Uwe Warschkow, harmonica

Prologue

Dear harmonica friends,

to get  an idea of my book about Tommy Reilly, it can help you to read the first chapter:

Prologue

As time goes by and new generations come, who can remember Tommy Reilly?

Those who are fascinated by the harmonica, will of course know his name and perhaps own one or another of his CDs. But who can recall the full spectrum of his work that has won for the humble harmonica a place on the great concert stages. Who can remember his great musicianship that has convinced numerous composers to write works for him and his harmonica, performed with renowned conductors and orchestras throughout the world? Who experienced him as an excellent teacher of his instrument?

I had the great fortune to get to know him well. He has enriched my life in uncountable ways. For more than twenty years, until his passing away in 2000, I visited him and his wife Ena regularly – at least once a year – for a week-long stay at their enchanting countryside residence ‚Hammonds Wood’ in Frensham. Frensham is a dreamy little village in the heart of Surrey, the beautiful countryside west of London. Through his teaching I not only learned much of the fantastic musical possibilities of the harmonica, but also gained a deep insight into what music really can give us. Over time we became close friends. This friendship I will always remember with great gratitude.

What kind of man was Tommy Reilly? What shaped his personality? What difficulties did he have to overcome until his worldwide recognition as a great musician? Who along this path were his closest musical associates? With this book I will attempt to hold his memory alive. I am aware that I am not able to do so perfectly. When I first met Tommy Reilly in 1978, he was nearly 50 years of age and already a musician of world renown, and still very active. About the the many years of his prior career I can only report through second-hand information, as related by himself or his friends, in particular Sigmund Groven and James Moody. Therefore I can give only a subjective picture, as I knew him.

I will also describe, based on my own experiences as his longtime student, Tommy Reilly‘s method of teaching classical harmonica. In contrast to all the classical instruments, for which a widely accepted educational tradition has been developed over the centuries, this is not the case for such a young instrument as the harmonica. There still exist a variety of views about the “right” way of learning to play the harmonica. The main reason appears to be the often observed self-isolation of harmonica players who tend to keep among themselves and thus fail to look beyond the limits of their own instrument.

Not so Tommy Reilly and his long-time associate James Moody, who always stuck to the invaluable credo,

„Use any opportunity to play together with other instruments, preferably with good musicians, listen to them and learn from them for your own playing.“