12/4/2013: The world renowned MLAG Autoharp Toss is always great fun and a spirited competition that is heating up even earlier this year ... perennial contenderTom Fladmark reports: "I have started preparation for the 2014 "Autoharp Toss" competition. On Thursday morning, into a cold stiff wind, we tested the trebuchet for the first time. This machine was built by Dan's (Olivia's boyfriend) younger brother Sam, a high school student. Tests are encouraging. I will definitely blow the competition away and we will have to pick up Pete's chin from the ground!" Take a look at this astounding video and think about running for your life!
11/21/2013: Our on-line registration system is up and running for 2014. We hope you will use the on-line system because it makes things go ever so smoothly for us but you can also download a copy of the 2014 Registration Packet and register by mail. You may pay via Paypal using the on-line system or simply register and send it your payment separately by check.
11/1/2013: The MLAG Board is pleased to announce that Niels Jonker has joined the MLAG Board as a member at large. Neils' technical expertise in communications, networking, broadcasting, photography, and audio engineering will be invaluable. He also used to be a disc jockey but we won't hold that against him.
10/29/2013: MLAG will have two pre-Gathering workshops in 2014. Ivan Stiles will teach a beginner's workshop and Karen Mueller will teach an intermediate workshop. In conjunction with these workshops, we are pleased to announce the continuance of the Patsy Tressler Memorial Award. Provided by Patsy's sister, Ruby Morgan, the award will be given to one of the participants in the Pre-Gathering classes. The recipient will be determined by a random drawing at the opening ceremonies on Wednesday evening and will receive a check to cover part of the cost of their Pre-Gathering class. Patsy and her sister Ruby have been attendees of the Gathering for many years. In addition to their wonderful sunny personalities, many of you will remember them for their participation in the after concert gospel jam sessions. Their duets were always a highlight of the evening. Patsy played several instruments and, over the years, sang and played with a group of military wives called Stars and Stripes. She loved to sing. The sisters grew up in the Klingerstown, PA area and Patsy is buried in Leck Kill. Her gravestone bears a picture of her playing her Orthey 'Harp. It was definitely her favorite instrument. The Board thanks Ruby for her generous donation to the Pre-Gathering program.
07/21/2013: The 2013 photos are now all posted to our Photos page. Thanks to all who contributed: Frank Baker, Don Lavallee, Mike Herr, Linda Huber, John Cerrigione, and Phil Clarke so far. There are some great pictures and, when looking at this as a combined effort, I think we've covered every aspect of the Gathering. I've also updated all the WEB pages to reflect the curerent situation, i.e. we're through with 2013 and looking forward to 2014!
07/20/2013: The 2013 Mountain Laurel Autoharp Gathering is history. It was altogether wonderful if you don't count the fact that groundhogs devoured our van's insulation while it was parked behind the lodge.Fortunately, no wires were involved and it looks like the damage was mostly cosmetic. That aside, I'm hoping that everybody else made it home safely and with fond memories of a terrific Gathering. This was our 23rd annual Gathering and, as I overheard many people whispering, one of the best. We had about 350 come through the doors, maybe not a record, but a good turnout to be sure.
On behalf of the MLAG Board, I want to thank each of you who attended the Gathering or sent good wishes our way. Despite the stormy weather, or maybe because of it, everybody bonded quickly and worked together to quickly generate that unique spirit of community that makes MLAG such a special event. The evening concerts were amazing as usual though I have to apologize personally for forgetting a few lyrics. I don't think anybody else did though and we got lots of good feedback as each concert was presented. Thanks to John & Heidi Cerrigione, Tina Louise Barr & John Gwinner, Tom Schroeder, Carey Dubbert, Katseye (Kathy Wieland, Kathy Gravlin and RobNuhn), and Harvey Reid & Joyce Anderson for doing such a great job and leaving us wanting more, more, more!
