He didn’t play the blues — or the Romantics

Works of Bach, Handel, Mozart and Debussy were among the transcriptions scheduled for harmonica virtuoso John Sebastian’s concert at Christ Church Methodist in Glens Falls, but no works of Schumann, Brahms or Chopin.

“My instrument does not have the lush sentimental tone so necessary in ‘Romanic’ music,” Sebastian told Post-Star music writer Brunnhilde Decker McCune, for a column published Nov. 1, 1946. “The harmonica can be plaintive, pastoral, ascetic, gay, whimsical — but never ‘romantic’ in the true sense of the word.”

The Nov. 1 concert, the first in the annual Community Concert Series, was sold out in advance.

Sebastian, a soloist and composer who preferred “long-haired music” to typical harmonica styles, had a regular radio program on the NBC Blue Network, The Post-Star reported on Oct. 31.

He recorded for G. Schirmer Inc., and had performed with Leonard Bernstein, The Philadelphia Orchestra and at Radio City Music Hall.

Sebastian toured with a collection of harmonicas valued at $10,000 — the equivalent of $128,170 in 2021 dollars.

The concert received a rave review.

“No wonder that the New York press has called him ‘amazing’ and a ‘genius,’” The Post-Star reported on Nov. 5. “He plays on his chosen instrument works, transcribed from old and new masters, with a fluency of technic and a variation of tone which is truly remarkable. He is a true musician.”

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Freelance history writer and documentary film producer from Ticonderoga, NY