December 25, 2012

December 19, 2012

Happy YOU!

It's that time of year - the run up to the holidays.  Everyone is stressed!  If you are like most people you are way behind in your shopping, your decorating, your baking, and possibly running short of good will toward your fellow man. 

In the midst of what is, for most people certainly, chaos, it is important for you to take a little time for yourself.  Do something you enjoy.  Breathe.

Why don't I feel like that?

If you're reading this, it is likely that you find playing your harp to be a great way to take some time for long as you are not preparing for a gig or struggling to play a piece of music you find challenging.  This is a great time to play those Christmas carols you love, the tunes you know really solidly, and to indulge in the simple pleasures of the easy tunes (Twinkle, anyone?).

Take some time to remind yourself why you play.  Use it as a time to fall in love with your harp again (especially if the two of you haven't been seeing eye to eye when your stress level has increased!).  Play barefoot to let the vibration tickle your feet! Just play with your harp - and enjoy.

And if what is best for you is to take a little time away from your harp - do that.  Read a book, take a walk, bake come cookies.  Do something you enjoy just for the joy of it - to help refresh yourself.  You know the new year will bring new goals and challenges - so take a breather now!

December 12, 2012

Christmas shopping?

Are you looking for just the right gift, one that will fit perfectly, amaze the recipient and thereby delight you?  Looking for that perfect gift that a harper or harp-lover will enjoy immensely? 

Give the gift of travel -
Come with us on the 2013 Harp the Highlands and Islands Tour! 

We will be traveling in September which is a wonderful time of year - long beautiful days and lovely tunes to share.  All the information is available on

Need more inspiration or a good reason to go?  Watch this: - this isn't a my video, but it made my heart go pitter-pat and I can barely wait to go to Scotland.  I hope you'll join us!

December 5, 2012

Where do good ideas come from?

It's that time of year when you need a good idea - at the holidays we play the same music over and over.  It's the same music everyone else is playing for the same holiday celebrated every year.  It is tradition but that doesn't mean it has to be boring.  So it is essential that we do something to make the tunes fresh - so our listeners can bear to hear them again and so we can bear to play them again.  But where do those good ideas come from?

Everyone knows that good ideas come from the shower!

There's something about taking a shower that seems to steam open the pores of creativity.  Actually while it isn't the shower itself, there are a number of elements that you can recreate to get to the same outcome:

1. Easy tasks that are repetitive and require no thinking.  These tasks allow your mind to wander into more interesting areas - and that seems to help you come up with ideas.  You can do the same thing taking a walk, knitting, or practicing scales.  Set yourself up to let your mind wander - wash dishes (or your car), take that walk, or get in the shower!

2. Quiet (ok the shower isn't really all that quiet, but it is relatively quiet).  Be quiet in quiet - turn off the radio while driving, be outdoors, or find another way to have some quiet to let your mind be quiet - the quiet seems to attract new ideas.

3. Time alone - 'nough said.  Even the most lovely people can be a distraction (caveat - sometimes they can also be an inspiration - there are no rigidities here!)

4. No expectations - you don't go into the shower thinking that by the end of the shower you will have developed a completed composition (or solved world hunger).  Be fanciful - in effect you can have your own brainstorming session with no idea rejected until a later phase.

So, if you need help to generate good ideas for arrangements for Christmas music, generate a virtual shower: and (this is important) capture the outcomes (so you can build on them).  If you are actually in your shower, you can use a grease pencil or water based marker to write on the tile or just keep singing a motif to yourself!

November 28, 2012

Stealing ideas from the knitters again!

You might know that I have a real like for knitting.  Of course, it doesn't show in my knitting because I very unreasonably expect to be able to knit like a pro with no practice or experience!  However, this does not blind me to the great philosophy, knowledge, or understanding that knitters have and share.

I have stolen ideas from my wonderful local knitting lady, Ellen, before and I'm going to do so again!  She recently wrote about muscle memory and how people who haven't knitted in a long while can, once they get started, knit "from memory" because their hands haven't forgotten how, even if their mind tells them they have.

We have the same thing you know.  It is called muscle memory - when your hands remember how to play a tune the rest of you is pretty sure you've forgotten.  I'm sure you have had the experience of playing a tune you haven't played in a long while.  You sit and try to find it, and (if you've well learned it) it comes back out with just a little coaxing.  This is your muscle memory (ok, it is a little more complicated than that - you'll also need your auditory memory, but we'll save that for another time). 

How do you build muscle memory?  You already know what I'm going to say - Practice!

But (just as the knitters would tell you) you also have to be mindful - let yourself pay attention to where you are in the world and in relation to your harp and the strings - how does your elbow feel? where are your fingers? how are you breathing?

