The day before the concert

I'm ready. I've been ready all week. A week is a long time to pace and over-practice and pace again and double-check lists and practice one more time and think, in a fit of pre-concert insanity, that I should change the entire set list and then calm myself down with Thanksgiving leftovers (mmmm, carbs.) Leftovers eaten while pacing.

 Dress rehearsal tonight was a huge relief. 

One more big milestone on the journey to another concert. We flew through everything. Talked about the great publicity the concert has receive on radio and Martha's blog (thanks, KTOE, KMSU and The Free Press). Hoped together for a warm and responsive crowd.

After the band left, I spent a little time alone in the church with the harps, like I always do. Calibrating myself to the performance to come.

Ready to put the music on the stand.
Ready for the audience to fill these empty seats.
Because the music only really comes alive
when I'm playing for them.


Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is all about tradition in our family. There's ALWAYS broccoli casserole, green bean casserole, potatoes, gravy, stuffing. ALMOST always squash, but we forgot this year. Oh yeah, and turkey for the meat-eaters (I've been a vegetarian for more than three years, and Mom still worries that I won't get enough to eat...no worries, Mom). 

And of course, the favorite old decorations make their appearances:

"Toothpick Turkey" by Jeff Kortuem, ca. 1986

"Breadbasket Cloth" by Amy Kortuem, ca. 1980


It's that time of year again

Time for the annual Jeff Helps Amy Get A Christmas Tree Event. It was chilly and snowy. Weather advisories galore. The perfect day for my brother to drive over in his trusty truck and pick me up and take me to Menard's to get a tree. Right?

Well, Jeff took some convincing. I even composed another song to sing on his voicemail to tempt him:
"It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas
everywhere except Amy's house...
she needs to get a tree
with help from Brother Jeffery
today before the snowstorm hits the state and it's too late to decorate...
la la la la..."

 And it worked. 
We braved the weather, got the tree and put it up in record time.  
(The picture's blurry...Jeff moves fast.)

The tree is kind of shaped like a rocket right now, but I hope it will relax in the warm living room. The scent is heavenly. It feels more festive in here (and makes the practicing atmosphere even better) as it is right now. But I really I hope I decorate the tree this year, rather than letting it be naked except for its lights all season like I did last year.


Wintry weather makes it easier to practice Christmas music

I know this may not be the most popular viewpoint, but I'm rather enjoying this cold, snowy late-fall-turned-early-winter. It makes practicing Christmas carols on the harp so much easier. Hauling the harp won't be easy. Keeping it in tune won't be easy. But I sure am in the holiday mood and that translates into the emotion I put into the songs when I'm rehearsing.

When the weather is wintry and the house is cold, I do have company when practicing...



It's hard to practice the harp with a cat on your left leg, digging in his claws into your skin so he doesn't slip off when you work the pedals. But they're good little heaters.


November wedding


It was my last wedding of "wedding season," which lasted longer this year than it does many years. It had everything you'd want in a winter wedding: a sparkly dress, candlelight, a church full of guests, a loving family. Everything was lovely.

And the harpist played, of all things, "Canon in D" by Pachelbel.


The best concert rehearsal so far

Missed cues. Wrong notes. We made a train wreck of almost every piece. Once I yelled at Marti that she was stealing my solo verse. She knows better than to think I was serious.

And finally, it all dissolved into laughter. I don't drink much anymore, but I thought this occasion called for some red wine.

 (It was all I had in the cupboard...)

We ended up talking through some things, giving a couple songs a few more tries, and then we gave up for the night. We reminisced about past concerts, counted the years we've played together (Martha and me: almost 9, Martha and Sam and me: 8, Martha and Sam and Marti and me: 5), talked about our favorite moments, flat-out gossiped.

Am I worried? Not at all. They're pros. I'm prepared. We have two more rehearsals. And lots of years of  friendship and experience to back us up.


So much for "driving the cold winter away"...

We got about 12" of snow overnight. Wet, heavy snow. I got up at 8:30 this morning and shoveled. Then I turned around and re-shoveled. Snow blew in big, wet flakes, soaking my coat, hat and mittens. Snow fell off the trees and hit my back in huge chunks that let me know I was on the losing end of a snowball fight with Mother Nature.

