Friday, May 27, 2011

It's been a busy couple of weeks since The Harp Gathering, and I'm sorry that I haven't posted sooner.

As promised, here's the pictures:

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I didn't have much time to savor the experience when I arrived home, because I was preparing to photograph a friend's daughter's wedding. Immediately after that I made a last minute decision to take another photography class which required that I gather together 70 of my best photographs in order to develop a portfolio. This means, unfortunately, that the summer of The Harp Gathering will have to wait until another day.

Until then -

Sunday, May 15, 2011

A Harp for Hearts

This morning I chatted with the winner of the prize harp at breakfast. She told me how she said a quick prayer before the drawing that went something like this: "Lord, if I win this harp, I'll use it to serve You." Within seconds Denise pulled her entry out of the basket. Then, to let her know exactly how she was to use the harp in service to God, there is a workshop this morning called Harps for Hearts - a decade of music for healing. There are other reasons that appeared that evening to confirm that this particular "harp for hearts" was intended for her.

There are so many things I am anxious to tell everyone about, but there isn't time at the moment. I'll also be attending the Harps for Hearts workshop, and the concert featuring Louise Trotter immediately after. Then it will be time for the drive home. It may be a day or two before I put up a summery of the weekend, but I'll hopefully have a slideshow of my photographs tomorrow.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Intention and Grace

This morning I attended a workshop with Timothy Harper that I had attended last year - The Minstrel's Mission. It was such an important workshop for me personally that I just had to hear his message again.

Timothy wanted us to be aware of our intention in playing the harp. What did we believe our mission to be? Was it self actualization? Comfort for others? Bringing laughter and joy? Bringing grace to others? It's not something I think about when I sit down to the harp. I often think about what I should be learning, am I playing the tune correctly, how can I get better, etc. In the next few days I'll be spending more of my time thinking about where I intend my harp to take me.

Sharlene Wallace also set the tone for my day. In her workshop, I Love Playing Scales!, she encouraged us to relax our hands, wrists and arms and send out sound arrows when playing scales. "Relaxation is Freedom!" she stated emphatically. Here I was, going back to the beginning of my harp journey, playing scales once again. But this time, I was relaxed, confident and focused. Yes, relaxation gave me more freedom to play with a rounder, richer tone. After the workshop I stayed behind a few minutes just to relax and play tunes I am familiar with. With all the things to do with weekend, I've been waiting to have the time to do this. Even though there were other people in the room, I was able to zone out and and spend time focused on just me and my harp. With my severe stage-fright, that's a nearly impossible thing. But I was relaxed - and feeling free.

Lunch time brought the "harp tasting." The audience sat with their back to the stage, as two harpers, one of which was Frank Voltz, played several different harps so that we could compare the sound. Bill Webster choose my McFall to be one of the harps used, and it was great to hear it played by two such talented performers.

Afternoon brought another fun workshop with Kim Robertson and many conversations with workshop participants, including one who made the last minute decision to attend on Friday morning. Her husband flew her here from Kansas in his plane in time for the Friday night concert.

Tonight's concert began with Timothy Harper singing and playing some of his favorite songs. He told us a wonderful story about Denise Grupp-Verbon which I will save for later.

After Timothy, Sharlene Wallace took the stage. "Relaxation is freedom" was evident in her playing. Her fluid, effortless playing was inspiring. I also was mesmerized by the Latin rhythms.

Lisa Lynne also entranced me. Grace poured from her harp in a laid-back Californian style that caused me to envision ocean waves breaking on a beach. Then she playfully brought out an angel puppet and used it to play the melody line of a piece. Can it get any better?

You bet it can! After the concert everyone filtered into the Vendor Hall. There was the usual sound of many harps being tried out, but then I heard two harps playing a tune together. I turned around to find the legendary Louise Trotter jamming with Kim Robertson. They were each using a Jeff Lewis new GH model harp. People stopped what they were doing and gathered in a circle around them. After a few songs, Frank Voltz was pulled into the circle. With shouts of "Go Frank, go!" he began to add in some great jazz licks. As the playing continued, the crowd was encouraged to sing along. As we did with our Happy Birthday song for Timothy Harper the night before, this was a group could sing along in three part harmony!

Eventually someone reminded us that there was a big morning planned and the jam session broke up. So here I am, trying to get a few thoughts written down before sleep erases them. I've got tons of great photos from the day that will have to wait until I get home to share them with you.

Oh! and I almost forgot! The prize harp was raffled off this evening! The rest of the prizes will be raffled off tomorrow. But for now, it's off to bed for me. I'll be back in the morning.

A Full Day

So much has happened today! and it is still going on. A workshop in the morning, and two this afternoon, with lots of conversations in between. I wish I had time to tell you about it, but I don't! Next is dinner and another concert with Timothy Harper and two performer/instructors I haven't heard before - Sharlene Wallace and Lisa Lynne. I'll check in before bedtime for a quick update.

