Mike Fenton brings autoharping across the pond
World class autoharping came to Huntley when British harper Mike Fenton performed a house concert on May 18. On his way to the California Autoharp Gathering, Mike stopped for a few days in the Chicago area to adjust to jet lag, pursue leads for upcoming articles about ‘50s musicians, and, if possible, have a concert.
It was handy for Diane and David Aitken who hosted Fenton’s visit and concert. Thirty attendees gathered from Wisconsin and Illinois in the Aitkens’ “lower level loft library” to be entertained and dazzled by Mike’s incredible autoharp technique, his musicianship and his comfortable performing style.
The audience included autoharp performers and enthusiasts as well as people who had no idea the instrument was capable being played with such virtuosity. “Educational” was one word used to describe the evening, as well as deserved “amazing” and “wow” type superlatives.
The program included a variety of songs – from Turlough O’Carolan tunes to “Grandfather’s Clock,” “Bells of St. Marys,” “Since I Met You Baby” and Robert Schumann’s “Of Foreign Land and People.”
Several of Fenton’s own compositions were also played. He was joined by Diane on flute on his “Polly Swallow,” “Hawker’s Dream,” and the hauntingly beautiful O’Carolan tune “Eleanor Plunkett.” They also performed “Keep on the Sunny Side” with Diane on autoharp and Fenton playing classical guitar like a dobro.
“Could we possibly have had more fun? No, not likely,” one guest said, summing up the evening.