gianandrea Pasquinelli as a translator to help my understanding of what Gianluca had done.

Gianluca was born in Rome in 1962 and gained his music degree in 1985 as a viola player. He worked and toured with many orchestras before embracing the chromatic harmonica after seeing Toots Thielemans on TV. His recording career started in 1996 and he has played with many symphony orchestras as well as forming his own jazz groups.

Gianluca Littera

Gianluca organised free harmonica courses for six years before deciding to develop them further. He joined the Conservatory of Santa Cecilia in Rome as a lecturer in 2022 after successfully submitting the degree course for recognition by the Italian Ministry of Education.

You can read more about Gianluca Littera here.

What follows is in his own words.

Gianandrea Pasquinelli

The Creation of the Harmonica Degree Course.

The Free Course

I wanted to share what I had learned with other players, hoping that they would share the pleasure I experienced while playing the harmonica.

It was difficult to gain acceptance for the chromatic harmonica in a traditional Music College. Fortunately, I had a degree as a viola player and so I was accepted. This allowed me to introduce the harmonica, which was not even considered an instrument at that time.

I started with six years of free courses (2014-20) at Conservatories around Rome. These classes were a real success, attracting students and arousing a lot of curiosity and interest.

Students performed in concerts with musicians from other courses and also attended seminars on the physiology of breathing when playing wind instruments.

These activities were necessary to get full acceptance for the harmonica and the creation of the three-year Academic degree course (Triennio).

The Degree Course

The complete educational path lasts 8 years and leads to a degree (like a violin or a piano). A qualification recognized throughout Europe.

  • the three-year Preparatory course followed by
  • the three-year course (Triennium) and
  • the two-year course (Biennium).

The Italian Ministry of Education has approved the three-year Preparatory course followed by the three-year course (Triennium) which leads to a degree. The next step will be the approval of the two-year course (Biennium) which would lead to a second degree or Masters.

I created the study plan, entrance exams, course work exams and graduation exams etc., based on those developed for other musical instruments, both in terms of duration and level of difficulty.

This residential course includes the different subjects and knowledge that the student must acquire. The harmonica is the topic. For the practical / technical part we mainly use my book 70 exercises for Chromatic Harmonica from basic to Intermediate / advanced level while for the workshops /lectures we use as a reference another text of mine Theoretical and Practical Treatise for Chromatic Harmonica.

In addition to the harmonica, some other topics are studied: solfeggio, the history of music, harmonic analysis, chamber music, choral singing, and knowledge of relevant legislation etc…

These skills combine to train, not only a harmonica player, but, more importantly, a musician with all the necessary tools to enter the professional world, and, if he wishes, to teach others.

The chromatic harmonica is one of the instruments which leads to a music degree.

Here are links to music to be studied and lectures for the three-year course (Triennium) for harmonica.

The current status of the course

There are 3 stages.

  • The three-year Preparatory course can be accessed without an entrance exam.
  • To access the three-year course (Triennium) it is necessary to pass an entrance exam and to know solfeggio (read music).
  • To access the two-year course (Biennium), when it opens, it will be necessary to have completed a three-year degree course and an entrance exam with the harmonica.

These courses started in February 2022 and currently there are 12 students, distributed between the Preparatory and Triennium courses. Some come from outside Italy (France and Switzerland).

In October 2022, the students enrolled in the Preparatory path will prepare to take the entrance exam for the three-year course and the other students will make the transition from the 1st to the 2nd year of the three-year course.

The Future

One of the most rewarding aspects of teaching was discovering that it enriches not only the pupil but also the teacher. Furthermore, many of the pupils who were already playing when they entered the course had no idea what it meant to study in a conservatory. The opportunities offered to them have meant that their musical boundaries were enormously enriched, something that gives me, as a teacher, lots of satisfaction to see a student grow and develop.

In the future I foresee harmonica classes like mine in other Conservatories. I want to get the harmonica the recognition that has always been missing! Since 1992, when the accordion entered the Conservatory, no other instrument has since been recognized as such. I am happy to have succeeded first of all to give the harmonica the dignity it deserves, and also, to pass on at least some of what this instrument has given me which has enriched me musically and personally.

