Ted Jones is one of the newest members of the group. When Ted joined last summer, he told me there was ‘something’ he needed to express with his harp, but he wasn’t clear exactly what that was.
He’s a wonderful singer, a seasoned actor and has a strong, relaxed harp-playing style, so I assumed that he’d create a kind of one-man show over the year.
But Ted’s creative life changed on June 12, 2016 when he learned about the events at the Pulse nightclub. Within hours he’d emailed me telling me how important it was that his work acknowledge that event and provide support and healing for people.
He started talking about labyrinths and healing and journeys — and then it all started to take shape.
Within weeks he’d painted a beautiful cloth labyrinth(see the design above) – a kind of portable pilgrimage, When he came to the “Harness Your Muse” summer retreat, he brought the cloth in a huge duffel bag, unfurled it and led the whole group through kind ceremony-performance, with himself as the Labyrinth Keeper, singing and speaking from the harp. Then he led us through his Labyrinth, playing us through our journey.
Within two months he’d created “An Endless Song,” a completely new program, a way to use his harp to create a pilgrimage of healing and of new beginnings. I got to experience it first-hand — the sense of group meditation and support, and the beauty of walking through one man’s painted garden. (Here he is about to lead us all through the experience)
Below he’s ‘clearing’ the labyrinth with beautiful silk flags
Below you can see people walking through the labyrinth, each in their own world, on a tiny pilgrimage – yet all together.
We all want to reach out, to create something, to do something. For Ted, what happened at Pulse led to a way of reaching both in to his music and out to help other people.
This Thursday Ted is being interviewed as part of the “Healing with Music” summit. Learn more and connect to the event at AnEndlessSong.com/AngelWalk/ – Ted’s new website – he’ll have more information there on the day of the interview.
Do you have a project that’s filling your soul, and you need support and direction to bring it into the world? Applications for 2017 “Harness Your Muse” are available now at HarnessYourMuse.com.
Librarian and harpist Sally Walstrum has a story like that. It’s her personal story of a rekindled life passion — and she puts it to music with her 32 string electric harp, looper pedal … and just a smidgeon of the Dewey Decimal system in her new show “Confessions of a LateNight Harpist” which is being debuted … where else but at the Library.
Sally Walstrum is a member of my Harness Your Muse Mentorship program and her yearlong project has been to develop this show, which shares the music and stories of a woman who left her first passion to pursue a safer life — and then returned for the passion she left behind. Now Sally is integrating these two parts of her life in a way she never thought possible.
This theme speaks to anyone who’s left a passion behind in order to create a safer life.
Is there anyone who hasn’t done that in some way or another? I’ve never met that person. For me it was composing musical theater – something I’m reconnecting to deeply now. How about you? What did you leave behind? What did you always want to create, but just never got around to it? (I’d love to know! Please talk about it in the comments.)
That’s what my Harness Your Muse Mentorship program is all about. So if rekindling a passion speaks to you check out the info page and fill out the application – many people say that simply filling out the application gives them a huge amount of clarity about their own passions and where they want to take them (and don’t worry – there’s a box on the application you can check to tell me that you’re just filling it out for the experience)
Confessions of a LateNight Harpist
WHAT: Sally Walstrum’s “Confessions of a Late Night Harpist” WHEN: Saturday, October 15, 2016 at Noon WHERE: Hawaii State Library – Front Lobby, 478 South King Street, Honolulu, HI 96813 MORE INFO: (808) 586-3500
ABOUT THE SHOW: One woman’s story of a passion rekindled – a story told from the harp. This 60 minute program for all ages features music styles from Blues to Flamenco on a 32-string electric harp with looper pedal, stories, and a smidge of the Dewey Decimal System.
ABOUT SALLY WALSTRUM: Sally came of age as a conservatory-trained harpist, steeped in the classics and the intense world of competition as a professional musician. She left that world to become a librarian, and her harp fell silent … until, nearly 3 decades later, she sat down at her neglected harp and her passion opened like a beloved book. Sally is currently working with creative mentor Deborah Henson-Conant in the “Harness Your Muse” program and has since developed – and performed – her first solo harp concert in 35 years! She’s now working on a series of shows for concert and family audiences featuring her 32-string electric harp, looper … and stories of passion rekindled.
Yaaaay! I’ve just published 2013 Arrangement of “Baroque Flamenco” for Harp Ensemble, commissioned by the American Youth Harp Ensemble – and now YOUR Harp Ensemble can play it!
The Download Package includes 5 multi-page PDFs:
The Full Score: So you can see how all the parts fit together (see examples below)
Harp 1 – Pedal Harp (Int. to Adv. Level)
Harp 2 – Pedal Harp (Int. to Adv. Level)
Harp 3 – Lever Harp (Int.)
Appendix – my personal description of how to play all the special effects in the piece
It should be possible to adapt much of Harp 1 and Harp 2 for lever harp – and if you’ve worked with me before, you know that I do encourage you to adapt my compositions to play on lever harp, if I haven’t already done it. So even if your ensemble is of a different level, or different configuration, you should be able to use this arrangement to play the piece as an ensemble.
Many thanks to Sunita Stanislaw for pushing me to publish this version of the piece and to the American Youth Harp Ensemble for commissioning and performing it in 2013.
Tomorrow I’m presenting the rewrites for the New Opera and Musical Theater Initiative.
Yesterday I rehearsed with with singers Erica Spyres and Matt Spano, and pianist/musical director Tim Maurice, who has become a huge part of my creation process. Here’s a selfie of the whole crew:
“Rehearsal” is probably a misnomer because I’m still developing the piece – so that means I’m asking all three to re-work the piece with me as we go.
That means cutting measures, shifting notes, changing words all on the fly. Tim and I work together weekly, and he knows the piece so well now that I can say “use the new accompaniment here” or “play like whacked out Chopin” he can shift without dropping a beat.
It’s exciting to see it come together. It also wakes me up in the middle of the night when I write down things like “the cage is LIFE!” – things I ponder over in the morning when they’re legible enough to read.
Later this fall I’ll start sharing the show in a series of ‘Pizza Readings’ – so stay tuned for more on that.
Life is extremely rich for me right now – in both challenges and revelations. Frankly I love hearing about other people’s challenges so here’s a snapshot of mine and you can see the revelations here. But, just to give you a graphic – is what I look like most mornings these days.
Many of my current CHALLENGES fall into the category of “Technical Issues.” They’re all about that booby-trapped badlands between an idea and the ability to express the idea fluently to others.
Right now my biggest tech challenges are about building the back-end structure for my new “Hip Harp Academy” – a year-long membership program that includes all my online harp courses into a curriculum that lets harpists work with me for a whole year instead of class-to-class. I’m so excited about this new way of working with my creative tribe – but building the back-end is definitely a creative challenge despite a great team of creatives and tech helpers.
I know exactly what I want. If it were a song, I could just down and sing it. But it’s not. It requires a completely different kind of voice – one that is not natural to me … yet. In fact, right now that voice sounds pretty cracked and raw.
And as weird as it seems, the fact that I struggle with things like this is part of what helps me totally ‘get’ the struggles that harpists have with their instruments. As uncomfortable as the transition between not-being-able-to-do and being-able-to-do is for me it’s that very discomfort that helps me find ways to get around similar disconnects for the people I mentor and teach – people who can feel what they want to express, but struggle – like I do – with becoming fluent in a new voice with new technical issues.
Knowing I can help them do what they think is impossible helps me realize that I, too, will be able to do this thing that, right now, sometimes feels impossible.
