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We’re really excited about our workshop offerings for the 27th Mountain Laurel Gathering. From beginner to advanced player, songwriting to slide guitar, you’ll find topics that we hope will interest you. All of our performers and workshop leaders at MLAG are accessible and ready to answer questions, help you with problems, or just jam! Here is a listing of your instructors and descriptions of all the wonderful things they plan to teach you!

VICKI LEHMAN “Boot Camp for Beginners” (beg): Come for an introduction to playing the autoharp. This 3-hour workshop, held on Wednesday afternoon, is for new players and for those who play a little and might want to brush up on the basics. Cathy will cover many topics to get you started playing our great instrument, as well as some simple maintenance tips. Come with any questions. Hope to see you there!

KAREN DANIELS “Beyond Boot Camp – Staying on Track” (beg and up): These workshops, held every morning at 9:00, are a perennial favorite with attendees and are student-directed with handouts included. With Boot Camp being for beginners and not all of the MLAG workshops being beginner level, this workshop is for those of all levels who have any questions in general or regarding anything not understood in other workshops. Your questions dictate the direction of these workshops, which will explore a variety of topics of your choice.

JOHN & HEIDI CERRIGIONE – “Kids’ Workshops – Get Started Off Right!” An introduction to the autoharp for children. Loaner 'harps will be available, including smaller ones for younger children. Adult beginners (and observers) also are welcome, but the tunes will be nursery rhymes and familiar children's songs.

CATHY BRITELL “Purple Is Beautiful – ‘Color Chords’ on Diatonic Autoharps” (adv (but all are welcome); mostly G): This is an expository (not play-along) workshop on some of the things you can do with the autoharp when you add chords beyond the I, IV, V, ii, iii, and vi, to your playing. Cathy will discuss and demonstrate some songs and tunes with different chord options, and talk about ways of setting up a diatonic autoharp to accomplish this. Others are also welcome to add their own information/experience and demonstrate how they do this.

WANDA DEGEN “Mouse Loves the Pantry” (beg-int, G, C, D): Whimsical, nature-inspired songs to share with kids of ALL AGES. Interactive, participatory songs that capture the imagination & holds the attention of the young listener thru rhythm & rhyme. Using the autoharp to help tell a story. For parents, grandparents, & teachers of young children as well as the autoharp player who is interested in presenting a program for kids. Wanda enjoys her career as a preschool music specialist and is known as “Miss Wanda” to 17 classes of young children in the Lansing, Michigan, area. “Sentimental Journey” (beg-int; G, C, D): A musical stroll back thru the decades. Familiar songs with lyrics, a little history, chord changes for accompanying the voice, and - in some cases - picking out the melody. The song "Sentimental Journey" was Doris Day's first #1 hit from 1945. Chromatic harps work best for this class. So many decades, so little time...

GEORGE HAIG “Meet the 2017 Recording Endowment Winner!” (all): George was our Cohen-Grappel Recording Endowment Winner for 2016, and we are celebrating his achievement at this year's Gathering. During this hour, you'll get a preview of George’s talent as he shares some of his tunes and experiences. George will also be available for a “Hand to Hand” hour during the Gathering so you can ask him questions up close and personal.

WAYNE AND ARTHETTA LONG “Things I Learned the Hard Way” (all): An open discussion of autoharp experiences. The Longs will discuss what you need or don’t need to: play, make choices, be comfortable and confident. They will share their autoharp journey and discuss the choices and journeys of other autoharp players. “Coloring and Ornamentation” (all; C and D): Wayne and Arthetta will sing/play/teach the songs “One Meatball” and “Jack-O-Diamonds,” demonstrating ways to “fill the gaps” with the autoharp when playing with other instruments or in a group. “Country Blues Guitar” (all): Wayne will cover a 12-bar blues in standard tuning key of A in the style of Sam “Lightnin’ ” Hopkins, with variations, to keep it interesting and make it your own. Then, we’ll tune to open G and get out our slides for the classic “Crossroads” introduction, otherwise known as the “Robert Johnson” Lick.

