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Classic wind instrument regaining popularity

Created date

February 22nd, 2010

[caption id="attachment_8351" align="alignright" width="280" caption="Members of the Harmonicazz group (left to right) Ray Schmitt, Harold Wehner, and Sal Longo. (Photo By Andrew Pruner)"][/caption] Harmonicas may be pocketsized, but their following is growing exceedingly large. At Cedar Crest and Seabrook, harmonica music can be heard all across campus, and new harmonica- based musical groups are beginning to appear.

The coolest Cazz around

AtCedar Crest, the Harmonicazz harmonica group reigns supreme. We don t spell it like the original Harmonicats, says Sal Longo, who has been with the group for five years. We don t want to get sued, he says with a smile. But we try to play the same type of music that they did. The group currently consists of Longo on the accordion and four other residents, all on harmonicas. It was entirely harmonicas to start, Longo says. We may have added an accordion here or changed members there, but it s always been a harmonica-based group and that won t change. The group s most requested songs include popular favorites Danny Boy, Return to Sorrento, O Sole Mio, and Let Me Call You Sweetheart.

Amateur hour

I think most of the harmonica players here took lessons from a book. So we aren t professionals, but we all have fun and we all play in the C chord. If you hear us anywhere other than C, then we re probably lost, he says with a laugh. The group has played in the community talent show as well as for friends and on special occasions like birthdays. It also has a regular gig every Wednesday evening in the Village Square Clubhouse after dinner. It was just something we did for fun, and we started getting a little bit of a following, Longo explains. "Now we even have a group of fans who come to watch us every week. I think people really just like the music because it s soothing and takes them down memory lane. I started playing the harmonica when I was 12 years old, Harmonicazz member Harold Wehner says. I stopped at age 18 when I was drafted. But sinceI ve been atCedar Crest, I ve had the opportunity to pick it up again. It s a fun instrument to play, people seem to enjoy it, and it s really entertainment for me too I like to see people s reactions when we play. In addition to his performance with the Harmonicazz, Wehner does solo performances at Renaissance Gardens, the extended-care neighborhood atCedar Crest. I ll play old favorites, new requests, whatever, he says. Some sing along, and others just want to hum. But music s a great outlet for everyone.

Hailing all harmonica players

AtSeabrook, the harmonica craze is just beginning. Bernie Schreibman, who plays the harmonica on a regular basis, is doing his best to start a harmonica players club at the community. We re still in our infancy, but we re always looking for new members, he says. We have ads up, and a few of us meet every Monday morning at 10:30. We have a piano player to accompany us and we run through a bunch of songs and have a pretty good time together. Anyone who has played or wants to give it a try is welcome to come out and join us. For Schreibman, the harmonica has been a passion since high school. I began playing in the Brooklyn Technical High School Harmonica Club, so I vebeen doing it for a while. I really loved it, but then, when I tried to get serious about it and get a harmonica during the war, you just couldn t, he says. They were all made in Germany so they were scarce at the time. But after the war, I got into it a little more. And despite what you think, they are pretty expensive to buy. I think my first harmonica cost me $16. They still cost over $100 today, so it s not a cheap hobby. Since high school, Schreibman has honed his craft and played in harmonica clubs up and down the East Coast, from Florida all the way to New York. He was also a longtime member of a local group called the Harmonica Tones and performed at local venues and retirement homes in New Jersey. Crowd favorites include Give my Regards to Broadway, Yankee Doodle Dandy, and Caroline in the Morning. When I d play shows, we would play about 20 songs or so in a row, and that would usually keep everyone going for about 45 minutes, Shreibman says. In general, I think most people just like to hear the harmonica. It s a soothing instrument.