Being able to help them make the shift from “I can’t do this” to “Ohhhhhh, I get it!” helps me realize that that shift will happen for me as well.
So … if you play the harp, sign up to be on the “First To Know” list for the school now – folks on that list get first dibs at the VIP slots in the school and a discount on signup … er … as soon as we get it open. If you think you’re already on the list, feel free to sign up again – it won’t put you on the list twice unless you use a separate email address.
And if you like reading about my challenges, let me know … I’ll be happy to share more of them!
My teacher Tony used to say you must “become a victim of your own work.” I never liked that word ‘victim’ but I understand now that he meant that you need to believe so deeply in your own work that you let it affect YOU, so that your own work changes you.
One of the biggest revelations on that score for me lately comes out my piece “Strings of Passion” – which you can see for FREE on Friday Sept. 16 only at the Virtual Harp Summit – (or purchase the all-access pass and get to watch it at your leisure forever).
I’ve been working on the piece for years – as a performance piece, a book and a workshop – and lays out my own creative process – in stories, ideas and music – into the 7 steps I take to get from any creative impulse to the moment of lift-off. The 7 are: Impulse, Structure, Character, Roles, Practice, Deconstruction and Lift-off.
“Lift-off” is the moment the original impulse has been transformed into a form of expression that can be express or shared. Sharing or expressing is the moment the baton is passed, when it can be experienced first-hand by someone else and becomes part of their life experience, their story.
This is a screenshot from the “Virtual Harp Summit” Strings of Passion masterclass. At this moment I’m showing Diana Rowan an exercise to play with the roles of Leadership and Followship:
When you’re playing jazz, the space between impulse and expression is basically instantaneous. When I create an orchestra score for a concerto-like piece to perform with symphony, the space between impulse and expression can be weeks, months or years. And when it’s a musical theater piece, like “The Golden Cage” which I’ll be presenting privately this weekend, the work can take decades.
Keeping your connection to that original impulse throughout the process is the challenge. It’s also one reason jazz and improvisational performance is so liberating – which is why I always build in some improvisational element to every performance, even with symphony.
The Big Revelation: Letting Your Own Work Impact You
The big REVELATION for me recently about “Strings of Passion”, is that this 7-step process is at work not just in my ‘creative’ life, but in every part of my life. So I’ve been using the principles in a very conscious way to look at my challenges — including very practical tech challenges.
And at the same time, I’m constantly asking myself the same thing I ask the musicians I teach and mentor – “is there a creative way I can do this RIGHT NOW, exactly as I am, without having to ‘get better?’ ”
So I’m basically actually LISTENING to my own teaching (duh…) and delighted to experience, as my great friend Cherie Magnello once said to me “it’s amazing to discover that you actually can have an effect on yourself.”
It’s something I’m just not good at: teaching beginners how to play an instrument. My coaching is all for advanced beginners to professionals. But I know someone who’s REALLY good at teaching beginners …
Her name is Shelley Fairplay, and she’s one of the original members of my “Harness Your Muse” mentorship program. Breaking things down for beginners is so natural for Shelley that I was thrilled when she decided to take her years of teaching beginners one-on-one and use the “Harness Your Muse” program to create an online course that aspiring harpists can take anywhere in the world.
I’ve watched Shelley build StartHarp from scratch and it’s a spectacular program: gentle, thorough, encouraging – and includes learning to play written music (something I never learned as a kid!) plus improvisation, theory and the option to do homework and get personalized feedback from Shelley. It even includes info on how to find and buy (or borrow or rent!) your first harp – and it’s all online so people can take the course in their own living rooms!
WHAT IS IT: StartHarp is an online course for people anywhere in the world who want to play the harp – people who’ve never touched a harp, or beginners who want an affordable, accountable system for learning.
WHEN: The next 12 Week Session begins on September 16, 2016
WHERE: YOUR livingroom – via your computer. In other words – everywhere!
Shelley is a performer and teacher with over 15 years experience teaching harp, harp ensembles and workshops for all ages. She’s also the founder of “Harpist for a Day”, a program that gives non-harpists the opportunity to go from first note to concert performer in a single day.
Her successful concert series “The Three Strands: Passion, Sorrow and Joy” was premiered in the UK in 2014, and her CD of the same name was released in 2015. Her 2016 concert series “HarpOSphere,” like all her concerts, features her own original works along with her arrangements of popular, classic and traditional tunes. She has performed throughout the UK, and appeared in Europe and the U.S. as a soloist and alongside internationally renowned harpists including electric jazz harpist Deborah Henson-Conant.
Wanna help grow more harp players in the world?
Here are some fun things you can do to help promote this great program. And YES, you get extra points at the Heavenly Gates if you play the harp … OR help create more harp players in the world!
It’s how I’ve been writing music since I was a kid. I act it out. I play all the parts, and completely indulge myself in the emotions and physicalization.
And now that I’m working on (hopefully final) revisions of “The Golden Cage,” pianist & music-director Tim Maurice and I are meeting weekly to go through the music, with me acting and singing both the characters.
Boris sings “I swore I’d be the one to prove the myth was true!”
Yup, I’m passionate birdman Boris Oridnikov Slepnic O’Hara (above) — I’m also his grumpy nemesis, Alphea J. Simpson-Hughes (below).
Alphea sings “Nothing ever changes today from being today.”
… and Tim is the entire orchestra.
I’ve been doing this as long as I can remember – telling stories with music and acting them out. The difference is that now I have a team I work with.
It was awkward at first, indulging my creative imagination in front of someone else – acting out while Tim calmly plays the piano. But now we’re used to it and I’ve learned to feel safe acting things out with Tim in the room.
The one thing I try not to do is burst into tears in front of him, or sing exceedingly loud right in his ear.
The big change recently is my new grand piano [read about HERE] which makes a huge difference for both Tim and me.
Above, Alphea tries to catch the feather – and yes, I have to act it all out in order to know how the music feels with the actions. Also any dancing – whether being one person or two – is essential. But that’s more just for fun.
The way we do it, Tim and I meet every week for a rehearsal. When we first started, the show was a mess of different pages and manuscripts, and some weeks I was so involved in other work I hadn’t done any editing. But we’d meet anyway, and go through what I had, even if it was exactly the same material as the week before – because it’s in these session that I write and rewrite the shape of the show.
Because of that, we’ve gotten used to re-creating on the fly as a team. I often ask Tim to shift around the notes, try putting different parts of the music in a different order – or sometimes I sit down and try to show him what I mean, often just with physical gestures and singing – and then he translates it into actual notes on the piano, based on the themes he knows from the show. We both add notes about what we did to the music, which I then add to the electronic copies of the manuscript before the next rehearsal.
And then we do it all over again. It’s a kind of honing process.
Sometimes it get’s a little intense. Yes, I’m strangling a feather here. And Tim is being elegantly tolerant.
Here’s what I look like when I don’t like something I’ve written and I’m trying not to start yelling at myself. I just have to write it in my notes and work on it later.
When rehearsal’s over I take photos of each of Tim’s pages so I can use any notes he’s written, along with my own notes to update the music, or write new sections. His notes are generally way more legible than mine.
In between each rehearsal I have a grid I follow.
I update the score with the notes we’ve written, and compose anything we’re missing, using a grid my friend Larry Grogin helped me create.
