Here come the brides

Tomorow is Southern Minnesota's Wedding Expo at the Alltel Center in Mankato. Which means that today...

...I'm doing this.
Let wedding season begin!


What it all boils down to...

It's girls' night here. And after much discussion, we have concluded that what it all boils down to is this:

If it weren't for the 80s, where we would be?

Like, remember "Safety Dance?" and "Be Near Me?"
(And, like, I can't believe I remember all the words...)


Winter scenes

With borrowed camera in hand, I set to capturing some images from today's fast, furious snowstorm. It started mid-morning and by 2:30 p.m., it was done. While it lasted, it dumped a huge amount of snow, blew it around, piled it up, made life generally hectic for us citizens of Minnesota.

Yew, bending under its weight.

The garden gate, dressed in fresh whiteness.

Light in the snowy darkness.
And I'm settling in for a long winter's nap.

What's getting me through the winter Part 2...

This guy: my nice neighbor.

I was shoveling this afternoon when I heard his voice booming from across the street: "Hey! You're doing my job!" And it's not the first time he's cleared out my sidewalk for me. Which, in this snowiest winter for many years, has been much appreciated.

I think there's some homemade thank-you banana bread in his near future...


It's done!

The dining room has a table again!

In December, my friend offered to refinish my scruffy old dining room table in exchange for a copy each of my DVD and CDs. Talk about an offer I couldn't refuse.

I didn't have much hope for the table. I got it at a yard sale one summer evening several years ago. I was on the way home from playing at a wedding near Springfield. I stopped at the sale on a whim just as they were shutting down, found the table for $100 and talked the guy into helping me wedge it into the back of my truck along with the concert harp, bench, stand and music. It was a squeezy and slow ride home.

The table was in rough shape, but I loved it. It had lots of beauty marks — dings, scrapes, chips, even an interestingly shaped blob of something on the top that looked like some serious glue. I'd done so much woodwork and furniture refinishing when I bought my house that I never wanted to tackle another task like it, so thought the table would always be just a serviceable, well-worn old thing with lots of "character." Until this amazing offer from my friend.

He delivered it tonight and wouldn't let me look while he put it together. I even kept my eyes closed while I helped him flip it over. And the result?

Just look at this.
The color is perfect, and the finish is so smooth.
The "blob" is gone, the dings are filled and the surface gleams.

I couldn't help but get out the new place mats and napkins
I'd bought to use when it was done.

Then we spent some time studying the grain
of the gorgeous, old, quarter-sawn oak.

See how it's cut open and placed side by side? Like it's mirrored. (I think there's a more official term for this, but since I don't have a woodworking gene like my brother, and I only made it through high school shop class because nice Rodney Blanck basically did my project for me, of course I don't know what it is).

The stripes are gorgeous. They reminded me of something...

...oh yeah, this!

I'm looking forward to years and years and years of dinner parties around this table. And now it even seats up to 8 people because my friend made me some leaves, too. I definitely got the better end of this deal.



I was playing at an open house tonight and this very serious-looking young man walked up to me and said, "Can you play, like, flashback music?"

Now, anyone who knows me will tell you that I'm totally uncool when it comes to current music or pop culture of any kind. I figured Flashback was yet another hip band I'd never heard of.

Which I tried to tell this guy. "No," he said, leaning close. "Like, play like I'm having a flashback."

I must have looked as confused as I felt. I do hope, however, that I kept the "oh no where's the nearest exit" look off my face.

"Like, in the movies where they say I remember, I remember...," he continued.

Oh, that. Well, why didn't you SAY so? I played him a couple of top-to-bottom glissandos.

"Yeah," he said. "Yeah, like that."

Like, whew.


Amy's thinking about jigs and reels, and she don't mean the fishing kind

In preparation for our Celtic concert on March 14, we had our first Celtic Band rehearsal yesterday morning. Yes, morning. 9:00 a.m., to be precise.

There are no photos of the event because my camera has gone tragically missing. Just believe me when I say that if anyone can brighten an early, cold February morning, my band members can. SamTheDrummer came in with tales of wedding planning that would make your hair curl. Martha had just gotten done with a job interview and sounded very excited about the possibility (let's hope she doesn't get stabbed at this one). And Marti escaped from her grandson for just enough time to rosin up her bow and race through a new jig.

