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Happy Holidays!

I’m so happy to share some of the Final-Beginning Projects from this year’s “Hip Harp Toolkit” program at Hip Harp Academy. These are all Holiday Greeting videos by members of Hip Harp Academy – harpists committed to liberating themselves from the notes on the page and creating their own arrangements.

We call them ‘Final-Beginning’ projects, because, while they’re the final project of this class, the point of the project is to create a new beginning – a place to start the next phase of their creative journey – and the commitment for everything in the program is Connection – not Perfection.

In that spirit, each of these projects is created for a specific audience – often as a holiday greeting for family and friends – or even for one specific individual.

Below each video you’ll get to learn – in each players own words – what they’re playing, their challenges in creating this project and what their ‘aha’s and takeaways’ were. Please add your own ‘Aha’s & Takeawys’ in the comments below.

You’ll see a huge diversity

Students of all technical levels take this class – and they all use the same principles to create their projects. You’ll see projects from advanced players, and from ‘fledgling’ players who’ve started their harp journey in the 2nd or 3rd acts of life.  You’ll see projects from people who’ve played all their lives – and from people who left the instrument for decades and then returned. They’re all working from the same principles I teach in the class – and you’ll get to see how they each use those to create arrangements at their own level of technical ability.

They’ve also all committed to creating these arrangements ‘off the page’ – so they’re not playing written arrangements, but simply using what they learned to create a spontaneous arrangement, that will be different each time they play it.

One of my favorite parts of these projects is reading what the students write about their journey to creating this video – and I ‘ve included their answers to the questions I ask about that in the dropdown below each video.

I’ve included all the projects that were shared this year – usually 10% – 15% of people in the class share a project – and I also included a few projects I really love from previous years.

A few years ago, when I was explaining to a non-harpist friend how much I enjoy these projects, and seeing everyone taking the same concepts and bringing them alive with different tunes, skillsets, levels of technical proficiency, and in different settings – I showed my friend some of the projects and after looking at the page she blurted out

“Oh, I love it!  These are real people!”

In one short sentence she put into words why people find these videos so inspiring: These truly are real people, often people who are expert at something completely different in life, sometimes adult beginners who have only played the harp for a year or two – sometimes advanced players who are challenging themselves to break away from the security of written notes — all of whom are investing themselves, heart and soul in expressing themselves with an instrument that’s as tricky as it is beautiful.

Yes, thse are TRULY real people, and they’re sharing the beauty of that realness with all of us. This is a real gift.

Sally Walstrum (2018

Read Sally's Insights about doing this Project (click to open)

This is an arrangement of “Carol of the Bells” with an exploration section over a vamp.

What principles from this course or from chats did you use to develop, perform, and record this project – and how did they play a part in your process?

This seemed to be the year of the vamp as we covered them a lot in the chats. I got inspired by that and decided to explore over a vamp vs. the song’s chord progression.

Give a short description of what it took for you to be able to play what you did – both logistically and emotionally.

Logistically, it was a matter of setting up the camera and finding a spot in the house with a suitable background. Fortunately having a tree in the house lends itself to providing a nice look in the camera shot. Emotionally, it was about dealing with my perception that Christmas music can feel stale due to hearing the same songs over & over. I gave my sister a short list of songs and asked her what she’d like me to arrange. She said “Carol of the Bells” was one of her favorites and that gave me incentive to play the song.

What freedoms and blocks within yourself did you connect with (or struggle with) in the process?

Some of the blocks were technical in terms of harp playing. There are a lot of lever changes and I really struggled with making them smooth. I tried it on the pedal harp and found it even harder to play. Eventually I got more comfortable with working the levers. In terms of freedoms; it was about enjoyment. I found myself at some point in the process liking the song and what I was trying to do with it. I realized at some point that I was smiling while playing it, which is unusual for me as I usually have a look of stern concentration while playing.

What challenges did you meet while connecting with your own freedom of expression in this project?

I think the challenge was to not take myself so seriously while coming to the realization that many people love the traditions of Christmas and that its music is joyous and celebratory. After that, it became easy to commit to creating something.

What were your personal “Ahas”?

Don’t stress the small things and have fun!

Anne Horton (2018)

Read Anne's Insights about this Project (click to open)

This is a 5-part arrangement of “Joy to the World” as a “Greeting Card” for friends and family, Christmas 2018.

What principles from this course or from chats did you use to develop, perform, and record this project – and how did they play a part in your process?