The work we’re doing now is to prepare for two upcoming readings. I’ll be sharing the new opening and endings of the show at the New Opera and Musical Theater Initiative in mid-September and then heading down to NYC in early October for a private reading of the whole show with the core creative team, me, Paul Gordon and Nell Balaban.
All the work I’m doing now is based on a reading we did in NYC last April, along with script coaching sessions with Eric Webb (the “Deadpan Dramaturg”).
I belong to a secret facebook group with two friends from a former success mastermind.
We 3 failed out of it.
This secret group is the only place I can come and vent and bitch and whine and not feel the shame of spiritually farting in public. In this secret place we each go on tirades of self-pity, frustration, anger – and nobody ever, ever says “You should be more positive.”
Instead we say, “I hear you, I get it, lay it on me” or we laugh out loud at ourselves and each other for these very real, very scared, very not-ready-for-primetime truths that would get the deepest scowl of disapproval in any other group or relationship, where we’d be forced to wear a scarlet “N” for “negative” on our chests.
I walk around the spiritual universe – the world of friends, colleagues, clients, dating – afraid I’ll sully or destroy relationships if I admit that there IS this scared part of me that acts out at myself with irrational self-doubt, fear, jealousy, resentment, physical tension and a million self-defeating thoughts and actions.
Yes, yes, YES I’m working to discover my base of confidence, to fully support myself, to flow with the changes and rhythm in the jazz of my life. All the great stuff I remind my mentorees to do.
And the fact is … I’m farting like a fat uncle all along the way whenever I try to hold in the spiritual gas of self-doubt. Is this really good for me???
What if I stop trying to quiet that voice of doubt in my head and instead say,
“Let’s hear the whole thing baby! Lay it on me and lay it on thick! Get graphic, get maudlin, get out the tissues! Get down on the floor, put your butt in the air and just let ‘er rip!”
Do I really need to be AFRAID that if I fart out some fear in the spiritual public space the Law-of-Attraction police will pepperspray me with virtual Febreeze???? That I’ll be shut out of love and locked away from Abundance and Flow forever?
The TRUTH is, self-doubt is part of me right now – on every level of physical and spiritual existence. I’m tuckered out from trying to pretend it’s not so. And is that really so bad??
An old boyfriend of mine, Alan, had a farty old dog who sat in the road or at the foot of the bed and disrupted everything from traffic to love-making. And, my god, that man loved that dog. The neighbors loved the dog. The folks who had to drive around him in the street loved that dog. And the only thing that dog ever did was fart.
I need to know I can be somewhere with people who, if I let a spiritual fart loose – still adore me. Where the fact that I reveal my spiritually farty self is treasured.
Because when I do allow myself to let-er-rip all the way, through a self-defeating, negative, melodramatic, profoundly unattractive tirade … something wonderful happens.
Not with myself, at myself.
In a way that only actually hearing this tirade out loud in all its drama and slime can make me laugh. And that laughter is incredibly liberating.
Tell me: What’s funny about Abundance and Flow? What’s funny about the law of attraction?
What’s funny about wallowing in self-doubt, cataclysmic failure, the melodrama of believing you’ve wasted your whole life, it’s too late now and you’re a harp-playing has-been who’s ended up in the gutter with a five-day stubble and an empty bottle of cheap gin?
Everything’s funny about that. Absolutely everything. It’s delicious self-delusional tragi-comedy at its highest. But it’s only funny when you take it over the top.
When you really go all the way and let those flaws and negative stories glory forth in all the power of their human frailty, they’re heartbreakingly human, funny in a way no mere joke can be funny … and at the seat of love.
When someone has the courage to share that with me, someone who’ll stand with me right inside the paradox of knowing that the epic failure of their life is both deeply true and deeply untrue – and who lets me see the last thing you should ever let someone see: the deepest flaws of humanity in you – and takes it so far that it’s funny – there is nothing that can keep me from loving that person.
If you never let out the gas of your deepest self-doubt, if you never really let it rip in front of someone you love and trust – how will you ever know the profound and healing humor of your own spiritual farts?
And here’s the thing – nobody likes a silent-but-deadly fart. But when you just let out a big one you can’t possibly hide from … THAT is funny. And it clears the air. On the inside.
And on the outside … well, that’s what the inside smells like. It’s not always rosy, but it’s deeply human.
Sometimes you have to crash and burn before you learn to fly
You gotta burn your fear in that fire
Sometimes you have to lose your way before you find you heart
Then you go higher and higher and higher …
Then you fly …
Little by little I’m moving forward to COMPLETE my musical “The Golden Cage” after a reading last April where I got feedback from director Nell Balaban, composer/lyricist Paul Gordon (of Broadway’s “Jane Eyre” – also my childhood musical-writing pal) and Les Mis director John Caird. In the meantime, I worked with script coach Eric Webb and the New Opera and Musical Theater Initiative in Boston to develop the script.
All that helped develop the piece – but the big shift towards COMPLETINGhappened when I connected with my friend Larry Grogin, who offered to run accountability for me so I’d work on the show a minimum of 30 minutes a day (normally I would be pulling all-nighters before each reading or session).
That included menacing emails from Larry about impending doom if I didn’t send him the evidence each day and, more recently, a relentless “We’re making a SCHEDULE … right here, right NOW” session where I think I may have started crying. Several time. But now I have a schedule – and I’m ready for today’s rehersal.
Moving towards completion also includes getting back on a weekly rehearsal schedule with pianist Tim Maurice to work through material in preparation for a reading September 17 for the New Opera and Musical Theater Initiative in Boston, and in October for the small team (Paul, Nell & me) probably in NYC.
Here’s Tim and me last week, on a hot summer day, for the first time rehearsing at my new piano. There’s no air conditioning in that room, thus rehearsing in my sportsbra.
So what does it mean to “complete” something?
Here’s the thing … this show has already been produced. It’s BEEN DONE … but it’s not DONE. To be DONE with it, it needs to be ‘done enough’ that if I died tomorrow, the play could be produced and performed without me.
As a performing composer this is one of the biggest challenges of my life. When I’m performing my own work on stage, I’m constantly reinventing it in the moment of performance – and I write both my solo and orchestral shows to leave them open for that reinvention in-the-moment.
For my solo shows “complete” means that I can get on stage and know the material well enough to connect with the audience and feel totally present – so the magic of real-time connection, real-time invention happens through the music – so my audience knows they’re getting something that is truly alive and new in the moment.
This is what I’m most comfortable with – and what I’ve done all my life, building solo semi-improvised performances. It’s what I coach the people in my “Harness Your Muse” mentorship program on because it’s what I could do in my sleep. I can’t NOT do it.
But there are other levels of Completion
As more people are involved in a creative work, there are more levels of completion.
For my shows with symphony or chamber ensemble “complete” means that the scores and parts are ready in every way to be played. They’ve been proofed, they’re legible, they follow basic conventions of orchestral presentation so they’re easy for players to read – and I’ve sent them to the ensemble early enough that they – the conductor and performers – have time to do their preparation.
For example, here’s what the full score and parts for my concerto “Baroque Flamenco” look like:
‘READY’ means that I personally have a soloist’s cheat-sheet for each piece that lets me be present and focused in the rehearsals instead of searching through the scores for my cues if the conductor jumps around to rehearse different parts.
But what if I won’t be there at all?
What if I’ll simply be sitting in the audience – or across the world from the performance? Then “DONE” means something completely different.
It means that if I died tomorrow, everything that needs to bring my vision across is in that manuscript and the support materials I provide – the audio files, video, composer or playwrite notes.