We'll be playing some favorites from the Welsh Weekend of Song concert last September, some Scottish pieces I've been wanting to perform for a while, OF COURSE a few beloved Irish songs (thus the "jigs and reels" of the post title) and a couple of my original pieces.

As always, the music sounded so good...so quickly. We'd scheduled 3 hours, but by 10:30 a.m. we'd played through everything and felt very comfortable leaving each other to rehearse on our own. To reconvene in a week.

In the evening this time.


What's getting me through the winter Part 1...

I love my charming old house. But even with new siding and new storm windows and curtains over the doors and various other tricks and fixes, it's still the coldest house I've ever been in. I'm a naturally warm person, which makes things tolerable, but I've spent more than my share of time in front of the roaring space heater this winter.

This is Part 1 in a series that praises the little things that have not only made my winter warmer, but have brightened the dark days.

These Woolrich slippers.
Very pink, very fluffy, very warm.
A Christmas gift from my nice Mom.
They're on my feet the minute I get home.

And the book on the table? Alas, I was not immune to the lure of the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer. I read all four books in five weeks. Nothing like a good, teenage vampire/werewolf fantasy to keep a girl warm on a winter's night!


In the news...

Me in the news, that is. The Mankato Free Press published a special section on women in business today and I was interviewed as a representative of the arts. Very honored. Many thanks to Sara Gilbert Frederick for such a great article!


I know, SamTheCat, I know

It's time to start knitting again.

That happens to be a ball of the pinkest pink Mountain Mohair he's killing. It's just waiting to be a cute little tie-around-the-waist vest with a leafy lace bottom...hopefully it'll happen before winter's over.


"You were pure sound in human form"

The signs were out.

The Voxes were beautified.

The candles were lit.
It was time.

The Arts Center was packed to capacity,
and we were in the best form ever.

The harp was gorgeously medieval for the night,
singing plaintively with us.

The Reverend Ursula Clara Christ, our Mistress of Ceremonies,
read beautifully, making the words of medieval mystics,
Biblical poets and modern wordsmiths come to life.

The post title is just one of the wonderful compliments we got about our Sacred & Profane Love concert Friday night.

Here's another that Sara's friend emailed her yesterday: "I have no idea to this day what those three ladies were singing about. Truth is, I don't want to know. Some things are best left unsaid. I'd like to think they were singing about something so beautiful, it can't be expressed in words, and makes your heart ache because of it. I tell you, those voices soared higher and farther than anybody in a gray place dares to dream. It was like some beautiful bird flapped into our drab little cage and made those walls dissolve away, and for the briefest of moments, every last person in St. Peter felt free."

Vox mission accomplished.

Ann will be adding more music samples to our Prima Vox My Space page soon. I hope you get a chance to go there and listen for yourself.


Happy Valentine's Day

Hope yours is sweet.


Prima Vox Concert Eve

We converged on the Arts Center of Saint Peter, focused and ready for our dress rehearsal. There was much stage setting-up, much fanning and demudifying (as the Arts Center had flooded the night before because of the melting and freak February thunderstorm earlier in the week), much arranging, much rearranging.

Ann checks sound while Sara and I sing.
Ursula looks on studiously.

Our roadies (Ann's son and his friend) were so helpful,
hauling, taking pictures, listening and giving great advice.
Then the 13-year-old-boys in them took over
and they set to beating each other up while we chanted Hildegard.

After a couple of hours of fine-tuning, finishing touches
and going over details, we agreed.

We were ready.

Unleashing my inner troubadour

Underneath that Celtic exterior
lies the soul of a medieval troubadour.
(I guess that's true for both the harp AND me!)

I’ve completely neglected to mention that I’ll be accompanying Prima Vox with the harp on a few songs during our Sacred & Profane Love concert Friday night. I’ll be standing up and playing, thus the precariously stacked stands. Easier to sing, more medieval-like.

Kinda like the lady in this woodcut,
except there won't be any guys in tights there Friday (we hope).
And, of course, my harp is bigger. I like it that way.

Anyway, it’s not often that the harp comes in second to singing in my musical life. It’s become even more rare that I play my beloved early music on the harp.

But Prima Vox has awakened the sleeping troubadour in me. Some of the songs needed a little something…more. So I brought out the harp one night during rehearsal a few months ago. I played close to the soundboard for a lute-like sound (prĂ©s de la table, for you harp techies) on some pieces, percussively on others, melody on a couple more. “Yeah,” the other Voxes said. “Yeah, the harp is IN.”