*Creating a 5 part structure
* Simplifying things until they were EASY .. and then building and expanding from there.
* Incorporating DHC’s feedback from my Half-Baked project.
* Expressing myself is more important than technical skill.
* Have fun

Give a short description of what it took for you to be able to play what you did – both logistically and emotionally.

It took courage, determination and time to explore DHC’s suggestions (from half-baked feedback) and implement them.  I played the piece “at least three times every day” (many more in fact) just to “let it grow” and become more confident with the new left hand patterns DHC suggested (getting away from the comfortable triads) and an alternate blowing pattern which freed me to play a more interesting composition.
I created a new, bigger “comfort zone” to play in!

What freedoms and blocks within yourself did you connect with (or struggle with) in the process?

In this process I firstly made sure that I understood DHC’s feedback and then allocated enough time to implement it.  My biggest block is probably difficulty accepting what I can do in the time I have available – I want to do more (and truth be known – I want it to be PERFECT!!! … oh dear!).  For example, even now I can see there is one quite important change that I wanted to make and I realise that amongst all the other changes I forgot to do it!! (when I am improvising, I play CCCC instead of CCCG with my left hand! I really wanted to do that “G ringing in the left hand and the descending cookie cutter pattern with the right hand to lead back into the melody”).  Somehow the critical moment came and I had to start proper filming to meet the deadline and overlooked that I hadn’t fixed up that bit yet!  It is disappointing but that is what “imperfect completion” is, right?

On the bright side, I think this project really highlights to me the freedom and joy I feel when I am connecting with other people (and hopefully bringing them joy too).  I can see how the harp can be a platform for this, even though I am not wonderfully skilled at harp playing at this point (no wonder your recount of your grandmother with her piano resonated with me so much!).

What challenges did you meet while connecting with your own freedom of expression in this project?

I feel that the limitations of my harp playing ability do limit my freedom of expression while I am playing the harp. For example, contrast the freedom of expression and how relaxed I appear when I am signing/speaking (and even singing though to a lesser extent – NB: I don’t sing at all in this video) compared to when I am playing the harp. I would like to be able to look away from the harp and engage with my audience more whilst playing – but instead I really have to concentrate on what I am doing which seems obvious and inhibitive. I suppose you don’t need or want to be looking at the people ALL the time, but I just hope people are able to feel comfortable when they watch me play – and that they are not on the tenderhooks that I am feeling, thinking “will she be able to do it?!”

What were your personal “Ahas”?

This is the first time I’ve been able to submit a half-bake and then really digest and implement the feedback to produce a VERY DIFFERENT (yet strangely similar) Final-Beginning project.  So my Aha is this – the reason these two projects are so different and yet so similar is because although I was able to implement feedback and produce something with greater technical difficulty that was more pleasing to the ear, the “FUNDAMENTAL” element (the “growl in my gut”) is the same!  Yay!!

“It was fun creating something for each part of the structure and putting it together in different ways for different tunes … creating less complex arrangements ‘on the fly’ and appreciating the beauty of simplicity(Diane)

Margi Miller (2018)

Read Margi's Insights about this Project (click to open)

This is O Tannenbaum, done for Richard, a 95 year old in Assisted Living.  Richard can no longer sing, but he can recite the German version of O Tannenbaum as he learned it during his navy days in WWII.  He wanted it to sound “war-like” and majestic. 

What principles from this course or from chats did you use to develop, perform, and record this project – and how did they play a part in your process?

I learned the importance of elongating and decorating an otherwise mundane Christmas Carol by adding a beginning, ending and improvised section.  Makes a BIG difference.

Give a short description of what it took for you to be able to play what you did – both logistically and emotionally.

The hardest part for me was thinking of Richard, trying to smile AND remembering where my fingers were supposed to be all at the same time.  Not easy!!!

What freedoms and blocks within yourself did you connect with (or struggle with) in the process?

Instead of laboring over memorizing the song and the chords and the melody, I chose a melody that was easy enough not to have to read, and just “made up” the left hand sounds.  This was very different for me. I never even looked at a music score when I started.  This was a first.

What challenges did you meet while connecting with your own freedom of expression in this project?

I kept wondering: is this good enough? Should I do more?  Should I have taken more time to learn more? All of this takes away from the enjoyment of playing. 

What were your personal “Ahas”?

Simple is best! It makes me happier.