JOEL MABUS “Different Hymnals” (all; all instruments welcome): Drawing from Joel’s new album and other sources, we’ll learn, sing, and play songs of faith and hope from a wide variety of traditions. “Songwriting: Co-Writing with Tradition” (all): Woody, Pete, and Dylan made a living from it. Borrowing themes from traditional music – or anything in the public domain – to make a new song. Whether the tune, or just a theme, or a snatch of lyric or chorus – or even setting a poem to music, the best stuff in the world is out there ready to co-write with you! “Slides and Bars and Blues” (int; slide guitars and autoharps (and their friends) invited): An experimental outing of bottleneck slide guitar and autoharp, and an introduction to the blues for autoharp. Both instruments offer a rich sound, and both are bounded by their built-in limitations. Could be interesting. Seventh chords will be used on autoharp! And bring your voice!

BILL MARTIN AND THE RED MOUNTAIN BAND “Weaving the Fabric of Song and Tune: Meanings and Melody” (all; variety of keys): This workshop is about using your autoharp to accentuate your songs, and using your voice to enhance your playing. Bill will share his techniques to add meaning to your songs and sparkle to your accompaniment. We'll play and sing in a variety of keys and genres. “Alabama Tunes and Songs” (all welcome): We have been collecting and playing local tunes and songs for over three decades. Alabama is rich in music... it is a nexus where African and European music fused into jazz, blues, rock and roll, and old time string band music. We'll play in a variety of keys and in styles from several regions around our state. All players, instruments, and singers are welcomed. “Waltz… 1, 2, 3” (all; A, C, D, G): The dance often starts, and always ends, with a waltz. The voice of the autoharp adds so much to a waltz. Join us as we play both the simple and sublime, the modern and old, in a variety of keys.

GREG SCHREIBER “Maintenance Tips” (all) – Luthier Greg Schreiber will spend an hour with you showing common maintenance tips for the do-it-yourself tasks that every autoharper needs to know how to tackle.

DREW SMITH “Just Because You’re Bill Bailey” (adv beg-int; C chromatic): Two songs that are great by themselves, and when learned, can be sung together at the same time for great fun! The last lines have the circle of 7th chords, so bring your chromatic harps!

JO ANN SMITH “Close the Book” (all levels, harps, & keys): Learn to play by ear! Jo Ann will give you tips for building the confidence to listen and figure out music for yourself. “Melodius Funk” (int-adv; C): Learn a snappy tune with a clear melody line and an off-beat rhythm. Diatonic preferred, but chromatics welcome. “Overcoming CBDS (Chord Bar Dependence Syndrome” (int/adv; C and/or G; diatonic only): If you have a diatonic autoharp, open-noting needs to be part of your skill set. Come to learn HOW open-noting works, and leave wondering how you ever got along without it.

HARVEY WAGNER & DOC BROSE “Doo-Wop Heaven” (beg & up; mostly G): A play-along, sing-along workshop dedicated to Doo-Wop. We plan to demonstrate and explain how to use the Doo-Wop (I-vi-IV-V) progression as we play and sing those oldies but goodies. Doc and Harvey have prepared a songbook to use during the workshop that contains songs from the 50’s and 60’s that follow the Doo-Wop progression and that we are sure are some of your favorites from the past, with chords, lyrics and information about each song. Could This be Magic? Join us and find out. Baby Oh Baby, Maybe you could become a Little Star.

NEAL WALTERS “MLAG Contest: Behind the Scenes” (all): Neal is the chair and coordinator of the Mountain Laurel Autoharp Championship. This two-hour workshop will give you a taste of what it’s like to be “behind the curtain” as a judge, what the scoring is based on, and other aspects of how the champion is chosen. There’s more to it than meets the eye of the audience!

CHARLES WHITMER “How to Play Accompaniment” (beg; G): Learn to play effective accompaniment to back-up melodies that are sung or played. This will also strengthen the foundation for melody playing. “Patriotic Songs” (int; G, D): A focus on adding patriotic songs to the repertoire, but more importantly a workout on melody playing techniques that allow the player to bring these types of songs to the autoharp. “Playing in 6/8 Time” (upper int-adv; G, D, Am): A hands-on session devoted to playing tunes both “in 6” as well as “in 2” (jig time) and how to make both seemingly different meters work on tunes played on autoharp.