Finally, the harmonica now has an officially recognized course of workshops, lessons and lectures. In Italy we wrote a piece of the history of this instrument, and it was the piece that was missing. Perhaps we have not yet fully understood the scope of what we have achieved at the Santa Cecilia Conservatory.

I believe that other Institutes will take this result as an example and will do the same. At the Santa Cecilia Conservatory in Rome, we have opened and indicated the way. Everyone can access an educational path that provides the opportunity to register or take an exam according to their own level. Then advance from the Preparatory for those starting or the Triennium for those who already play and then the Biennium.

For more information you can contact me, Gianluca Littera

Harmonica Education – Courses for Chromatic and Diatonic Players

Finally, it is possible to study for a music degree. This is thanks to Gianluca Littera who has designed a syllabus for chromatic harmonica at a Music Conservatory in Rome, Italy – see end for more details.

This has been wanted for a long time and here is a summary of what I think has been tried in the past.


When Hohner established its first London headquarters in 1930, the new Managing Director, Dr Otto Meyer, realised that clubs and tuition were necessary to grow the two main sides of the business, accordion and harmonica. In 1935 he set up what became known the British College of Accordionists which produced the first draft of the BCA syllabus, now recognised as the standard of accordion achievement. Although it was discussed, no formal educational course was set up for the harmonica despite the recruitment of Captain James Reilly as Musical Director, the publishing of many tuition books and the establishment of a music school in Trossingen, Germany.

To award degrees three things are needed – an agreed syllabus, qualified teachers, and independent, respected examining body. In the UK, discussions with music colleges were unsuccessful. There is still no grade system for harmonica like those for piano, guitar etc… This may be a reason why the harmonica is often thought of as an inferior instrument or toy by other musicians.

Several exceptional students have been granted degrees by top Music Schools, after completing their normal study courses, but harmonica teachers have had to be co-opted to provide the teaching and evaluation required. Philip Achille graduated from the Royal College of Music in London, and Filip Jers graduated from The Royal Academy of Music in Stockholm. Some harmonica players have been able to participate in courses which focus on the music being studied, such as jazz, rather than the instrument.

There have been other attempts to establish a formal education process on a more permanent basis. In 2005 the National University of Singapore Centre for the Arts launched the world’s first examination system for the study of chromatic harmonica with Yasuo Watani and Douglas Tate as examiners. This included distance, online assessment for the lower levels and in person examination for the higher levels. Unfortunately, this was stopped after a few years.

In recent years the development of the Internet has resulted in many uncontrolled teaching sites springing up, especially for diatonic harmonicas. This has been useful for beginners and for improving performance, but few have established any formal examination standards. Dave Barrett is probably the most established with his Levels of Achievement system. Rock School Ltd (RSL) have shown an interest in extending their teaching activities to instruments like the harmonica.

I am aware of two recent attempts to set up a university course for chromatic harmonica players. In 2022, Dr. George Miklas announced a brand-new course at the University of Lynchburg, USA, where college students can now study the harmonica for an applied music credit.

The most comprehensive approach I have seen is a degree course for chromatic harmonica players running at the Conservatory of Santa Cecilia in Rome, established and directed by Gianluca Littera. You can learn more about Gianluca, the syllabus and how this was developed by reading my blog page about it.

Dave Beckford (1935 – 2014)

Dave Beckford’s story is a great example of the way many people took up the harmonica in the 1940s. Similar examples can be found in the lives Jim Hughes, Douglas Tate and the many other people who went on to play in local harmonica contests as soloists and members of harmonica groups.


Dave Beckford was born in Greenwich and spent most of his early life in Welling, London. He took up the diatonic harmonica at a young age and was soon playing popular dance tunes.

After learning how top players like Larry Adler were able to play so well, he saved up and bought his first Super Chromonica in 1950 for £2.16s.4d (£2.82) and played in the school’s Christmas party. When he left Bexley Heath Secondary school in 1951 he took part in a talent contest which led to some appearances for the Granada Theatre in Welling.

Dave became All Britain Chromatic Champion at the first post-war Championship held in in the Central Hall, Westminster, London in July 1953. He was 17 and this was his first major contest.

As Champion, he performed at a regional harmonica contest at the Elephant and Castle Cinema, in South East London, to promote the film Moulin Rouge. This is captured on the cover of the November issue of Harmonica News.