The cold winter is here. Sorry, I tried.

I didn't get up early to shovel because I like to shovel. I had two events to play for today and needed to make it to my car when it was time to leave. It's no fun navigating snowy sidewalks with a harp on wheels. But when I came inside, there were two phone messages; both events were canceled because of the weather and because the kind organizers just didn't want me to risk life, limb and harp by being out in it.

Those phone calls were the second and third weather-related miracles of the year when it came to the harp. Not that the weather was miraculous (the weather was really awful harp-wise this year), it's more that the people in charge of the events that happened during this awful weather made miraculous decisions.

The first weather-related miracle? Outdoor wedding, August 4, 2010. 90+ degrees and horribly humid. I wore my coolest dress, my hair up, my sunglasses and a good slathering of SPF 75. When I showed up, I was directed here:

The bride met me at the door and said it was just too hot out 
and that we would all be more comfortable if the wedding was indoors.

Today, thanks to weather miracles #2 and #3, I got some laundry done, some quiet harp practicing in and a long winter's nap. Harps and harpist safe and sound...

...looking out on the lovely winter's night.


Band rehearsal lights up the night

 And it was all thanks to Harry, our biggest fan.

I was so excited for our first rehearsal on Tuesday night. Getting to hear the band play the music I've chosen and arranged for our concerts for the first time brings everything alive for me. In college, I remember asking a composer/arranger speaking to our theory class if the music he composed sounded in performance the way he heard it in his head. He said no, it sounds better, so much better in performance. I didn't really believe him at the time. But now I know exactly what he means.

The harps were tuned and ready.

The music was waiting to be played.

The candles were lit to warm up the chilly night.

And then, minutes before the band arrived, Harry decided to jump onto the coffee table, swish his tail through the candles and...


His hair is so long that he didn't feel a thing. He'd already jumped down from the coffee table by the time I smelled the burning hair, panicked, bolted up from behind the harp, patted out his tail and rushed him to the kitchen sink. 

Oh, the indignity, of having your tail squirted with water when you have no idea you're on fire. 

Oh, the drama of getting the burned hair trimmed from your tail when you have no idea you'd set it on fire.

Oh, Harry.
Sam, Martha and Marti all wrinkled their noses when they walked into the house, but when I explained, we had a good laugh. They know all about Harry's antics. And we all love him anyway.

Onward, and here's to driving the cold winter away without setting ourselves on fire.


To Drive the Cold Winter Away - November 27

Or, "To Drive the Cold Winter Away with Stuff Amy Likes." So SamTheDrummer has named this year's annual holiday concert, which will take place on November 27th. Last year's theme was "French." The year before, "Lullabies." The year before that, "Irish."

 This year: Traditional carols and Amy's original music.

All the music came to me in sections, not in a single theme. There's the Holly and the Ivy set, with a new piece I learned in Ireland. There's the Three Ships set, with a new piece I wrote in Ireland. There's the piece I wrote for Prima Vox in Paris last year, "Fire and Ice." There's the piece I wrote for Prima Vox in Ireland this year, "Ave."

I love it all. I didn't want to cut any of it for the sake of fitting into a theme. So I just went with my original gut choices, put it into a set list order that flows, arranged it for the band and for me. And then I emailed the set list to the band with the note: "There's really no theme this year, just stuff I like."

I can't wait to bring the music alive for you.


All Hallows Eve with Prima Vox

 The posters were called "alarming."
(Judith Slaying Holofernes by Artemesia Gentileschi)

 Holding a concert on All Hallows Eve, "daring."

 The music was called "haunting.

The admission? "Free Will" offering...

The posters suggested that people come
dressed as their favorite martyrs.
(This is Martha Lindberg, a.k.a. St. Blandina,
who accompanied us on the recorder.)

The evening was filled with an eerie, magical quality. The music was indeed mesmerizing, the readings were chilling. I even sneaked in a creepy little arrangement of "Ring Around the Rosy" on the harp while tom the pastor and Richard the verger lit the incense. The dare was worth it. We're sure All the Saints were very happy with us the next day.