Diane (2018)

Read Diane's Insights about this Project (click to open)

Following the feedback from the half baked, I have used chord inversions in measures 1 and 2 of the melody and transitioned to the Cadenza using an f chord before the G, I also added some sixths to the end of the Cadenza.

What principles from this course or from chats did you use to develop, perform, and record this project – and how did they play a part in your process?

The 5-part arrangement structure and the three roles. I tried to capture the character of each part of the structure and experimented with various ideas for the roles.

Give a short description of what it took for you to be able to play what you did – both logistically and emotionally.

It was fun creating something for each part of the structure and putting it together in different ways for different tunes.

What freedoms and blocks within yourself did you connect with (or struggle with) in the process?

The freedom of relaxing and playing the character and ideas shown in the course and not worrying too much about the notes

What challenges did you meet while connecting with your own freedom of expression in this project?

Lack of time.

What were your personal “Ahas”?

Taking the course for the second time I have found that the concepts and ideas are a lot clearer allowing me to put them into practice more. I have enjoyed moving away from concentrating on the ‘page’ and the ‘notes.’

“This project really highlights to me the freedom and joy I feel when I am connecting with other people (and hopefully bringing them joy too).  I learned that expressing myself is more important than technical skill – and I created a new, bigger “comfort zone” to play in!” (Anne Horton, Australia)

“I learned the importance of elongating and decorating an otherwise mundane Christmas Carol by adding a beginning, ending and improvised section.  Makes a BIG difference.” (Margi Miller, Florida USA)

Cherie GULLEROD (2018)

Read Cherie's Insights about this Project (click to open)

What principles from this course or from chats did you use to develop, perform, and record this project – and how did they play a part in your process?I love all the lead sheets and formulas and helpful resources. Showing how to negate un-harpistic chords in the “Angels We Have Heard..” example is great! It is validating to see that I do this already and it is OK! The arrangement police won’t come after me. DHC is SOOO generous to give such rich content for me to use as I go over this material on my own.

Give a short description of what it took for you to be able to play what you did – both logistically and emotionally.I figured this out a couple of weeks ago. My “arrangement” is just words typed on a page with my chords written in.  Even though it never feels ready, I have performed it twice in public, getting it ready for a big performance at my local theater in two days. I’m trying to let go of my ego about my playing and just be so into the song that the audience comes with me.

What freedoms and blocks within yourself did you connect with (or struggle with) in the process?Locking down the format and shape of the song so that I don’t stress about memorizing is something I need to do a lot more of. I have to remember to keep the melody clear and not “doodle” all around it so much. 

What challenges did you meet while connecting with your own freedom of expression in this project?Making time to do the course! Ironically, I have been playing and performing so much, plus we  moved back into our house after a year’s worth of remodeling. DHC was wonderful to send all the reminders. I am just sad that the 10 weeks have flown by already! 

What were your personal “Ahas”?That I do a lot of these things already and that it is great to play just where I am. That simple and clean is better! That it is fine to play my lead sheet arrangements differently every time. I love the 5 part arrange-o-matic! The main “Aha!” is not to get hung up on the details; to embrace Imperfect  Completion! I have heard that recording artists say, when asked how they know when a song is done, “When it gets recorded.” So we are always a work-in-progress, aren’t we?

Dianne Phelan-Muller (2018)

Read Dianne's Insights about this Project (click to open)

This is “Silent Night” as Mary’s experience of her newborn’s heartbeat on Christmas Eve. 

What principles from this course or from chats did you use to develop, perform, and record this project – and how did they play a part in your process?

Every string of passion; simplifying piece down to what I could do rather than my original fancy idea of reharmonizing Silent Night with my own accompaniment pattern, realizing it didn’t flow correctly and too much dissonance for the desired reflective quiet mood.

Give a short description of what it took for you to be able to play what you did – both logistically and emotionally.

Trying out chimes as accompaniment, then trying just a C drone pattern, and realizing I wanted to use a heartbeat (double strike) on the C below middle C. Keeping the heartbeat steady was difficult; I kept striking with too much nail rather than pad, and losing a beat. 

What freedoms and blocks within yourself did you connect with (or struggle with) in the process?

I really enjoyed the concept of the heartbeat drone as contemplative and appropriate to the song.

What challenges did you meet while connecting with your own freedom of expression in this project?

