February 29, 2012

SoMD Celtic Festival Harp Competition is soon!

28 April 2012 marks the 34th year of the Southern Maryland Celtic Society Festival Saturday, in beautiful Calvert County Maryland. This is the oldest Celtic celebration in Maryland!

In just two month's we will have a Scottish Harp Society Sanctioned Competition (rules are available at http://www.shsa.org). Our judge will be the wonderful Sue Richards (http://www.suerichards.net/). And we are fortunate to again have the Virginia Harp Center as our Prizes Sponsor this year.
I hope you’ll come to the competition, whether you compete or not. If you want to compete you’ll find the online registration (there will be no onsite registration) on cssm.org/harp. And if competition performance is not for you, come out anyway – we always need volunteers (who get complimentary admission to the games – just leave me a comment if you are interested).

The festival is scheduled on the last Saturday of April every year from 10 AM to 6 PM Rain or Shine.  Look for more information on www.cssm.org.  While the park will allow pets, it would be less stressful for them if you left your furry friends at home.
Our Festival was chosen in 2000 by Congressman Steny Hoyer to represent Southern Maryland in the national "Local Legacy" project of the Library of Congress’ Bicentennial celebration.  The Southern Maryland Celtic Festival and Highland Gathering highlights the heritage of the Breton, Cornish, Irish, Manx, Scots, and Welsh.

The Festival is centrally located to the mid-Atlantic.  Our Harp competition has had competitors from as far as North Carolina to the south, Michigan to the west, and upstate New York to the north – and I hope this year will be no exception. The Festival is held at Jefferson Patterson state park with the field overlooking the Patuxent River which is stunning and delightful – a lovely location for a games.

When final details, like the time, have been updated  for 2012, I'll post them here.

February 22, 2012

Three sure ways to double your repertoire today

We all want to have a prodigious repertoire that will allow us to play for hours with little to know effort.  But how do you get there?  You know that it will take some time to develop a deep repertoire but there are three steps to getting there quicker.

1.       Play the classics.  While you know “Twinkle” because you learned them at your first lesson, that doesn’t mean that your audience won’t love it when you play it!  Bring out and play all those eight-bar tunes!  The tunes you know are the ones to play – they’re not trite, they’re fun…and…you know them!

2.       Rearrange your tunes.  Whether you learn by ear or a strict page reader, you can make more of your repertoire by “letting go”.  You can use the same chord progression (which means you only have to remember the one progression) but present it in different ways – 5ths, octaves, blocked chords, broken chords, rolled chords, various collections of these).  This will allow you to play a tune through as many repeats as you need.  If you’re playing off the paper, you might want to write in the chord names – make it your own lead sheet.  And, if you can, add in some alternate chords for variety.

3.       Timing is everything.  Music is a means of communication.  What you choose to communicate is up to you.  The tunes you know can often do double duty - especially when you have no time to prepare.  Most of the “fast tunes” you know can be slowed way down – way down!  This will instantaneously increase your store of airs.  But remember too that your store of airs can be sped up – thus increasing your cache of fast tunes (this does take some practice!).  And it’s relatively easy to do – the biggest challenge is to actually play slowly!  The chord progressions stay the say, but break the chord up which will help you stay slow.

All these will, at a minimum, double your repertoire – as quickly as today.  Don’t forget to write out a list of your tunes – don’t want to forget any of them!

February 15, 2012

I'm listening

Long ago on this blog, I took a moment to thank you for reading it.  I really do appreciate that you read what I have to say. And I am always delighted to get comments from you!  This week, I'd like to again thank those of you who are following my blog. I do hope you find it useful. 

If you are visiting for the first time (or you just remembered and came to check out what I was going on about this time!) and like what you've seen, please join us and become a Follower. Followers get an email when content has been added or updated so you get all the information, fresh as it gets posted.  And it reminds you to take a moment for yourself and your harping.  It also gives me a continued warm fuzzy that I'm not talking to myself!

I'll tell you about important stuff: travel to Scotland, growing as a harp player, and other essential stuff, like playing the harp while we're in Scotland!  I'll also highlight harp events or other excitement in our harp world that I think would be interesting to you.

And, of course, I would love to hear from you.  You can always let me know if there's a particular topic in which you're interested. 

I hope you'll join us on a regular basis.  And if I don't know you personally I'll look forward to meeting you when we're at one of the many events available.

If you see me somewhere - please introduce yourself...you have me at an advantage - you know what I look like!  It would be delightful if I met you in Edinburgh as we set off on the tour - but OSAS, Harp Camp, or any of the other wonderful learning opportunities would be great too!

See you soon!

February 8, 2012

The Bridge

Once we get over the terror of playing in front of other people we need to move on to developing and sharing a musical experience for our listeners. Music acts as communication - a bridge between people.  This can be very difficult for a number of reasons. We need to have thoroughly learned the music. We have to have really thought about what the music says – what the story we’re telling is. We have to decide how we want to tell that story. We need to suss out how we want the audience to feel about the story – and how we’re going to help them get there. And we have to be proficient enough at our instrument that we can actually achieve these aims.

Musicality is the quality with which we imbue the music to assure the listener arrives where we meant them to with respect to the story we’re telling. Musicality has many facets but we’ll focus on the melodiousness of our presentation. But how do we get there?

You might think that musicality is in-born. Either you have it or you don’t. But actually, like most of what we talk about, you already know the answers. The same answers for so many things -Practice!

Musicality, like everything else comes with practice and work. You need to focus on improving your musicality, deciding on the story you’re going to tell, how you’re going to tell that story, the emotions that are essential to evoke to tell the story fully.

Then you can practice developing that story and evoking it from your harp.  You can craft the music, the presentation, the arrangement to assure that the story you meant to tell is the one that comes off your harp.  And practice it until that is the story you tell each time you perform the piece.  And then you can move on to telling a different story each time you play the tune (why not?  It’s your story!).

And with that level of practice, you will be so focused on your story and so well practiced in its telling that you won’t have to be worried about playing for people.

February 1, 2012

2012 Harp in the Highlands and Islands Tour is coming up!

The 2012 Music in the Highlands and Islands Tour is rapidly approaching.  We will be going 16 - 23 July.

This year, we are welcoming not only harp players, want-to-be harp players, and harp loving companions but also other instrument players.  If you, a friend, companion, or music partner play a small instrument and would like to join us - welcome and come along! While we will continue to bring the harp experience to our guests, we understand that not everyone is ready to play the harp, but that is no reason that these instruments can't also come with us on our musical adventure. So this year we are also inviting other musicians to join us. So if you already play fiddle, flute, concertina, or whistle, please bring your instrument and join us!

You'll get the same great instruction and tunes. You'll still have the opportunity to try your hand at the Harp - THE traditional instrument of Scotland, but you now have the opportunity to learn some or all of the tunes on your "native" instrument.

For more information, email me or leave a comment. Remember that seats are limited. I hope you'll be joining us!