The pre-Gathering workshops (Heidi & John Cerrigione, Tina Louise Barr and Carey Dubbert) were well attended and I've seen lots of positive feedback that indicates, in the immortal words of Holly Towne, "if you came two days early, you were still two days late." Plan on attending next year's pre-Gathering workshops so you won't end up with the feeling that you missed anything. Special congratulations to Les Brooker for winning the free pass to the workshops thanks to the generosity of Ruby Morgan who presents this annual award in memory of her sister, Pat Tressler. And even more thanks to Les who gave it right back to us so we can extend the award for an additional year beyond the four year duration of the original donation. Ruby commented that attending MLAG was like taking a badly needed "music bath" for the soul. Amen.
Robyn Green's catering was wonderful and our volunteer support was again nothing short of amazing. We couldn't put on the Gathering without the continuing volunteer support we get from the attendees as most of you know and it seems to get better every year, particularly as people have a better idea of what to do and how to do it ... setup on Wednesday went very smoothly and this year's teardown was under an hour. Thank you to everybody who contributed to that and special thanks to Gregg Averett for ramrodding those activities and exhibiting a surreal knack of almost seeming to know what he's doing ....
Congratulations to Bonnie Phipps who is our 2013 Mountain Laurel autoharp champion. Cindy Harris and Bob Ebdon also finished in the money while Drew Smith and Tom Fladmark rounded out the finalists. We had 16 contestants this year and I'm not alone in thinking that it was one of the most amazing contests we've had. Pete Daigle, Tom Fladmark and John Hollandsworth donated our prize 'harps and, once again, we can't thank them enough for their support and generosity. We're planning on issuing a contest CD set again (after having technical problems last year). The contest CD set (usually a double CD set) will cost $25 and should be available in the early fall (based upon how it's gone the past few years).
If you're interested, send your check (made out to MLAG) to Coleen at the address in my signature block below and make sure you have your shipping address included. The sooner you order the better as we order the final number based on the number of orders in hand. I will reiterate that you will have to travel a long way to hear any better autoharp playing than you'll find on the annual contest CD ... frankly, I can't imagine any autoharp player anywhere who won't appreciate Bonnie's version of "Malagueña" which pushed her over the top. It is a masterpiece by any standard and has already found a permanent place in MLAG contest lore.
It surprised no one that Tom Fladmark was inducted into the Autoharp Hall of Fame for his many contributions to the autoharp community and to the development of the instrument itself. As a world class luthier and technical innovator, as an excellent performer, and certainly as string supplier to the autoharp community, Tom's contributions are legion. Congratulations Tom!
Amy Clarke won the annual Leonard Reid award for the best open-stage performance and I really hope somebody got that on tape. Her peacock song was both clever and very appropriate for the occasion. Thanks to all our open stage performers for sharing their skills and talents with us.
As I have already mentioned, our featured performers did a magnificent job on stage and in their workshops. Our additional workshop leaders: Vicki Lehman, Lucille Reilly, Drew Smith, Cathy Britell, David Wohlgemuth, Chuck Daniels, Eileen Kozloff, and George Orthey complemented the featured performer workshops perfectly. A special thanks to John Hollandsworth for conducting the "boot camp" on Wednesday when Mary Park was unable to attend at the last minute and Karen Daniels did her usual great job in her "Beyond Boot Camp" morning sessions. The soapbox workshops from Doug Pratt, Ann Fisher, and Bob Ebdon were wonderful additions to the mix. Thanks to Ivan Stiles for MC'ing all our concerts. We're now all wondering whether the cat is still hanging on!
Our Vendor's Mall -- which once again included the most wonderful assortment of autoharp luthiers ever assembled in one place -- was a beehive of activity and organized very capably by Gregg Averett ... Mauren Maxwell again deserves our special thanks for donating her reflexology receipts back to the Gathering. Thank you Maureen!
