And American Fiddle Tunes For Harmonica
|The following reviews of my book, Irish
and American Fiddle Tunes For Harmonica (Centerstream), originally appeared in the
Irish Music and Dirty Linen magazines.- GW
|"In some parts of Ireland, around Dundalk, the mouth
organ was called the French Fiddle, French in this case not being Gallic, but rather
strange and foreign. The same idea applies even to poultry: if you check the Gaelic title
for Turkey in the Straw in O'Neill's, the big bronzer is called a Cearc
Francach. Far from a turkey this present book is: there's a sense of sheer delight and a
little mischief abounding, and even from his photo I'd say that if you were to meet Mr.
Weiser in a session, you could cancel the couple of days thereafter.
"What comes through immediately is that he knows and loves the instrument and the material, which has a good selection of reels, jigs, hornpipes and waltzes, plus some exercises for harmonicas and a note to rhythm guitarists. There's a fair wallop of musical theory as well, with things like modes explained: how well I'm not sure since the only test is to find someone who doesn't know and see how they find it. The same goes for techniques like tonguing. Modestly must I say I know this already.
"There are 23 tracks on the accompanying CD, which shows a fine playing style. One tune title though merits inquiry: Glenn says the tune Pop Goes the Weasel comes from Virginia. I'd always though the weasel was from the Cockney rhyming-slang Weasel and Stoat, meaning coat, and what it was about was someone who had to pawn the overcoat. If anyone can shed any light on this, shed it!
"Our American friends may think that Benjamin Franklin invented the Harmonica: what he did was organise a set of drinking glasses, which you rubbed with a wet finger and they howled. Mozart even wrote a little piece of music for this thing.
The mouthie was invented in 1821 by a German clock winder Christian Friedrich Ludwig Buschman who was only 16 years old.It was patented in 1822; (the principle could have been borrowed from China).
"The foregoing is taken from the lovely little footnotes, illustrations and background pieces on the tunes, which make the book something. worth having and not lending. For instance, did you know that the most expensive har- monica ever made was in solid gold, except for the reeds, which must be brass, and it was given to Pope Pius VI. Obviously the name Hohner features prominently in the book: their 48-chord harmonica is 23 inches long and the biggest in the world with 384 reeds. And one more fact-totem: the breakdown on those who purchase the instrument is 70% for men and 30% for women."
-John Brophy for Irish Music, March 1999
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