July 28, 2010

Are we there yet?

In less than six weeks we launch Harping in the Highlands and Islands! I was already excited, but now, it’s palpable. I am really looking forward to seeing the beautiful scenery (I’m partial to water, but I also like towns, mountains, fields, valleys (straths and glens!), people…yup, pretty much all of it.

I have been working on the tunes we’ll share – arranging, re-arranging, and re-re-arranging until they are just right for the people that will be with us. We will be a small but merry band. And I am especially proud of the traveler who will be learning not just the music but also the harp! She’s intrepid and I’m so excited to have her along with us. I think she’ll help us focus on the wonder of our gifts. You know how it is when you’re learning tunes – you sometimes forget to revel in the joy of making the music – but I expect we’ll stay grounded.

I am also sorry that so many of you couldn’t join us this year. It has been a challenging time for so many people. I wish I could take you all. But never fear – everything will come around – and soon. So keep watching this space – we’ll go again next year and I hope you’ll join us. If you’d like to go then, please send me a comment letting me know when in the year you’d like to go (we’re still in the planning stages for next year but are considering more summer times – so if that’s a better time for you, just let me know and I’ll see what I can do!) .

We’ll be posting photos and comments as we go, so be sure to check in. And I’ll be back next week with more about playing and the amazing music of Scotland.

July 21, 2010

Practicing can be a pain in the...

Many of us play the harp (or any instrument for that matter) for the pleasure it brings us, the joy we can share, and for the relaxation it affords us, especially in tense times.

And because so many of us play for fun, we often play only in fits and starts, sitting down for the two minutes we're waiting for the microwave to beep or the few moments between putting the last load into the washer but before the previous load finishes in the drier.  They are stolen moments.

And unfortunately, because they are stolen moments, we are sloppy with them - we plop on the bench, grab the harp, and blast through whatever piece of music comes to mind.  We don't prepare, we don't breathe,and  we don't assure our posture is good, our backs straight, our heads up, lengthened through the spine, relaxed but composed.  We're too busy trying to bang through the tune!  We don't have time for all that posture stuff.

Well, we need to make time for that.  Improper sitting, poor posture, slumped spines, feet not on the floor, craned necks, tense hands contribute to two potential outcomes - one hurts us in the short term ("gink" your back because you sat twisted?) and the other hurts us in the long term (if you always practice that way, you will have practiced yourself into a habit which you will have to work hard to reverse).   And we don't want practicing or playing to hurt our backs or to become a pain in the neck (or lower!).

And when it comes to posture, you must be vigilant.  You don't want to lose the bubble on how you sit, either at the harp or at your desk, the dinner table, or while schlumped on your couch watching television.  Be mindful of your posture and know how much core strength you actually possess (or should that be corps strength?). 

Many of us, especially those that are no longer adolescents, have much less core strength than we think we do.  It will help your playing if you strengthen that core by getting some exercise.  Strengthening your core helps you protect your back from everyday chores including lifting, twisting, and bending.  It will also help you sit better and for longer when you play.  Look at those harp players you admire - they have phenomenal posture.  Why?  First, they have practiced it, and second, they spend so much time on that bench that they must have the posture needed to maintain sitting and playing for so long. 

You don't have to become a pilates instructor or an exercise fanatic to achieve these gains.  Just work some of the basic abdominal exercises we have all learned over the years into your day.  You will feel better, be able to hold yourself up to play longer, and have better posture while you are playing (even if you plop down to play).  You will be being kind to your back as well.  What's not to lose - the crunch is on.*

*All material provided within this blog is for informational and educational purposes only, and in no way is any of the content on this website to be construed as medical advice or instruction. No action should be taken solely on the contents of this blog. This is not medical advice, nor is it meant to replace the advice of your medical care provider. Exercise at your own risk, learn appropriate exercise technique from a professional, and use good judgement when exercising.

July 7, 2010

Inspiration in the form of happy exhaustion!

So, I'm back from Oberlin, stuffed full of great tunes from the Ohio Scottish Arts School.  Its always a rugged treat to go there in the summer.  Rugged because having that much fun is hard work - but I'm up for the challenge!  In addition, its just worth looking forward to - old friends, new friends, seeing each other develop and grow as musicians.  And the excellent teachers - role models all!  I hope you'll consider participating next year - the diverse playing levels and styles, the brilliant faculty, the environment - all contribute to an excellent learning experience whether you've been playing for a year (like the first time I went) or for 30 years (like some of the participants) you'll have a wonderful time and learn more than you knew needed learning!
Colloden Battlefield - can you imagine how  powerful it would be to sit here and play??

But now I 'm home, head full of tunes, lots of good tunage - can't wait to share!  And better still, its crunch time - I'm really excited to be heading to Scotland in the not too distant future!  I have all kinds of tunes to share there - old ones, new ones, some with simple arrangements, some with arrangements that are a little challenging - and all that will stick in our travelers' heads because they'll be forever tied to our incredible tour and the places we're going. 

I'm also excited that we'll have great things to share here.  I'm sorry you couldn't all go with us - hopefully as we share our journey here, you'll be envious enough that you'll join us next year!  Keep watching this space!  And drop me a note when you get a chance.