As always, getting too excited over my first inclination of a different accompaniment pattern that was too difficult for me to play. I wound up with a two-bar pattern in 6/8 which didn’t really fit the tune well.

What were your personal “Ahas”?

To radically minimize the left hand.

“Instead of laboring over memorizing the song and the chords and the melody, I chose a melody that was easy enough not to have to read, and I just “made up” the left hand sounds.  This was very different for me. I never even looked at a music score when I started.  This was a first.

I kept wondering: is this good enough? Should I do more?  Should I have taken more time to learn more? All of this takes away from the enjoyment of playing. 

And my personal “Aha’ was that Simple is best! It makes me happier.” (Margi Miller, Florida, USA)

Debra Sawyer (2018)

Read Debra's Insights about this Project (click to open)

This is “Have yourself a Very Merry Christmas,” a tune by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blaine from the 1944 Judy Garland movie “Meet me in St Louis”

What principles from this course or from chats did you use to develop, perform, and record this project – and how did they play a part in your process?

I used principles of arrangement – using vamps . Chats were always helpful and supportive. The halfbake coaching was key to my final submission albeit hardly final. I have the form I have the shape I need to let the music take over. I am too keen on making a mistake.

Give a short description of what it took for you to be able to play what you did – both logistically and emotionally.

I got the flu from the flu shot. It dragged me down with the constant coughing — hard to practice and hard to produce this. Today I broke a string while tuning. I decided not to do the medley. It became too long. Concentration on one piece. I was very tired and kept messing up. It was hard to quit . I knew I could do better. And I will.

What freedoms and blocks within yourself did you connect with (or struggle with) in the process?

The freedoms I have is the ability to intuit unplanned notes. I struggled with finalizing the structure though and trying to pull myself out of a hole with intuition doesnt always work. With being sick and on drugs was an overlay. Not feeling relaxed. The other confession is I am playing xmas music with an ensemble for three gigs coming up and a one solo gig at a library. Just finished a madrigal. 

What challenges did you meet while connecting with your own freedom of expression in this project?

I need to know the structure better to feel free, to literally sail through the piece. I could not get out of the what I feel like stilted form.

What were your personal “Ahas”?

The one piece was challenging enough to memorize and make a smooth rendition. It needs more rehearsing to get there. I believe in over and over — too. And it did help the focus and memorization. The beauty is missing and I know it is there. I haven’t killed the piece in my head. I am hopeful I can get it to where I am satisfied with harp performance.

Susan (2018) 

Read Susan's Insights about this Project (click to open)

This is “Speak Softly to this Wonderful Wold.”  I used the arrangement structure, vamps, modulation, 1-6-2-5, C7, ritards and tried improv.

It took many, many hours to modulate between the 3 pieces without too many mistakes. My problems exist because of lack of knowledge, music theory and experience, but I did try!

The knowledge I gained was how to arrange 3 pieces of music and modulate between them. I chose music I had a connection to during my life.  I think it was the only way I got through this project. It was difficult but I kept moving forward!  The project was a challenge, but I’m glad I finished it. I named it “Speak Softly to This Wonderful World “

Next time:
Accept imperfect perfection 
Simplify 
Enjoy

 

The main principle I used was simplifying piece down to what I could do rather than my original fancy idea of reharmonizing – and my big ‘Aha’ was to radically minimize the left hand.” (Dianne Phelan-Muller, New Mexico USA)

I chose music I had a connection to during my life and the knowledge I gained was how to arrange 3 pieces of music and modulate between them” (Susan – Massachusetts, USA)

Dilys Williams (2018)

Read Dilys's Insights about this Project (click to open)

This is a Christmas Medley of three songs:
Carol of the Bells
What Child is This
We Wish You a Merry Christmas

What principles from this course or from chats did you use to develop, perform, and record this project – and how did they play a part in your process?

Using inversions, arpeggios and 1 5 10 LH accompaniment rather than just a single note base or octave. Learned that you can vary that and not do 1 5 10 every time, can vary with triads etc.
Implemented chimes learnt in Chat 12 today and also doing them in alternation.
Variation on the bell theme to segway into the next song.
Using bell theme over II, IV and V chords to vamp along and get back to the tonic for the last song.
Did a 3x turnaround, not 4!!

Give a short description of what it took for you to be able to play what you did – both logistically and emotionally.

