I have my 8 draw back

Well, both of my packages arrived today, including the new reed plates for my C harmonica. I thought I was never going to get the harmonica apart; I pretty much stripped one of the very tiny screws holding the old reed plates onto the comb. But I finally got it, and installed the new reed plates, and now I have a fully-functioning harp again. I need to do some practicing.

The old blown reed plate would not play “8 draw,” the note which is supposed to be created by inhaling through the 8th hole. I needed that to play “He’s Ever Over Me.” I could still play it on my G or A harmonicas, of course.

My new goal is to play the offertory at church one Sunday. I did that some years back, when I first took up the harmonica, but that was when we had two services, and I played at the much-less-formal early service. I am way out of practice, and my mouth gets sore after a few minutes of single-note pucker, so I have quite a bit of work to do before I’m good enough to bring up the idea to our music director.

Harp alert

I’ve never had any musical talent, but a few years back, when I was still actively attending Mountain T.O.P. Adults in Ministry (AIM) camps every summer, I taught myself how to play the harmonica, using one of Jon Gindick’s wonderful books.

My dream was to play a couple of songs while leading a morning devotional at AIM. I did that, and I even played “Amazing Grace” at church (that was back when we had two services, and I attended the much-less-formal early service). But I didn’t keep up the way I should have.

Well, I’m going to a Mountain T.O.P. AIM fall weekend a week from tonight, and I am going to lead a morning devotion. So I pulled out the ol’ mouth harp tonight to see if I could still play. I’m rusty, and I can’t sustain my single-note pucker more than a song or two. But I’m not as rusty as I feared. I’m going to keep at it for the next week and see if I can accompany myself next weekend.

Now I just have to write a devotion. I have an assigned topic – “Instilling Hope.” That’s sort of funny, because hope is the opposite of the way I’ve been feeling lately. So maybe I can preach to myself, which makes the best sermons anyway.

(This isn’t actually the book I learned from, but I’m sure it’s a good one as well.)

Harp House

Ron Good left a comment today on a harmonica-related post from back in February, and even though he didn’t leave his URL I worked it out from his e-mail. He has a great list of harp-related links.

Meanwhile, back at the harp ….

I was between meetings at the county courthouse last night when I walked across the street to my church. Several people were standing outside waiting for the door to be unlocked so that they could hear a presentation by Donna Brock about her mother, the late Rev. Aileen Massengale, a pioneering female United Methodist preacher whom I am proud to say was my pastor for a year or two.

Anyway, I knew I couldn’t say for Donna’s presentation because it was at the same time as my next county meeting. But I walked across to say hello to the people on the sidewalk.

As we were making conversation, one or two of them mentioned my harmonica playing at early service a month or two ago and said I needed to do it again. Jon Brock, who is Donna’s husband and who is also our music director, had said something similar to me last Sunday. So I’ve gone back to practicing “In The Garden,” which I had played for my father’s anniversary party a week or two ago.

Meanwhile, I’ve now memorized “Red River Valley” — which would not be a good tune for church, obviously, but which I love. Since it’s public domain, I may post a .WAV file in the next week or two if I can work some rough edges off.

Surprise!

Although I don’t think my parents follow this blog regularly, I know that my father has run across it in the past. So I was careful not to mention what was being planned for tonight.

Tomorrow, my father — who has been a United Methodist pastor, either part-time or full-time, since 1972 — retires as pastor of Mt. Olivet UMC. Tonight, the church threw him a surprise banquet at the Walking Horse Hotel in Wartrace. District Superintendent Dr. Jim Clardy (who’s retiring himself) invited my parents out to dinner and brought them to the hotel, where the congregation, along with myself, my brother Thomas and his family, my sister Elecia, and my parents’ close friends Dr. Beryl and Linda West, were waiting.

I have been practicing “In The Garden,” one of Dad’s favorite hymns, on the harmonica for several weeks. I was not able to get it memorized, so I had to play from tab. I thought I sounded pretty ragged, but Dad appreciated the sentiment and everyone else said it was OK.

Thomas was talking to my mother earlier this week and, when she expressed doubts about whether to accept Dr. Clardy’s dinner invitation, he was somewhat insistent that they go. So Thomas was worried that Mom would figure out what was going on. But she didn’t, and Dad certainly had no clue.