One way to help focus on these muscle elements of playing is to practice with your eyes closed. It might be painful at first - you might be so used to looking that you might believe you can't play without looking - but you'd be wrong! Closing your eyes really lets you focus on how your body feels. It will also make repeating those feelings (building the muscle memory) easier.

Trust yourself to know where your harp is and where the tune is on the harp. 
Of course, practice helps you develop and build that trust!

If you think you can't go cold turkey playing without looking, I'd suggest practicing by a window at the gloaming.  Let the night come while you keep playing.  Eventually, you will be playing in the dark - just like if you had your eyes closed (this is also especially helpful for preparing for gigs at candle lit weddings and restaurants in grottoes!).

At first, it will be challenging. Start small - playing tunes you know extraordinarily well without looking.  Eventually add more of your repertoire.  Soon you'll be able to learn tunes without looking at your harp (or your hands - trust me, they are right there at the ends of your arms, no need to watch them!).  But if you keep at it you will get better and you will build strong muscle memories that will allow you to play even things you think you have forgotten!

November 21, 2012

Holidays are coming fast now!

Hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday - and use it to practice for those upcoming holiday gigs - formal and informal!

November 14, 2012

Did you get what you came for?

I’m still on a high from the Washington Area Folk Harp Society Getaway that was held at the beginning of the month.  It was well executed and brilliantly taught.  The only negative comment I have is that the instructors were all so good and had so much great stuff to share that I had a really hard time trying to select which workshops to attend!

Workshops and other learning opportunities are like that – there’s so much to learn and so little time to learn it all.  The number one thing we have to do to really get the most out of a workshop is to be open to learn whatever the tutor is prepared to teach.  
That can be quite a challenge.  Don’t let these things get in your way:
  • Sometimes you’re not ready to learn what is on offer.  Just because you’re not ready doesn’t mean that you won’t learn something useful.
  • Sometimes you don’t have the ability to keep up - don’t get focused on being frustrated at what you can’t do yet, but rather focus on the concepts that are being shared.
  • Sometimes you just can’t keep up – again, don’t get frustrated.  And believe the instructor who says it’s ok if you don’t get it all right now – you have time later to come back to it.
  • Sometimes you don’t understand what was being said.  It is really hard to learn concepts if you don’t have the vocabulary yet.  Of course, the best way to build your musical vocabulary is to learn what things mean be being taught.
  • Sometimes, it just isn’t a good time to be learning – if you’re tired, stressed, or focused on other things – just sit in the workshop and absorb.  And enjoy the social aspect – nothing wrong with that!
What I find interesting though, is how much I have learned – even when I thought I wasted my time (and the instructors!).

I often say many things when I’m teaching – I talk a lot!  I have a lot to share and I want to give it all to the students!  I can tell by the looks on people’s faces if they understand what I’m saying (and when they do not).  And I typically tell them that it is ok to not “get” what I say - just listen.  All that good stuff is going in. Even if you don’t understand what is said.  Or you understand the words but don’t know what to do with the information.
Just hang on to that knowledge.  When you’re ready it will suddenly become clear – what it meant, how to use it, why you didn’t get it until now.
And don’t be frustrated if you leave thinking, “I didn’t learn a darn thing I wanted to!”  You have learned more than you know.  Sometimes you’re not ready to learn what you think you want to learn and what you did learn will prepare you for what you were looking for.  Sometimes what you are looking for (or what you think you need to learn) is not what you really needed to learn.
And why did you go to the workshop anyway?  Oh, that’s right, because someone who knows more than you about your chosen avocation came to share something with you – maybe in this instance you didn’t actually know best?
I wish I could impart to you how many times I have been sitting at my harp and have an “a-ha!” moment when something I didn’t understand just fell into place – and the sun came out and the rain stopped and I was brilliant!  That’s exactly how it feels.
Until that time, keep going to workshops, learn from the people you admire and like, take it all in, listen.  And go home and work…and wait for the A-HA!  to hit you.

November 7, 2012

You know how I find good ideas from everywhere and just about anywhere.  The other day, I was reading the Harvard Business Review blog (because I’m a geek). Miniya Chatterji had a blog post.  I can’t remember what the overall point of that post was, but for me the takeaway was this quote,

“in the world where there are no precedents, you have to trust your own judgment.”

What a great point – the trusting your own judgment part.  We often believe that there are a lot of precedents in our world and there are.  But it seems that we tend to give those precedents too much weight. 

We should focus on our capabilities and on sharing our music with other people.  Those people who are simply ready to listen.  They are not critics waiting to pounce on our flaws.  They are open to whatever you choose to share.  And that’s where your judgment comes in.
Here are three ways to shift your focus away from judging yourself and your music and find yourself wanting:

  1. Play what sounds good (don’t say “duh” – you’d be amazed how many people don’t do this!)
  2. Record your ideas, review those ideas, and keep the good ones
  3. Look up from your harp, see the faces of your audience and note that they are enjoying your music.
So don’t be afraid – set your own precedents, suspend your judgments and share your music!

