September 30, 2015

Holidays are coming up!

Those people who are planners will note that it's about time to start getting ready for the Holiday season.  Since the retailers have decided that Labor Day is when Christmas stuff comes out, we should probably take a hint.  The holiday season is a time that you can expect to be asked to play. If people know you play the harp, you’re going to be asked (If you haven’t told your immediate family that you’ve taken up the harp, you need to come clean!).

Whether you will play for your dog, your family, or parties and other gigs, you need a plan that will allow you to get through the season of holidays with minimal stress – and still leave time for your shopping.

Here are a six things you can do to be prepared:

  1. Make a list – what tunes are you going to play? What have you played in previous years (these will come back quickly)?  What did you have requests for last year that you need to learn?
  2. Get out your calendar 1 – when are you available? When do you have other obligations?
  3. Decorate – what will you wear for your gigs (even if its your dog, think of it as a gig)? Can you actually play in that outfit?  If you’re pulling out your annual holiday outfit, a year is plenty of time to shed, find or redistribute weight - does it still work for you?
  4. Get out your calendar 2 – when are you going to practice? When will you be too busy to fit in time?  Where does that fall relative to your obligations to play?
  5. Get it together – do you have any music or notes you need pulled together?  Are they attractive or do you still have a collection of stickies and scraps of paper?  
  6. Breathe – do you have enough time to do all the other things you might do for the holidays (such as baking, visiting friends, wrapping gifts, etc.)?

Get started now so you can have a relaxed enjoyable holiday season – you’ll be glad you did!

September 23, 2015

Double Digits Day

Today is double digits day – there are only 99 days remaining in 2015 - so we are losing that feeling like the year will never end and entering into the part where the year seems to be flying by faster than we can see!  So the question is – have you done all the harp things you set out to do this year?

If you have, good on you!  But more likely than not, there might be a couple of things as yet unfinished. The good news is you have plenty of time to get going on them and likely finish before the end of the year!
Apparently most people don’t meet their goals (a desired outcome) because they didn’t have enough time.  Of course, we all get the same 24 hours each day – it’s how we use them that we need to look at.  It is easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer number of things we think we will accomplish in a day (with work, school, chores, tasks and other stuff) – and in that overwhelm we don’t always get to our harps.

Which is a shame since the simple act of playing would probably significantly reduce that feeling of unending overwhelm.

There’s no challenge implied here.  But imagine what kind of progress you could make if you mindfully moved yourself forward, just a little bit, every one of the remaining days in 2015. It’s a great opportunity to start journaling your practice or actually practicing each day (even if only for 30 minutes!).  It’s a chance to do something for yourself, that isn’t bad for you and just might do you some good!  At a minimum, it will help you count down the days (and will help highlight how close the holidays are – yikes!).

There’s nothing magic about having 99 days remaining in the year – it’s just a milestone, a time to stop and reflect, to determine if we’re doing the things we want to be doing with our time.  Are you in?

September 16, 2015

2015 US National Scottish Harp Championship at Stone Mountain Highland Games

Come to Atlanta, Saturday and Sunday, October 18 - 19, 2015 for the 2015 US National Scottish Harp ChampionshipTM

The Scottish Harp Society of America’s US National Scottish Harp Championship will be hosted at the Stone Mountain Highland Games outside Atlanta, GA and is open to all SHSA members. 

This year’s judges are the amazing Seumas Gagne (Distinguished Judge) and me (!). 

Rules and categories are available on  

For more information on the 2015 Championship, visit:

Saturday’s Schedule – 9 am Registration, 10 am Competition
Sunday – Harp Tasting at 10:30 am and 3:30 pm with workshops at 1 pm

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 2019. It is especially rewarding to be supported by a clan with such an ancient and distinguished history of Gaelic poets and musicians.

Clan Currie continues to sharpen 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:

Hope to see you there!

September 9, 2015

Glide through the Gliss

One of the things that defines the music of the harp has got to be the glissando.  Glisses are central to any showoff repertoire, and while they are easy to do, they are very difficult to do correctly!  The only way to get good at glissandos is to do them, practicing them until they are perfect - but you already knew that.  

First – what is a Gliss?  Glissando comes from the French word Gliser – to slide* and when doing a gliss, you do, in fact slide up the strings.

Glissandos are tricky beasts – yes, they are dead easy to whip out but devilishly difficult to get right! 

Glisses have a beginning, an end, and should have some specific characteristics including being even in tempo, include dynamics, beginning and ending on time and on the right notes, should be in the key denoted and should be effortless.  No cheating with “stop fingers”!

Glisses can go up or down.  They are not used so much in traditional music but are present more in classical music. Glisses are also variable and may take many forms.  But most of us more trad players who just want our listeners to be happy.  We are just looking to rip off a four octave drag up the strings and back down again in that crowd pleasing glissfest that seems to keep them coming back for more (and lets admit it – they are kind of fun!). 

Going up, use your 2 or 3 finger with a gentle curve and draw up the harp – keep your elbow lifted like you’re drawing a bow.  To go down, use your thumb and push your hand away from you.  Not hard. 

Except of course, the details are where the work lies.  Breathe and count – don’t play longer or shorter than the gliss gets – you don’t want to shy the values or make an expansive ritardando where you didn’t really mean to.  Follow any dynamic that might be needed to assure the gliss suits the tune and isn’t just a splash of noise!  Start on the right first note and end on the correct last note.  Practice smoothly moving along the strings,  not “stuttering” through the notes (especially that last one when you try to end in the right place!).

So, practice doing them correctly, so they are crisp and correct – playing the notes you meant to and no more and you’ll begin to enjoy playing glisses for fun