Wednesday 6 March 2024

Thank you, Moniaive

Reading the annual report, 2024, of the President of UK Autoharps...

He gives due reverence to the work of Nadine Stah White and Ian White and Anja Lyttle, and their many helpers, in developing the Scottish Autoharp Gathering...

It looks as if Moniaive 2023 will be the last Scottish Autoharp Gathering in that formal format.

I have really enjoyed my visits to Moniaive and that special Scottish approach to Musicking...  In my other working lives, organising gatherings, we have met the Moniaive problem, which is simply one of accommodation.  If you build it, we will want to come - but where are we going to sleep?

Looking back at my notes from 2023...  Amongst the things that I thought worked ever so well in Moniaive 2023 were...


The music of John and Kathie Hollandsworth, a subtle and intelligent approach to a popular repertoire.

In UK Autoharps we follow the Autoharp, its strange adventures, in various niches - for example, its history as a parlour instrument or a schoolroom instrument.  It was in Virginia, USA, that the Autoharp became a folk instrument - because, as John Hollandsworth said, it got in there early, via the Sears Roebuck catalogue.  

I attach, below, a page from the 1902 Sears Roebuck, showing  Autoharps:  'one of the most popular of small instruments...  Thousands are in use and the sale keeps on increasing at a wonderful rate...  Never before has it been possible for the house to be graced with high class music at so small an expense.  The prices which we name enable the poorest to possess an instrument which will produce the sweetest music and gave just as much pleasure as would a high-priced piano.' 

Kathie Hollandsworth's historical presentation was very clear, and has been absorbed, seamlessly, into my own projects - like:  'Why the Autoharp Did Not Become A Folk Instrument in Ireland'.  More about that in due course...



A place for musicians new to the autoharp to come with their instruments - and learn and share.  The autoharp's special selling point - we get quickly to the bloody chords - means that isolated musicians find it and have fun.  

This really worked well in Moniaive 2023.  It was a pleasure to meet new people, new to the autoharp.  For...  Musicians can come to a UK Autoharps gathering to learn technique...  and vocabulary.  I remember the late, lovely, Judy Dyble saying, at her UK Autoharps presentation, 'But you have WORDS...  for THINGS...'

(Judy Dyble was, of course, not an isolated musician, singer or songwriter - but she was an isolated autoharper.  She had invented her own banjo-esque, clawhammer style.  It worked.)

For show and tell...  I brought along 3 autoharps from my autoharp petting zoo, and a selection of books from my autoharp library.


On that note...  Care and feeding of the neglected autoharp...  I showed my electric Richwood Autoharp - bought secondhand, at a good price.  It looks good, and ought to be good - but I have never got on with it.  

At Moniaive George Haig took the Richwood into his experienced hands (O those hands...), listened with his experienced ear, saw with his experienced eye.  George heard the buzzing B string and pointed out the skew-whiff chord bar holder.  I had heard but I had not seen.  This was the autoharp as it had left the factory and had been sold in a shop.  Back home in Yorkshire I arranged an emergency appointment with my luthier...

I guess, in summary, Moniaive has been kind to the Autoharp, and the Autoharp has been kind to Moniaive.  Thank you, both.  And thank you Nadine, Ian and Anja... 

Patrick O'Sullivan

March 2024


1 comment:

  1. Paddy, it's been a pleasure to see you at Moniaive - and I am so pleased to have been able to organise this gathering over the years.