Dave then went out to Germany with Johnny Pluck to play in the World Championships in Duisberg. In 1954 he played with the Steve Race Orchestra on BBC TV, before doing his National Service.

Dave took time out after his time in the Army to raise a family and worked in the printing industry. It was not until the 1980s that he got involved with the harmonica again.

He joined the Blowhards Harmonica Club, a successful educational project run the by Mike Sadler in Gravesend in the late 80s. Dave was able and willing to help with members’ problems. He continued to do harmonica repairs for many years.

It was at one of these meetings that he met Derek Yorke and with the help of a chord player called Ron Mealin, they formed Three-in-Accord. A local headmaster, John Tyler, joined to play bass and so began Four in Accord. There were several personnel changes over the years. Jack Lewis took over the chord when Ron left. When John Tyler died, Dave helped Jim O’Driscoll to take on the bass. Jack Lewis left and Pat Lynus took over on chords. Four in Accord were the last performing quartet in the country and played all over Essex and Kent as well as at harmonica festivals.

Travelling to gigs became a problem for Pat so Roy Green took over the chord for the final line-up of the group after the Bournemouth Centennial festival in 2000. This line-up appeared a number of times at NHL Festivals up to 2007.

Four in Accord with Pat Lynas

Four in Accord with Roy Green

All of the group were members of the National Harmonica League (now HarmonicaUK) and Dave served on the committee for several years in the 1990s as the Secretary. Together they organised joint meetings with the Dartford Folk Club and ran important NHL festivals in Sible Hedingham. They were also important members of the IHO and were very involved with the Millenium Festival run by John Walton in Bournemouth in 2000.

Dave had to stop playing in his later years due to ill health, but he was always good company and a great musician.

Four in Accord – El Cumbanchero
Dave Beckford – Genevieve

Harmonica Hotel

One of the pleasures of being Chairman of the NHL (now HarmonicaUK) for a long time was that I was able to meet and become friends with the international harmonica players who travelled to our annual festivals via London. We live about 30 mins from Heathrow airport so we were able to provide the artists with accommodation for a couple of days to relax and get rid of jet-lag before driving them down to the festival in Bristol. They stayed in our spare bedroom, vacant since our children flew the nest and set up their own homes.

I took all this for granted until this humorous Facebook post by Rob Paparozzi brought it all back.

Many of the other artists who had stayed with us joined in with their comments. How I wish we had kept a visitors’ book, but this was all so informal and unplanned.

Two names missing from this virtual visitors’ book are Greg Szlapcynski (now Greg Zlap), and Rick Epping.


Facebook – Rob Paparozzi – 2018

A mere 242 years after the American Revolution and my poor Heart has been captured under ‘British Rule’ I was forced to stay in the lovely home of Roger & Jo Trobridge and take walks in the stoic and quaint town of Maidenhead then made to eat large hearty and delicious home cooked meals. Forced to sleep in a bed previously shared by other Harmonica slouches like Adam Gussow, Joe Filisko, Antonio Serrano, Will Galison, Peter Madcat Ruth and some tall guy named Howard Levy! Then I had to succumb to and peruse a treasure trove of rare vintage videos, books, LPs amazing Harmonica and eclectic Music Memorabilia in their lovely home compiled by Roger who is one of the FINEST music/art archivists in the world. Even forced to sit down at Jo’s lovely Kawai Grand and play old Randy Newman songs.

Then, shuffled off to the historic town in the Southwest of Britain, Bristol and made to perform with consummate pros and then hang around with the nicest warmest blokes and ladies in the country, while staying at a 5 star hotel.

Finally, having to endure 1st class upgrades and hot roasted nuts while in flight to and from the USA. How much torture can a man endure? Help! I’ve been captured (and I loved it). But I think the Queen has found out about all this mess and has had quite enough of this ‘Paparozzi dude’, so today I will be shipped back to the States.

Kidding aside. Thank You Roger Trobridge, Jo, the National Harmonica League, Ben Hewlett, David Hambley, Dave Taylor, Phil Leiwy, Shirish, oops almost forgot Walter John Davies and all the others I forgot to mention and of course it’s lovely membership and my friend Peter Hewitt for making me feel so at home in the UK and inviting me to share music and SMILES with you all this past week.

until next time … – Rob Paparozzi – (The Italian-American Prisoner of Love)

Joe Filisko – Slouch I am!

