Early this year, Charlene Elderkin came to a Hip Harp Academy chat and said she had committed to putting on an outdoor concert in Viroqua, Wisconsin, using everything she’d learned in Hip Harp Academy. Not just a solo concert, but a concert with friends – lots of friends – singers, instrumentalists – and at the center Charlene would be singing and playing her harp.

She’d never done anything like this before.  

She just decided to use everything she was learning in the Academy and put it all together in a show. 

Week after week, we saw the music come together: originals, covers, pieces of mine she’d learned in the Academy.

And last month she debuted “Harp to Heart”. 

It’s a concert filled with heart and lots of music: solos, duets, ensembles – even a piece called “The Co-Op Blues” – which she’d originally written as her final project for the first “Blues: Harp-Style” class she ever took in the Academy back in 2015.

Last week Charlene shared a wonderful little 5-minute video about the show, including short snippets of many of the songs and what principles and concepts in the Academy she’d used to create them. This video was her “Final-Beginning” project for the “Summer of Improv” program at Hip Harp Academy.  

I’m thrilled to share this with you. I was so impressed to see Charlene’s passion and creativity, all the variety and the beautiful sense of community she created in this concert – and I was so moved and inspired by how she used what she’s learned in the Academy to create a show that shares so much of who she is, and with such authenticity, fun and collaboration.

Below the video you can read Charlene’s story about how this all happened.  Enjoy!

A Short Interview with Charlene about "Harp to Heart" (click to open)

The questions below are the questions every Academy members answers when they share their projects.  I thought you might want to get a sense of what was happening ‘inside Charlene’ as she built her “Harp to Heart” show.

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 “Strings of Passion” were prominent in my mind when preparing for the show, especially Roles (when playing with others), character (what to embody in each piece), and putting it all aside on the day of the concert and just go for the lift off!

[Editor’s Note: “Strings of  Passion” is class that explores the 7 principles that take you from creative impulse to creative expression.  She mentions 3 of the strings: ROLES is the principle of behind collaboration, the string of CHARACTER which is what brings the music to life, and the string of LIFT-OFF – the final step to embracing and sharing who we are without judgment, in the moment of performance]

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

Lots of logistics for playing with others! Emotionally I started to panic 2 months before the concert date realizing what i had taken on.

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

Four main fears:

What if [the weather’s] really hot?
What if a string breaks?
What if I don’t feel well?
What if it rains.

They all showed up.

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

Sound rehearsal was done in 94 degree weather, was not a problem.

A string broke the week before the concert, for the first time i changed it with ease so no more fear.

I didn’t feel well the entire week before the concert, wasn’t able to practice much. I saved my energy for the concert and went through things in my mind.

Big rainstorms the day before, with flash floods and roads closed. Skies cleared and we decided to proceed. For the concert, the weather was perfect!

What other parts of your life were impacted by what you learned in this class, and how?

Trust. Big lesson in trusting myself and my inner guidance, especially as i recently retired and face a new chapter in my life.

What were your personal “Ahas”?

I LOVE performing with others! It’s been hard to do that during this time, but i really want to collaborate more with others.

Is there anything else you want people to know when they watch your video?

The complete concert is on my YouTube channel, “Char on the Harp”

You can see the full show here  ~ You can see a PDF of the program here

How “Heart to Harp” happened …

I asked Charlene how this wonderful project came about and here’s her story:

This whole idea started with one of the “Clarify Your Vision” sessions in the Academy. In that session you asked us to describe the experience we wanted others to have of our music, and what I described to myself created a seed of this concert.

The pandemic created an opportunity because I was working from home, which meant I needed less time and energy to get to and from work – and I was unable to play for patients, so I needed a creative goal to keep my focus and connection to the harp. The seed planted in the visioning exercise began to grow.

Then the Academy had the “Untangle” virtual weekend retreat in September 2020 with Angela McKinney and that helped me create my own inner myth, a fairy tale that helped me reframe and move forward. 

When the Academy took a virtual Field Trip to Celia Slattery’s voice studio , I had another piece of the puzzle: a way to strengthen my singing voice so I’d feel more confident in the concert.

With those pieces in place, I mentally committed to the concert some time in January 2021, as I thought I’d need 6 months to be prepared — and I started posting on Facebook about the concert I was creating, “Harp to Heart.”

Last year I’d submitted my “Crazy Co-op Customer Blues” to their GRFF 2020 songwriter’s contest, so when one of the Festival organizers saw a Facebook posts about my concert, they invited me to bring “Harp to Heart” to the 2021 GRFF festival for a concert on August 8th.

I’ve been attending that festival for 20 years with my husband, so I was delighted to be PERFORMING in the festival — and “Harp to Heart” even made it onto the GRFF tee shirt!

And two weeks after the show, they invited me back to do a special hour-long Harp Demonstration.

Bravissima, Charlene!

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