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


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.

Terry Potter – Traditional Tremolo Harmonica Player

I learned about Terry Potter from Eddie Upton in 2008. Eddie ran Folk South West when he came to the National Harmonica League festival. He was able to give me the names of some harmonica players who were active in the English folk music scene.

These are included in my blog page on British traditional harmonica players.

It is work in progress.

Terry Potter is a tremolo player who has been active since the 1960s with the modern traditional musicians like Ashley Hutchings (‘The Compleat Dancing Master‘, ‘Kicking Up The Sawdust‘) as well as playing with the Etchingham Steam Band, Potters Wheel and his family group, Cousins and Sons.

Along with Richard Taylor, I interviewed Terry Potter in his home in Sussex in 2009. I am using this and subsequent written communication to write this blog.


Terry was born in 1935 and is a traditional folk musician. He first became involved after his extended National Service in Germany, when he attended a local folk club in 1957, in the Free Christian Hall, in Horsham, West Sussex, where he still lives. It was run by his parents and he joined in all the dancing. He wanted to play this sort of music and remembered he had some old mouth organs at home. His father had played mouth organ and Terry had played a few pop songs – but not in public! Both his father, Charlie, and mother, Marjorie sang folk songs and were recorded by local collectors in the 1950s. Their original songbook was presented to the Horsham Museum.

He was allowed to join in at the next dance and soon learned to play a number of tunes, like ”Joe the Carrier Lad‘, from three ladies, The Benacre Band, who came to the club. They invited him to play with their band. He played his first concert that year which lead to to his first band, ‘The Derrydowners Folk Band’ with Geoff Hedger (piano), Derrick Smith (accordion), George Whetton (banjo), Lionel Bounton and Tony Wales (drums). It played for Barn Dances throughout Sussex for over 25 years

Terry formed a folk club in Horsham in 1958 with Tony Wales called called Horsham Songswappers, and the Horsham Folk Club continues to this day. Folk musicians were a close knit group and Terry joined up with Paul Morris (guitar/banjo) and Mike Howley (accordion) and played with them at ‘The Troubadour‘ at the time of the London folk boom, and with ‘Benacre Band‘ at the Albert Hall, in London, in 1958. There was also ‘The ‘Pandemonium String Band‘ with Pete Marsden (fiddle, guitar and vocal) in 1958 and ‘Country Cousins‘ began in 1962. Terry collected folk albums and played in the Ceilidh, jazz and blues clubs in Dublin and made visits to Germany.

In 1970, Terry was in Martyn Wyndham-Read’s band, ‘No Man’s Band‘ and they were heard busking in Leicester Square, London. They were playing Ned Kelly songs outside the premier of the film ‘Ned Kelly‘, staring Mick Jagger, and they ended up playing them on the BBC2 late night TV show.

Terry met Ashley Hutchins in 1972 when he was recording an album of traditional tunes with well known folk musicians, ‘The Compleat Dancing Master‘.

Terry played on the three tracks below:
First, ‘Haste to the Wedding‘ –
2:10 mins, ‘The Triumph‘ –
4:25, ‘Off She Goes‘.

Here are a couple of tracks from Shirley Collin’s 1974 album, ‘Adieu To Old England‘. First, ‘The Chiners‘ and then ‘Portsmouth‘.

From the 1970s, Terry played mouth organ occasionally with several progressive folk bands such as ‘The Albion Band‘, ‘Kicking up the Sawdust‘, ‘The Etchingham Steam Band‘, ‘Potters Wheel‘, and ‘No Man’s Band‘. These bands included great musicians Ashley Hutchins, Shirley Collins, Dave Mattocks, Simon Nicol, Martyn Wyndham-Read, John Kirkpatrick, Bob Cann, Grahame Taylor, Peter Bullock, Michael Gregory, John Tams, and John Rodd.

You can see glimpses of Terry in the first part of a video documentary about ‘The Albion Band.

Here is a link to the 1974 John Peel session with the Etchingham Steam Band.

Here Terry is featured on ‘Speed the Plough‘ on the ‘Kicking up the Sawdust‘ LP.

Some of these bands became very popular and some of the musicians went full time and toured Europe. Terry had a job and could not continue so he stood down and continued to play locally. He had worked with Metal Box but later did a series of local jobs.

