Johnson teaches children to play combs

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Kathryn Tucker Windham wasn’t sure exactly how a comb concert would go over at the Christmas storytelling concert at the We Piddle Around Theater in Brundidge earlier this month.

“People don’t know much about playing combs but I want us to have a comb concert and play Christmas carols,” Windham said.

Near the end of the storytelling concert, Windham instructed that plastic combs and wax paper be passed out to the audience. Then, she showed the audience how to place the wax paper against the comb and make music by gently humming (blowing) the tune onto the instrument.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

The comb concerts were a great success. The humming tickled the lips – and the funny bones – of the musicians and brought back memories for many and created new ones for others.

And, on the front row, humming and huffing, was Agnes Johnson, a great admirer of Alabama’s supreme storyteller.

“It may be hard to believe but I had never played the comb before,” Johnson said, laughing. “I grew up in Castleberry and if you blinked you missed it. I guess playing the combs was too uptown for us.”

So, having never played before and not being able to “carry a tune in a bucket,” Johnson was a bit hesitant.

“But once I got the hang of playing the comb it was a lot of fun,” she said. “And, I was pretty good at it. It was a real treat to play in one of Kathryn Windham’s comb concerts.”

The opportunity was one that Johnson said she will always remember and treasure.

She realized, too, that most young people have never had the fun of playing combs.

They had never been introduced to the folksy music.

So, Johnson decided to provide a musical experience for Linda Smith’s first grade class at Troy Elementary School where she is a volunteer.

“These children had never heard of playing the combs and they all had a lot of fun,” Johnson said. “It’s a simple instrument that even a child can make with a comb and a piece of paper. Hopefully, they will all go home and show their parents and other members of their families that they will enjoy playing the combs, too.” Following Windham’s lead, a lot of combs will be played in and around Pike County during the holidays. Several teachers will play combs in their classrooms this week. A couple of ladies’ clubs will enjoy making music with combs and some people have said they will introduce their children and grandchildren to the art of making music with combs.

A Christmas comb concert that began at the We Piddle Around Theater in Brundidge is now being heard in the hallowed halls of schools all around the county and in many places that we’ll know not where, Johnson said.

“We’ve got Kathryn Windham to thank for this special gift at Christmastime.”