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

May 16, 2012

What will you do on your Summer vacation? OSAS

It's May!  Already!  Wow, 2012 is proceeding apace.  OK, really, it's flying by.  So, you too may be thinking about what to do this summer.  I have some favorites that I want to remind you about.  So for the next few weeks, I'll tell you about them in their order of appearance.  I hope you'll consider joining me in some of my favorites.  Harp events are always a lot of things - informative, energizing, exhausting, and FUN!  You will see old friends, meet new friends, learn about your harp, take in all sorts of new music, and did I mention, you will have FUN!

The first of my favorite summer activities is the Ohio Scottish Arts School or OSAS.  You might also hear it referred to as simply "Oberlin" (after the college that houses all the yummy harpy goodness).   Much of what you will read below is lifted directly from the OSAS website:

OSAS provides comprehensive instruction in traditional arts of (a lot of tangentially related stuff and) harp.  At the end of the week, the students will have increased their knowledge of theory, improved their basic skills and technique, and been exposed to new material (and will be delighted and tired!).

Participants must be at least 10 years of age and adult students are encouraged to enroll. Students should have some knowledge of their particular art, but people of all skill levels are encouraged to  enroll.   Classes begin on Sunday morning and are held from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and 1:15 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. each day. In the evenings students can enjoy various supervised athletic and social activities as time permits. An informal variety show is held on the last night and all are encouraged to participate.

Harp students are expected to bring their own instrument. Classes will focus on basic harp technique for beginners and intermediates, repertoire at all levels, including tunes for competition sets and Scottish style, including ornaments, lilt, and dance types. There are classes for both nylon/gut harp and wire strung and historical harps (bray harps welcome).  We will also have a "band class" for all instruments.

This year, there is a new incredible option to assemble, finish and string your own 27 string wire harp - see the website for details. And the evening jam sessions offer students the chance to develop accompaniment patterns and learn more tunes.

The instructors are always amazing with Seumas Gagne, Ann Heymann, Charlie Heymann,and Sue Richards teaching this year.  And I am thrilled to have been invited to join this illustrious faculty this year.

I hope you will join us for a fantastic learning opportunity that will make you fall in love with your harp all over again!

May 9, 2012

The Perfect Piece 2

So last week I mentioned the Perfect Piece – the post on that really got me thinking.  But then I didn’t tell you what it got me thinking…so this week, I’ll share that with you – Ellen included a quote from a very well-known knitting designer, Sally Melville, who said that a "perfect piece" is something that is easy, artistic, and wonderful to wear.

And isn’t that true – think about the tunes you love – what about them makes you love them?  How are they perfect?  They achieve that perfection because they have some or all of these characteristics Sally mentions.  They are usually easy (when I say easy, I mean that even if they are technically challenging, the fall into your hands).  Or they beg you to give up their artistry through the story that you hear when you listen to the tune.  And they are wonderful to wear - you can’t help but share those tunes with anyone who will listen. 

As in knitting, where Sally also indicated that it’s not the complicated garments that are perfect, so with our music – it is the simple, it is the elegant, it is pleasure without fuss.  These gems are only made more brilliant by what we put into them.  We, the harp player, bring the life into the music - we set the beauty free.

Remember that when someone asks you to play, or you are playing for yourself.  Play the perfect piece.  Let those ideas bubble up and come out of your head through your fingers.  Enjoy the perfect piece – and revel in the perfect peace it might add to your day.

May 2, 2012

A perfect piece

You know I'm always exhorting you to build your creativity and confidence. One of the ways I try to do that is to seek inspiration as many places as possible. That's just the way my mind works - I see something and immediately think of other places I could plug it in elsewhere. This is probably an extension of my inherently laziness, but it works for me.

So, I was delighted to find today's title on one of my favorite blogs, I take a lot of inspiration from knitting - but not for the reason you think. Ellen, who writes the blog, is an amazing knitter, but an even more amazing person - she is patient, kind, and has a broad philosophy that welcomes everyone into her shop...even people who knit like I do.

You must understand my love/hate relationship with knitting - I am not very good at it. And you know why - I don't practice. I expect, since it looks so easy, that I should be able to sit and just produce incredible beauty and utility. And besides, loads of my friends (especially my harp friends) do it, so I should obviously be able to do it too. Does any of this sound familiar?  Do you ever think this way when you are practicing or out playing in a group?

But like playing the harp, knitting takes work, dedication, interest, and a willingness to learn, to practice the less exciting bits to get to the beauty that is hidden in the middle of the ball of yarn.  If you want to be a good knitter, or a good harper, you must tend to the small things (like hand position, exercises, careful learning, repetition, etc.) so that you have the capacity to tend to the big things (like musicality, expression, depth, phrasing, etc.).  And there are no shortcuts.