Tulsa will be a harmonica haven when the Society for the Preservation and Advancement of the Harmonica (SPAH) holds its 56th annual convention Aug. 13-17 at the Hyatt Regency. Over 500 musicians, enthusiasts, teachers and vendors are expected to attend.
The Nick Moss Band featuring Dennis Gruenling will headline the Thursday night show, with Mo Vint’s Harmonicats closing the Saturday night banquet.
Gruenling, a harmonica wizard, and Moss, a blues guitar virtuoso, have been on a winning streak since they joined forces in 2016, according to a news release. With relentless nonstop touring and the release of their Alligator Records debut (The High Cost Of Low Living) in 2018, The Nick Moss Band Featuring Dennis Gruenling has been playing for fans and winning over critics and radio programmers worldwide. Debuting at No. 3 on the Billboard Blues Chart, the album topped many 2018 “best of” lists.
Mo Vint leads America's most popular harmonica trio, according to the news release, and they continue to play old favorite arrangements of the original Harmonicats, who started in 1947.
Registration is open daily, starting Tuesday afternoon before opening ceremonies at 3:30 p.m. that will feature music by local swing band The Round Up Boys.
Starting on Wednesday morning, the convention offers over 50 seminars and workshops, teach-ins, vendor displays, jams and open mic sessions, plus afternoon performances.
Evening concerts start at 7 p.m. each day and will feature world-class performers. The convention culminates on Saturday evening with a gala awards banquet and concert. Daily, evening show and full convention tickets are available to the public.
Along with the Nick Moss Band featuring Dennis Gruenling and Mo Vint’s Harmonicats, performers will include Scottish Celtic star Donald Black, the Tom Stryker Big Band, Rob Roy Parnell, Deak Harp, The Ozark Highballers featuring Seth Shumate and many more.
“SPAH is very pleased to return to Tulsa where we were made so welcome in 2017," SPAH president Michael D’Eath said. "Tulsa is such a vibrant city, and the local community has been incredibly supportive. We are excited to bring world-class harmonica music and education for all ages back to Tulsa."
Local youth are invited to attend the SPAH Youth Outreach, a free program sponsored by Hohner and Seydel, held on Friday morning and Saturday morning. Each youth will receive a free harmonica and a boxed lunch. At 10 a.m. Friday, renowned performer and educator Joe Filisko will teach area youths. At 10:30 a.m. Saturday, SPAH youth leadership will combine forces with an instructor to introduce local youths to the harmonica, sharing how music changed each of their lives and teaching youths how to play.
Local fans should mark Wednesday evening and Saturday morning on their calendars. The Wednesday evening concert is open to locals at no charge, and features Yvonnick Prené, LC Williams and The Driver, plus many local and national performers. Likewise, the Gospel showcase (10 a.m. Saturday) is free to the public and features world-class performers.
In addition to the concerts, spontaneous jam sessions and impromptu performances occur throughout each day and evening — on stages, in lounges, on patios, and in hallways — by performers ranging from pre-teens to octogenarians. Attendees may perform daily at the open mic stage near the hotel lobby. After the evening concerts, jamming starts up again, with blues, jazz, country, gospel and bluegrass circles springing up around the convention late into the night.
The convention offers a wide range of education, including a daily “teach-in” led by Filisko, with a wide range of playing and performing, as well as instrument customization and repair. The vendor display is open daily and showcases products from around the world, with harmonicas, tools, equipment and accessories for sale.
Tickets can be purchased at the convention registration desk at the Hyatt for the full convention, for a single day, for the Saturday banquet/show and for some evening shows ($15, $10 for 25 & under, $20 for non-members). SPAH membership is not required. Full convention registration is also available on the SPAH website (www.spah.org). All tickets are subject to capacity.
There will not be any “show-only” tickets for Friday’s show. Friday night is for convention attendees only — full convention or day convention attendees.