Had to let go of looking at music all the time.
Really had to concentrate on the harmonic LH to make sure the accompaniment was in sync with the RH melody.
Had to figure out which tunes to play and modulate to try to smoothly go from one tune to the next.
Made myself slow down in order to get to the correct chords and just relax doing it.

What freedoms and blocks within yourself did you connect with (or struggle with) in the process?

Aside from never recording myself or posting on youtube, which was a challenge but now so simple once you have done it a few times.
Not really as self conscious or so concerned about getting every note right, but more about the flavour and mood of the piece and really enjoying playing it more.

What challenges did you meet while connecting with your own freedom of expression in this project?

Challenge also of thinking ahead while you are playing in the moment. Really getting involved in the process more and trying to get that better which I think make the overall piece better. Not really caring anymore about making the tiniest mistakes that nobody really sees any way.
Developing more confidence in playing and just noodling around for fun.

What were your personal “Ahas”?

Learning that there are a variety of accompaniments that your LH can do and vary throughout the piece.
Learned that you can hold back and really stretch it out to give yourself time to think and even improvise again if you want to.
Learning that you can pretty much string together any and all varieties of tunes/pieces and make them sound like a Medley using the VI, II V chord progression method. What fun.

Darlene (2018)

Read Darlene's Insights about this Project (click to open)

This is another arrangement of “Silent Night”. I also wanted my video to have a Christmas atmosphere. 

What principles from this course or from chats did you use to develop, perform, and record this project – and how did they play a part in your process?

I love to arrange music and try making it “my own”. There is so much to learn but it is a beginning.

Give a short description of what it took for you to be able to play what you did – both logistically and emotionally.

I had a hard time doing my video.  So many takes – not happy with how it was going! I think when you think about doing final project it takes more energy to complete it.

What freedoms and blocks within yourself did you connect with (or struggle with) in the process?

I wanted it to be really good and I struggle with perfection. I gave up as nothing is ever completely at that stage!

What challenges did you meet while connecting with your own freedom of expression in this project?

I wanted to give this Christmas Carol – the expression that it deserves. The words are so meaningful during this special season of the year.

What were your personal “Ahas”?

I love arranging and improvising.  I enjoyed this course so much.

“The challenge for me was to not take myself so seriously, while coming to the realization that so many people love the traditions of Christmas and its music is joyous and celebratory. After that, it became easy to commit to creating something – and my personal ‘Aha’ was ‘Don’t stress the small things and have fun!’ (Sally Walstrum, Las Vegas, USA

Nicole Mueller (2015)

Read Nicole's Insights about this Project (click to open)

This is an arrangement of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”.

(Editor’s Note: Nicole went on to create an entire album, which started with this project.  Read more about that project here: https://www.hipharp.com/blog/14884  Purchase the whole album as a CD, streaming or MP3 collection)

1.  What did it take for you to get to the place of being able to play what you did – both logistically and emotionally?

This project was very different from my Final Projects of my previous courses, because I had set myself the rule to learn Jazz and to arrange in a jazzy-style. As Jazz is totally new to me, I had a really hard time finding my “language”.

So I ended up watching piano-versions of this Christmas-tune and trying to analyse what the pianists were doing. Only then could I slowly start to develop my own ideas for my own arrangement.

2.  What freedoms and blocks did you connect with (or struggle with) in the process?

It is so freeing to have such a supportive, encouraging coach like DHC and totally fantastic classmates. They alwas remind me that I am supposed to have fun and be imperfect – how wonderful is that! The block has been my inner voice that´s always saying that Jazz will be waaaays too hard for me to learn and that it will be embarrassing to share my “first steps” with others.

3.  What challenges did you meet to connect with your own freedom of expression in this project?

I definitely is a challenge to play through the pieces and improvise again and again. As a classical harpist, I am used to see results when I practice and invest a lot of time. The results with practicing improvisation are much more subtle.

4.  What were your personal “Ahas”? 

My AHA especially for this tune was, that when I found the underlying chords I wanted to use (additional, jazzy chords that wern´t on the music-sheet), the improvisation (or arranging) was so much easier.

5.  Is there anything else you’d like to tell people who are watching your video?

Have fun! Take this course! It´s totally worth it!

Charlotte Smith-Jones (2016)

Read Charlotte's Insights about this Project (click to open)

Charlotte didn’t have time to write out the answers to the five questions I ask students when they do these projets – but I so love the care, authenticity, commitment and whimsy that she put into this video that I love sharing it every year. (DHC)

” I used just about everything I learned in thi class in my project– intro, clusters, rhythm, freedom in experimenting (that’s the most important). 