I’ll be playing a solo medieval dance tune toward the end of the concert tomorrow. Don’t ask me which one yet…it’s down to two and I played them over so many times last night trying to decide that I gave myself my first-ever blood blister on my left hand 4th finger. All those open 5ths in the bass.

Ow. But it sounds so good…


Season of LOVE!

3.5 days and counting until
Prima Vox's Sacred & Profane Love concert.
Friday at 7:00, Arts Center of Saint Peter.

This week, the Voxes will be gently singing through everything, gathering candles (the concert is the day before Valentine's Day, gotta have that romantic atmosphere), doing some last-minute promotions, and taste-testing the desserts and wine that will be served at intermission.

OK, that last part is just wishful thinking.

Very much looking forward to adding to this season of Love!


Move, wince, whimper…

My concert harp weighs about 100 pounds. The cart weighs about 70 pounds. I lift it, wheel it, haul it up and down stairs, load it into the truck and unload it again — no problem.

My Celtic harp weighs about 30 pounds. I carry it on my shoulder and sometimes manage to lug the bench, music stand and music bag at the same time.

During gardening season, I’ve been known to impress even my brother with my freakish strength as I dig borders, haul logs, wrestle with 20’ tall climbing roses and shovel landscape rock.

So had you seen me lying on the couch last night wincing at every little movement, you may have been compelled to ask, since it’s not gardening season, “Which harp did this to you?”

Neither. What laid this tough girl flat?


No busy weekend of playing, no massive gardening project, not even snow to shovel. Just some Jergen’s Cherry Almond hand soap and a slight bend at the waist and WHAM.

Some tough girl.
(clicks “publish post” and winces…)


Prima Vox: Sacred & Profane Love

The Prima Vox concert on February 13 is getting close. Our rehearsals are down to the details now. Working out the last issues with the music. And also getting the specifics settled to create the ambience.

Here's the layout. I'm sure it'll look just like this,
candleglow and audience comments and all.

Sara said, "There are never any rehearsal photos of you,"
when she apprehended my camera.
So here I am, at Ann's marble table,
hard at work on "Tota Pulchra Es," I believe.
Those tied 16ths are killers.

We listened to a recording of our performance at the Unitarian Fellowship on February 1. And sat there in silence afterward for a long, long time.

"This is unbelievable," Ann said.
"I'm so impressed with us," Sara said.
"Sniff, can I have a tissue, Ann?" I asked.

I don't know how I could have felt musically fulfilled before we were "us."


Winter light

I locked myself out of the house today on the way to Prima Vox rehearsal. (Don't ask.) Luckily, I had my purse with my phone so I could call my mother, who has an extra key. Also luckily, I had my camera in my purse.

So I stomped around in the snowbanks trying to capture the winter light.

It seems like over the past couple of weeks the light changed dramatically. Not the blue-pink light of the winter solstice. Longer somehow. Warmer, though it's only early February and certainly not very warm outside.

These photos don't do it justice. You had to be standing there, closing your eyes and just feeling the light on your eyelids.

Which is exactly what I was standing in the middle of the sidewalk doing when Mom drove up to rescue me, of course.


The perfect alternative to SuperBowl Sunday

No pre-game hype. No cheerleaders. No commercials. And oh yeah, no football.

Just a quiet sanctuary, a reverent mood and
ancient music to feed the soul.

Prima Vox performed for the "2nd Annual Anti SuperBowl Sunday"
at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Mankato.
And they're already talking about the 3rd Annual.

Ann read a beautiful essay on the spirituality behind the Voxes' performances of medieval vocal music. It was our mission statement. It's all about the experience of creating the music, no matter the topic, the intent, the religious overtones. And then it's all about the congregation experiencing what we create.

And experience they did. They closed their eyes during the music. They opened their eyes and listened intently to the readings. Sara said she made eye contact with one woman in the congregation during "O Virgo Splendens" -- both got tears in their eyes and Sara briefly choked through a measure. We understood completely.

How beautiful is it that what we create comes back to us.

(p.s. Yes, that's a leather skirt I'm wearing, compliments of Sara's latest thrifting excursion. A $6 leather skirt, to be exact. A leather skirt in church, you ask? Yeah, I figured the Unitarians were a forward-thinking-enough bunch to handle it.)