2/23/2011

"Songs of Ireland" concert March 12

Posters are up — it's official!

The band and I will be performing music I learned while on my Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative Grant trip last summer, plus some brand new pieces I've composed will have their debut at the concert. Megan Maloney, Irish step dancer extraordinaire, will join us again.

It will be a fun night filled with music and inspiration — I hope you can join me!

P.S. You can read all about my Ireland experiences here...
How I knew I was in Ireland
Harp Camp
Studying with famous harpists
The Rose of An Grianan
Willie Week
A Gig at The Old Ground
Time for reflection
The harpist in Ireland
A last wish in Ireland

2/20/2011

Everything gets neglected when Amy's working on a concert

Laundry.
Vacuuming.
Grocery shopping.
Recycling.
Answering emails.
Keeping up on the news (10" of snow this weekend? Surprise!).

When a concert is in the works, everything else falls by the wayside. Friends know to not even ask me to do anything with them until after the performance. People tread very lightly around me. They know their request for information or even a friendly comment will more than likely be answered with something like, "The harp's not staying in tune and the D string is buzzing and it's driving me craaaaaazy...huh?" Or, "Should I program the first set with air, reel, jig or reel, air, jig or should I leave the jig to the second set...I'm sorry, did you say something?"

One-track mind. Hyper-focus. My "Songs of Ireland" concert is on March 12. And, right on time, I've been waking up with jigs and reels running through my head (and I haven't been dreaming about ice fishing). The band and I are in rehearsals and my fingers are boasting brand new callouses. Said jigs and reels require some tricky fingerings. Hornpipes are another story altogether.

But perhaps most neglected during concert prep is Harry.

When he sees the Irish music books start piling up on the floor, sees me furiously writing out parts for my band and erasing just as furiously, when he hears me hit the first chords on the harp, he starts giving me...

 "The Look."

Have you ever seen anything so pitiful? Poor Harry. Because practice time is normally when I'd be on the couch reading or writing or working on my computer, and Harry takes that opportunity to stomp all over me and try to fit on my lap with the computer and butter me up with all the hairy love he can muster.

You'd think he'd be used to it by now. This is my 8th annual Irish concert in honor of St. Patrick's Day. Or maybe he's just guilting me into more treats, which he knows I stocked up on before the wild prep began...

2/11/2011

Back in the studio again

All mic'd up and ready to go.

Martha Lindberg, my good friend and the supremely talented and absolutely wonderful recorder / whistle player in my Celtic Band, called me last week. Her son, Kevin, is studying to be a recording engineer at Hennepin Technical College and he needed someone to record. Would I be willing?

I thought immediately of the fresh batch of new pieces I'd written during and after my Ireland experience — and said yes. At about 11:30 p.m. the night before heading to Eden Prairie, I even wrote a recorder part for Martha to play along with me on one of the pieces to give Kevin and the students experience with working with two instruments.

I was in the main studio.

Martha was in the isolation booth.

The thing I love about recording is that I get to hear my music as I perform it, as an audience would hear it, which I rarely get to do. The thing I hate about recording is the unnatural process. I couldn't hear Martha breathe. I couldn't see her. I couldn't raise my eyebrows at her while I was playing or look up and see her intently listening like she does, which breaks my heart with its intensity. I couldn't raise my right elbow as a cue for her (I would have knocked over a several-thousand-dollar microphone by doing so, and she wouldn't have seen it anyway).

But getting the giggles, like Martha and I always do, was just as easy as if she'd been sitting right next to me.

That's the music to "The Rose of An Grianan."
I wrote it sitting in the courtyard at Harp Camp in Ireland.
If you look closely, you can see an Irish bug 
squashed on the corner of the music...

This recording experience was the most pleasant I've ever had, outside recording The Month of January with Sahni Moore. Even though the guys were students, they had an excellent teacher in Rik Stirling, who has had a lot of experience recording harps (if I ever record another album, I'll call him). They were respectful, patient and encouraging. The studio was clean and professional. The sound that came across in the final product was EXACTLY like I imagine the harp sounds for people when I play for them.

And what a relief.  The Light and the Lady was recorded in 6 holy stressful hours, because that's all the time I was allowed to be in the Good Counsel Chapel. The Harp Her Soul Required was recorded in my engineer's home, and navigating his home life and my album project was maddening. I can still hardly even talk about recording All Hayle to the Days — more often than not, there was beer spilled on the floor of the studio, someone's underwear swimming in the pool of it and a stench from a variety of smoke. And, as Martha said, art on the walls that looked like "dead pickles."

But somehow, the spirit of the music came through. And I fell in love with each of my recordings despite the experiences involved in their creation.

This experience was not only fun, it gave me hope. Hope for a future recording of my original music. I think I'd call the album Nine Waves. What do you think? I can't wait to hear the results of my time in the studio. And if I can get techy help, I'll share them with you.