Terry had continued to play with his cousin, Ian Holder, and wife, Margaret, since 1963 with various musicians but the band finally settled into, literally, Cousins and Sons‘ when they were joined by their sons, James Potter and Gary Holder. In 1978, John Tyler included their gigs in Harmonica News. They played together for 50 years but no longer play regularly in public. Fortunately, Dave Arthur recorded the group in 1993 in Terry’s sitting room.

Terry does not read music so he has built up his large repertoire of music by learning by ear. He only plays a tremolo but this has all the diatonic notes and it lets him play in many styles of music besides folk, including popular and some jazz tunes for fun. The mouth organ’s musical range is similar to other instruments in the bands but he can play in the higher octaves to have a more distinctive voice. He also uses a small Hohner mic and amplifier when playing in the band. Like Sonny Terry he plays the mouth organ upside down (back to front) with the high notes on the left.

Terry has made lots of recordings but the financial rewards are slim. His checks of the Royalties website suggest he may have to wait a while before they reach the level where they start paying out. He plays music for the heart and still gets nervous when he performs.

Terry has a large collection of mouth organs but his favourite is a Golden Melody which he plays in the keys of C,G,A,D,E and F. Hohner liked to get value from their brand names and this is not the well loved blues harp, but a tremolo harp.

Terry has made a collection of tracks called “Terry’s Collection – 1974 to 2001” which illustrates the range of his musical performances with different groups.

A = ‘Country Cousins‘, B = ‘Potter’s Wheel‘, C = ‘No Man’s Band‘, and D = ‘Etchingham Steam Band‘.

Track 1, A, Walpole Cottage

Track 2, A, Cumberland Reel/Rosin the Bow

Track 3, B, Acre of Land

Track 4, A, Cross of Arboe

Track 5, A, Michael Turner’s Trip to Cheltenham

Track 6, C, Three Morris Tunes

Track 7, B, April Morning

Track 8, A, Austrian Pottery

Track 9, A, Portsmouth/New Rigged Ship

Track 10, B, Dark Eyed Dinah

Track 11, A, Three Sea Captains

Track 12, A, Salmon Tails/Maggie in the Woods

Track 13, C, Shelter

Track 14, A, Bonnets so Blue

Track 15, D, Orange in Bloom

Track 16, B, Soldiers Glory/Brothers in York

Track 17, A, The Guilded Cage

Track 18, A, The Fyket and Bainbridge Girls

Log Cabin/Lisa Jane

Big Corral/Kemo Kimo (Sing Song Kitty)

Kitty McGee/Paddy Cary

Return to my blog page on British traditional harmonica players.

Chris Barber introduces touring US Blues Artists (1958/9)

Chris Barber died 2 March 2021. Here he introduces some of the US blues performers who toured with his band in UK and Europe in the 1950s. Chris brought over a stream of American artists who helped to inspire the British Blues boom in the 1960s, through Cyril Davies and then youngsters like Paul Jones, Brian Jones and Mick Jagger. This is from the Chris Barber’ archive CD album, “Lost & Found Volume 2”, on Blues Legacy.

From CD “Lost & Found Volume 2”

Track list
1 – Intro Muddy Waters – Chris Barber
2 – Hoochie Coochie Man – Muddy Waters
3 – Intro Sonny Terry – Chris Barber
4 – Poor man Blues – Sonny Terry
5 – Intro Champion Jack Dupree – Chris Barber
6 – Merry Christmas Blues -Champion Jack Dupree

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 Bench

I received an email from my friend Colin Parratt asking if I knew anything about a bench which his friend Martin had come across. I had to confess it didn’t know anything about it so he sent Martin’s photo to me. Martin lives in Folkestone (UK) and was the drummer in the barn dance band Colin used to play in.

The image looked like a bench based on a 7 hole harmonica. Across the back of the seat there is an inscription “Where Souls Meet”. The back of the bench was a strange shape so I decided to find out more about it.

There was an inscription on the side of the bench so I asked Colin to send me a picture of it so we could see what it said.

When I received Colin’s photo things became clearer. The plaque on the side read,

In memory of Arikę 

Musician, visual artist, teacher, therapist, inspirational blues harp player, father, grandfather and a proud black man.

At the bottom of the plaque was a QR code and when I scanned it it revealed a website – https://originsuntold.com

The website belongs to a charity, Origins Untold, a volunteer arts organisation presenting music, poetry, visual arts, fashion and food inspired and created by people of the African diaspora.

The website shows an event was held 12th June 2022, the second anniversary of Arike‘s death, to unveil.
a Blues Harp bench, designed by Pete Phillips and made by Cut Once Woodworks. The group walked from the Bandstand on the Leas in Folkestone, down the Zig Zag path to the Lower Coastal Park, where the bench is situated.

