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Book details
  • Genre:MUSIC
  • SubGenre:Musical Instruments / Strings
  • Language:English
  • Pages:142
  • Paperback ISBN:9798350937152

History of a Gathering

The Mountain Laurel Autoharp Gathering -- 32 Years and Counting

by Robert D. Grappel

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This book chronicles the first 32 years of the Mountain Laurel Autoharp Gathering (MLAG). Starting with a small group of friends brought together by their love of an unusual musical instrument (the autoharp) on George Orthey's farm in Newport, Pennsylvania -- it has grown into a yearly phenomenon and an extended family consisting of hundreds of musicians from all across the U.S. and around the world. The author has attended MLAG every year since 1993. Writing this book has been a labor-of-love to recall and document all the wonderful and sometimes unusual events surrounding this yearly gathering of autoharp enthusiasts.
The Mountain Laurel Autoharp Gathering (MLAG) began 32 years ago on George Orthey's farm in Newport, Pennsylvania, as a get-together of people who owned one of George's custom autoharps. Over the decades (and three sites), MLAG has grown to attract the finest autoharp players and performers. It is a place to share information and techniques, learn new songs, get your instrument repaired, try out a new 'harp, perform before the most-appreciative audience that an autoharp player is likely to find anywhere, gain the accolades of ones peers, and generally bask in the glow of our extended 'autoharp family'. This author has had the pleasure of attending MLAG every year since 1993. This book was a labor-of-love to recall and document the events and stories of all those past MLAGs. The recollections and memories (and photographs) of many people are contained in this book.
About the author
My father started me on violin when I was eight years old. By the time I entered college, I had learned two things: (1) I was never going to be a good violinist, and (2) I had enough of an ear to know a bad violinist when I heard one. Attending college in the mid 1960's, I joined the "folk boom": and became a decent guitar player. Then, one night at the ARK Coffeehouse in Ann Arbor, Michigan,, I heard the autoharp played well ( by Bob White) for the first time. My second grade teacher (and second violin instructor) had used the autoharp, but I never thought much about it until that night. Immediately, I went out a bought an autoharp and taught myself to play it like I had heard Bob do. Three years later, my original instrument wore out and I bought another. Then, in 1993, my wife, Lynda, and I attended our first "Mountain Laurel Autoharp Gathering" (MLAG). MLAG opened up an amazing new world for me. I ordered a new custom instrument from George Orthey on the spot. (Lynda and I now own a collection of 18 autoharps from various luthiers and in various styles and keys.) Over the years, Lynda and I have performed on the MLAG stage, taught and taken numerous workshops, and I've even placed in the MLAG instrumental contest a time or two. We've sailed on several MLAG Cruises. Foremost, we've made friendships around the world through our love of this "simple box with strings". When I'm not playing the autoharp, I found time to earn graduate degrees in Physics and Computer Science. Much of my career was spent developing surveillance and safety systems for air traffic control. I also was a partner in an early software development firm. I wrote computer software articles in BYTE and EDN magazines during the 1970's and early 80's. I was a staff writer for "Autoharp Quarterly" for over 3 years. I've also published 3 books of original poetry -- another hobby that began with a strange course selection in college for a science major. Writing this book on the history of MLAG began over lunch during last year's MLAG with Jim Adams (the MLAG attorney) and my wife, Lynda. Jim had purchased my poetry books and knew that I "did some writing". Lynda suggested that writing a history of the 32 years of MLAG (so far) might make a good retirement project for me. It was...