It’s not so much that I have to be DONE with it as it needs to be DONE with me. I have to project myself out of the life of the piece and give it over to its own life.
And that’s my big challenge right now with this work – to write myself out of the work completely – a piece I’ve been working on my whole creative life.
Did I mention that this is a deeply emotional experience? Funny I should save that ’til last. Being DONE means letting go of all the creative possibilities for the piece that I don’t choose. And that means a lot of crying. It means feeling like I’m losing things I love.
It’s the absolute opposite of my experience as a performing-composer – in which both myself and the works I play continue to develop together – sometimes in very dramatic ways over decades and decades, as if we were married and dancing together forever.
But now … with this piece … my challenge is to be able walk away and leave the piece on the dance floor ready to meet its new partners.
Yeah, that’s hard for me. Really hard. But that’s what I’m committed to. And if this is the kind of difficult challenge I’m asking the people I mentor to do, I have to be willing to do it myself.
How about you? What’s the heartache inside the triumph you seek? What’s the part it breaks your heart to leave behind?
And by the way … those lyrics at the beginning of this post? They’re not from the show. They’re from the show to ME.
It’s the first-ever Virtual Harp Summit …
and I’m part of it!
No, this isn’t me … this is Diana Rowan who’s hosting the first-ever Virtual Harp Summit!
Harp Festivals are a big thing for harp players around the world and as more and more people play the harp – especially as adult beginners, it’s about time for a VIRTUAL Harp Festival! And that’s what the Virtual Harp Summit is!
Spearheaded by my online-harp buddy Diana Rowan, it’s a free event focused specifically on developing more creativity in your harp playing ~ and it runs over 7 days for absolutely FREE with 25+ harp luminaries from around the world.
And just to prove that yes Diana does always look like a fairy princess, here’s a photo of me, Diana Rowan and harpist magnifico Lisa Lynn last summer live at the International Harp Festival in California.
Often people want to know the same kinds of things: How did I get started? What drew me to the harp? And when I answer I like to do it via video to create a library of answers people can draw from.
Occasionally the questions get more specific, like when someone has a particular research project. In this case, Selina Her from Stanford University, sent me a list of questions that seemed to focus on the physical, the functional, the relationship between builders, harpists and the people who take care of harpists (like physical therapists and doctors)
Question Set #1
Describe your identity as a harpist
How do harpists fit in your social circle?
Do harpists I know share my views about the harp?
Question Set #2
Describe your ideal harp.
Do you think that how a harp looks influences how it’s heard by audiences?
Is there any part of the harp you would change?
Question Set #3
How often do you think about the physical strain of playing the harp?
Have you ever had sustained injuries from the harp?
Do harpmakes, harpists or doctors help prevent injuries?
Question Set #4
What do you think about technology like carbon fibre, midi & electric harps.
Question Set #5
Which is more important to you: aesthetics or ergonomics ~ how it looks or how it feels?
Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be in the creative laboratory of an artist’s mind? The Pluck Harp Cabaret is a series of mini-showcases live on stage and remote via video in which the performers in my “Harness Your Muse” mentorship share their yearlong creative odysseys and show a small segment of what they are working on.
It’s an incredible chance to see what a varied group of creative minds, of various technical levels, life experiences and passions can express using a harp.
The Pluck Cabaret laboratory concerts are being held live in the Regent Underground Theater in Arlington, MA and shared via livestream at ConcertWindow.com. You can see images from the past 2 performances in the slideshow at this blog, you can BUY TIX HERE in advance or at the door for the live show or purchase tix for the livestream HERE.
Here is a group shot:
Earlier this week we went through my “Big Picture” exercises in the theater.
And starting on Wednesday night, we let people into our laboratory where …
I explain to the audience what they’re seeing: musicians in the midst of their exploration process – something you rarely get to see.
Kathy King talks about dreams:
Sally Walstrum: Librarian by day, harpist with stories by night…
Alexandra tells us what it’s like to explore her inner composerBetsy Scott-Chapman brings us into her fantasy world for a serial concert experience
Here’s Stephanie Evans exploring physical sound:
The European members tell the stories of their projects via video:
Jana Kozlowski exploring the bridge between worlds (via video)
Nicole Mueller redefining Christmas (via video)
Katherine Harrison via video tells about her journey to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe (via video)
Shelley Fairplay talks about her new show, “HarpoSphere” via video
Back to the live presentations ….
Pumehana Wadsworth gets a lesson in the school of rock harp.
Teddy Jones creates a journey to seed new beginnings on a garden he can bring with him anywhere.
Here’s Teddy‘s Labyrinth, or journey cloth
Robbin Gordon Cartier shows us how life can change at any moment…
Deborah Henson-Conant says “Thank you for coming to PLUCK Harp Cabaret!”
In audience feedback…
This is what we look like when someone in the audience asks a great question.
We had a wonderful time!
Join us tonight 7:30PM and tomorrow at 10:30AM (Aug. 12 &13) for 2 more chances to see the PLUCK Harp Cabaret! You can come to the show LIVE at the Regent Underground (BUY TIX) … OR … you can watch ONLINE from anywhere in the world HERE!
This was a little experiment I did playing around with a new song I’m working on and some funky video I happened to capture when I was recording it. The video was definitely ‘not ready for primetime’ so I started playing around with it, seeing what I could do with it.
In the first test, I used a “Cartoon Effect” (if you don’t see anything below this – it just means the video is loading)
In the second test, I combined a video I took last summer of a sunset with the funky studio video, then put some saturation and “glass” effects on the studio video. I like the basic idea, though I think of this song as a MORNING song, not an evening song, but I love it when the little droplets of sound from the harp seem to synchronize with droplets in the lake.
Here’s an earlier version I did that’s almost exactly the same as the one above except the image isn’t as clear. I made the image clearer in the one above because I think it’s more fun to be able to actually see the fingers playing on the strings, even though I like how evocative the Test below is, and how the player-image melts into the background more.
I’d love to know which you prefer and why – let me know in the comments below. And if you want to take the audio away with you to listen on your own:
There are secret things I only share with myself or people close to me. Or I sneak them in somewhere and don’t acknowledge that I’m sharing them.
I have secret songs no one has heard, secret drawings, secret poems and thoughts. And what would happen if I shared them? Would it demean them? Would I lose my personal connection to them?
This is my martini-glass guy. He flowed out of my pencil Jan. 17, 2009. In the glass is exactly what I need at any moment. When I drink it I am filled with the power of my own desire.
One thing I do is share with myself my fears and hopes about things I do or am scared to do, so here are my fears and hopes about sharing Martini-Guy.
A fear I have about sharing martini-glass guy is that I will lose my deep personal exclusive relationship him if I share him with others
A fear I have about sharing martini-glass guy is that someone will steal him – though I have no idea how that might happen
A fear I have about sharing martini-glass guy is that sharing him will open my mind to thoughts about whether my drawings are ‘good’ or ‘bad’ or what I should ‘do’ with them – when my drawings are a secret joy for me and that joy is deeply important to me
A fear I have about sharing martini-glass guy is that I won’t know what blog category to list him under and I’ll categorize him wrong
A fear I have about sharing martini-glass guy is that someone will write and say “Hey, you already shared martini-glass guy five years ago on Facebook! What’s with this ‘secret’ thing? Don’t you remember what you do????”
A fear I have about sharing my fears and hopes about martini-glass guy is people will say “Why did you add all those fears and hopes? You ruined the power of the post.”