Origins Untold was founded in 2015 by the late, great Arike (aka Stan Grant), who sadly passed away on 12 June 2020 after a tragic accident.

Arike’s vision for the organisation was to broaden and change the conversation about race and about members of the African diaspora. To honour this, it is committed to breaking stereotypes, making unseen connections and unearthing buried histories, acknowledging the contributions that Black people have made to the history of this region and to its present.


In memory of Arikẹ, founder of Origins Ontold1949-2020

“Whatever a Black man can do to remind himself that he is fully human, to do it and to keep doing it… I don’t think we need to do more than that…it is just to remind ourselves that we are fully human.”

Arikẹ, 2020

(from the Origins Untold website)


Links

Martin Häffner

and the German Harmonica & Accordion Museum

Martin Häffner has dedicated his life to educating people about the history of the harmonica, especially the Hohner harmonica company. He has set up a museum, taken the story around the world as a mobile exhibition, written books and led guided tours around Trossingen, Germany, the home of the original Hohner harmonica factory.

This detailed history was co-written with highly regarded harmonica artist and author Steve Baker. He has been a consultant to the Hohner company since 1987 and has been able to gain a unique perspective on the company story. Thanks also to Diana Rosenfelder from the German Harmonica Museum for help in writing this blog page.


Martin was born October 7, 1958, in Schönau near Heidelberg. He graduated from high school in Heidelberg in 1977, and studied history and theology in Tübingen and Vienna until 1986 when he started work as an assistant at the State Museum of Technology and Work in Mannheim.

In 1987 the Hohner Harmonica Collection was sold to the state of Baden-Württemberg as part of a company rescue deal and Martin was commissioned to write a report on it. To complete his work on Hohner, its history and the Hohner collection and to get all the necessary information, Martin was employed by the Hohner company on 1 January 1988. Three years later he became an employee of “Trägerverein Deutsches Harmonikamuseum” (Sponsoring Association of the German Harmonica Museum).

Steve Baker joined Hohner as a consultant in 1987 and when they met there for the first time, Martin led him up into the cavernous attics in Bau V, the accordion works which today houses both the new Harmonica Museum and the Hohner Conservatory and has now been beautifully renovated.


He showed Steve what appeared to be literally tons of unidentifiable stuff, packed in dusty cartons and piled up all over the place without any apparent semblance of order. It looked as though the custodians of Hohner’s company history had simply dumped it all up there and forgotten about it.

Steve Baker

On closer inspection this jumble of relics revealed itself to be a huge collection of historic instruments, documents and advertising material relating to all kinds of aspects of the commercial production of free reed instruments, the largest of its kind in the world. As Steve wrote “Thank heavens the state of Baden Württemberg thought it was worth saving!”

In cooperation with the town of Trossingen, Hohner had agreed to co-finance a modest museum to house the Hohner Collection in the annex of the actual town museum on the high street. Martin began sorting through the vast piles of artefacts and arranged for the most interesting looking articles to be transferred to the new premises. Sifting through a century’s worth of unsorted leftovers was a huge task. Not all of it was of value and some was literally junk, but there were many real gems as well.

Martin had hoped the museum would be ready for the World Harmonica Championships in Trossingen in 1989 but they did not make it. Hohner’s CEO at that time, Dr. Johann Schmid, decided that he wanted to present every festival visitor with a free harmonica from the historic collection. Fortunately Martin was able to intervene and prevented him from giving away any of the really valuable historic instruments. He selected several hundred pieces which he reckoned the museum could do without and every visitor did indeed receive one.

The museum opened to the public in 1991 with over 25,000 harmonica exhibits in time for Hohner’s second World Harmonica Festival, and it has gone from strength to strength ever since. I was fortunate to visit the original museum in 2001. Lots of exhibits were displayed in small rooms with steep stairs. Martin set about producing programs of exhibitions and concerts to publicise the museum and raise money for its development. He took some of them around the world.

When the old Hohner (1911) factory buildings were restored and refurbished for small business use in 2016 the harmonica museum raised the money needed to move the exhibits a short distance to new premises in BAU V.

This provided a large open, bright, space on one floor of the building with more opportunities to display items and documents from the archive for the visitors to the museum.


Other features included office space, a shop, a small cinema and a flexible space for presentations and music performances.