My skill level has always been a bogey man for me on any instrument, no matter how well I play. DHC has taught me that it’s communication, not showing off, and that I can actually do this! Improvisation within a structure makes so much sense.” (Mary Jane Ballou, Florida USA)

Claudia Nussbaumer (2016)

Read Claudia's Insights about this Project (click to open)

1.  What did it take for you to get to the place of being able to play what you did – both logistically and emotionally?

Interview with my mum, what she likes to hear. Collecting Ideas what to play and where (solution: balcony) 1 hours training on balcony by playing each tune 3-4 times, and then recording.

2.  What freedoms and blocks did you connect with (or struggle with) in the process?  I connected with my WILD THING.

3. What challenges did you meet while connecting with your own freedom of expression in this project?  It was no challenge it was just fun!

4. What were your personal “Ahas”?  Intensify my idea of putting pieces together because of the medley.

5. Anything else you want to tell your viewers? Harpy Birthday: we are all connected and have the same birth date: the BIG BANG!! So this harpy birthday is for all of us and I would appreciate, if you enjoy it deeply and discover your own WILD THING!

Emily Greenberg (2015)

Read Emily's Insights about this Project (click to open)

This is my fourth course with DHC and each one has pushed me beyond what I ever thought I could do.  It was a LOT of hard work but totally worth the effort.  Learning the “template” for playing a song makes it possible to play songs ( often without music) as a soloist or in a group.  I now listen differently to what other performers do – the structures they use and how they improvise and modulate.

2.  What freedoms and blocks did you connect with (or struggle with) in the process?

The FREEDOM involved in performing is a huge struggle for me.  I get “tight” when I play as a soloist and when I make a video.  My technique is way behind what I hear in my head – causing me frustration.  DHC has encouraged us to play to our strengths, which has been helpful.  Accepting imperfection has been a tremendous help.  Encouraging us to express ourselves despite making “mistakes” has been freeing.  In fact, some of the “mistakes” end up sounding great!

3.  What challenges did you meet to connect with your own freedom of expression in this project?

One of the biggest challenges for me has been technology.  I have learned from many of my more advanced classmates about what I need to develop (in terms of editing, movie-making, loopers etc.) and where to use what I learn.  DHC has been extremely encouraging in so many ways:  accepting my weaknesses and playing to my strengths; trying experimental things despite being exposed and vulnerable – all of this to help us connect with our inner musical selves!

4.  What were your personal “Ahas”? 

The biggest “AHA” for me is that there is no ONE “RIGHT” way of creating music.  We can bypass what holds us back (most of which is mental) and ENJOY freedom of moving FORWARD either as a composer, arranger, or performer.  We can be at the level we are at and STILL create beautiful music!!!

5.  Is there anything else you’d like to tell people who are watching your video? 

The only thing I can tell you about this video is that I HOPE YULE ENJOY THIS (which is the title of this video!)

I want to thank DHC, Claudia, and all of my amazing classmates for this sublime experience.  HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO ALL!!!! 

“My ‘Aha’s were :

  • Learning that there are a variety of accompaniments that your LH can do and vary throughout the piece. 
  • Learning that you can hold back and really stretch it out to give yourself time to think –  and even improvise again if you want to!
  • Learning that you can pretty much string together any and all varieties of tunes/pieces and make them sound like a Medley using the 2-5-1 chord progression method. What fun!

This all helped me developing more confidence in playing and just noodling around for fun! (Dilys Williams – British Columbia, Canada)

Teddy Jones (2015)

Read Teddy's Insights about this Project (click to open)

1.  What did it take for you to get to the place of being able to play what you did – both logistically and emotionally?

For me, finding the best angle for the camera to include everything I wanted for the video was the logistical challenge. Emotionally, I was excited to share what I have learned

2.  What freedoms and blocks did you connect with (or struggle with) in the process?  I am more comfortable now with the concept of “imperfect completion”. I am less likely to be thrown by small errors in my playing, and my confidence has increased as a result.

3. What were your personal “Ahas”?  I am learning that I have a style that is my own, and I’m looking forward to exploring that more.

4. Anything else you want to tell your viewers?  In this video I hope to share my love of the harp and the tenderness of Christmas season in a very personal way.

