Dr. George Orthey In Memoriam (1932-2020)
For those of you who haven’t heard, I must acknowledge some sad news – the passing of Festival Founder George Orthey on August 18, 2020.
Even before the public festival began, George and his wife Mary Lou hosted several gatherings on their Newport farm for owners of his Dulci-Harps. Then they made the decision to open their farm, and their home, to anyone who was an autoharp enthusiast. They initiated the Mountain Laurel Autoharp Gathering and the accompanying Championship in 1991. The festival was a monumental annual undertaking for them and the small group who supported their efforts in making the Gathering possible, and each year it only improved under their leadership. When they turned the Gathering over to a Board of Directors in 2001, it was a thriving, healthy enterprise that gave the Board a firm foundation to continue presenting the oldest and largest festival dedicated to the autoharp. The gratitude that MLAG collectively has for George and Mary Lou’s efforts cannot be overstated.
George also organized the Mini-Mountain Laurel Concert Series, which brought notable performers to Newport and nearby Lewistown for many years during the fall, winter, and spring. I’m sure many of you attended or performed at those concerts. And I cannot even imagine how many of you must own and play George’s autoharps and mountain dulcimers, which he built from 1964 up until just last year.
George’s full obituary can be found here.
When we can all be together again, we will certainly properly remember George as a group. Until then, please ponder his contributions to our community, and remember his sons, Scott and George III, and their families.
Here’s a photo tribute to George …
Muriel’s style of playing the autoharp has been described as intense, or dream-like, depending on the song, but always passionate. She took great pride in demonstrating how many different genres of music could be played on the instrument. Other harpists say they were inspired not only by how she played, but what she played. By doing so, she exposed other musicians to various methods to freely explore ways to “play outside the box”.