Specially designed units were built to exhibit the most interesting instruments in a structured way, as well as thoroughly documenting the development of the industry.

Martin ensured that the earlier harmonica and accordion companies from the Trossingen area and Klingenthal were featured as well as other Hohner instruments like keyboards.

The permanent exhibition gives an overview of the whole sector including the Hohner family and the many other companies involved, both in Württemberg, Saxony, Vienna and elsewhere.

It is important to remember that Hohner once employed 5000 people, and swallowed up all its regional competitors to become an international household name, so the social component in terms of local history was very significant and is treated accordingly.

Martin was initially attracted to the harmonica by the beautiful packaging and innovative marketing introduced by the first Hohner generation, and a lot of space is devoted to this. Much of the advertising material is well preserved and the exhibition includes numerous examples. The strategies which Hohner developed later became more widespread, but in the 1880s it was not always usual to adapt one and the same product to meet the needs of different national markets worldwide. Hohner was a true pioneer in this area, and one of Martin’s most important goals was the documentation of both the means by which Hohner’s remarkable commercial success was achieved, and its impact on the social history of Trossingen and the region as a whole. It’s pretty amazing to think that within the space of a single generation, this isolated Black Forest village became the hub of a worldwide commercial empire, a development which alone is worthy of the interest of historians.

Another more controversial aspect of Martin Häffner’s work was his documentation of the history of the Hohner company during the Third Reich. As a historian, Martin felt unable to ignore the documentary and photographic evidence of its involvement in the war effort and extensive use of forced labour which was preserved in the Hohner Collection. The permanent exhibition shows a range of photos depicting the factory and its workers during the Nazi era, as well as historical instruments from both world wars. He didn’t presume to judge, but felt duty bound to document what had happened.

Mattiias Hohner

Martin’s hero is Matthias Hohner (1833-1902), and he takes visitors on tours around Trossingen to show where Matthias and his family lived and worked.

Occasionally the ghost of Matthias can still be seen talking to people in the museum about the company he created.

Martin “Matthias” Häffner

The existence of a museum like this is always dependent on its financing and the German Harmonica & Accordion Museum is no exception. Though both Hohner and the town of Trossingen continue to contribute to its upkeep, the purchase of the new premises and their renovation and maintenance would not have been possible without the generous support of the board of trustees and the numerous members of the support association. Many musicians have also been happy to donate their services in support of the museum. Today it offers both a comprehensive documentation of the history of free reed instruments, and an instructive and entertaining view of the people who both made and played them. If you can’t get to the museum you can learn a lot from the videos and books which Martin has researched and written or supported. You can find more about them in the Museum shop.

Martin Häffner has devoted the greater part of his working life to collecting and sharing the history of the harmonica and anyone who has more than a passing interest these instruments has every reason to visit and be grateful. We have been friends for about 20 years and I help at museum when I can.

Martin will retire in 2024 and he will find it hard not to stay close to the museum to help who ever takes over. I am sure, however, that he will probably have even more time for his other passion – enjoying long distance railway journeys.


The Museum charity receives no funding from the State of Baden-Württemberg and so one if the most important activities for Martin and his successor is and will continue to be is fund raising. Martin has established a fantastic resource for lovers of the harmonica and anyone who can should visit it and support it financially.

Additional LInks

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.

A Tribute to Tommy Morgan (1932 – 2022)

I met Tommy Morgan when I travelled to Denver in 2001 for my first visit to a SPAH convention. My friend Douglas Tate had just become President of SPAH and I was the new Chairman of Harmonica UK (then the NHL). Two proud Yorkshiremen guiding two great organisations.

Douglas and Tommy were friends as was evident from their workshops and concerts. I stayed in email contact with Tommy up to the end, finally through Tommy’s great friend Jon Kip.

Tommy’s long history and musical activities have been well chronicled in the obituaries listed below. He took up chromatic harmonica at school and was fortunate to have lessons from Jerry Adler, who later got him his first recording session. After spells with the U.S. Air Force band and tours on his own throughout the 1950s Tommy built up his musical skills from arrangers like Sammy Nestico and a Masters Degree from UCLA. He also added the chord and bass harmonicas to his armoury. Tommy’s site reading improved and he began to set up his own recording sessions.

The 1960s was the beginning of the Golden Age of film and TV themes and producers were looking for harmonica players. Tommy had the skills and would tackle anything. He became the “go-to” man for recording sessions, something he did for decades. Tommy said he had done over 900 film scores and 7000 recording sessions.