Sunday, June 11, 2006

I Auto Practice My Autoharp

a little polypore from Swago, May 12, 2006

I hadn't intended to keep a photo blog, although recent trends contradict this. I have nothing against photo blogs, mind you. If I had broadband access, I'd probably follow lots of them. As it is, several of the weblogs in my "Blogroll" load so slowly that I often read the text and skip the photos.

Lately my self-allotted computer time has been taken up with photography and music matters. I've copied some vinyl and some audio tape to mp3's, and I've acquired a much-longed-for digital camera. These new projects have led to back-up and storage issues, which led to Linux updates, which led to hardware updates, which led to reorganizing my computer work area.... I'm almost done with this, I hope.

The computer audio projects were spurred by the start of the festival and picking season. This coming weekend, we are going to The 13th Annual Maury River Fiddlers' Convention in Buena Vista, Virginia. Our camping buddies, Mud Hole Control, won the Old-Time Band contest last year, and this year are the featured house band. We are always honored to be their hangers-on, and are particularly pleased that they are being honored.

Attendees who participate in the music contests get a discount on camping fees, so I signed up. Obviously, there is no concertina contest, but there is an autoharp contest, and that is an instrument I can play. (My banjo skills are not ready for prime time--more like early Sunday mornings when the infomercials come on.) That's what I've been spending my indoor hours on since the Vandalia Gathering--practicing two fiddle tunes on the autoharp. I'm going to play "Chinquapin" and/or "The Red-Haired Boy." They're not sounding too bad, but since I spent a couple of days working in the garden, my hands are getting very sore from practicing. Ironically, I took up the autoharp twelve years ago because it was the only instrument I could play wearing the carpal tunnel wrist braces necessitated by my bioinformatics job. Today I wish I still had the braces, but I think my ferret buried them not long after I moved to Pocahontas County.

If you're interested in the ins and outs of autoharps, I recommend these resources.

  • Cyberpluckers' Autoharp Page. I participated in the Cyberpluckers mailing list in the mid 1990's, and discovered that autoharp players are a particularly friendly, helpful group of people.
  • Orthey Autoharps. These are really really good instruments. By strange chance, I'm lucky enough to have one (It was a custom-made left-handed instrument ordered by someone who subsequently decided she didn't like the autoharp after all, and....)
  • The Autoharp Web Ring will lead you to most Internet resources.
  • Autoharp Quarterly is an excellent publication, and has lots of good stuff on the Web as well.

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