Emma Perlaky (2017)

Read Emma's Insights about this Project (click to open)

[Editor’s Note: This is another one of my favorite project, that I think about each year.  I love the personalness of this, the sense of peace, the graciousness of the simplicity and the space Emma gave to let her voice come through.  When I first saw this, I was so not expecting the middle section and immediately loved it, as well as that wonderful note at 1:08 that adds the perfect touch of dissonance that leads to the conclusion of the tune.]

Emma answered these questions:

What principles from this course or from chats did you use to develop, perform, and record this project – and how did they play a part in your process?
Be yourself; do as simply as feels almost comfortable; it is OK to make mistakes and be imperfect.

Give a short description of what it took for you to be able to play what you did – both logistically and emotionally.
I needed to learn the logistics of creating a YouTube channel and upload a video. Emotionally to work up the courage to try to do a video of me playing.

What freedoms and blocks within yourself did you connect with (or struggle with) in the process?
Being basically a perfectionist, the hardest thing is to accept to be perfectly imperfect. I am still struggling with the idea.

What challenges did you meet while connecting with your own freedom of expression in this project?
To calm the nerves that presented quite a roadblock to go ahead.

What were your personal “Ahas”?
Simplicity is the best way to go for me.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell people who are watching your video?
The next one will be better.

“In this course there so many points of reflection … But the most important for me was to learn how to set up a structure to make more songs more complex, to treat them like stories, with a beginning, [a middle] and an end.(Eleonora Ornaghi, Cremona, Italy)

Jillian Praeger (2017)

Read Jillians's Insights about this Project (click to open)

Jillian chose We wish you a Merry Christmas, played with her grandchildren

When asked to give a short description of what it took for her to be able to play what she did – both logistically and emotionally, she shared the following:         

Tough …..I had to do lots of takes before I found something acceptable to me….then I gave up and decided to take the spotlight off myself and have the children involved!

I found it really hard to think ahead to what was coming next especially if I made a small slip. Also I have tried to do this in a limited time frame and distractions with visitors and family at this time of year. I kept on forgetting the cool ideas and need to RELAX!!

Her personal “Ahas” were: Keep to the structure ….but be very familiar with it

DHC SAYS:

Really LOVE what you said about being FAMILIAR with the structure – that’s such a perfect way of describing what makes structure work with creativity.   And what a GREAT idea to take the pressure off yourself and include the kids.  That makes it an even BETTER holiday sharing video.

I thought it was great you had the scene set the way you did, (kids in front, harp, tree) great that the kids were playing the bells at both the beginning and end, the little dance your granddaughter did, and the little addition of theater when she said “do it again!” — this is such a great use of resources and a resourceful way to solve ‘giving up’ and therefore making something that was probably way more fun to create and share than what you were trying to do before.  And because of all those different elements that you fit together, there was alwas something to look at and listen to, from the tree, to you to your grandkids.

Great!!!

Mary Dunsford (2017)

Read Mary's Insights about this Project (click to open)

This is the complete 12 days of Christmas!  The project introduced a new instrument each day, culminating with the addition of harps on day 12!  This was done as a daily “just for fun” offering on my Facebook page.

What principles from this course or from chats did you use to develop, perform, and record this project – and how did they play a part in your process?
I used a gliss introduction on the dominant, and a cadenza in the middle.  I didn’t “explore” as such, due to the nature of the piece and the project, but my confidence to play the piece and add harmonies etc was definitely heightened by what we have worked on in this course.

Give a short description of what it took for you to be able to play what you did – both logistically and emotionally.
Logistically this was a nightmare (a fun nightmare, so perhaps just a dream?!)…  I recorded everything on my phone in small moments I snatched through the day, then my husband and I put them together in the evening.  He is very technical with film editing, but professes to know nothing about music.

I didn’t use a click-track due to using my phone for the recording, and also due to the issues of making sure that was only in my ears etc.  It was easier, even if it meant re-recording, to just crack on.  Sometimes we could slightly correct timing through the editing, and similarly the tuning on the ocarina (day 3) was slightly “improved” thanks to technology.

Then there was the decisions about which instruments to overlay and which to leave only on their pertinent day (again, ocarina!)…

Emotionally, this performance is far from perfect, and was particularly exposed in the earlier days when there were fewer instruments involved.  Whilst I gave them all my best effort, there are instruments in there I don’t really play, so to put myself out in public playing them was nerve-wracking.  This course definitely helped me to get past that and to embrace the imperfect, and thankfully my daily watchers/listeners did the same and enjoyed it!

