Xmas-medleys-Sally-blogsquare_v2I want to share two “Final Beginning Projects” from students in my “Hip Harp Toolkit” course, a 10-week online course for harpists.

The course ends this week, it covers the basics of arrangement — and the “Final Beginning Project” students have worked on is a 3-Part medley of contrasting tunes. The original goal was to complete the medley by Christmas to share as a Holiday gift for friends and family, but as the holiday madness kicked in some students decided to create New Year’s medleys, and at least one decided to give herself some slack and just start work on a Valentine’s Medley.

There are a little over 30 students in the course from all around the world and in the past 9 weeks they’ve learned to create their own original arrangements starting with simple tunes. They’ also learned how to create an online Presskit, and we used the presskits as a way to practice sharing mixed media projects (video, photos, text).

I’m so proud of everyone in the course, and the incredible investment everyone’s made in learning and sharing.  I can honestly say that the weekly chats with this class are always one of the highlights of my week.

Today I’m sharing two of the  Holiday Medleys as a celebration of beginnings and the endings that lead to new beginnings.

We call the projects “Final Beginning Projects” because one of the most important tenets of the course is to embrace imperfect completion: to share ‘completed’ imperfect work as a commitment to the flow of endings and beginnings — rather than have an endless open of loop of ‘not ready’ or ‘not good enough’ or ‘still working on it.’

The Project Guidelines

The project guidelines were to pick 3 contrasting tunes, arrange them and videotape them using skills they learned in the course. I recommended picking tunes in 3 different keys and to modulate from tune to tune without stopping the music – since modulation was one of the techniques we worked on in the course. They were to create the arrangements themselves, starting from simple melodies, to work at their own technical level of ability and to make the arrangements no longer than 3.5 minutes.

As I posted  feedback to student work during the course, I started noticing that students were egging each other on, both creatively and technically — which is one reason I love doing this kind of creative coaching in groups. The result is that both these projects are three-camera-shoots (!!!!).  I honestly don’t now how they did this – I might need to have them give ME a course in that!

I asked each person to share the answers to five questions along with their medleys, and you’ll see their answers under the videos.

You also may see them mention the “Half-Bakes” – these were earlier versions of these projects that I gave feedback on.

Enjoy!  And Happy Holidays!

Sally’s Project

Sally wrote: This was my only full weekend off between now and the New Year so I decided to go for broke and put together my final (or should I say beginning) project.

–  Give a short description of what it took for you to get to the place of being able to play what you did – both logistically and emotionally.
I have an aversion to holiday music. I’ve tended to avoid playing it for the last several years. So I decided it was time to play some traditional holiday music. This holiday season found me in a nostalgic mood, partly due to the passing of my mom this year. I have fond memories of how thrilled she was when I learned my first Christmas carol (“Silent Night” from “Fun from the First”) at about age 10. I think looking back at memories of Christmas past got me interested in revisiting traditional songs. I wanted to offer a holiday greeting for family and friends.

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

I tend to over-complicate and overthink things. I struggle in putting simplicity in my own work, yet when I hear it from others I think simple is absolutely wonderful.

– What challenges did you meet to connect with your own freedom of expression in this project?
Some of my challenges were dealing with cameras and video editing. I shot the video with 3 cameras and syncing the video & audio tracks proved a bit cumbersome. My biggest musical challenge was to keep myself from rushing. I was worried about the time constraint and found myself speeding through, which impacted my musicality. I had to tell myself to breathe and make it about the music.

–  What were your personal “Ahas”?
I think my biggest “aha” came in the half baked feed back when I had asked if I should try something other than a sustained dominant note in the LH of “Away in a Manger.” Deborah’s advice was to take that simple note further and that its simplicity was a gift to the listeners. The idea that keeping it simple was a gift really stood out to me.

– Is there anything else you’d like to tell people who are watching your video?
I didn’t formally title my video but putting it together was a visit to Christmas past for me. I had grown tired of holiday music and working on this medley & hearing others’ made the music fresh again.