At the risk of repeating myself not only today but from past years, I really want to compliment our volunteers. I've already mentioned the setup and teardown crew, but we also got help in every area: registration, meal support, trash pickup, hall cleanup, silent auction support, et. al. We treasure the total cooperation and freely offered volunteer hours you expended; we couldn't do it without all of you giving of yourselves on-site. Thanks to Erina Fitzgerald once again for her help at the performer sales table. Shirley Averett helped out across the board and there were many people who worked hard on Wednesday assisting Coleen. Rick Fitzgerald and Greg Schreiber were our stage managers. Marti Hudak, who is now officially our MLAG archivist, did her usual excellent job at hospitality. Bob Grappel and Lynda Cohen volunteered to be special hospitality hosts and greeted every new arrival with a welcoming smile. Caleb Daniels was seemingly everywhere helping out and I especially appreciate his help with the concert hall lights. John Dettra and Warren Fisher did some great carpentry on our Contest Plaque and Autoharp Hall of Fame Displays ... John also does yeoman work on the sound board during all of the day and evening activities. I realize I've probably left somebody out of that list but it certainly wasn't intentional. So many people made large and small contributions and I'm willing to bet that many of those contributions were anonymous. They certainly aren't forgotten.
The silent auction was a lot of fun again ... thanks to Cindy Harris for her work there and to all her volunteer staff. Scott Orthey returned to once again win the men's distance award at the autoharp toss. Nancy Sankus, a medalist on several past occasions, won the women's distance award and board member Maggie Dodd won her second medal as the accuracy champ which is now an open competition. Thanks to all of the competitors and volunteers and, of course, to the Grand Poobah himself. Thanks to Robert and Laura Gregg for posting a short video of the Autoharp Toss activities which you may find interesting and illuminating if you've been wondering what that's all about!
We have an envelope full of feedback forms and I will be going over those in the days to come and we will certainly try to respond to your suggestions for improvement. If you didn't have time to fill out the form but would like to make a comment or suggestion anyway, please feel free to contact me by letter to the address below or by E-Mail. Please make the subject "MLAG Feedback" ...
I know that many of you took some great photos and I'd love to get copies for possible use in a WEB site gallery. Please let me know if you have some pictures you'd like to share and we'll talk through the best way to do that ... A special note of congratulations to Michale Poole who was awarded the annual Autoharp Recording Endowment thanks to the generosity of Bob Grappel and Lynda Cohen. We hope to see that new CD at this time next year ... Judy Dugas, last year's recipient of the award, celebrated the release of her new CD "It's About Time" on Saturday during the bazaar. I got my copy and I'm sure Judy has some left if you're interested!
We have some items in the lost and found that I'd like to have reclaimed. These include: a Meg Peterson Tuning CD, 3 pairs of glasses (but not yours, Jean!), 1 Coleman stainless coffee mug, 1 black with red stripes & zipper warmup jacket, 1 pair of sun glasses, 2 bags of finger picks, a long-handled tuning wrench, a blue denim long-sleeved shirt with a logo which we could not identify, a sun visor, a blue MLAG T-Shirt from one of the years at the farm, and a hooded zip sweatshirt.
I'd also like to give Ryan Hulin a special hug. As a first-time attendee, he jumped in with both feet. His enthusiasm was literally infectious! Finally, I'd like to thank our Mountain Laurel board members who selflessly create the MLAG experience for all of us. Kathie Hollandsworth, Gregg (and Shirley!) Averett, Jim Adams, Mike Herr, Coleen Walters, Warren (and Ann!) Fisher, Frank (and Marion!) Baker, George Orthey, Greg (and Deb!) Schreiber, Rick (and Erina!) Fitzgerald and Maggie Dodd were all on site and working tirelessly throughout the Gathering ...
So, on behalf of the Board of the Mountain Laurel Autoharp Gathering, thanks again to each of you who have supported the Gathering in so many ways.
Next year's lineup will include: Ivan Stiles, Eileen Kozloff, Evo Bluestein, Karen Mueller, the Long Ago String Band (Lloyd and Joyce Woods), and Bonnie Phipps. It promises to be another wonderful week.
Thanks to Frank Baker and Don Lavallee for the pictures used on this page. Many more of their photos will be featured on our photos page when I get to it!
I hope I didn't forget anyone. One last big special hug to Coleen for her unstinting support to each and every one of us ... you are the heart and soul of the Gathering and I'm not the only one who thinks so!