A fear I have about sharing my fears and hopes about martini-glass guy is that people will say, “Wow, you sure have a lot more fears than you have hopes. No wonder you’re screwed up.”
A fear I have about sharing my fears and hopes is that someone will comment that I shouldn’t be afraid, which implies there’s something wrong about having fears – and the fact is I do have them
A hope I have about sharing my fears and hopes is that someone will comment that they have these fears and hopes, too, and they loved seeing them written out
A fear I have about sharing the martini-guy is that people may think I love martinis and expect me to want to drink them in social situations
A fear I have about sharing the martini-guy is that people may think I love martini-glasses and give me beautiful, delicate martini glasses as presents when I’m on tour and I will have to figure out how to get them home and they will break
A hope I have about sharing martini-glass guy is that my relationship with him will grow in ways I can’t imagine
A hope I have about sharing martini-glass guy is that he will serve to others exactly what they need in that glass – and maybe they’ll tell me what it was they were able to drink from that glass and what it gave them the power to share
A hope I have about sharing martini-glass guy is that I’ll get more comfortable sharing
A hope I have about sharing my hopes and fears is that I will see the fears I have as simply fears I have – not truths – and I will know they’re just as important to acknowledge as the hope. I think they might be the olive.
The PLUCK Harp Cabaret is part of my year-long “Harness Your Muse” mentorship program. It features the emerging artists who are developing their original shows and projects through this yearlong program with me.
The Cabaret features a series of miniature showcase performances – both live and in video – by these emerging artists – all of whom happen to play …. you guessed it … THE HARP … but each plays it in such a different way! And I’ll be the Kabaret-Mistress performing on my own body-harp.
There are 3 evening performance and one Saturday-morning Family performance.
BETSY’S PROJECT: The Bard’s Apprentice (One-Woman Show / Album) Follow the adventures of Arion in words and music as she leaves her home to discover her true passion and find the sister she lost as a young girl.
WHO IS BETSY? After a long career in high-tech, Betsy returned to her original passion for music and theater. She is a Certified Clinical Musician, playing harp in hospital and hospice settings, as well as an actor on stage and screen. As a Voice Over Artist she lends her voice to many commercials, and she combines her love of Chinese Martial Arts with music and acting as often as possible.
3 THINGS ABOUT BETSY MOST PEOPLE DON’T KNOW
Betsy is a HUGE Tolkien enthusiast, taking Gandalf’s words as her guide: “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
Betsy lived and worked in Switzerland and France BEFORE the days when the Internet existed to connect us globally. That was an adventure!
Betsy is an early riser, and still misses her morning radio show, “The Morning Buzz”. She is at her best before noon (it’s all downhill after that).
The Disharmony of the Harp Alexandra uses an unusual method for composing Name Pieces. Notes are charted to the letters of the names, resulting in unique and personal compositions. Alexandra will perform “Henry and Jani”, composed for a wedding. This composition has a stand-out melody, catchy rhythms, and an interlude of passion and yearning.
WHO IS ALEXANDRA? Alexandra grew up in a musical family playing the piano. After attending law school, she raised a family and took a hiatus from musical study. About 25 years ago she purchased a small lever harp. Family and a full-time job interfered with her need to become a harpist. Ten years ago, she took her harp to a harp ensemble and started playing with some irish sessions. The harp has now become an integral part of her life. Alexandra plays, teaches, performs, composes, and arranges music for the harp.
3 THINGS ABOUT ALEXANDRA MOST PEOPLE DON’T KNOW
Alexandra never owned a cell-phone
Alexandra left high school in 9th grade and got a GED
“Sometimes life just needs a little Splash of Color”
A Splash of Color Stephanie uses the soundscape of her harp to bring alive her observations and stories from life.
WHO IS STEPHANIE? (coming soon)
3 THINGS ABOUT STEPHANIE MOST PEOPLE DON’T KNOW
YOU CAN CONNECT MORE WITH STEPHANIE HERE:
Website: (coming soon)
Blog: (coming soon)
“A concert inspired by planets, cycles and spheres.”
SHELLEY’S PROJECT: HarpOsphere Pythagoras proposed the intriguing idea that the Stars, Moon and Planets emit their own unique musical tones, he called it the Music of the Spheres. What if you could hear the shape of a sphere, the sound of our planets, the number Pi as a melody, the circle of life in music? Shelley explores these fascinating notions in her performance on the Concert Pedal Harp and Electric Lever Harp.
WHO IS SHELLEY? Shelley Fairplay is a performer and teacher with over 15 years experience teaching harp, harp ensembles and workshops for all ages. She is the founder of “Harpist for a Day”, a program that gives non-harpists the opportunity to go from first note to concert performer in a single day.
Her successful concert series “The Three Strands: Passion, Sorrow and Joy” was premiered in the UK in 2014, and her CD of the same name was released in 2015. Her 2016 concert series “HarpOSphere,” features her own original works along with her arrangements of popular, classic and traditional tunes. She has performed throughout the UK, and appeared in Europe and the U.S. as a soloist and alongside internationally renowned harpists including electric jazz harpist Deborah Henson-Conant.
Her Dynamic Harps Ensemble, features both an adult and children’s group, filled with harpists who enjoy learning and performing music from films, pop, shows, classical, Jazz and celtic genres. 2016 has seen the launch of her brand new online harp course for beginner harpists, START HARP.
3 THINGS ABOUT SHELLEY MOST PEOPLE DON’T KNOW
Shelley was a very keen scuba diver for many years until weekend gigs and diving became too conflicting and one passion had to go!
Shelley is currently a sphere.
Before choosing a life in music Shelley made university applications to be an optometrist.
WHO IS ROBBIN? Robbin Gordon-Cartier is a teacher in the East Orange School District where she directs the harp program that she originally created for the Elizabeth School District. She has joined the faculty of Kean University in Union, NJ as Concert Artist/Adjunct Harp Faculty. She started the North Jersey Chapter of the American Harp Society, served as president for four years and then moved to the national level as 2nd Vice-President and Director at Large. Mrs. Gordon-Cartier maintains a private studio where she teaches students of all ages and regularly freelances in the New York metropolitan area. Performance credits include appearances at Carnegie Hall and Alice Tully Hall in New York City.
“A quest, a journey, an adventure, a mission to find some answers. With a harp in tow.”
In Search of Scathach Katherine says: “Scathach” was an ancient warrior queen and teacher, whose Scottish island fortress was almost impenetrable. My own journey with the harp has been a long and difficult one. When I got my new harp 18 months ago, I named it Scathach in the hope of taking on some of those shadowy mystical qualities.
WHO IS KATHERINE? Katherine had a new piano teacher when she was ten years old, and at her first lesson, Katherine couldn’t help but notice the beautiful carved golden harp in her music room. Some of her friends were learning too, so she begged for harp lessons until her parents gave in. She took a long break from the harp in her twenties, but a chance conversation with a friend led to Katherine offering to play at her friend’s wedding. A local teacher rented her a harp, unpicked the reasons she had for giving up all those years ago, and she set off on a most unexpected musical journey of her life.
3 THINGS ABOUT KATHERINE MOST PEOPLE DON’T KNOW
Katherine is possibly the only harpist on the planet to have ever raced motorcycles competitively. She sold her race bike to buy another harp.
Given the choice, Katherine’s last meal on this earth would consist of pepperoni pizza washed down with red wine.
As a small child, Katherine once tried to sell her brother to the staff at her nursery/kindergarten.