• Robbie Kondor – Well deserved treatment, even as traitors go.

• Tony Perry – The Jersey Boy!

• Mary Ellen O’Neil Davis – Well if anyone can endure such torture you can do it. Glad they got sick of you & sent you back

• Walter John Davies – We can reveal that the NHL is actually funded by the British Secret Service as part of a covert charm offensive against you ungrateful colonials. Didn’t think it strange that we had a trusty American political prisoner working on the reception desk? We’ll get you all back serving the monarch yet.

Rob Paparozzi – it all comes back! Thanks Walter!

• Richard Hunter – Clearly a case for the International Criminal Court. Thank God you were able to survive, escape, and squeeze in a big performance!

• John Posada – You poor guy…I don’t know how you can even stand it.

• Max Morden – That’s awesome…

• Greg Heumann – Sorry for your troubles, Rob. I’m sure things will look up soon. 

Rob Paparozzi – Woe is me.

• Nicholas Coppola – I am having them load the plane with cash to pay the ransom….. Don’t worry we will have you out of there soon……lol it sure is beautiful when a plan comes together

William Galison – to you and Roger & Jo. I found their village and the walks around it, one of the most pleasant moments of my my life. Sorry about the bed I slept in. I hope it had time to air out!

Peter Madcat Ruth – I was “forced” to stay there too…

Rob Paparozzi – Ahhh I knew I’d forget another Major Dude!,-)

Howard Levy – England swings like a pendulum do…

Adam Gussow – I didn’t realize that we’d all shared that same bed, but I’m happy to know that I’m in that sort of elite company! I love Roger and Jo.

Roger Trobridge – You are making it sound like a house of ill repute – we take in everyone. Antonio Serrano Dalmas also stayed with us. I wish I had taped you all playing in the music room…….

• Houndog Mc Gateley – The playing in the bar at the hotel till the wee small hours on Sunday night was always a treat for me, some great guys and memories. Can’t say I missed it this year, my wife would kill me, we spent the time in a London for our 50th Anniversary!!!

Rob Paparozzi – We missed you Houndog but Family comes 1st and that is a major celebration my friend! Big Congrats and Many more

◦ Houndog Mc Gateley – Rob Paparozzi thanks Rob, next time eh

Antonio Serrano Dalmas – I remember transcribing Larry´s Gavotte in that room!!

• John Valent – Enjoy the magic!

• Richard Smith – Nice tribute Rob Paparozzi. I think it`s true that Roger is the only member of the NHL who has never played a harmonica….. LOL

Walter Buchinger

 and the Harmonica Society Laakirchen, Austria

Summary – For over 30 years Walter Buchinger taught harmonica at the Musikschule in Laakirchen, Austria. He took groups of children to perform at festivals and concerts in Europe, Israel and the USA.


Walter was born in 1943 in Laakirchen. He learned to play harmonica and accordion and in 1963/64 he attended a seminar for music teachers in what is now the Hohner Konservatorium, in Trossingen, Germany. In 1973 Walter was teaching accordion in the local music school when he was asked to teach a harmonica course to beginners. He had no experience of teaching harmonica, but with the help of the Austrian Harmonica Association, Helmuth Herold, a professional chromatic player from Trossingen, Germany, agreed to do it. Helmuth taught beginners and advance students twice a year until the early 1990s. When Helmuth was no longer able to do it, Walter took over the classes.

The Landesmusikschule (LMS) was established in 1971. The teaching of harmonica (Mundharmonika) in the school was officially recognised in 1975 and classes started with four pupils. More soon followed. Other teachers wanted to learn to play and soon they had a harmonica group. In 1984 the current music school building was opened.

In 1985, the first school orchestra (Harmonicachoir) was formed. It had 20-25 teenage members and was led by Walter Buchinger and Margareta Rathner. The repertoire included original music for harmonica, classical and well known International popular music.

Soon they were playing concerts away from the school, beginning with one on Austrian TV. Their international appearances started with a harmonica festival in Innsbruck (Austria) in 1986, and in 1987 they performed at the Hohner 130th anniversary festival. Later that year they appeared in the first World Harmonica Championships in Jersey (Channel Islands), organised by Jim Hughes. They won the youth competitions (group and orchestra) and played in the evening concerts. This brought them worldwide recognition.

