What Happens when you let go?

What happens when you let go?  Is it exhilaration … or a sense of loss?

As a performer, I feel most alive when I really let go on stage.  I’m more there when I perform than in normal life. But as a composer, letting go is completely different.  It means I’m turning that process of expression over to someone else.

At first I thought I could follow the example of composers before me and simply publish my music in written form.

But when I heard people play the music, I realized the notes on the page were only half the story. 

The other half is showing people HOW to play those notes. Tricks in how to learn them, what the squiggles on the page really mean, how to break the piece apart and put it back together so it becomes truly yours.baroque flamenco cadenza

This is especially true with my piece “Baroque Flamenco,” which began with my obsession to bring the kind of passion, dynamics – and even aggression that I saw in some piano and violin concertos – to the harp.

To see it played, the cadenza looks like a mix of physical abandon and musical passion.  But how do you get that down on paper??


For this fiery cadenza, I wrote pages and pages of non-standard notation, and then painstakingly created a glossary to explain what that notation meant.

But still, when I saw people play it, I knew that it wasn’t getting through.

And that’s when I realized that my pieces aren’t just about the composition – they’re about the performance And teaching performance is a completely different process than writing out a composition.  No matter how perfectly I get it written people won’t really know how to play it until I show them.  Because it’s not about playing what’s written on the page.  It’s about interpreting what’s written on the page. And it’s about each person interpreting it slightly differently because of who they are.

To share THAT I had to create something completely different.

Play with Fire! Baroque Flamenco Bootcamp

That’s when I came up with the idea for “Baroque Flamenco Bootcamp.” It’s a 3-week online experience for harp players that includes training videos, warm-up exercises, playalong audio files, workbooks and downloads — and a chance to ask me direct questions in live online Q&A sessions.

Now that the internet makes live seminars possible, now that I can embed videos and offer downloadable handout and MP3′s I realized that the web makes it possible for me to create something that’s very close to ‘passing it on by word of mouth,’ very close to the experience I, personally, had, of learning music and performance skills from my mother through a combination of watching, doing, playing with her and getting direct one-on-one answers to my questions.

So that’s what I tried to create in the online course.  Before the course even begins, people get access to a set of warmups that let people get familiar with the rhythms and fingerings in the piece, and a set of videos that give people a chance to watch a real-live coaching session.

The other thing essential to me was to make the course accessible to players of all levels: fledgling, intermediate and advanced because that’s how I learned – by having my own version of a piece that I could play at my level – and then being able to build and expand on that piece for the rest of my life.

Here’s what people say about the course:

 ”I love your ideas about imperfect completion … but my sheet music has always been my safety net, and I couldn’t imagine myself to perform anything by memory.  When I worked with Baroque Flamenco and you broke it all down into small pieces, it all felt so simple!” Annette Sollie Hagen (Norway)

“I had a lot of theory with music lessons but never was taught what to do with it. This is the first time I was able to put music theory to practical use.
Gretchen Cover (Florida, USA)

If you play the harp – at any level – join me for the Fall session of “Baroque Flamenco Bootcamp.” It starts Sept. 15th and if you register before Aug. 29th you can get the pre-launch price of $197 for this 10-module, 3-week course.  To register and learn more about the course go to BaroqueFlamenco.com.

Posted in Coaching, Teaching, Students & Learning, Composing, Harping & Harpists, Online Courses | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Eleanor Turner’s Baroque Flamenco Story

Harp soloist Eleanor Turner debuted my new concerto version of “Baroque Flamenco” with full symphony in New Orleans (June 2014 )- and with 8-piece chamber ensemble in  Sydney, Australia  (July 2014) .  

In both concerts, I conducted the ensemble – a wonderful experience for me of passing the baton … while wielding it – turning the performance of the piece to a passionate, masterful soloist – while leading the ensemble that supports her.

You can see  a video of the New Orleans performance of “Baroque Flamenco” below and link to a video of the full concerto here.

In this guest post below is Eleanor’s story of her own relationship with my piece “Baroque Flamenco” which she now performs as a solo piece in her solo concerts — and also as the final movement in the concerto “Soñando en Español” when she plays with symphony or chamber ensemble.

MY Baroque Flamenco Story

By: Eleanor Turner

Welcome to the world of a harpist …

Eleanor Turner playing harp It’s a world of mostly female, highly strung individuals (not just a great pun, an absolute harp fact) who desperately seek approval and justification for their art, perfect technique, toned arms, a great husband/roadie and above all, some really impressive repertoire.

We have a rich heritage of ‘classical’ music from the 18th century onwards and as far as I can work out, the harp repertoire is built on a foundation of pieces that sound really easy, often disappointingly so, but that take year after year of practice to learn, perfect the techniques, build up enough stamina to perform….and then more years to build up enough stamina (and courage) to perform them all in quick succession in front of an audience of people that just ‘love the magical, dreamy sound of the harp’.

Have you ever wanted to wake those people up, with a clinging-to-the-edge-of-your-seat, white-knuckle ride of dazzling harpistry that will knock their socks off, blow their minds, have them up on their feet at the end, applauding wildly and giving you the much needed affirmation of your talent and dedication that you have put into your lifetime of practice and study?

Well, I DID!

That’s why I instantly fell in love with Baroque Flamenco, by my idol Deborah Henson-Conant, whose wild, impassioned image graced the walls of my bed/harp room as I was growing up; my light at the end of the tunnel image, to aspire to be free with the harp as Deborah was – that was why I was up at 4am most mornings to practice.

It was a dream to reach up to, and I made it.turner-996 “Baroque Flamenco” symbolizes for me both the end of one journey (shedding harp-related baggage, mostly) and the start of a new, exciting one – sharing fearlessly with my audience the pure, unbridled passion that I have for my instrument!

I spend more time with the harp than I do with my husband. More time with it than my friends, my family and even my children!

I pour myself and my emotions into it on a daily basis and in return, well, it keeps me sane.

Baroque flamenco means that I can now dance with my beloved harp – on stage – and totally rock out in the cadenza. THANK YOU, Deborah!

Now, about my Baroque side …

On a more subtle note, I am fortunate enough to play 19th century period harp performances on a beautifully restored Erard harp from Paris in 1820.

She is a delicate and elegant lady, named ‘Comtesse’ after her original owner, Felicité, La Comtesse de Genlis, a very important harpist, playwright, letter-writer and harp teacher who lived in Paris from the late 18th Century and was mixing with the most famous of Parisian society, including Napolean.

This harp was much later than the stunning single-action harp made for Marie-Antoinette by master luthier Jean-Henri Naderman (and delivered to her in Versailles on her 19th birthday in 1774!) but it gives me a window into that different world.

Marie-Antoinette was famously a great musician and much envied as a graceful and highly trained dancer as well. I love to imagine the perfect elegance of Marie-Antoinette as she plays the Rousseau minuet for Deborah’s imagined ball; the twinkle that would certainly have been in her eye as she moved people to dance to her beat, and her sparkling harp playing, fueled by her own love of dance.

One can only imagine what would have occurred when her world was invaded by a time-travelling flamenco troupe, but every day I thank God that there is this crazy, passionate, creative whirlwind out there, called Deborah Henson-Conant, who imagined JUST THAT!

Do YOU play the harp?

Join my upcoming  “Baroque Flamenco Bootcamp” online course  HERE – and within 3 weeks you’ll be playing your own version of “Baroque Flamenco” – sharing your own passion – at your own level of ability.

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