TEDDY’S PROJECT: A Joyful Noise
A one-man show that uses musical metaphors to introduce a new way of walking labyrinths for both experienced and novice walkers.
WHO IS TEDDY? With his Celtic harp, Teddy Jones has given workshops, presentations, and performances at international conferences including: Performing the World III, Healing Through Story, and The International Conference for Human Caring. His recordings include four CDs for meditation, yoga, and hospice. His current focus is using the harp for meditation and healing.
“Broadway tunes meet childhood favorites in one woman’s musical voyage to the Land of Second Chances.”
KATHY’S PROJECT: Dream Journeys Kathy uses harp and voice in her new One-Woman show that takes her audience on a journey to the world of dreams and second-chances.
WHO IS KATHY? Kathy grew up with a deep love of musical theatre and singing. A physical therapist for over 30 years, she is now also both a Certified Music Practitioner and Reiki Master. Over the past 30 years, in addition to her healing work, she’s sung in choral groups, toured New England coffeehouses as a Christian solo artist, engaged in community theatre productions, and continues to direct her church choir. Kathy is passionate about combining music with healing in as many ways as possible – and though she’s been both a musician and healer for most of her life, the harp is a new passion – one she’s fallen completely in love with. Just as the harp has opened Kathy to a new world of musical expression, she’s using it to bring her audience on her own musical journey to the land of second chances.
“CD Release and a series of Jazz-inspired Christmas-concerts”
NICOLE’S PROJECT: In a Different Light In this colorful, classically-jazzy Christmas-program, Nicole Müller shows her instrument from a new perspective. On both the concert and the electric harp, she’s playing her own arrangements of Christmas-songs. inspired by striking rhythms and melancholy jazz-harmonies. Combined with stories from Nicole’s life and some of the world’s most famous harp Classics she’ll release “In a Different Light” through a series of public and private concerts for both family and concert-going audiences.
WHO IS NICOLE? Nicole is a passionate harp virtuoso. She graduated from the Academy of Music in Würzburg. In her solo concerts she fuses classical music, jazz and flamenco rhythms. As a soloist and chamber musician, she has performed throughout Germany and has been a guest at Germany’s major opera houses and symphony orchestras. She is also a passionate educator with many years of experience working with children and adult students. Nicole’s goal as a musician is to share her love for her instrument with the people and to explore the harp and find new sounds.
3 THINGS ABOUT NICOLE MOST PEOPLE DON’T KNOW
Nicole loves the color pink
Nicole loves to eat cheese without bread
Nicole loves to spend time with people who don’t know she plays the harp
PUMEHANA’S PROJECT: Out of the Background: Meet the Harp in the Land of Rock. Performing for weddings is my vocation. The purpose of my project is to go beyond background music, train my concert muscle and bring one of my greatest loves – Classic Rock – alive on the harp.
WHO IS PUMEHANA? While learning how to stand, Pumehana would crawl up the base of the harp and pluck bass strings, while her sister, Momi, was practicing. At eight years old, with her mother’s encouragement, she started private harp lessons. Soon she was performing for private events and hotels in Hawaii. Over time, Pumehana was able to expand her repertoire to include many different genres; Classical, Hawaiian, Love Ballads, Movie Themes, Jazz, Standards, Broadway, Classic Rock.
3 THINGS ABOUT PUMEHANA MOST PEOPLE DON’T KNOW
Pumhana is allergic to chocolate
Pumehana is a former smoker, since 2006.
When Pumehana was a baby, her late mom and god mother said she was born with halo of white hair.
“What happens when you rediscover your life’s passion, stuck between two dusty books on a forgotten shelf in the library?”
SALLY’S PROJECT: Confessions of a Harp Playing Librarian You may think a librarian’s job is boring – but librarians share their world with the greatest stories of all time. One of the greatest stories is the story of a lost passion that’s rediscovered and finally lived to its fullest. Librarian and harpists Sally Walstrum brings her own personal story of rekindled life passion to music with her 32 string electric harp, looper pedal … and just a smidgeon of the Dewey Decimal system.
WHO IS SALLY? Sally came of age as a conservatory-trained harpist, steeped in the classics and the intense world of competition as a professional musician. She left that world to become a librarian, and her harp fell silent … until, nearly 3 decades later, she sat down at her neglected harp and her passion opened like a beloved book. Sally is currently working with creative mentor Deborah Henson-Conant in the “Harness Your Muse” program and has since developed – and performed – her first solo harp concert in 35 years! She’s now working on a series of shows for concert and family audiences featuring her 32-string electric harp, looper … and stories of passion rekindled.
3 THINGS ABOUT SALLY MOST PEOPLE DON’T KNOW
Sally loves old movies.
Sally’s parents were heavily involved in the theater so she grew up exposed to live theater and dance.
One of Sally’s shining moments as a musician was when Mstislav Rostropovich gave her a solo bow (and later kissed her) when he came to guest conduct at Hartt School of Music.
Deborah Henson-Conant is a Grammy-Nominated composer/performer and creative coach. She coaches and mentors impassioned harp players through her online Hip Harp Academy and her yearlong mentorship Harness Your Muse. This post shares the “Final Beginning Projects” from students in her “Baroque Flamenco Beyond the Page” online course in spring 2016.
If you learned something from the creative journeys these performers shared, please share your takeaways in the comments below, and congratulate them for their willingness to share.
My online course for harpists “Baroque Flamenco, Beyond the Page” recently ended. In this course I show my students my own secrets of how to play this fiery harp showpiece at their skill level on their own harp! In the Spring 2016 session, 10 students in the course created videos to complete the course.
Those videos are each embedded in this page along with the answers to five questions I asked each to answer about their creative process. I hope these insights will help readers to experiment and embrace the bravery of sharing something new and imperfect yourself.
This course is about learning the foundation of my composition “Baroque Flamenco” and then learning a way to ‘get the piece across’ to an audience, regardless of your skill level along with my help, coaching and feedback. The course also gives my tips on practice techniques for Baroque Flamenco and ideas for developing your own unique performances of the piece.
For a composer, this is a unique approach to teaching an original composition but it’s my goal that every harp player can create their own interpretation of the piece, and one that can be powerful at their own level of ability since it’s my deep belief that anyone can perform with power and authenticity if they find a way to use their own strengths with the underlying concepts of a piece of music.
While that won’t work for any piece of music, I composed “Baroque Flamenco” with that in mind: a piece that can grow and develop as the skills of the performer develop, and can be effective at every point along their creative journey.
In the video links below you’ll see these 10 harpists’ interpretations of the piece.
I call these Final BEGINNING Projects because I tell the students to focus on imperfect completion as a way to end one phase of learning and BEGIN the next, rather than sliding into an endless pattern of trying to perfect something.
Give a short description of what it took for you to be able to play what you did – both logistically and emotionally.Practice! And it still needs more; so bothersome. It just occurs to me that if I had not pushed my limits, if I had taken it a bit slower, I might be happier with it.
What freedoms and blocksin yourself did you connect with (or struggle with) in the process? I had a certain “insouciance” because I had taken the course before; I went through the beginning modules up to 8, but then focused on practice, as didn’t have time for the last modules. And my practice relied on what I remembered from the first BF; I needed to give the skeleton, bones, and distilled parts more attention. I found the cadenza soundbox tapping easier in the beginning; it needed regular, consistent slow practice; but once I had it, I did not revisit the slow set it in your hands practice, and it got sloppy.
