Harp Camp is coming soon!

In five weeks, harp camp comes to Chattanooga, TN. This is our 17th annual camp. I am getting excited. We have a lot of new people this year - 16 first timers will join those who have come year after year. We still have 5 spots left so check your calendars to see if you are available for July 26-28.

We will have a buffet dinner on Friday evening at my home on Missionary Ridge. It is a great time to step away from the harp and really get to know the others in class. 

Saturday night is a party so join in on the fun and consider performing something either solo or with another camper. See you soon!

Playing the Harp Restores Us

When it comes to performing, we all want to be perfect. We spend many hours practicing to ensure our notes, timing, and tone are just right. Sometimes, it is very beneficial to just play to relax.

I recently experienced the loss of my mother, an expected event due to her long illness. One that I thought I was well prepared. For those of you who have lost a close loved one, you realize there is  no way to totally be prepared.  Sadness came, blood pressure went up, and I was walking around in a daze. 

Realizing I would play my harp at mom's Celebration of Life festivities, I sat down at my harp and began with scales, then arpeggios, then my favorite hymn, until I was relearning a piece that I knew was perfect for the occasion. Tension left my shoulders as I was swept away with the soothing sound of my harp. 

Each day is better, with some setbacks. When those come, you know what I do. I play my harp and am transformed to moments of peace, beauty, and happiness. 

Having Fun with other Harpists

I played for several years before I considered myself a harpist and for many more before I considered myself a musician.  Playing at my church last month, a visitor said he thought he knew me through the musician's union. I thanked him for the compliment.

When I realize most often that I am a musician, I am usually playing with others. Today, the JPG Chattanooga Harp Ensemble met to discuss our future. I am very excited that the group wants to be less formal and add more fun.  We are going to focus on Celtic and holiday music in 2 parts and prepare for future events that we can volunteer to perform.

If you are in the Chattanooga greater area, please join us. Start by clicking on Chattanooga Harp Ensemble at the top of our home page. If you are across the country or the globe, I would like to hear how you have formed groups like us. While we have been a group since 2005, we are reinventing ourselves. And a big part of that reinvention is having fun for the love of the harp.

Harp Camp Excitement

In one month and two days, our ears and souls will be filled with the beautiful sound of harp strings coming from multiple harps. We welcome our new harpists attending for the first time and love seeing returning friends. We also welcome Rachel Knight who will be one of our teachers for her first time and love seeing Catherine Mullins return.

Catherine, who has her masters in composition, is composing original ensemble music for us to practice and play during camp. More on that later.

I anticipate camp each year. It reminds me of band camp that I attended in high school.  It is work and a lot of fun. I remind myself to enjoy each moment because they fly by quickly. No matter what my level of playing has been, camp inspires me. 

Come join us! There is still time and room. Just click on Camp at the top of the home page and read all about it, then hit Store to purchase. I hope I get the privilege to meet you as a new friend.


Encouraging new harpists

I was at a folk school last weekend taking a class on metal etching, and Lorinda Jones was there teaching 3 new harpists. They came with untuned harps, little background in music, and eager to learn.  On Sunday morning they performed in front of the rest of the attendees at the folk school, each plucking one string at a time. I was so excited for them as they began their harp journey. When they finished their tune, I jumped up and whooped and clapped as others joined me. Then I saw their smiles of relief and, yes, pride. And proud they should be! In less than a day and a half they performed and survived.

Do you remember your first performance?  I remember sitting in the back of the ensemble hoping no one would notice me. I played so softly. I also remember the kind soul from the audience who came up and told me that I was a beautiful harp player and how she enjoyed watching my hands. That simple compliment made all the difference for me.

Let's all encourage new harpists. You may not want or feel like you can teach, but we all can mentor. Why? Because we have been there and survived. No, we thrived. Be a harp mentor!

And for wonderful teachers like Lorinda Jones, she is coming to JPG Harp Camp in 2018!

