Jean Labre (photos M. Vicent-Roubert)All the Harmonicas
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World Championships and World Competitions Story
The harmonica is the best-known and most popular instrument in the world. That's why it was desirable and even necessary to create an organisation which will bring adepts together on an international basis.
The originators of this idea met in Trossingen on October 2nd and 3rd 1950 and representatives of no less than ten different countries took part in the Constitutive Meeting. These countries were : Belgium, France, Eire, Germany, North Africa , North Ireland, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland and UK.
It was agreed to found the FIH (Fédération Internationale de l'Harmonica) .
The assembly examinated the project statutes, and then the project was unanimously adopted.
One of the essential FIH tasks is to promote harmonica in the international spheres of music. An appropriate work plan had been decided during the assembly. It included advertising for recruitment, the foundation of national organizations and preparation of World Harmonica Championships...

The first World Harmonica Championships took place in Duisbourg (Germany) 1953, followed by Strasbourg (France) in 1954, Winterthur 1955, Rotterdam 1956 (Holland), Luxembourg 1957, Pallanza (Italy) 1958, Innsbruck (Switzerland) 1959, Barcelona (Spain) 1960, Strasbourg (France) 1963, Delph (Holland) 1965, Karlsruhe (Germany) 1967), Winterthur (Switzerland) 1969, Eindhoven (Holland) 1971, Ypress (Belgium) 1973, Offenbourg (Germany) 1975. People generally admits that during that period the championships were more european than worldwide because of an inadequate international communication.

Then, a crossing desert period succeeded to this first period (a few european competitions, more often in Germany, excepted).

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Eighties and nineties will give a new world dimension to the World Harmonica championships, due to the creation of the IHO (International Harmonica Organisation) founded by Peter Janssen, Holland (President), and Norm Dobson, USA (Vice-President), associated to FIH !
After these events things have changed... People coming from everywhere have now a chance to win a medal in a real world championship, for instance : Chong Ah Kow (Malaysia) who wan a gold medal in Trossingen (1989).

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In 1990 Jean Labre, France Harmonica Founder President, joined IHO. He became IHO Vice President for Europe and also IHO ambassador, in association with, for the Far East Area, with Yasuharu Mano (Japan Vice President) who made a very good job, rallying to IHO 7 countries (China, South Korea, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan).

FIH and IHO decided to organize International Championships to each his turn, every two years.
One year in Trossingen, the following year in a country chosen by IHO.
The championships have been organised since 1991 in the following countries :
Detroit (USA) 1991, Trossingen (Germany) 1993, Yokohama (Japan) 1995, Trossingen 1997, Bournemouth "Millenium Festival"(UK) 2000, Trossingen 2001 (that year FIH took back the hand, in full agreement with IHO, for organizing the Championships every four years). Consequently the last championships (2005) have been organized in Trossingen.


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The competition jury is made of a representation of harmonica players and musicians coming from everywhere around the world, who, during 4 days, have to do a considerable work, to decide, with impartiality, between hundreds of competitors, divided in 10 (or more) categories.
I have been jury member for 25 years. People have generally a confused approach to the member of a jury role . I'm giving you here more information concerning the work of a world championship jury:

The jury is made up of qualified adjudicators. They have been appointed by the festival organization. The organization committee is supervising the jury. The jury in each category is made of at least generally three members. They elect a foreman. The adjudicators are responsible for evaluating the entries according to the guidelines stated in the regulations. The juror decision is strictly confidential and final. Each adjudicator member is obliged to attend the juror's meeting before, during and after the competition in order to discuss procedure and evaluate entries.
The criteriums for the notation of the competitors generally are :
1/ MEMORY : secure, choice of the piece
2/ ACCURACY : knowledge of music, notes, cleanliness, phrasing, dynamics, legato, staccato
3/ RHYTHM :continuity, correctness of beat/count, tempo
4/ TECHNIC : holding of the harmonica, tongue blocking, puckering, breath control, tonguing, intonation, vibrato : hand, throat, lip
5/ MUSICIANSHIP/MUSICALITY : interpretation, style, tone quality, articulation, appropriate tempo,
6/ GENERAL EFFECT : stage presence, appearance, poise attitude, body position, music too easy, difficult
Rating : points are given by the adjudicator on a personal rating sheet (the preceeding 6 points were the criteriums selected for the 1991 Detroit Championships). (photo : Trossingen World Championships 2005 : Naoko Takeuchi/Japan, Michal Gronich/Israël, J.Labre, adjudicators)

Consequently, the taste and the appreciation of the public, the spectators, will never be the same to the ones of the adjudicators. It's technically impossible. People are noticing it constantly in all public shows and contests.
Never the less, we ought to have confidence in our championships adjudicators, they fully deserve it.

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Others World Competitions
The success of the World Championships has created a dynamic all over the world and given the idea of organizing competitions on the same concept to different countries.
Particulary in the far East, where countries are very much engaged in musical education... competition spirit at the key, often from the primary school !
In these countries, medias are very interested in this cultural and very popular phenomenon and consequently... sponsors also !
That is the reason why the Asia World Festival is holding the maximum score concerning visitors, for instances :
— 2002, 26.000 entrances registered in the Atsugi (Japan) 4th Asia Festival.
— 2010, 2530 competitors registred in the 8th Singapore Festival Championships.

You must not think that we are in front of a number of visitors competition between West and Far East... on the contrary, you must realise that now, there is a positive and efficient complementarity, for the best of the future of our Harmonica Planet.

Trossingen 2009

The "rendez-vous" is already taken. Don't miss this out of the common traditional event.
Like the Big Canyon or the Taj Mahal, Trossingen cannot be described. It's like a pilgrimage, lived intensely and kept engraved forever in one's memory.

Photos : IHO, Swaran Singh Arri, AJHF
Published March 4th 2008


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