Two years ago, I was cast as June Carter Cash in a production of Ring of Fire at Theatre at the Center in Munster Indiana. Our beloved music director, Malcolm Ruhl, told me, oh yeah, you have to learn to play the autoharp for the show. Um....auto...what?
Now, the autoharp gets a bad rep. It was used in classrooms for years, because it's an easy instrument to learn, and consequently, it's fallen out of favor. My fellow cast members, all brilliant musicians, mocked my little harp mercilessly and kept calling it an accordion, or a harpsichord. They never took it seriously. And really neither did I.
Until, I did a little digging and listening to the old Carter family records. I fell in love with this instrument and now I'm autoharp obsessed. In addition to my Oscar Schmidt chromatic, I recently acquired this beautiful diatonic d'Aigle harp. Diatonic means it only plays in 1 (or 2 in this case) keys, as opposed to my chromatic which plays in many different keys. Because some of the strings are doubled, you get a fuller, richer sound that the chromatic, which has one string per note.
I am by no means an expert yet. I'm learning as I go and for the next 12 days, I'll be doing a little explorational Christmas autoharp caroling. I'm mostly doing it as incentive to learn a few more songs, and to prep for the CD I'll be making with Malcolm this winter, but I hope you'll enjoy a little trip through the Christmas catalog.