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Harmonica


Photograph showing the front and side view of a harmonica
Photograph showing the front and side view of a harmonica

The harmonica, or the mouth organ or French harp as it is also known, was invented in 1829 by Friedrich Buschmann of Berlin, who called his instrument the Mundäoline. It is a ‘free-reed’ instrument and belongs to the same family of instruments as the accordion. The reeds are set in a small, narrow case of wood or metal and for each reed there is a hole, through which the player draws or blows air with the mouth. The low cost and very small size of the harmonica make it a popular choice and it is a common instrument in traditional, rock, blues, and other forms of popular music.

Will Atkinson - mouthorgan virtuoso
Will Atkinson - mouthorgan virtuoso

Perhaps the most influencial and respected ‘moothie’ player from the North East was Will Atkinson. Born in 1908 and known throughout the world of traditional music as a virtuoso of the mouth-organ, Will Atkinson has also been the President of the Alnwick Pipers' Society for many years and was a founder member of the Alnwick Branch of the Northumbrian Pipers' Society in the 1930's. Although best recognised as a 'moothie' player, Will initially played the melodeon, but switched to his greater love, the mouth-organ, fairly early in his musical career. His undoubted talent not only as a musician but also as a composer of such tunes as Glen Aln Hornpipe and Redeside Hornpipe, has provided pleasure and enjoyment for many thousands of people of all ages wherever traditional music is played.

Listen to a recording of Will Atkinson playing the High Level Hornpipe

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