Keep Going

Summer months have me outside planting and watering. It is also filled with weekend trips to visit family, the mountains and the lake.  I am guilty of spending less time with my harp. This became very apparent when I took it to New Orleans to play for my mother-in-law who has had a stroke.

One of my harp teachers, Christine Van Arsdale, has encouraged me to be in performance mode even if I am sitting by a family member's bed in a dark room. So that is exactly what I did.  She and her caretaker enjoyed my playing very much.  I asked my husband later if he could tell that I could not see the strings and had forgotten the songs.  He said, "It sounded pretty. I could tell you had varied the songs, but I liked your improvisations."  That made me smile. I actually began having fun just making stuff up until my brain found the song in my memory.

Sometimes it is important to just keep going. Oh sure, there are important times to perfect a piece, especially those pesky measures. When you are playing for others, keeping the rhythm is best. Just keep going and smile. 

Playing together brings learning to a new height!

If you are like me, I do fine playing in my living room and with my Praise Team at Church. I also participate with the Chattanooga Harp Ensemble once a month. There is something special about being in a room with many harpists for several days. It is inspiring.

Our JPG Harp camp is less than a month away. (June 16-18, 2016) Spending three days together with harpists from different geographical areas is awesome. I learn so much from playing with them, talking about experiences, and getting tips. Each night I go to bed still hearing the combination of harp strings in my head. 

There is still time to join us. At the top of this page, click on the HARP CAMP button at the top left. There is all the information you will need to know about the courses, teachers, where to stay etc. If you prefer to stay with a local harpist, we still have some available. The cost is $230 and includes lunch. To reserve your seat, click on STORE at the top right and make your purchase for the camp. 

We all need to invest in ourselves. Tell the world to wait for 3 days and immerse yourself in the world of learning, playing, laughing, and making new friends. I hope to see you there. 

Simplify your learning

One thing that I hear in my head from my teachers, is to simplify the learning process of a new piece of music. I don't know about you, but when I get new music, especially one I really like, I want to play all the chords. They sound so full and pretty, but then there is a pregnant pause as I struggle to get my fingers ready for the next chord progression.

A simple solution is to play the melody in the top note of the treble clef and the bottom note of the base clef. Once that is firmly in my ear and motor memory, the other fingers fall into place much easier. When I take the discipline to follow this, I learn the piece much faster.

Another benefit of doing this is that often full chording is not needed or even preferred. Simplicity balances well with full chording. For me, it is more important to have the time for dynamics that simplicity brings. Then when the chords are played, there is that contrast and balance. 

Open the case

I have been jammed with harp performances and other activities that are a vital part of my life. Well, I finally allowed a cold to catch me. I realized today that my harp is still in its case from rehearsal last Thursday. Hmmmm. This is Sunday. I feel like going back to bed, but hold on a minute....okay. Bending down to unzip the case and lifting up the harp was the most exercise I have had in 24 hours. Through my fog, knowing my left hemisphere was definitely shut down, I was able to play a couple of my favorite pieces, The Angel Hymn, by Rhett Barnwell and May It Be from Lord of the Rings, arranged by Angi Bemiss. I did not play flawlessly, but I realized something. Music is in my soul, not just my head. And since neither my fingers or my soul have been caught by this cold, I was able to play. That is very comforting. It may not work to learn a new piece of music right now. Although I am itching to play Rhett's arrangement of Jesus Loves Me, I will wait for my left hemisphere to join my fingers and soul. For now, I lay down with a smile, knowing music resides within my soul regardless of how my body feels. 

Practice - Why is it so hard to do it consistently??

Every new year I resolve to spend concentrated time to practice the harp. I bet you do too. I organize my music into exercises, reviewing new music, working on current music, and playing music from memory. I am so excited. Isn't that how you feel?

Then life happens. Work and family obligations take priority.  I have found a trick that works for me. When I come home from work, I turn on the light by my harp. As I pass through the living room, I am reminded of my beloved harp. I always sit down and play sometime before I retire. My husband knows my system, so the light is always calling me to sit at the harp. It works for me. 

What about you? How do you ensure that you practice every day?