March 27, 2013

Southern Maryland Celtic Festival Harp Competition

April 27, 2013 marks the 35th year for the oldest Celtic celebration in Maryland.  The Festival is 10 am to 6 pm rain or shine on the beautiful Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum.  The field overlooks the Patuxent River - a lovely location for a games!
We have a new venue this year.  We will not be sharing with the fiddles but will have a space all our own.  Our judge this year will be the wonderful Sue Richards (

Come out for an exciting competition. You will find the online registration (there will be no on-site registration) on If it isn’t there when you look, please keep looking!
If competing isn’t your thing please come out to support our competitors. We also always need volunteers (who get complimentary admission to the games – send me an email if you are interested).

The Festival is centrally located to the mid-Atlantic. Our Harp competition draws competitors from far away including North Carolina, Michigan, upstate New York and all around the Baltimore-Washington-Richmond areas.

This comp has lovely prizes and is always a fun and friendly competition – an excellent venue for new competitors and more experienced players as well. Hope we’ll see you there - in just one month!

March 20, 2013

Put it in writing

There are all kinds of way to mark your progress as you practice and develop.  And it is important to do that marking – you should be able to look back at your development and see your progress.  We have talked about recording yourself so you can hear your progress but you might want to consider capturing your development in other ways.
If you work from printed music you have many opportunities to make notes.  Use a pencil – you might want to come back to the tune and do something completely different in the future.  Mark all the challenges you meet – fingerings, lever (or pedal) changes, dynamics, expression and phrasing – all of these will help you work through the music and will also serve as documentation of your ability to play it when you were working on it.  Always use a pencil so you can make changes as you become more capable and experienced.   For instance you could start a practice and performance journal.

If you learn your music aurally there is still a lot to note – make yourself a list of tunes you are working.  This will help you make sure to practice everything – rather than working some tunes to perfection while forgetting about others.  Once you know a few tunes, you’ll be amazed at how fast you forget what you know or what you are learning.
No matter how you learn your music, make yourself a journal.  Write yourself notes about your practice.  Write down what is going wrong.  Note what have you tried.  Jot down what went right.  Be sure to include notes about what do you want to try as well as writing out how are you going to go about learning these new things. Also note things you still want to learn.

Document your progress, inspire yourself – be nice!  And don’t forget to read your journal.  Review your notes and your progress.  And since you know you’re going to be reading – be encouraging so you can learn from yourself.

March 13, 2013

Why dots are bad

I came to the harp in the folk and aural tradition.  It was very difficult for me to leave the page – the safe haven of knowing precisely what was expected, how the music had been played since it was written.  Although initially I fought (hard) against learning this way, eventually I realized the freedom in learning music the old way. 

Ok, maybe I didn’t realize the freedom so much as I actually began to give myself the freedom. Maybe I gained the courage to try something new.
The bad thing about the sheet music dots is that they are a haven.  They can encourage you to pursue a false perfection, to abandon your own good judgment.  If not careful, dots form a jail not a frame.   And if the jail is reinforced with doubt you may never break out.

In addition, much of the best music has been handed down not passed out on paper.  I never had as much fun learning a tune from a sheet of paper as I have had learning it from another person.  And if I thought I was being inventive in my interpretation before, I didn’t know the half of it.
There is still room for precision – I give you playing a marchy march or a danceable reel.  There is a need for that precision – it just comes from a different place.

March 6, 2013

Just Six Months!

The 2013 Harp the Highland and Island Tour will be leaving in just about six months.  I am so excited and really looking forward to seeing some fantastic sites and playing some amazing tunes, visiting old friends and making new ones.  You will learn so much about the heritage of the Scottish music you love and drink in the sites that help you really get the tunes into your heart.

If you would like more information, please go to the website: or feel free to contact me - leave a comment below or send me an email!
Hope you'll be joining us in Scotland in September - just six short months away!