Fame is a matter of perspective (and whether or not you have a SuperBowl ring)

The annual Rotary Club's Service Above Self Luncheon on January 20 was an inspiration, as always. The awardees were credited with building bridges to the past and to the future. The city's most-famous milled about, shaking hands and singing the praises of the award winners. And the harp and I were honored to provide music for the event.

Last year's speaker was Don Shelby, long-time anchor of WCCO-TV in Minneapolis. I'd wanted to get my photo taken with him, but the timing didn't work out. This year, the speaker was Craig Dahl of the St. Louis Rams, a Mankato boy who made the big time, and I was determined to get a snapshot with him...but then I got really distracted by his SuperBowl ring from when he played with the Giants. (Have you seen one of those things up close? Very serious bling!)

So I was really happy when another famous guy asked to have his picture taken with me: Mankato Mayor John Brady.

John and I always get the giggles whenever 
we see each other, for one reason or another or for no reason at all.

I thanked John for the visit and the photo (and the quick shoulder rub, as he's also a chiropractor). He said it was his pleasure having his picture taken with someone...so famous. I guess fame is all a matter of perspective, isn't it?

photo by Wes Taylor


The Return of the Salon

A friend and wonderful supporter of my music had an idea. I would come to his house some Saturday evening in January and give a private concert for his wife and several friends as a surprise Christmas present, and afterward we would all enjoy wine and dessert. I said yes (almost before he could get all the details out).

I covet that fireplace.

I arrived on the arranged evening amid a strange, mid-January rainstorm that left the sidewalks icy and slushy and treacherous. But it was nothing I haven't traversed before with a harp on my shoulder, and I wasn't going to miss this for the world. After I got set up, my friend called his wife and told her that the surprise was ready to begin. She took one look at the harp, and said, "I KNEW it would be Amy!" My friend rolled his eyes and said, "I think she HOPED it would be you." Evidently, he had kind of led her to believe there would be a murder mystery dinner going on...

It was wonderful to perform for such an intimate group. I quickly realized that my carefully crafted program wasn't going to be followed...at all. My audience was curious, inquisitive and asked really interesting and delightful questions (ranging from "Did you find the harp or did the harp find you?" to "What inspired you to compose that piece that way?"). I ended up omitting pieces and adding songs on the fly to demonstrate what I was talking about and to clarify the points they brought up.

The entire evening made me think of the salons held in Europe (begun in France, by the way) throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, where the cultural elite would gather in the home of an inspiring host for reasoned debate, impassioned discussion and increased knowledge through conversation.

Our time together went by too fast.
As promised, there was wine and a decadent cheesecake afterward
(baked by the host himself) and more conversation
which turned into much laughter.

I think a salon revival is long overdue. Who's with me?


Prima Vox Epiphany

When I finally let it hit me, it hit me hard: The Sunday service at the Church of the Holy Communion would be the last time the Voxes Three would sing together until April.

Ann's going on a 3-month sabbatical to South Africa. We knew it was coming. We have talked about this and prepared for it for almost a year. We've planned ahead for future engagements, we have music chosen for performing with the Mankato Symphony Orchestra in May, we're going to be learning a medieval Mass to sing at the Church of the Holy Communion this summer. Ann is taking a stack of music to Africa, and Sara and I will be getting out our calendars this week to set up Vox 2/3 rehearsals.

But somehow I hadn't let it sink in that the three-ness that we are won't happen again for a while. Sitting in the church Sunday morning, it all washed over me. The church was still decorated for Christmas, and was celebrating Epiphany. Memories of our Fire & Ice concert on December 19th made my eyes burn with tears that I was fighting to hold back so that I could get up and sing.

It made me realize what a huge part of my musical life is filled by our singing. Prima Vox has woven itself into my priorities in a big way. It's challenged me, enriched my music career, given me confidence in my voice that I've never had before. And that was my own epiphany, of sorts.

Until we meet again, sweetly singing.


Nope, not Hollywood...

...but it was close. The decorations for the last holiday party of the season were outstanding. The harp felt like a star. Even without a red carpet.

Posing in the flashing lights.

