NorthWest Autoharp Gathering, The Newest Autoharp Festival!
Our gathering takes place in the rolling hills west of Portland, Oregon. Joining us are harpers from all over the US and Canada. There are also newcomers – some funded by our new scholarship program – enjoying their first experience in the autoharp community and a chance to see world-class performers and teachers.
For two decades, the Willamette Valley Autoharp Gathering (WVAG) brought the cream of national players to the upper left corner of the map. The NorthWest Autoharp Gathering (NWAG) has been formed by dedicated volunteers who could not stand for our beloved festival to fade away.
Why We Love the Autoharp
by Mimi Geibel
What could possibly be so special about this box of strings and buttons? Why do we wax rhapsodic about it and go to gatherings to be with others who understand our feelings? What causes such devotion to an instrument most folk don’t even recognize?
Here’s the answer in a nutshell. We’ve discovered the autoharp is magic. It opened a musical door for many of us that we feared was not possible. A great number of us had never played any instrument before because we felt we were not “talented” enough or couldn’t read music or it was too late to take up an instrument be any good at it. Some of us, like me, galumphed our way through a number of instruments, never really finding the one that would sing to us, that we would want to practice and play. Some worried: “Do we have to sing?” or Will we sound ok, or at least, not like an alley cat doing scales on a fence? Will we be exiled to the garage for practice because the family couldn’t take the “noise”.
The autoharp takes all our worries about being musical and blows them into the air like dandelions. From the very first time you strum an autoharp, you will play music. It won’t be fancy, but it will be recognizably music. No one will ever enter the room and ask if you are torturing the cat? There are flubs, but the autoharp is incredibly forgiving. You don’t have to read music, a great number of us don’t. It helps but we can help you with that. The autoharp does not care if you can sing or not. The music you play will make you happy.
Here’s the best part. There is no “If only I had started when I was younger,” phase. This is the instrument for NOW wherever and whenever you are. Be any age and the autoharp will want you to play music. YOU will want to play music. What kind of music? Well, what kind do you like? While initially known as a Gospel or Old Timey instrument, many of us play many other kinds: Americana, Folk, Celtic, Classical, Rock, Jazz, Swing, just to name a few.
So who is NWAG? We are folks who gather to play and celebrate the autoharp. Not only have we discovered the fun and quite frankly, the addictiveness of the autoharp, but we want to share our joy with others. Plus, there’s always more to learn. We bring in national teachers for workshops and concerts and we discover the teachers among us. Many of us have gone from rank beginners to teachers. We want to pass on our enthusiasm and our love for this funny box of strings that has given us so much fun.
So let’s recap. The autoharp is an instrument for any age. It’s easy to play right off the bat. There’s a community to encourage you and play with you. A group of fine folks who never stare at you funny or laugh at your mistakes but will encourage you and help you. All you got to do is pick it up and give it a whirl. That’s right. No sense waiting. Pick up an autoharp and start having fun. Dang, who wouldn’t love the instrument that does all that?
We are planning, once again, to celebrate the autoharp on the last weekend of July (next event July 28 – 30, 2017). Mark your calendars and plan to attend!
- Concerts with top-notch performers!
- Classes give tips and tunes
- Jam with others!
Here’s what NWAG looks like! (Pictures thanks to Stu White and Jim Hall.)