In 1967, the famous harmonica virtuoso Tommy Reilly went to a silver smith at Covent Garden, London to commission a new chromatic harmonica made out of silver.
He talked about it in the following podcast dating back to 1973 (starting at 12:40):
At that time the Silver Concerto harmonica was one of a kind. It was essentially a Chromonica II (3 octave, 12 hole instrument) made out of solid silver.
In Uwe Warschkow’s book “Harmonica Lessons with Tommy Reilly”, Reilly remembers the following:
“I always had the idea of a silver harmonica. Silver seemed to me the best material for it as it had proved its worth on the flutes. “
“The final impetus was that Robert Farnon composed for me ‘Prelude and Dance’. This work was both technically and musically so demanding, that I came to the conclusion that I can’t meet these demands with a standard ‘Hohner 270’.”
“After getting the prototype from the silversmith, Douglas Tate, then a student of mine, helped me a lot with his technical skills to get it perfect. The result was an excellent instrument. From this time I only played on this instrument. It did not only sound better, it also gave the harmonica more prestige, as it became evident when I met and talked with conductors and orchestra members at rehearsals, recordings, and concerts. They all played expensive instruments. Beforehand, I often had the impression that for them the harmonica was considered more or less as a toy, and then they were surprised that I was able to make music with it. That had changed now.”
Hohner Silver Concert
Reilly continues, “… at one of my next visits to Trossingen I showed my new harmonica to the Hohner management and suggested to include it into their product range. They hesitated. I had the feeling that they did not want it, but would not like to say no. When I told them, which was a fact, that also Yamaha was interested in buying the product license, they changed their minds. Yamaha? Under no circumstances!”
“Finally we made a contract and my development became a Hohner product and is known now as the ‘Hohner Silver Concerto’.”
Polle Concert Harmonica
Georg Pollestad was never quite satisfied with the sound of a mass-produced harmonica. After a concert in 1980 Sigmund Groven let him have a closer look at his ‘Hohner Silver Concerto’. Then he told Sigmund that he is going to build such an instrument himself. As Sigmund told us later, he had thought, this man is crazy. However a year later, before a concert he presented his first self-made harmonica to Sigmund. Sigmund was surprised and so pleased with the quality of the instrument that he presented Georg Pollestad and his new harmonica to the audience, and played some pieces on the instrument.
Since then, Georg Pollestad has continuously improved his first harmonica in close collaboration with Tommy Reilly and Sigmund Groven. Today, the ‘Polle Concert Harmonica’ is renowned throughout the world, and is played by famous soloists and harmonica enthusiasts. The instrument is made of pure silver and is absolutely airtight. Some of the major improvements include:
• specially shaped air channels in the body, resulting in a warm and rounded sound,
• a slide system that due to the minimal contact points is absolutely silent and does not stick,
• a mouthpiece with specially shaped holes and small engraved lines on both sides. The lines, also on the front of the covers, support gliding the instrument along the lips.
• LCD thermometer to determine correct play temperature
• two-screw quick change reed plate removal system
George Pollestad has so much love for detail. Nowadays, he even builds the harmonica comb out of two separate silver blocks he then solders together. This way he can hollow out all excess silver in order to reduce weight.
Polle quick change reed plate removal system (courtesy Owen Ho)
Recently, Georg Pollestad started to manufacture his own line of titanium reed plates. Using titanium decreases the tolerance between the reeds and reed plate and therefore increasing the reed response.
Until today, the Polle concert chromatic is considered the Rolls-Royce of all harmonicas.