I took the harp home, put it in the living room, and let it glory in its moment in the spotlight.  Then I cleaned out my music bag, reorganized my Christmas music and put it all back on the shelf until next year's lights and action.



World events have turned my thoughts gratitude-bound.

The disaster in Haiti has yanked me out of my self and made me take a look at what is so rich, beautiful, blessed and solid in my life.
 ~ My family, healthy and loving and supportive.
~ My own health and my growing strength and belief in my self.
~ My house, this cranky, creaky, drafty old charming place that has sheltered me for so many years.
~ My work, and the generous opportunities to pursue my art.
For these, and so much more, I will lie down tonight and hold my head in my hands and say "thank you thank you thank you thank you" until I fall asleep, safe and warm.


Have I mentioned that I play "Canon in D" on the harp?

I must have, because every bride
at the Wedding Expo on Sunday wanted to hear it.

I offered Bach, I suggested Purcell, I began Wagner, I mentioned Clarke, I even tried to sneak in Andrés...but it was always the Pachelbel they wanted.

I can't blame them. "Canon in D" is an exquisitely beautiful piece. That up-down-up-down chord progression in the bass, that long and lingering stretch of downward steps in the melody that turns elegantly fluid as the work progresses. It has a natural rise and fall that makes it a perfect play on the emotions...and always tear-jerking when a vision in white walks down the aisle.

I don't really know when Johann Pachelbel's "Canon in D" emerged on the wedding scene. It was composed during the Baroque period but wasn't published until 1919. I often wonder as I play it at a wedding what Herr Pachelbel would think of his music's current success. Would he wish he had it under perpetual copyright? Imagine the royalties.

Anyway, it's also a wonderfully satisfying piece to play. The left hand gets a workout keeping the basso continuo going, the right hand does its best creating the canon (if I had another hand, I could really make it the round it's supposed to be but...well, you know...that's ok).

I can play it without looking so I can keep my eyes on the bride. I can play it totally distracted by a reluctant flower girl or a screaming ring bearer (it happens). I can play it as long as I need to for big wedding parties, I can play a shortened version for the bride who wants it for her own processional alone.

As long as they love it, I will play it.


Not Funny

They say that how you begin your new year is how your year will proceed.

I spent New Year's Eve playing my harp, celebrating among wonderful friends old and new, and applauding the accomplishments of fellow musicians. I was home safe by 12:30 a.m. New Year's morning, contemplating quietly with a cup of hot tea, surrounded by kitties. Good start.

I thought about how I would sum up everything I had done in 2009 and everything I wanted in 2010. "Behold, I make all things new" came to mind, and I kept that quote from Revelation with me for a while. Yes, newness. All things new. THAT was my new year's wish.

But perhaps I should have clarified. Because within the first few days of January, this came to pass...

~ My coffee pot died.
~ Two light bulbs blew out as I walked past.
~ My microwave began to super-heat parts of my food, leaving the rest stone cold.
~ My truck wouldn't start on the day of the Kortuem Christmas Extravaganza. Wonderful Denny of DK Repair in Mankato picked me up in his pink (yes, pink) tow truck, distracted me from crying with his witty repartee and with chocolate, fixed my vehicle in record time while I sat in his shop and asked him too many questions, and sent me on my way...with a $450 bill. You gotta love a guy with a pink tow truck and a chocolate stash in his shop, but still.

If this was some kind of cosmic joke, it's not funny. So let me clarify to the universe right now: by "all things new" I did NOT mean a new coffee pot, new light bulbs, a new microwave, a new car battery or a new car starter. I meant new experiences, new opportunities, new adventures. Newness that is a culmination of all the work I have done, newness that will be symbolized by the harvesting of what I've planted. All clear?

As for the way in which we start the year carrying through its duration, let's hope "they" are wrong, at least this year.


Happy New Year

I played a farewell to 2009 during dinner

Elegant, classy, quiet and 3 hours of playing time to reflect. 2009 was as greatly challenging as it was deeply inspiring. It was filled with much adventure and even more growth. There was a lot of letting go of old dreams and beginning to lay the foundations for new ones.

I said goodbye gently to the old, then rang in the new listening to my friends from the band Fish Frye celebrate the release of their debut CD.

All things new.

Happy 2010.