October 24, 2012


I know the holidays are coming.  I know.  It’s easy to get excited about the holidays.  But it’s also easy to get totally uninspired – the same tunes, year after year, to the same people (usually), for the same events, all in a time when you’re totally crushed with other obligations.  It’s too easy to lose all inspiration.  And that leads to boredom and cynicism – which start to show in your music.

So, how do you stay in the game? Keep it fresh? Spice it up? Relight the lamp?  Here are five ways to get or stay inspired:
1.      Listening to music- yup, seems counterintuitive, but listening to music can help.  For some people it will be listening to other presentations of holiday music for ideas and inspiration.  For others, it will be listening to whatever is, for them, the antithesis of holiday music to break the mold – and maybe to get some fresh ideas to apply to the holiday tunes.

2.      Reading – quotes, books, poems, letters – we end up playing the holiday standards, which all pretty much say the same thing.  Read something with another message.  Let that message wash over you and see how that might change how you tell the holiday stories with your music.

3.     Smells/tastes – I know, me and food!  But really, smelling “holiday” smells – cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, pine, fires, cold – all can put you in a better frame of mind to re-approach your music – and leave a good taste in your mouth as well!

4.     Beautiful scenery/ Fresh air – take a walk, enjoy the changing weather – all these will help you bring a new perspective to your music, your musicality, phrasing, arrangement, and presentation.

5.     Breathe!  Simply taking a few deep breaths will allow you to think, reassess your arrangements and playing – and its in the pauses that I find a lot of new ideas. Breathing is, after all, the basic definition of inspiration!

Of course, you don’t have to wait for the holidays to apply these ideas – any time you need to break out and do something new or get inspired to change something old into new (kind of like replacing all the buttons on a coat – it’s basically the same but now it’s new again!).


October 17, 2012

Holidays are coming

It’s that time again – the holidays are coming and whether you’re working or entertaining or playing in church, it is likely that you will be called upon to provide some music.  So, what are you going to do?

You could pretend like it won’t happen and wait until someone asks you to play – then you can panic and feel unprepared. OR you could start preparing now so that when the holidays come around you’re ready, unstressed, and confident.  I don’t know about you, btu the second one sounds like the better idea.

Most people panic because everyone knows the holiday tunes and will know if you make a mistake.  There are a couple of ways around this –

1.       Use a fake book (or play by ear) so you are not glued to the page and can relax while you’re playing.

2.       Play Christmas tunes people are not as familiar with – start with the one you’ve never heard and move (which are likely to form a small group) and then move on to the ones you only hear very infrequently if at all on the radio.  This is also a good plan to assure that your listeners aren’t tired of the tune before you even start to play
3.       Keep up the rest of your repertoire.  Rather than interspersing “regular” music into your holiday tunes, think of sprinkling your holidays music into your regular repertoire.  Even the happiest elf (and those strong employees at the shops!) can take only so much Christmas music.  This really reduces the burden on your learning.

4.       Enjoy yourself – it’s the holidays (well it will be as soon as your work these tunes up!) so have some fun while you’re out there!

October 10, 2012

Take a breath!

There are few things less inspiring than an air that has no – well – air!  You hear them all the time – lifeless, soulless presentations of tunes that should make you feel something.  But when it’s through, all you fell is relief that it’s over.

Which story are you telling - the rich full one or the one that needs some air?

Don’t let your airs be like that!            

1. Make it breathe – phrasing is not something only to be marked on classical scores and then forgotten.  Phrasing is the breath in the music – make sure yours has some air! If you’re not sure where to put the phrasing, sing it (in the shower if you’re squeamish) – everywhere you need a breath – put one in the music!

2. Make it feel – airs are essentially a story.  And while many are songs and therefore come prepackaged with a story, you can always tell your own story.  Give it your take.  And make sure your audience can tell what the story is!

3. Make it lifelike – in addition to breathing, the story needs to shine through and the audience has to know what you’re telling them – assure that your arrangement helps tell your story – make it minor when bad/sad/not great things are happening, make it major when happy/good things are going on and make it funky if it starts to get boring!

4. Make it live – when you’re arranging the tune, make it have a life, don’t just repeat it relentlessly.  Put the arrangement together so that the story is supported – and be sure to bring your audience along for the whole tale.

Just these minor tweaks will make your airs breathtaking – and there’s nothing wrong with that!

October 3, 2012

Three great things that come from Getting Organized

I don’t know about you but when someone says, “Play something for me” my mind goes blank.  I can’t think of a single tune I know.  And if by some magic I think of a tune, I can’t remember how it goes.  It's as if that simple question throws a switch that leaves me unable to think!

