Jefferson County music man going for world harmonica record in Seattle

All he needs is 852.

That’s the number of harmonica players Andy Mackie hopes will join him in Seattle during his new world record attempt to gather the largest harmonica band.

And with the four-day Northwest Folklife Festival that attracts more than 275,000 visitors and participants, “that would be a piece of cake,” says Michael Herschensohn, Folklife executive director.

Mackie, a Quilcene resident, says he hopes to assemble his mighty harp-blowing band at 6 p.m. Sunday at the Fisher Green Stage at Seattle Center.

To reach the Guinness Book of World Records high mark, harmonica enthusiasts agreed to drone out “When the Saints Go Marching In.”

With the gospel tune rocking the Stage, Mackie says he hopes to keep his mouth-organ musicians playing for at least 20 minutes.

Live over Internet

Event organizers plan to broadcast the world record breaking attempt live over the Internet to allow other harmonica lovers to enjoy the spectacle or play in “virtual” participation.

Robert Force, faculty member of Washington State University’s Jefferson County Extension branch, says he wants to help Mackie in his quest for world fame by broadcasting it through a Web site to be announced.

A Guinness book representative is expected to attend the event to verify the number of participants, which is the most challenging task, Force said.

“As people become involved playing music, then they become contributors rather than being consumers,” said Force, while explaining the significance of Mackie’s undertaking.

“Even if it starts with a simple harmonica, the thirst for more education starts in your back yard.”

Festival organizers also embraced Mackie’s idea for the largest harmonica band.

“It’s a big deal because music and making music together builds community,” said Herschensohn.

“And if we can get hundreds and hundreds of adults and children making music together, we are bonding them and bringing them to a broader commonality of human experience.”

The Folklife festival begins today under the banner of “Generation to Generation: Passing On Our Traditions.”

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