Harp exponents mass for 'blow down'

Harmonica players (from left) Terry Ebeling, Elise Allen, Clive Copeman and Leo LaDell blow up a storm in the Octagon last week. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Harmonica players (from left) Terry Ebeling, Elise Allen, Clive Copeman and Leo LaDell blow up a storm in the Octagon last week. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
It's known as a "face piano'' and "Mississippi saxophone''.

But, the humble harmonica will be making a big noise later this month, when Dunedin has its first "blow down''.

"I thought it was time to show off all the great harp players out there,'' professional musician Leo LaDell said.

"Dunedin is known for its musicians, so I knew there would be some really good harp players here. We'll have more than half a dozen top players doing their thing.''

Mr LaDell grew up in Norfolk, Virginia, in the United States, and has been playing harmonica since the 1980s.

"It's got a reputation as an easy instrument to learn. And, compared to something like a trumpet, it is easy to start, because you get sound out of it straight away,'' he said.

"But, it's not easy to master.''

For musician Elise Allen, the instrument had more practical undertones.

"It's the warmest instrument I could find. I was living in a cold Dunedin flat and used to practise under the blankets to keep warm,'' she said.

"The interesting thing about the harp, is that it's all about the white spaces around the notes.''

The harmonica master class would blow away any misconceptions that it was a toy instrument, they said.

"It's so emotionally expressive. It's the closest instrument to the human voice,'' Terry Ebeling said.

"When the Germans invented it in the 19th century for folk songs and polkas, they could never have imagined what it would be used for,'' Clive Copeman said.

"It's the perfect instrument for jazz, blues and rock'n'roll.''

The harmonica "blow down'' is on at the Stadium Bar from 9pm on December 15.