April 28, 2010

Southern Maryland Harp Competition Results

It was a “fine soft day” in Southern Maryland, characteristic of changeable spring. And while authentic, the weather was not perfect for a bustling Celtic Festival. But the Southern Maryland Celtic Society Festival went on. And stalwart harp players came out to share their music with an enthusiastic audience.

Judge Jo Morrison adjudicated the competition, sanctioned by Scottish Harp Society for the first time. She also provided an excellent concert with Port Righ before the competition and a workshop as well. They used the opportunity not only to delight the audience with great tunes but also to educate them on the music, the instruments, and the Celtic nations themselves. Jo also delivered a wonderful workshop – increasing everyone’s Strathspey repertoire by one!

The competition was well attended and the competitors all played very well. Results:

Beginner 1st Place: Marilyn Newman

Novice 1st Place: Donna Bennett

2nd Place: Mary Abbott

Journeyman 1st Place: Caroline Kemper

2nd Place: Mike Connors

Harper of the Day: Mary Abbott

In addition we were very pleased to have this competition selected as a venue to award a Scholarship to Somerset Folk Harp Festival. This scholarship supports an Apprentice Harper to participate in the Festival this summer. The winner of this coveted scholarship was Donna Bennett - although she entered her first competition at the Novice Category, she performed solidly at the Apprentice level.

Also special thank you to our Prizes Sponsor – Virginia Harp Center. All our competitors received incredible prizes in addition to medals and the traditional Southern Maryland etched glass mugs.

April 18, 2010

2010 Southern Maryland Celtic Festival Harp Competition

Annual Celtic Harp Competition at the 
Southern Maryland Celtic Festival

This is the first year that this competition is sanctioned by the SCOTTISH HARP SOCIETY OF AMERICA (SHSA). We are excited to have Jo Morrison as our Judge. Jo is nationally known for her evocative interpretation of Scottish and Irish music on the harp. She frequently performs with the Celtic duo, Port Righ, featuring harp and shuttle pipe, the Highland Pipe's quieter cousin. The duo has performed concerts at locations such as the An Lanntair, Library of Congress, Somerset Harp Festival, the Smithsonian, various Scottish Festivals around the United States and also in Scotland, Ireland, and Germany.

When not performing, Jo teaches privately, in classes and in workshops, and composes and arranges Celtic music for the Celtic harp. She is currently Vice-President for the Washington Area Folk Harp Society and has previously served as Competition Chair and Board Member for the Scottish Harp Society of America. She teaches at Common Ground on the Hill in Westminster, MD and taught at the Ohio Scottish Arts School, the Somerset Harp Festival, and various workshops around the country.

Jo's musical gifts shine in her solo recordings which will be available at the Harp venue. On her debut album, The Three Musics, A Waulking Tour of Scotland, Christmas Gifts, By Request and Flights of Fantasy. She has published three popular collections of harp arrangements, "The Three Musics of the Celtic Harp", "The Morrison Scottish Repertoire Book", and "The Beginning Harper's Tunebook," which is rapidly becoming a standard for beginning folk harpers.

Jo is a Certified Music Practitioner providing therapeutic music at the bedside of the ill or dying and. She lives near Westminster, MD, with her husband Wayne and their four African Grey Parrots. She is available for any type of event, gives scholarly lectures on the history, folklore, and music of the Celtic harp and gives Celtic harp lessons privately and at workshops. For more information or to book see her website www.triharpskel.com.

Our Prize Sponsor is the Virginia Harp Center (THANK YOU!)

And we have the special privilege of being selected to award the:

2010 SOMERSET FOLK HARP FESTIVAL SCHOLARSHIP PRIZE awarded to the winner* at the Apprentice level. The recipient will receive a full festival registration package to study harp in the comprehensive Celtic studies track at the Somerset Folk Harp Festival. 2010 marks the 10th year for the Somerset Folk Harp Festival – an exciting, eclectic conference for all folk harp players. Join in the continuing tradition of bringing the harp community together for a festival showcasing the diversity of music, talent and experience of the folk harp world. Whether you want to focus on one style or type of music, solidify some specific skills, or try out something new, the breadth of the 2010 workshop offerings is sure to expand your musical horizon. The vendor and exhibitor mall is a key attraction – allowing participants so see many vendors and loads of products all in a single area!

April 15, 2010

Was learning cursive really necessary?

Do you feel like learning cursive as a child was a waste of your time? I know that when I was being forced to learn it, I did think it was stupid. Often now, with pen in hand, I think back on that hatred of those lessons – and see how wrong I was.

And now, when I look at my penmanship, I see more than ink. I see my development as a person. I see what I feel is important to me. I see how I have changed as I’ve grown up. I see that I’m in a hurry!

Many of us only write with a pen to make lists of things to do or to pay bills. But still, the writing we learned as children really has stayed with us. For all the angst we underwent, we have the product – something we use daily. But even then, we don’t focus on the positives that come from learning something we don’t want to do.

Just like when we’re working on our music. We have to focus, even on the things that aren’t fun. Or those things that don’t seem to relate directly to anything else that we think are important. But there’s really something to be gained by pursuing “learning the cursive” of our music.

So today, I suggest you pull out something you don’t do because it’s not fun - the “Brussels sprouts” of our practice (this is a bad analogy as I love Brussels sprouts, but many do not). Whether it is making your own exercise of a trouble spot, doing the lessons in a primer or sitting and working with Mde. Grossi, channel all that hatred of cursive but this time, with the wisdom of what you gain from that practice.

April 7, 2010

Fear Factor

We all want to grow (I don’t mean taller or around the middle). We are typically not satisfied to simply maintain what we have achieved – we want to become better. We don’t like to stand still.

It is said that the only way to grow and develop is to be challenged. Another way to say challenged is to say “scared”. We can use our fear to help us grow and develop. We have to cultivate our Fear Factor.

One way to experience the fear of challenge to achieve that growth is to make ourselves uncomfortable. Try something new. Do something different. How different, new, or uncomfortable? We’ll that’s up to you. What is new, different or uncomfortable? It could be a new piece of music. It could be a new style of music. It could be a new instrument. It could be practicing at a different time of day. It could be learning to foxtrot. It could be deciding to run a marathon. It’s your fear and your desire to grow – you decide the size and shape of the challenge.

Any challenge that is within your ability to take on will make you feel alive (whether its scaling Mt. Humongous or speaking to someone you do not know). And of course, the more often you challenge yourself (in large and small ways), the easier it becomes to surmount the fear and take on the challenge. (See, even taking on your fear takes practice!).

It’s up to you – you have to know yourself and then decide the best way for you to add a challenge to your life. Are you going to let fear keep you from achieving your best performance? To keep you from playing that arrangement? To keep you from composing that tune? Why would you? Leverage that fear and take on the challenge – and watch yourself grow! And let me know – I’d love to hear from you.