What challenges did you meetwhile connecting with your own freedom of expression in this project? Hard to decide which parts to ax, as I like the entire piece. However, cutting it down was a good exercise, and then to keep all the sections handy, I can tailor the playing to the audience or my own feelings.
What were your personal “Ahas”? I recall from BF 1 and now again in BF 2 learning a physical freedom from watching DHC do it; this was major; as I was trained to be a quiet, non-showy musician. It really has made a difference since I first took BF.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell peoplewho are watching your video? It is so hard to get a good take. Something always goes wrong, and then I think well just one more time, and I’ll get it. And then to listen to all the “almost there” recordings, and try to decide which is best is time consuming.
(Barbara answered the 1st four questions at once) Give a short description of what it took for you to be able to play what you did – both logistically and emotionally.What freedoms and blocksin yourself did you connect with (or struggle with) in the process? What challenges did you meetwhile connecting with your own freedom of expression in this project? What were your personal “Ahas”?
As my answer to the first four questions, I think the biggest challenges for me were believing that DHC actually means what she says about playing at our own actual level instead of where we think we should be, and, letting go of the idea of what I thought I “should” be doing and focusing instead on what I could play somewhat fluently. Also, focusing on a part of the framework of the piece, so I could get a version of the piece I could actually play. Not perfectly but at least reasonably consistently….
An unexpected challenge in doing the video was that I had a hard time seeing the strings against the first backdrop my husband set up for me. I put a different drape (cream instead of mottled grey) over it that gave a bit more contrast, but he had to set up some different lights to help out. We didn’t have much time to experiment – and then it took YouTube forever to do the processing.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell peoplewho are watching your video? My version has a different a story line – we have a group of musicians sitting around and their leader comes running in, telling them that they just got a gig at the palace that evening. One of the players says he knows just the piece they should start with, the minuet tune. “No, no,” says one of the others, “we want a different feel, to separate us from other groups,” and plays her tune. The first player won’t have that, and insists that the minuet is a better choice. Other players come in with a second different tune, but the first player still insists on his tune – as he’s playing it yet again, the leader comes running back in, yelling, “What are you doing? We’ll be late!’ and they grab their instruments and run out, slamming the door behind them.
NOTE FROM DHC! Yay! I love that you created your own storyline – and this one is really fun!
Give a short description of what it took for you to be able to play what you did – both logistically and emotionally.I decided to just have fun with it. I need to memorize it to be able to give it more expression. so it still is a work in progress.
What freedoms and blocksin yourself did you connect with (or struggle with) in the process? I had to learn to just go with it. Mistakes and all. To try to get the feel of the piece was more important than the accuracy.
What challenges did you meetwhile connecting with your own freedom of expression in this project? The challenge was to go with it even if not as memorized as I’d like.
What were your personal “Ahas”? My Aha moment was that the baseline really needs to come out in the flamenco variations. And to just enjoy it now and know it will keep growing.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell peoplewho are watching your video? This was a tremendous learning experience. I learned how to adapt a piece to my level and have fun with it. I learned how to video and upload. A big thanks to my husband and daughter for helping out. My Daughter was the videographer and it took both of them to get us to upload to YouTube. I learned that saving the video to the computer to upload is harder than it looks. Most of all I learned to just have fun with it even if it’s not perfect. Thanks to DHC and all the other classmates. this was a fabulous experience.
Give a short description of what it took for you to be able to play what you did – both logistically and emotionally. This is actually the longest of my original attempts at the half-baked video, which would account for the mistakes and page turns you will hear and see. It was my original interpretation before I had to start cutting things out to make it shorter, which is why I am submitting it instead of a newly recorded one. I’ve never been videoed playing my harp before so watching and listening to the playbacks was difficult for me.
What freedoms and blocksin yourself did you connect with (or struggle with) in the process? Whatever the instrument, I’ve always been taught to play what is on the page. Not having to do that here was very freeing. I can play it whenever and however I want to – I love this. It is just the beginning for me, and I am excited to see where it takes me from here.
What challenges did you meetwhile connecting with your own freedom of expression in this project? There is so much more I wanted to do but was not able to yet – I was thinking of something involving a rose between my teeth maybe, which is totally out of character for me… I hope to record it again for you in the future.
What were your personal “Ahas”? Prior to taking the class, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Now to me Baroque Flamenco isn’t notes on a page but an individual expression of the artist performing it. It isn’t static, but vibrant and ever-changing.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell peoplewho are watching your video? If anyone has been riding the fence about taking the class, go for it! This has been a journey for me – a very rewarding one.
Give a short description of what it took for you to be able to play what you did – both logistically and emotionally.I have felt hampered by insufficient practice time, and a not-serious but annoying thumb injury. Worked as hard as I could on this, but it’s not where I hoped it would be. It was an “off” day for me when it was time to record. Emotionally, I just had to admit that this is TRULY my BEGINNING final project. The imperfections are what they are.
What freedoms and blocksin yourself did you connect with (or struggle with) in the process? The big block for me is consistently wanting to do a more involved project than my fingers are up to. So I really had to be strict with myself that Variation 1 was NOT working, and just left it out. That is huge for me. The freedom is that the piece is so dynamic and fun; and given enough practice time, I can work out something that I can truly handle with flair.
What challenges did you meetwhile connecting with your own freedom of expression in this project? The challenge for myself was trying to get past playing the “correct” notes, and just “play” with the piece.
What were your personal “Ahas”? I can really see that I will be able to keep on perfecting this music; and as I improve technically, I think the drama of the piece will come through more clearly. It was great fun to throw on a couple of costume pieces and try to channel my inner flamenco dancer.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell peoplewho are watching your video? I very nearly abandoned the final project, because I was so frustrated with it. BUT, I made myself do it anyway, and I’m glad I did. The process is still completely worthwhile, and I wound up having a lot of fun.
Give a short description of what it took for you to be able to play what you did – both logistically and emotionally.This song, Seasons of the Night (NOT Baroque Flamenco, but an extra that DHC taught during the course) is such a beautiful song I decided to veer away from Baroque Flamenco and dedicate my entire week to learning Seasons. And yes, it took me about 15 hours to memorize!!!!
What freedoms and blocksin yourself did you connect with (or struggle with) in the process? It was so hard to memorize this song that I actually started surfing the web trying to find out if “the older you get, the harder memorizing becomes”!! I couldn’t find any “proof” so I just went back to the grindstone and kept working at it. Some practice sessions I cursed it, some practice sessions I loved and cherished it.
What challenges did you meetwhile connecting with your own freedom of expression in this project? I tried every which way to memorize. I made an mp3 of DHC’s class whittled down to just the music, I swam laps in the pool while listening, I walked for miles while listening, I put it on while pulling weeds in the garden. I was SURE I could play it if it “just got inside my body”!
What were your personal “Ahas”? That I have always memorized predictable music in the past. If the melody lands on a C, then there’s a C chord to play. This piece was so totally different I needed to come up with a different way to memorize altogether.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell peoplewho are watching your video? I am sooo glad I did this. Adding a piece like this to my very limited memorized repertoire to play for hospice is a true gift.
Give a short description of what it took for you to be able to play what you did – both logistically and emotionally.When I signed up for this course I knew my time would be limited, but I wanted to learn BF so I plunged right in! To keep me from stressing out over the other music I need to be working on, I chose to submit a video I recorded the same day I recorded the half baked version. I am eager to get back to finish the piece after the AHS conference! I am playing with the adult harp ensemble, so am immersed in that music right now. That’s the logistical situation – for the emotional connection to the piece – I loved visualizing the different characters represented by the different musical sections and trying to bring them out in my playing.