This even happens when I’m practicing.  I think, “Play something you haven’t played in a while”.  Suddenly, I have absolutely no idea of any tunes I have ever learned.  Ever.   
So, I came up with a method to help me practice more than the few tunes on my mental music stand.  It’s not high tech, it’s not fancy, but it does work – so I thought I’d share it with you.

I have a recipe box for 3 x 5 cards with alphabet dividers.  For each tune I learn I write out the title on a card, and the key I tend to play it in (or the key I prefer – sometimes I remember to note why I like it in that key – it sounds better, it doesn’t require a lever change, etc.).  If I’m smart I also include the first few notes (at least in TAB but the dots are helpful if I can put them on there) and what I like to play it with in a set.

The cards are sorted in alphabetical order by title. To be honest they’re sorted in alphabetical order by what I call them (sometimes I think of the title in Gaelic not English, or vice versa). The point is to sort and store them so that I can find them.

In practice when I’m done working my exercises, learning what I’m working on, and polishing what needs shine, I close my eyes, reach into the box, pull out a card – and play that tune.
There are three things that I find amazing about this:

  1. I know WAY more tunes than I think I do (since I never remember that I know them).
  2. I KNOW way more tunes than I think I do (since I can actually play them when I randomly pull them from the box) – and if they are rusty, that’s ok, they shine right up with just a little time.
  3. I know way more tunes than I THINK I do! It is a strong visual reminder of my progress and accomplishment as a harper – proof that I’m growing and developing – it's very reassuring.
You don’t have to make 3 x 5 cards – you could make a spreadsheet, a list, a “job jar” – anything that helps you remember to play tunes you learned a long time ago but might have set aside.  The random access also helps your stay fresh and enjoy the tunes.  The mini-tune-up the tune gets when you have to give it a bit of a shake also helps improve your memory. 

And hopefully you’ll enjoy amazing yourself!

September 26, 2012

The end is near!

The end of the Competition season that is. I am still on the high from the US National Scottish Harp Championship at Ligonier Highland Games!  What a great comp – a huge pool of competitors, a well run competition, really close scores, a lovely venue, and I got to judge some incredible talent!  What more could you ask?!  Results will be in the next Kilt and Harp - so be sure you're a member!

There are only three competitions remaining this year.  I’d recommend them all.  Go cheer for your fellow harpers:

Virginia Celtic Gathering and Highland Games, Williamsburg, VA
6th October
Judge – Candyce Dunham
More information and register:
Stone Mountain Highland Games, Atlanta, GA
20th October
Judge – Kelly Stewart Brzozowski
More information:

Central Virginia Celtic Festival and Highland Games, Richmond, VA
21st October Richmond Raceway Complex
Judge – me!
More information

I wish I could be at all of these.  Please do patronize these competitions.  While Stone Mountain is venerable, Virginia is having a harp competition after a hiatus and Richmond is fighting to come back after a orgnizational disappointment last year. 

Of course, if you have questions, you can always contact me too.  I hope you have the opportunity to support these events!

September 19, 2012

A New ad-Ventura

I am truly an East Coast Girl.  I will never be a West Coaster.  However, that doesn't mean that I don't visit as often as possible - I love to visit the West Coast - and I do as often as possible. 

You might be an Eastie like me, who loves to visit the West Coast, or you could be a Westie who's looking for something-something fun - may I recommend the Seaside Highland Games in Ventura, CA?

You might be surprised - they don't have a harp competition so what am I going on about?

Well, if you have the opportunity, it would be worth your while - because Harp is making its inaugural debut at the Seaside Games this year -

The Harp Glen is being sponsored by the Clan Currie Society to introduce the Harp to visitors to this event. In addition to shedding light on the fabulous and rich history of the harp this event will showcase actual harps and harpers.

There will of course be harpers playing and more importantly, an opportunity for people to try and to learn.  Highlights of the two-day Harp Extravaganza include:

• Harp Ensemble performance
• Solo Harp Performances
• A Harp Ring/Circle
• Harp "Petting Zoo"
• Mini Harp Lessons

The Clan Currie Society, who is the Title Sponsor of the Scottish Harp Society of America's US National Scottish Harp Championship, is working with the Seaside Highland Games to showcase the harp at this Harp Gathering event.

I hope if you are able you'll support this new event - what a great time!

September 12, 2012

Never miss the opportunity...

Performing can be such a terrifying word.  We're never ready, the time's not right, the venue is too small to bother, the venue is too large to be comfortable, we always have excuses.

I know.  I hear the excuses too.  And for those of us who have other things competing for our time, like the work of our day jobs, it is all too easy - seductive even - to believe our excuses.  We think the lack of singular focus gives us an out. 