The Magic of the Night

Last night's concert was simply magical. Leading off the celebration was Tapestry, comprised of harpist Denise Grupp-Verbon and guitarist Michael Grupp-Verbon. Denise is charming and funny on stage, and a skilled master of the harp. Michael shined out as the only non-harp performer of the evening with his jazzy guitar licks. As a duo, they are fun to watch and hear.

Following Tapestry was Kim Robertson. Always a favorite, Kim made us laugh with her wit, and awed us with her skill. Watching the way she brought out the three strains of Celtic harp music during her performance (joy, sorrow and sleep) really brought home what I learned in her workshop that morning.

Lastly was another crowd favorite, Frank Voltz. Frank's infectious smile and energy were only outshined by his mastery of the harp. His arrangements were so full and rich, that it would have taken an entire orchestra to accompany him - although it would have been redundant!

After the concert was a reception in the Vendor Hall. When I walked in I immediately thought I was seeing double when I looked at Bill Webster's corner. There were two McFall's! Carol had brought in her harp in and he had set it right next to mine.

It was great to talk with the other harp builders. I tried out Jeff Lewis's newest harp, the HG (as in Harp Gathering) which was making it's first appearance. It's a great harp with a beautiful sound. Denise played one during the concert and her skill really made it shine.

Dave Woodworth of Heartland Harps brought a prototype of a new carbon fiber harp that is in the development stage. This will be the only one without the curved soundbox. I can't wait to see the finished product next year!

I also tried out the "prize harp" from Timothy Harps. The Nimah is an
incredibly rich and full sounding harp for it's size. There will be a lot of people holding their breath (including me) when the drawing takes place on Sunday!

So now that Saturday is here there will be more workshops and another concert. It's time to jump in the shower and get ready for another full day. I'll be back to post throughout the day - so stay tuned!

Friday, May 13, 2011

I can do that!

This afternoon I attended a workshop by harp builder Timothy Harper on how to maintain and adjust your levers for smooth action and perfect intonation. This is what we call "regulating" a harp. Timothy did a great job explaining the differences in the makes of levers and how they work - or don't work, in some cases! We had the chance to watch as he corrected lever problems on several harps, including one harp that the owner had tried to regulate herself. After he showed her how, she exclaimed, "I can do that!" and proceeded to regulate the next lever herself.

I believe that the phrase, "I can do that!" pretty well sums up what each workshop presenter is waiting to hear. I also predict that they will be hearing it a lot this weekend!

I takes some great photos already today, but unfortunately the computer I brought with me has an old version of PhotoShop and can't read the format that I'm shooting in. I'll switch formats tonight when I attend the concert. We'll be treated to performances by Tapestry, Kim Robertson and Frank Voltz. After the concert there will be refreshments in the Vendor Hall and a Slow Jam Session. If I'm not up too late, I'll post again. Otherwise, see you in the morning!

First Light

I woke well before first light this morning - about 5 a.m. It wasn't excitement about the day, or anything else I can identify. I was just AWAKE.

I waited for dawn, but it wasn't in any hurry to shine today. Light increased, but the day dawned grey and dull. To top it off, the air was so humid and warm and it felt like we had skipped spring and jumped right into summer.

So with my car loaded up with my baggage, camera and harp, I headed south to The Harp Gathering. My iPod cranked out my favorite Kim Robertson, Tapestry and Timothy Harper tunes and lightened my mood as I drove through the gloom.

Then, as I exited the Ohio Turnpike, the sun broke through. A few more minutes, and I arrived at the Heritage Inn. I was immediately greeted by harp music and my internet friend, Carol, at the front desk. It was terrific to finally meet her face to face!

There wasn't much time until my first workshop with Kim Robertson. Those Magical Celtic Harp Tunes was centered on the three powers of the harp - the power of sleep (lullaby), the power of sorrow (lament) and the power of joy (jigs & reels). Kim entertained us with her quick wit as she directed us through these three types of music and showed us how to effectively play them to produce the three qualities. She challenged us to "dare to play slow." A great reminder that the harp has great power even when played simply. She also reminded us that, even though we are contemporary harpers, we still carry with us the same magic the harpers of old used.

It was a wonderful first workshop. And for me - the first light of the day!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Endings and Beginnings

Tomorrow is the big day! I leave shortly after first light for The Harp Gathering in Archbold, Ohio. This time away will be most welcome, even though my life is 180 degrees from what it was at this time last year.

"Retirement" has been bliss! I've been working on my home, my music and my re-discovered hobby of photography. But with the coming of spring-like weather (finally) I feel the need to fly away from the nest for a short time.

First I have a sad duty this evening. I need to attend the funeral of the untimely death of the daughter of my sister-in-laws fiance. While I did not know her, the sudden death of a young person is always tragic. It will be a sad evening.

But the sun always rises. Spring breezes blow again and music floats on the air. I will be glad in the morning.