What freedoms and blocksin yourself did you connect with (or struggle with) in the process? I found playing with the sound files to be very freeing! Using them, if my playing didn’t line up quite right, it was easier to correct than if I was just relying on fitting the notes in with my metronome.
What challenges did you meetwhile connecting with your own freedom of expression in this project? It is so wonderful that BF is open to so much creative freedom, and I am eager to focus on the more percussive sections later this summer. I am more comfortable playing arpeggios than some of the other sections, so that’s what I chose to showcase with my BF version.
What were your personal “Ahas”? Using the warmups and the sound files helped keep me stay connected to the piece even when I was devoting more of my practice time to what I was performing in a particular week. Thinking about how DHC used an existing melody then expanded it has given me ideas for some creative projects of my own using sections of familiar pieces, then extending them in new ways.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell peoplewho are watching your video? I love that each performance of BF is as unique and beautiful as the individual creative spirits who perform it! Ole!
Give a short description of what it took for you to be able to play what you did – both logistically and emotionally.My goal was to transfer the piece from my concert harp to to my “DHC 32”. The lack of a soundboard proved a huge challenge, but DHC posted some videos about doing the cadenza without one that were extremely helpful. I had videography issues. I couldn’t find a background in my house that I liked and I had all kinds of lighting issues. I ended up with the lesser of all the evils in that this was where I was the least in silhouette. Also my microphone is in my phone so my voice doesn’t project well. Emotionally I just had to let go, be free and have fun.
What freedoms and blocksin yourself did you connect with (or struggle with) in the process? DHC challenged me to speak the story as part of the piece in one of the online chats. This was a huge block for me. I’m neither a creative writer nor a storyteller. But I was determined to take on the challenge, plus this is something I could do at the library as part of a story hour. I discovered I could have some fun with it, storytelling aspect and all, once I got over my inhibitions.
What challenges did you meetwhile connecting with your own freedom of expression in this project? I was overly concerned about the time constraint so kept cutting it down. That made it hard for me to piece together a story that made sense. The levers also were a challenge. I kept forgetting to change the B levers.
What were your personal “Ahas”? One aha was that I needed to bring the bass out in the Flamenco variations as it drives the music. I don’t think I emphasize that enough. Another was the need to differentiate between the Baroque and Flamenco characters. And it’s taking time after decades as a classical harpist, but I am getting better about letting go of the notion of perfection and just going for the completion.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell peoplewho are watching your video? I really enjoyed going through this class with all of you. This is a wonderful, supportive group and I’m amazed by all the creativity.
Give a short description of what it took for you to be able to play what you did – both logistically and emotionally.I wanted to present as complete a version of BF as I could manage. Logistically, I combined pieces of the intermediate and advanced versions along with some portions I created myself for the cadenza based on the two. Emotionally I was challenged by the technical requirements of the variation and the cadenza. The first two recordings I tried completely fell apart on the cadenza. This was the only complete one.
What freedoms and blocksin yourself did you connect with (or struggle with) in the process? Because of the technical challenges I had to tell myself to relax several times and that helped ease things. Practice helped me slow down and articulate the rhythmic passages better. More technique stayed intact for this version.
What were your personal “Ahas”? This piece is never “finished.” And I got it to 3 1/2 minutes!
A NOTE FROM DHC: I LOVE that Peggy totally invested herself in this project and shared her notes about iteven though she didn’t end up with a video to share. I take a lot of inspiration from this, since there are so many times when I ‘go for’ something and feel like I didn’t make it. It’s easy to just want to hide that – and what I love about what Peggy did was that she focused on SHARING her experience, on fully sharing what she DID have, what she learned and her process. I know that will be very familiar to others and many people will feel a deep well of appreciation for her willingness to share. Thank you, Peggy!! (DHC)
Peggy’s notes: I am just answering the questions. Although I did go through the process of it, I didn’t end up with a result I want to post; I’m actually happier with my Half-Baked video as a whole than most of what I did today.
Give a short description of what it took for you to be able to play what you did – both logistically and emotionally.The logistics of this project are that I had to be my own camera person so this was my first experience of that. I had finally found a process where I could video with my phone and then found a program on my computer Windows Movie Maker where I could actually cut the video at the beginning and end so I wouldn’t need a timer as I couldn’t find an app for editing or timing for the phone that worked in a way I could understand. I practiced that yesterday and thought I would be good to go tonight. So tonight I worked on it, set up my backdrop and played and video recorded for 3 hours but realized it is not happening today in any format I’d want to use. Emotions: mixed – glad I tried and figured out sort of how to do it myself; disappointed I couldn’t come up with the final project I fully intended to.
What freedoms and blocksin yourself did you connect with (or struggle with) in the process? I wanted to do the video like my Half-Baked only slower. What I found was I need further practice on my counting and I need to be able to see my music and my setup so the camera could see me made it hard to see my music and I just wasn’t comfortable with the location where my harp felt unstable too. So I struggled with variation 1 which I had wanted to do so much better; I’d found that there was 1 note I have been giving the wrong value to and frankly I need a lot more time doing this out loud before it sinks in to be automatic. So I got very frustrated with myself reverting to doing it wrong. Over and over then the harp started getting out of tune since I had to be by the a/c vent for the camera to see me. And I got frustrated with that and finally decided it was just not happening today. Freedoms: when I got frustrated, giving myself a few minutes to improvise, having ideas for when I am more skilled.
What were your personal “Ahas”? Trying to go slower helped with the intro strums to make them more deliberate sounding — getting better raising arms more gracefully with glisses — but need to watch out for the dresser hidden behind my backdrop, ouch!
Is there anything else you’d like to tell peoplewho are watching your video? I’d like to congratulate everyone who managed to get this done, especially those that are newer to video-recording! It’s a lot to manage along with the notes and you deserve a lot of credit. I can’t wait to see your videos!
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I often get questions from students – and this is a series of video answers to questions from harpist Pia Salvia, a student at Berklee College of Music, and a wonderful harpist with her own unique creative voice.
I’ll be updating the page as I finish the videos, so please refresh your screen each time to come to this page to make sure you see the most recent videos.
I’d love to have your comments below on what’s most interesting to you in these answers and what else you’d like to know.
Why did you choose the harp / Why did you start playing the harp?
Was the harp your first instrument? What was your first instrument?
What was the “little extra” that led to your success?
Full question: “What do you think was the “little extra” that made the difference between you and other harpists who might have been following the same “direction” as you (exploring harp outside of the classical world) but did not have your success?”
What would you recommend to a new artist starting in the music industry?
What advice do you have about the steps to success?
How do you feel today about your career?
What have been the most frustrating times in your career?
[more questions … and answers … to come …]
Thanks for the great questions, Pia! You can learn more about Pia and her musical journey at her website PiaSalvia.com
On July 4th I presented an online event called “Fireworks for the Creative Spirit: An Intro to the Strings of Passion.”
It’s an hour-long exploration in story, music, humor and ideas based on the seven ‘Strings of Passion’ I base my own creative life on, followed by an impromptu Q& A session.
The event was an experiment – a hybrid of music, philosophy and learning – live in a virtual environment. I was nervous about it – it’s very close to the bone for me – but the feedback I got from the people who came was so positive that I was encouraged to share it more publicly, so I’ve created a replay.
Sign up for the replay with the button below – and please leave comments about what you hear-learn-see in the comments below.