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Dirty-South Blues Harp forum: wail on! > HCH vs SPAH
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2300 posts
Feb 02, 2020
7:55 AM
I just received an email touting Hill Country Harmonica as the "#1 Largest Harmonica Gathering in the U.S.".

The Society for the Preservation and Advancement of the Harmonica website claims that "The annual SPAH Convention is America's biggest harmonica party!"

They can't both be the biggest.

Last Edited by timeistight on Feb 02, 2020 8:49 AM
2061 posts
Feb 02, 2020
8:18 AM
The HCH email says "Blues". You left that out.

SPAH is the largest harmonica gathering in the US, but it is multi-genre and multi type of harmonica. SPAH certainly includes blues, but blues is among many harmonica interests represented. Some SPAH attendees are not fans of blues and favor other music. Some don't even care for diatonic harmonica music at all.

HCH is definitely BLUES focused.

There is no contradiction.

Both are outstanding harmonica events. Choose between blues focus at HCH or mixed genre at SPAH.

Or maybe you could attend both?

Doug S.
2301 posts
Feb 02, 2020
8:23 AM
So I did. I totally missed that.

My apologies.
2062 posts
Feb 02, 2020
9:16 AM
When I read the HCH email I initially thought, "What???"

Then I read it again and saw the word "blues".

Doug S.
2302 posts
Feb 02, 2020
9:46 AM
That's what I did, too, except I didn't even notice the word "blues" when I copied out the headline.

Perception is weird.
1667 posts
Feb 02, 2020
11:08 AM
Differences in focus aside, I'm wondering what the numbers are for HCH. SPAH is about 500.

Big is good if you're looking for a socializing event and free-form interaction in a bazaar-like setting, which SPAH does brilliantly. But perhaps not so much if you're looking for a highly focused teaching and learning environment. Jason Ricci and I designed the Harmonica Collective to be small, with room for individual attention in both class and one-on-one formats, and a mostly intermediate-to-advanced level, though we also designed it to help less advanced players as well.

We're doing the next one in Sanford, Florida, in mid-March:

Harmonica lessons with one of the world's foremost experts
Check out my blog and other goodies at winslowyerxa.com
Harmonica For Dummies, Second Edition with tons of new stuff
Harmonica Collective Spring Gathering March 19-21
SPAH 2020 convention in Saint Louis, August 11-15

Last Edited by WinslowYerxa on Feb 02, 2020 11:10 AM
2064 posts
Feb 02, 2020
11:44 AM
Harmonica Collective is another outstanding event. I like HarmoniCollege, too! And Todd has the N.C. event. And there are others, too!

Between all these events, YouTube, internet forums, Winslow's books and other books, and websites offering harmonica knowledge we are in a golden age of information sharing about harmonica. Things have changed a lot since all I had was Tony Glovers book and records.

Doug S.
6629 posts
Feb 02, 2020
12:11 PM
As the founding director of HCH, I can give you numbers of registrants.

2010: 85
2011: 135
2012: 106

I don't know the precise numbers in 2018 and 2019, but I think they were something like 85 and 65. Sean O'Phelan ran the 2018 event with Jeff and me overseeing; the 2019 event was pretty much entirely in Annette Hollowell's control, and several things that should have been taken care of in a timely way--things I warned about, like putting out a specific list of who was teaching what--were issued much later than optimal. So it was a terrific event in every respect, but attendance was notably down.

I'm pretty sure that I came up with the "largest blues harmonica event" line, probably after 2011's epic crowd. And yes, I was and am well aware that SPAH, which covers a wide range of harmonica idioms, is much larger.

But there's something about an all-blues harmonica event that creates a specific kind of energy, and that energy is increased by having it outdoor, in warmish weather, in Mississippi.

So, no fake news here! But, to be honest, the higher prices this year will almost certainly keep attendance below that 90-to-110 registrant thing that made those early HCH events feel special. By the same token, the lineup this year, which is all Phil Wiggins's doing, not only has some marquee names like Aki Kumar (who absolutely killed last year) and Phil (ditto), but people who don't often make it to this sort of event, like Wally Coleman, who used to play with Robert Jr. Lockwood. So I'm sure it will be great. As anybody who came in 2019 can attest, Annette is a great MC; she made things flow.

As I noted in an email blast that I just sent out, Jeff and I gave the event to Annette, free and clear--and were happy to do so, because it's a lot of work, special as it is, and there's more competition these days.

Now I get to drive 20 miles north from Oxford and just hang out and have fun. I'm not on the schedule this year, and I may be out of town with the family, but if I'm in town, I'll certainly come and hang out and just enjoy myself for the first time, with zero responsibilities. What's not to like?

Beyond the Crossroads: The Devil and the Blues Tradition

Last Edited by kudzurunner on Feb 02, 2020 12:14 PM
3515 posts
Feb 02, 2020
4:33 PM
I plan going to HCH in may but this will be last trip.....its much more expensive than SPAH......that being said,its been great event.....only missed it in 2011 but I just cannot afford to keep going at $350 entry fee
176 posts
Feb 07, 2020
1:47 PM
I plan to attend again. Will miss Jason and Adam, but enjoy the setting and hosts and always learn a lot and have a tremendous experience. ~ Marty
Twitter ~ BossoBrewingCo
Soundcloud: http://soundcloud.com/bag-5
YouTube Channe: SummitPorter
177 posts
Feb 18, 2020
9:43 AM
I just registered and paid for Hill Country Harmonica! Looking forward to it!
Marty Henschel
Twitter ~ BossoBrewingCo
Soundcloud: http://soundcloud.com/bag-5
YouTube Channe: SummitPorter
1743 posts
Feb 21, 2020
10:09 PM
I don't look at HCH the same way as I would spah.

The first 3 HCHs were epic events that had their own magic.
They had their own time and place and amazing performances.
If you were there - you know what I am talking about.

Adam and Jeff put together something fantastic in a great place. Those 3 events will always have a place in my heart and grounding in my musical development. Sometimes you just gotta be there.

I have been to one other after the first round of three, and while still awesome, lacked a certain intensity and spark that the first 3 had.

It is like trying to do Woodstock again, it just doesn't have the same meaning as it did the first time.

Saying that, I would go again in a second if my schedule allowed. I think Annette will do a fantastic job. I'd go just to hang out with the Hollowells anyway. It is just a great musical place to be.

I have not been to spah, but I understand what it is. I've spoken with people who have been, watched the amazing videos, etc. I'm sure there are plenty of epic performances and teaching. I'm sure it will go on like that for a long time.

They are just not the same type of thing to compare.

I will always be grateful for Adam putting it together in Mississippi. It made a difference.


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