What freedoms and blocks within yourself did you connect with (or struggle with) in the process?
Getting over the presenting imperfection, and that being perfect!

What challenges did you meet while connecting with your own freedom of expression in this project?
I feel like I could have gone on forever in the intro and cadenza, and perhaps went on a little too long with them for the piece.  (I was perhaps a little overindulgent of the harp!)  That said, in keeping with the tongue-in-cheek nature of the offering, it felt okay to “ham it up”.

What were your personal “Ahas”?
My personal Ahas have definitely been about the freedom to play.  Having a structure to follow can totally free you up, knowing it will work and sound good to those listening.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell people who are watching your video?
I hope it makes you smile!

“My personal Aha’s were that I do a lot of these things already and that it is great to play just where I am.  That simple and clean is better! That it is fine to play my lead sheet arrangements differently every time.

I love the 5 part Arrange-o-Matic! The main “Aha!” is not to get hung up on the details; to embrace Imperfect  Completion!(Cherie Gullerod)

Mary Jane Ballou (2017)

Read Mary Jane's Insights about this Project (click to open)

Silent Night and We Wish You a Merry Christmas with cluster chords and rhythmic alteration.

What principles from this course or from chats did you use to develop, perform, and record this project – and how did they play a part in your process? Just about everything – intro, clusters, rhythm, freedom in experimenting (that’s the most important).

Give a short description of what it took for you to be able to play what you did – both logistically and emotionally. This meant giving up perfection because of time pressure. It was “just do it!”

What freedoms and blocks within yourself did you connect with (or struggle with) in the process? Leaving the preconceived notion of how I play and developing a willingness to be open and try new things. Learning to cope with videoing myself was very difficult. I still need to experiment with that.

What challenges did you meet while connecting with your own freedom of expression in this project? My skill level has always been a bogey man for me on any instrument, no matter how well I play. DHC has taught me that it’s communication, not showing off.

What were your personal “Ahas”? That I can actually do this. Improvisation within a structure makes so much sense.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell people who are watching your video? Enjoy it! and see what you can do yourself.

Melissa Gallant (2017)

Read Melissa's Insights about this Project (click to open)

This is my substitute final project! With 19 gigs since Dec. 1 and nine to go before Christmas Day, I thought I would share this from a performance with my orchestra Saturday night. I edited the original harp part using techniques from this class. There are root -5th-10th left hand chords, glissandi, use of 3rds and 6ths under the melody, and I raised melodic right hand notes up to a higher octave than my arranger friend had originally specified. It was a fun collaboration and the audience loved it!!!

This doesn’t happen to me very often. So excited!

What principles from this course or from chats did you use to develop, perform, and record this project – and how did they play a part in your process?
I used several principles from this course and hope to continue watching and learning while I have down time over the holidays. Some examples of principles I used include: Using the root – 5th – 10th for left hand chords, using a dominant 7th arpeggio as an introduction, raising right hand melody notes up to a higher octave, playing around with I – vi – ii – V chords for interludes or for vamping, and adding more glissandi to arrangements.

Give a short description of what it took for you to be able to play what you did – both logistically and emotionally.
Thinking about what I posted on the group FB page which was a recording of an orchestra piece I commissioned and edited the harp part, I felt a lot more confident making suggestions to my arranger friend, based on what I was learning in this course. Performing the piece took an extra measure of concentration since I could see the front row of audience members through my strings!

What freedoms and blocks within yourself did you connect with (or struggle with) in the process?
I think for me, this time of year, I’m faced with a very hectic performing schedule. This year I had more concerts than background music gigs, so they required more attention. When I was able to spend time on this class, I found I was able to have more fun experimenting. I think I’ve grown more confident in having fun with experimentation and being less concerned with playing something the “right” way.

What challenges did you meet while connecting with your own freedom of expression in this project?
Sometimes I have too many ideas that I have to back up and try one thing at a time so I don’t feel overwhelmed. Also, I have really had a time crunch since Thanksgiving due to many performance obligations. I have used the I – vi – ii – V progression in different keys as a warmup or transition exercise while I’ve been practicing my concert music just to keep some contact with the course materials.

What were your personal “Ahas”?
I think one of the biggest ones was realizing I could build a “wow” worthy arrangement using the principles in this class, and I know I will continue to experiment with them in the days, and years to come!

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