But when you do step up, when you give yourself permission to take the chance, when you take the opportunity, inevitably you get reminded of one of the most attractive things about performing with your instrument - people do listen - and you do touch them!

Michael Tilson Thomas said, "The most important thing about music is what happens when it stops, what remains with the listener, what they take away. A melody, rhythm, some understanding of another person or another culture. The way those experiences add up, in the soul of a person over the years....You want to shake people even when they're not listening to the music."   And he's right!

So, when you have the opportunity to share, and especially if you are offered the opportunity to play with someone else - do it!  Don't let your fear get in your way. 

And by the way, it's not about you.  Don't focus on how you're not good enough, or you haven't practiced enough, or you're not ready.  It's about them - focus on the person that you will touch, that person that you don't even know.  the person who, after hearing you will be brave enough to come up to you later and tell you how much they enjoyed it...and the person who loved it but didn't work up the courage to come tell you so.
Revel in knowing that that little piece of the music has gotten to in to the soul of the person - and that you've shaken that person even when they are not listen to your music.  And be glad that you haven't missed a fantastic opportunity.

September 5, 2012

2012 US National Scottish Harp Championship at Ligonier Highland Games

Come to Ligonier Saturday, September 22, 2012 for the
US National Scottish Harp Championship

The Scottish Harp Society of America's US National Scottish Harp Championship will be hosted at the Ligonier Highland Games outside Pittsburgh, PA and is open to all SHSA members. This year's judges are the renowned Sue Richards and me (!). Rules and categories are available on  For more information on the 2012 Championship, visit:

The day's Official Schedule of Competition -

8:30 am Onsite Registration/Sign-in
9am SHSA Nationals Competition begins

After the competition there will be Workshop/Harpers' Circle.

Special thanks to the Title Sponsor of the National Scottish Harp Championship of America - Clan Currie Society. The Clan has generously agreed to sponsor the National competition through 2014. It is especially rewarding to be supported by a clan with such an ancient and distinguished history of Gaelic poets and musicians.

Robert Currie, president of the Clan Currie Society, described this as partnership as a perfect fit, saying “The founders of our Clan were the celebrated MacMhuirich bards of Medieval Scotland and the instrument of the Bard was the clarsach." The MacMhuirichs served for over 700 years as professional poets to the Lords of the Isles and later to the MacDonalds of Clanranald among other prominent Highland clans and families.

Over the past several years Clan Currie has sharpened its focus on the arts and not only sponsors our competition, but also has established an annual harp scholarship at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow, Scotland. To learn more about Clan Currie, go to:

Be sure to thank competition organizer Melanie Sandrock while you are registering, volunteering or audiencing!

Hope to see you there!

August 29, 2012

Let's go to Edinboro!

Nope, I didn't spell that wrong - I mean Edinboro....  Pennsylvania....  USA. 
It isn't often that you can get in on the ground floor of anything - but this year you can be at the inaugural Edinboro Highland Games Harp Competition! 

You know that I'm big on competitions - but I'm even more enthusiastic about launching a brand new competition! This event will be held 8 September.  Begin your competition weekend with some motivation - attend Kim Robertson's concert at Cole Auditorium, 7:00PM. 
And on Saturday, it will be a full day of harping at the Pogue Student Center! I am delighted to have been asked to MC the competition. 
8:00AM Register for FREE workshops; Enter Harp Competition ~ $25 per entry
9:00AM Workshop: Healthways for Harpers (FREE)
10:30AM Workshop: Tricks of the Trade (FREE)
11:00AM Harp Competition Entry ENDS
11:30AM Lobby Harper rotation begins (FREE)
12:00PM Games Opening Ceremony on the Lawns (FREE)
1:30PM Harp Competition begins; JUDGE ~ KIM ROBERTSON
3:30PM Competition Awards Presentations
3:45PM Harp Circle (FREE)
And, LEWIS CREEK HARPS will be there.  And, Kim Robertson will have CD’s for sale all day.
Rules and entry information is available at
Harp Competition Entry Fee: $25 at the door
I hope I'll see you there!

August 22, 2012

The Happy Afterglow of Harp Camp

One Creative Ensemble
This year's Harp Camp - the 17th Annual - was fantastic! We had a great time. Our theme was "Music suits me to a Tea!" and we did some excellent things in that vein.  We focused on fakebooks this year, learning how to read them, how to use them to build repertoire, increase arrangement variability and as a launch point for new arrangements. Monica did a fantastic job with helping us get into our theme with an excellent craft and all our campers made themselves very fine hats for our Tea Party.

During Tea we took turns enjoying our light repast and playing for each other as "sonic wallpaper" to help each person get more used to playing for an audience, to try out some of the things we had learned, to enjoy each other's music and to enjoy one another's company.