In 1988 they performed at the festival in Helmond (Holland). In 1989 they held an international festival in Laakirchen and were invited to the first of the new Hohner World Harmonica Festivals in Trossingen, Germany. They continued to take part in this four yearly festival until 2005.

The concerts continued with one in Beer Sheva (Israel) in 1990. In 1991 they released an LP containing pieces of music from their performances called ‘Our Music – Our World‘ (Unsere Musik – Unsere Welt).

1991 also brought the biggest journey for this group of children and adults when they took part in the SPAH/IHO festival in Detroit, (USA) again winning prizes in the solo, group and band categories.

Festivals followed in Portugal (1993), Austria (1994), Trossingen (1993,1996, 2001, 2005), and the IHO Millennium Festival in Bournemouth, UK (2001) where they again won many of the prizes and featured in the concerts.

When pupils left the music school many went on to form their own groups and solo careers.

  • Maria Wolfsberger – World Champion (1991-1993)
  • Trio Mahabri – Maria Wolfsberger, Johann Ortner/Thomas Stockhammer, Brigitte Laska (1989)
  • Mundharmonika Quartett Austria – Gerald Seyr, Hans Ortner, Brigitte Laska/Andrea Fränzel, Thomas Stockhammer
  • Harmonica Quintett Butterfly – Ingrid Schlögel, Lisa Fellinger, Maria Kuales, Joachim Plasser, Georg Kuales
  • Vigorous Quartett/Quintett – Mara Bachlechner, Anna Waldl / Martha Kreutzer, Judith Kreutzer, Marlene Hummelbrunner

Walter stopped teaching at the Music School in 2003 after 30 years in charge.

His last major performance with the harmonica orchestra was at the World Harmonica Festival in Trossingen, Germany, in 2005, where he conducted a group of 60 young and adult harmonica players.

Some harmonica teaching is still going on in the Music School led by Nicola Feichtinger and Olivia Winzer They are good teachers so the golden years may come again  we will see.

Walter is now in his 80s and enjoying his retirement. He continues to play with a group of senior players and has taught himself how to play the Chordomonica which was developed by Cham-ber Huang because of the chords it can play. With a growing family, house and garden he says he is the ‘chief cook and bottle washer‘ – a phrase he learned from his old friend Jim Hughes.

Walter always insists that the orchestra was a group activity with many school staff and parents providing help and support, especially on their many visits to foreign counties. There are far too many people to mention by name but please accept his thanks to all of you that you that contributed.

Here are the tracks from the LP released by Walter in 1991 of the orchestra playing some of their favourite light music and popular pieces.


Here are a couple of videos from the World Harmonica Festival in Jersey (UK) in 1987.

Scherzino
Puppet on a String
The Mundharmonikachor Laakirchen

This is the full performance of the Harmonica Society of Laakirchen, Austria, in the Evening Concert at the IHO Millenium Festival in Bournemouth (UK) in 2000, organised by John Walton.

The orchestra was composed of children from the music school, parents, helpers and teachers from the town.

Toots Thielemans at 100

Toots died in 2016 but he would have been 100 if he had lived until 2022. This year there was a series of events including concerts in Brussels and around the world to celebrate his life and music. You can see more on the event website – 100 years of Toots Thielemans .

I love his music and enjoyed his enthusiastic personality which came across in his interviews.

Here is a great edit from the many conversations he recorded over his long career as whistler, guitarist and one of the best harmonica players. The compilation was put together by a Belgian DJ, Nico Kanakaris, who goes by the name of BlueNotes (Facebook).

Here are some memories of Toots and his life broadcast in German by ‘Das Feature – Deutschlandfunk’ with contributions from harmonica players – Steven de Bruyn, Hendrik Meurkens, Yvonnick Prene, Gregoire Maret … – and many top jazz musicians. Download the music from their webspage –
Der Weg der Mundharmonika – Toots Thielemans und der Atem der Melancholie

Here, Julian Joseph and Julian Jackson talk about Toots Thielemans in the Jazz Legends series broadcast by the BBC in the early 2000s. Julian Jackson is one of the top UK Jazz harmonica players and a session musician. He was been inspired by and had visited Toots. They play a number of recordings by Toots.