I’d like to wish everyone who celebrates a Mele Kalikimaka e Hau’oli Makahiki Hou (Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year). I’ve enjoyed taking this wonderful journey with you. And I’d like to extend my deepest mahalo (thanks) to Deborah for being such a wonderful, supportive teacher.


Margi’s Project

Margi wrote: There came a point in this venture where I thought half-baked was better than baked, or that I should rename it “burned”, but here is my final. Name: Christmas Greeting. My attempt was to have three different carols with three different keys and tempos with modulations in between and a coda at the end.

[DHC note: Ha ha! Yes I’ve often found that my ‘improved version’ is much less compelling than my rough first draft!  And that’s another value of going through the process – realizing that some of those ‘imperfections’ were really very perfect after all!  It’s a great exercise regardless of whether you learn to get closer to what you want, or you learn that you already had something that really worked. And the great thing is that you can always go back to the first version …. or go back and forth between them!]

Give a short description of what it took for you to get to the place of being able to play what you did – both logistically and emotionally. Well, first I made myself a day by day list to last for 20 days of preparation. I picked out my three favorite Christmas songs. My list included a) memorize songs 1, 2, 3;  b) embellish songs  c) modulate between songs.  I started and got so stressed by the fact that I could NOT memorize three songs in three different keys all with complex chords that I just had to give in!!!  I compromised by enlarging the chords on the lead sheet so big that I could put the music stand out of the reach of the video camera.  Can you tell?  There were also days when I thought I was spending more time on the video manipulation than on the music.  I was sooo happy when DHC told me how to use the camera to make it look like I wasn’t glued to the sheet music! So much of this class has been an emotional high for me in realizing I can do just so much and THAT IS FINE.

What freedoms and blocks in yourself did you connect with (or struggle with) in the process? I found myself drawn to my harp almost every time I walked by it.  Sometimes it was fun, calming, a great way to spend pre-Christmas days (I also turned down a few parties so I could spend more time alone with my harp… that felt great!)   Sometimes it was stressful, mostly because I had this project  “hanging over my head”.  My biggest block seems to be:  How do I use my left brain to analyze where I am supposed to put these fingers, and at the same time use my right brain to let the music flow?  If I ever find an answer, I will let the world know!

What challenges did you meet to connect with your own freedom of expression in this project? This was the first time I was able to put together a lot of my artistic loves:  doing a video is sort of like arranging flowers or landscaping for me.  I just get to fiddle around with the raw materials until it looks and feels good.

What were your personal “Ahas”? I have finally found something I’ve always always wanted to do – string several songs together so I can keep on playing, especially at hospice and hospital.  The modulation section was a true gift… as were the modules on intros, turnarounds, cadenzas, explorations.  I “sort of” did them before, (never in public) but now I have learned how to make them harmonically more correct.

 Is there anything else you’d like to tell people who are watching your video? This course has been invaluable to me.  Having homework, deadlines, projects…. Wow.  It’s been over 50 years since I completed my education degrees.  It was like a déjà vu.  I needed it and am ready for more!  I tried doing the press kit, and in case you want to take a look, here it is.  I even included an “outtakes” section to show my closest friends how hard and hilarious this has been.  (I consider you all my friends!)   https://www.presskit.to/christmasgreetings#media

Join for Freebies, Stories & News

Join for Freebies, Stories & News

Join to get weekly-ish emails with stories, videos & events like concerts & classes

Yay! You should get my next newsletter within the next 7-10 days. I'm so happy we'll be in touch!

"5-DAY Harp IMPROV Challenge" 

A FREE Training 
from  Deborah Henson-Conant


Learn the First Step of Freedom: Free Yourself from Reading the Notes on the Page.  Register here to join the challenge

Woohoo! You'r Registered for the 2022 "5-Day Harp Improv" Challenge!