Note our delightfully clever chapeaux and tea goodies.
We also had our old staples - Creative Ensemble and Directed Ensemble - to assure that everyone had the chance to grow and stretch - and practice their counting. And our usual sprinkling of games and activities that all contribute to our development as musicians - rhythm, breathing, counting, drawing, listening, and laughing!

Our campers all had a great time - and left tired and with their heads full - just like we like it!
Kris teaching "reflectively" -
 couldn't resiste the image in the mirror!
Harp Camp is always fun and challenging with small groups (no negotiating your harp down long halls through throngs of people), plenty of one-on-one time with the tutors and with other campers.  I hope you'll consider joining us next year - more information will be available on my website soon (and I'll let you know here when to look).  Kris and I can't wait!

August 15, 2012

Off to Summer Camp

Harp Camp that is!

This post will be short - I've packed and gotten ready and I am leaving for southeastern Pennsylvania for Harp Camp. I am so excited - looking forward to a long weekend of great music, learning, and sharing.

We'll be focusing on working with fake books as well as our usual collection of interesting, different, unusual activities to ensure a wonderful learning experience.  

I hope you'll consider joining us next year!

August 8, 2012

Corrina Hewat has sent me this - I hope you seriously consider participating in this year's Harp Village in Cromarty.

The Harp Village 2012 will take place in Cromarty, Scotland. It will start Friday September 28 and runs through Sunday Sept 30th 2012. Tutors this year are Maire Ni Chathasaigh and Chris Newman, Corrina Hewat and Dave Milligan and the Duplets -Gillian Fleetwood and Fraya Thomson. They will perform in a Dazzling Duos concert on the Friday night. Harp workshops will be held throughout the weekend for all ability levels from beginners to intermediates and beyond. In addition, there will be a masterclass with Maire and Corrina on the Saturday night followed by a harp session led by the Duplets.

Application forms are now available from the website: 

What a great opportunity!

August 1, 2012

Highlights of the 2012 Harp in the Highlands and Islands Tour

Well, you already know that we had a great time this year!  Last week I told you about the basics of the trip.  We all really had a great time and shared some fantastic tunes.  And David and I have already started planning out 2013 - including things we are adding and new tunes for some new locations. 

Some of the highlights from this year:

Fine days that allowed us to sit in nature's glory and play

Fun locations of incredible beauty:

Mrs. Russell again graciously allowed us to play in her dining room at Ballindalloch Castle and later joined us for a photo. 

We really did have fun - can't wait 'til next year.  We are deciding what to add and what to tweak - I hope you'll join us - start planning now.  And, as always, if you're ready for more information so you can start planning, just let me know via email or comment!

July 25, 2012

2012 Harp in the Highlands and Islands Tour was Delightful!

We have just finished the 2012 Harp in the Highlands and Islands tour and had a fantastic time!  As always, we modified the activities and events to match the weather (which was pretty good considering that Scotland hasn’t gotten their summer yet), ongoing events in the places we went and the things in which our guests were particularly interested. 

Our guests thoroughly enjoyed themselves and were really open to new adventures.  Although our basic itinerary was only moderately modified, each day we were able to accommodate everyone and find new things even we hadn’t planned!  From changing the location of our daily harp event on Day 1 to catching a ceilidh and doing some dancing later on and including options for activities for each person on our last day, we almost had more fun providing the tour than our guests had being on it!

We also learned some great tunes, sang some, and had enjoyable conversations and discussions.  We met some interesting people, tried some new foods, and experienced outstanding scenery. 
We also welcomed our first non-harp playing musician – a guitarist.  Robin is an accomplished guitar player and she learned all the tunes along with the harpers.  It was a real pleasure to have a broader instrument base and we really enjoyed the interplay of harp and guitar.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll share some more of our trip and photos.  But for now, start planning!  The 2013 Harp in the Highlands and Islands Tour will be 2 – 9 September.  We’re already working on it so I hope you’ll plan to join us! 

July 11, 2012

What will you do on your Summer Vacation? Harp in the Highlands and Islands Tour!

I am on pins and needles waiting to depart for this year's Harp in the Highlands and Islands Tour! David and I have made some minor changes based on previous guest feedback and we know that 2012 will be the best year ever!

We are meeting in Edinburgh 16 July (so soon!) and are going to see some of the most beautiful scenery.  From the majestic beauty of the Isle of Skye, through the breathtaking western Highlands, and around the lush Spey valley you'll see and hear more than you could imagine.  Each day we're going to play and learn and laugh and have a great time.

And all the while we'll hear gasping - every mile we go we see something that noteworthy! We'll head towards the Highlands enjoying all the by-ways highlights that make Scotland so delightful. We'll explore the Spey Valley, Royal Deeside and more.

We will return to Edinburgh on 23 July sadly ending our time together.  Our very small group size allows flexibility so that each day you can see the very best Scotland has to offer as well as those special things that can’t be planned.

