Southern Alberta’s ‘Harmonica Rascal’ gains online attention during COVID-19 pandemic

Picture Butte, Alta., man Floyd Barto has played the harmonica his entire life.

“I’m known here in the Lethbridge area as the ‘Harmonica Rascal,’” the 84-year-old said. “I started when I was five — my dad’s cousin gave me a harmonica and I’ve been playing it ever since.”

Barto went on to perform professionally for about 30 years in Edmonton.

Now, for the first time, Floyd is gracing social media with his outstanding harmonica skills, and the response has blown him away.

Read more: Big-name music artists taking performances online during coronavirus pandemic

“Oh, it’s amazing,” Barto said. “The first one I did I think I got 1.4 thousand people watching, it was amazing. I mean, that’s a lot of people.”

Story continues below advertisement

His repertoire includes more than 30 classics from memory.

“[It’s] a little of everything,” he explained. “A little Elvis, Johnny Cash, things like that.”

Barto said his wife Wendy gave him the push to post videos of him playing on YouTube and Facebook.

[ Sign up for our Health IQ newsletter for the latest coronavirus updates ]

“I was like, ‘Why don’t you play a song a day?’” Wendy said. “Let’s post it on your Facebook and let’s do it for October.”

Floyd Barto plays his harmonica. Barto has been posting videos of himself playing to Facebook and YouTube for others to enjoy.
Floyd Barto plays his harmonica. Barto has been posting videos of himself playing to Facebook and YouTube for others to enjoy. Global New/Emily Olsen

Wendy said the isolation of COVID-19 restrictions has been especially hard on her husband.

“He loves people and loves to be with them, loves to be performing, loves to play his harmonica,” she said. “And he used to live for those times when he had gigs coming up.”

Story continues below advertisement

Multiple people have reached out to share their appreciation for his virtual gigs.

“[They say], ‘Thanks Floyd. Thanks for making my day,’” he smiled. “You get quite a few comments.”

One of the commenters is Lethbridge music teacher Susan Nieboer.

“Music speaks to people. It just does,” Nieboer said. “It just washes over you and I just really believe people need that.”

Read more: Why social media is a ‘missed opportunity’ as coronavirus spreads among young people

She said Barto’s gift has provided more than just entertainment.

“It’s inspiring for me as a teacher when I see that too. It keeps me going and I use him as a role model with my younger students.”

Barto said he intends to continue to post his harmonica videos online.

“I just hope that, because everybody seems to be feeling sad because they are home — I think if anything, it’ll brighten their day,” he said.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

View Source