One of the reasons I’d been worried that the parents might not accept a dinner invitation tonight is that they’re in the process of packing. Very early Monday morning, they will fly to Costa Mesa, Calif., to be with my other brother and sister-in-law, not to mention my nephew Daniel, for the birth of Ila Katherine, who is scheduled to be delivered on Tuesday.

Anyway, it all worked out and it was a nice evening. There were both laughs and tears. Dr. West actually told the same joke that I posted here a couple of weeks ago, and it got a huge response, just as it’s gotten here.

Customer service

My three good harmonicas are the Lee Oskar brand, manufactured by Tombo. They’re great harps, and they come in really nifty interlocking plastic cases. You can slide together as many or as few of the cases as you want and carry them as a unit.

A few years ago, about the time I fell off the harmonica wagon, I broke the case for my “G” harmonica. (The reason I have three is that each is a different key.) The end popped out of it. I still kept the harmonica in what was left of the case, but it wasn’t completely enclosed.

Now that I’m playing again, with trips to Mountain T.O.P. and Kenya on the horizon, I wanted a good case for the harmonica. Lee Oskar does have a web site, but they don’t really do business online because they don’t want to compete with their network of retailers (both brick-and-mortar and online stores). If you have no other option, however, they do have a downloadable order form which you can print, fill out and mail in — with a check or cashier’s check, no credit cards. As I say, this isn’t because they don’t want to serve the customer; it’s because they want the customer to go through the retailers.

Anyway, I looked and looked and could not find an online retailer that sold the cases on their own. So I happily wrote a check and mailed in my order to the Lee Oskar folks. It was a small order — the shipping was almost as much as the cost of the little plastic case.

Today, I got my order — not one but two of the plastic carrying cases, plus a larger cloth carrying case with room for seven harmonicas. (They normally sell the cloth case for considerably more than the little plastic cases.) They even included a little car air freshener shaped like a harmonica and a Lee Oskar bumper sticker. I thought it was some kind of mistake, but I e-mailed the company and it was just a courtesy gift.

I debated about whether to identify them by name — I don’t know what their normal policy is, and I don’t want people writing in and demanding free gifts just because I got one. But I just thought it was great customer service, and as much as bloggers like me use this forum to complain, I wanted to give someone a well-deserved pat on the back.

Of course, now I’m looking forward to filling up the other four spaces in that cloth case, so maybe they knew what they were doing. :)

Containerization

Lee Oskar Major Diatonic Harmonica, C

My three good harmonicas are Lee Oskars, a well-known brand among harp players. (I have three because they’re in different keys.) Lee Oskar harmonicas come in a clever little black plastic case — clever because they interlock; you can slide together whichever cases you want and carry them as a unit.

But the case to my “G” harmonica — the one I used this morning in church — has been broken for some time. Today, as a treat for having done well this morning, I decided to try to buy a new one. That will help as I tote my harps to Mountain T.O.P. in July and to Kenya in August. The Lee Oskar web site offers the replacement boxes, but they aren’t really set up for online commerce — deliberately so, since they don’t want to undermine their network of retailers. You have to print out an order form and mail it with a check, and they hold the order for 10 days until your check clears.

I have looked everywhere — Froogle, Yahoo! shopping, Shopzilla, and numerous individual online merchants — to try to find a store where I could buy the case online and get quicker delivery. The only one I found was outside the U.S., and the shipping would have cost more than the case. I posted a message on alt.music.harmonica but the only thing that’s yielded is a suggestion that I try the Lee Oskar web site — which, as explained, I already knew about.

So I guess I’ll end up sending off my order by mail and waiting a few weeks.

He’s Ever Over Me

Well, I heard every little slipped note, but I actually got a nice response to my harmonica music at early service this morning. And there was mention of me doing it again at some point.

I did go with “He’s Ever Over Me,” by Bob Stromberg, but I got the chance to mention what it was even though most people in the congregation wouldn’t recognize it. Jon Brock, our music director, hadn’t recognized the title but after he heard me run through it after arriving at church this morning he recognized it — he’d heard it at camp or retreat type events as well.

Our 10:50 service, which is already underway as I write this, will include a celebration of the Chinese orphan that Jon and Donna adopted last year.

Harp worries

It’s this Sunday that I’m supposed to play my harmonica during early church service, and I’m worried. Every little mistake sounds horrible as I practice, and I’m scared I’m going to sound amateurish or stupid. I have really got to work hard between now and Sunday.