If you missed it this year, don't despair - David and I will plan a slightly different trip for next year!  If you want to come along - email me directly on

July 4, 2012

Happy Independence Day

To all my American friends - Happy 4th July! 
Go play your harp enjoying the freedom to play and say whatever you please. 

June 27, 2012

The week at OSAS

I am at OSAS, busy meeting new people, seeing old friends, teaching as well as I can, playing as much as I can muster, trying to learn new tunes, and not sleeping enough! 

This is a week of scintillating learning, sharing, laughing, playing, sessioning, dancing, and hanging out with other harpers as well as cool people who play fiddle, dance, play pipes, drum, and play assorted other instruments.  Fortunately, although I'm running around like crazy, Sara Walthery has very graciously created some photo collages:

If you've been to OSAS before but weren't able to come this year, dig out the tunes from your summer and brush them up and remember the great times you had. 

And if you've never been before, I sure hope you figure out a way to work it into your schedule - it is WAY too much:
  • Fun
  • Learning Tunes
  • Playing
  • Playing the Harp :-)
  • Learning Tunes
  • Making friends
  • Learning Dances
  • Learning Tunes
  • Learning pipe stuff
  • Learning fiddle stuff
  • Learning Tunes
  • Jamming
  • Laughing
  • Growing
And I'll be trying to remember to take more photos to share with you - but sometimes I get too caught up in the fun and forget I even have a camera! 

Thanks for understanding!  See you soon.

June 20, 2012

What will you do on your summer vacation? Swananoa

Swananoa is an event that I have never gotten to - but I am looking forward to the time that I do make the trip.  However, I have heard such great things about it that I invited Mike Conners to write the blog post this week and tell us all about it.  Hopefully he will inspire you to give it a go!

Mike learned a great deal
 from Willaim Jackson
My annual summer North Carolina harp tradition is the Grandfather Mountain Highland games near Boone (this year July 12-15) followed by the Swannanoa Gathering near Asheville (July 15-21). I have been told that Grandfather is the largest Scottish highland gathering in the world. This year’s harp leader/judge is Jo Morrison with the workshop on Friday and the contest on Saturday.
Immediately following Grandfather comes Celtic Week at the Swannanoa Gathering at Warren Wilson College. It is total immersion with some of the most noted vocalists and instrumentalists in the world. I study harp there annually with William Jackson and Grainne Hambly. Although one can register for up to four classes a day, I opt for two so I can have time to practice while I am there.  I prefer that to being overloaded with new material on the spot that I might not to get to learn when I get home. In addition to harp I have in past years enjoyed daily bodhran classes, “pennywhistle for the complete beginner” and Robin Bullock’s bouzouki class. This year I’ll take a DADGAD guitar class. Swannanoa Celtic week is the place for fiddle, flute and tin whistle, harp, fretted instruments, reeds, song and folklore, percussion, and dance. The staff/performers are friendly and accessible.
Grainne Hambly gives
a fantastic workshop

There are a variety of afternoon “potluck” classes, afternoon slow sessions directed by the guest artists, evening concerts, and literally dozens of sessions happening simultaneously outdoors all night long across campus with the Blue Ridge Mountains as a backdrop; complete with a snack cart, wine and local craft brew beer truck, vendors hall and hundreds of great Celtic musicians to listen to and jam with. Continuing education credits are offered for teachers, the food is great, and the instruction outstanding. Can you tell I’m excited about the upcoming Swannanoa Gathering? Here is a link to a PDF of the Celtic Week catalog.

June 13, 2012

What will you do with your Summer Vacation? Harp Camp!

Join us for “Lever Harp Camp 2012″ August 17th, 18th and 19th in Glenville, PA, Harp Camp is easily accessible to harpers from anywhere and at any level.  Harp Camp is always fun!  We have a great group that is small so we learn a lot, laugh a lot, and have a great time. 

Instructors Kris Snyder and I have put together a format tailored to you. No frustration of either information that you aren’t ready for, or waiting for people with less experience to understand what is being presented.  Our capped enrollment means that each workshop you take will be geared toward your proficiency and comfort level.

Workshops this year will include an in-depth exploration of Fake Books – what they have to offer – how to use them to build your repertoire quickly or to use them for creating your own arrangements. We’ll spend time on mechanical issues that come with the harp: changing strings, adjusting levers. Other activities include: games, “High Tea”, Creative and Directed Ensemble and Continuing Educations Units are available to graduates of the Music for Healing & Transition Program!
Early Bird Special -

Locals before June 15th: $200

Out-of-towners before June 15th: $230 (if choosing to stay with a local student, otherwise $200).

After June 15th: $250/$280 ($280 is for the out-of-towner staying with a local student)

Rentals available: $30 rental fee, + $50 returnable deposit.

You may participate in our convenient payment program.  Please email me to reserve your place today!

June 6, 2012

We interrupt our regularly scheduled blogpost...

So, sometimes you learn something you have to share immediately - and this is it.  Mike Conners is a teacher at North Carolina's Penn-Griffin School for the Arts (disclaimer - he's also a friend of mine).  Heb recently introduced his hobby, harping, to his students as club.

You might also recall that Mike won the 2011 Scottish Harp Society Travel Scholarship which he put to use improving his repertoire and experience, which he took back to his students. Here's Mike in Scotland (photo unceremoniously ripped off his blog:!)

But the point of this post is not that Mike plays the harp, but rather to highlight his students' project - raising money to buy more harps for the club.  They made the news (watch the video and read a short report here):

They need more harps, including a pedal harp.  This is a really great opportunity for the students to learn a great deal - about music, about fundraising, about community, about community service.

These kids have already saved $2,200 from donations.  They gig to make money too!  But, as we all know - to buy more lever harps and a pedal harp will require more than a couple of gigs.  So, I'd suggest we chip in -

To donate contact Mike Connors at 336-819-2870 or send mail to:

Penn-Griffin School for the Arts, 825 East Washington Street, High Point, NC 27260.

Please write “harp donation” on the memo line and make checks payable to Penn-Griffin School for the Arts. Donations are tax deductible - and I'm sure if you have a harp you'd like to donate, they'd be happy to hear from you.

(PS, I would have loved to share a photo of the kids playing, and while I have no compunction with asking Mike for forgiveness for pillaging graphics from his blog, I'm not tangling with the tv station and their lawyers! Just check out the video!!)

May 30, 2012

What wil you do on your summer vacation? Somerset

Somerset Folk Harp Festival is a loverly way to get immersed in a wide variety of techniques, modes, genres, approaches, types, and kinds of harp music.  Instructors are always incredible and there are so many choices it will literally make your head swim.  While it has a long and appropriate title, you'll hear it referred to simply as "Somerset".

There are more than 100 workshops and classes (a record number!) from 33 presenters with the theme Narrow Your Focus or Expand Your Horizon.  Somerset is a 4-day conference celebrating the diversity of music, talent and experience of the folk harp world.  The Exhibit Hall is the best harp and music shopping under one roof you'll find anywhere on the East Coast - and will leave you drooling!  And over 30% of the workshops qualify for MHTP Continuing Ed units.

Most of the workshops are 90 minutes in the 3 main workshop periods on Friday and Saturday.  In addition, there are mini-workshops scheduled for things like Harp Tastings and Do It Yourself Harp Maintenance.   You can attend any of the other workshops. There are downloadable files tools to help you put your Somerset itinerary together.

This year's focus areas are:
  • Accompaniment & Arranging
  • Beginner
  • Business & Career
  • Body & Harp
  • Celtic
  • Historical Harp
  • Jazz & Blues
  • Latin Music
  • Rhythm
  • Skills & Technique
  • Therapeutic Harp
  • World Music
and you'll have tons of fun at:
  • The Carolan Marathon
  • La Fiesta!
  • Jams
  • Saturday Banquet
And if you are interested you can look into private lessons with your favorite instructors!

I am sorry that I won't be able to go to Somerset this year, but I hope you don't miss it!

See the website:

May 23, 2012

What will you do on your Summer Vacation? Harp in the Highlands and Islands Tour

I am on pins and needles waiting to depart for this year's Harp in the Highlands and Islands Tour! David and I have made some minor changes based on previous guest feedback and we know that 2012 will be the best year ever!  We are going 16 – 23 July for an eight day, seven night adventure!

You will see some of the most beautiful scenery and experience the majestic beauty of the Isle of Skye, the western highlands, the Spey valley and more. This tour is designed for harp players at all levels and other traditional instrument players. Each day you will enjoy a music event – learn a tune, add to your music lore and more while you experience the history of our musical heritage. We will gather in Edinburgh and dive in going first to Perth and then heading westwards toward the western highlands and the west coast.

We'll enjoy the unique and stunning scenery of Skye and the magnificent views through the Cuillin Mountains. Following that we'll head towards the highlands enjoying all the by-ways highlights that make Scotland so delightful. We'll explore the Spey Valley, Royal Deeside and more. On our final evening, David and his wife Heather will welcome you to their own home at Burghead where you will be treated to some authentic Scottish cuisine and hospitality.

Each day along the way, you will learn a tune or we’ll have play together in the midst of incredible scenery. The tunes are associated with the places, history, and people we will meet.

Our very small group size allows flexibility so that each day you can see the very best Scotland has to offer as well as those special things that can’t be planned.
If you’d like to come with us on the 2012 Tour email me on