Singing in The Chapel

Our Lady of Good Counsel Chapel is a special place. I recorded my album "The Light and The Lady" there. I've sung in countless concerts and had some of the best musical moments of my life there.

 And tonight, Prima Vox performed for the 
Music and Meditation Series there.

We sang Hildegard. Monteverdi. Charpentier. Even some Kortuem (my new "Ave," a capella - it works beautifully without the harp, too). The sound is glorious in the Chapel. The music barely passed our lips before it spun up to that ceiling, whirled around, crashed into the far wall and came lingering back toward us. Languid sound. Rich sound. 

 Holy sound. Hear for yourself.
"Ave Maria," Monteverdi.

I don't know how the meditators felt while we were singing, but I was in an altered state if I do say so myself. Looking up at Sara and Ann, seeing their eyes closed and heads tilted, I think they were, too. Near levitation. The music we sing was meant to be sung in places like this.

Afterward, there was silence for a long time. And the meditation group left the balcony, one by one, thanking us in hushed voices, with dreamy-looking eyes.
"It was beautiful."
"You transported me."
"I didn't want it to stop."
"Thank you - I feel such peace."
"Please, please come back next week."

And then came our favorite comment: "Wow, I thought you were a lot older." We must have looked surprised, because the commenter added: "You know, I thought you were a bunch of older nuns from Bulgaria singing and here you are, so young..." We told him to quit while he was ahead.

And we headed off into the mild March evening, feeling young, renewed by music. Holy.


Grand finale for Irish Season 2011

What a season it was. I played straight through from March 8th until March 20th. It was wonderful, getting to pour out all my new music for audiences.

 And for myself, honestly. 

I feel like I was able to somehow, in some small way, wrap up my experiences in Ireland last summer by just playing that music. And playing it. And playing it. It's permanently a part of me now, I know it so intimately.

The last performance of the season was playing with the Celtic Band opening an MNSU Mankato Performance Series concert for Craicmore from Los Angeles.

 We chose our favorites and soared through them.

"She Moved Through the Fair"
- the saddest, most beautiful Irish love song. Ever.
It wouldn't be Irish Season without singing it one more time.

Nobody makes an Irish whistle soar like Martha.

 Sam. The heartbeat of the band.

Marti, making her violin sing.

They make my music come alive. I love my band.

I'm working on getting photos and videos from our "Songs of Ireland" concert ready to post - stay tuned for more music and images from Irish Season 2011!

(Thanks to Yvonne Cariveau for so taking these photos so stealthily and so well!)


Dancing to the beat of 150 drummers

Marti, my friend and the amazing violinist who plays in my Celtic Band, is an elementary school music teacher. Last week, she invited us and Megan the Irish Step Dancer to perform for her students at Jefferson Elementary School, and we all jumped (Megan highest) at the chance to introduce the young people to our music.

The students loved it.
We loved it.

Everyone was so well behaved. The students all sat "on their pockets" and listened to the music, watched the dancing and even clapped along while we played. Sam the Drummer earned his drumming stripes that day by being able to keep beat for the band with the "help" of 150 students all clapping a different rhythm. It was hilarious fun.

I couldn't stop smiling the entire time I played.
They were such a wiggling, happy band of children.

Marti emailed today with a thank you from her students. She said they loved my "hark" and Sam's "bo-ron." One little girl wanted to be Megan Maloney. And they loved seeing the woman they know as Mrs. Ryan break into a wild Irish jig like a rock star, and they were very impressed that she was in a band. 

So much fun. We're thinking that next year we'll all take a day off and go on a tour of elementary schools to share our music. Mrs. Ryan said she'd get right on that with her connections!

What a great way to kick off 
the St. Patrick's music season!


And more new music!

Ave. In Latin, in means "hail" - in greeting, or welcome. I knew this song which you'll hear two versions of here would be named "Ave" even before it was finished, even before I arranged it for Sara, Ann and I to sing as Prima Vox

The opening perfect 5th motif sang out from me every time I drove past or stomped around in or stood in awe of another spectacle Ireland offered. There was such a range of wonder - human-made, natural, across millennia, encompassing different purposes and faiths. It made me start wondering about what we consider holy. And Ireland certainly offered a range of holinesses as well: crumbling Christian monasteries, ancient portal tombs, patchwork-green hills, megalithic structures situated to the rising and setting winter solstice sun, mountains with tiny winding roads that had my mother white-faced and praying as we drove them, wells dedicated to saints or goddesses (or both), devotion to traditional music, divine hospitality. For me, "Ave" symbolizes and encompasses all of those holinesses.

First, the harp solo.
"Ave" - harp solo
© Amy Kortuem 2011

When I returned from Ireland and played this song for Ann and Sara, Sara said, "It sounds like a prayer." We sing so many versions of Ave Maria that I thought it only natural to add a section of the words of the prayer to my music...and it became an entirely different "Ave."

"Ave" - Prima Vox
© Amy Kortuem 2011

Again, enjoy. And if you do, please share.


New music!

Finally, I have figured out a way to share some of the new music I just recorded! And the bonus is: you'll get to see images of the places in Ireland that inspired these songs. 

Here are two of the pieces I wrote while on a Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative Grant trip to Ireland last summer. They were recorded in February, with the help of Kevin Lindberg (student producer at Hennepin Technical College in Eden Prairie) and his mom and my friend, Martha, playing recorders.

"Little Boat"
© Amy Kortuem 2011

While I was in Ireland, I read The Brendan Voyage by Tim Severin, who set out to prove the legend of St. Brendan sailing to North America long before it was "discovered" by Columbus. Severin built a replica of the ancient leather Irish curragh boats and set out on his journey - and he made it. I a lot of my time in Ireland thinking about that little boat on that immense ocean, and while the violent storms and the sea monster encounters and the wet and the cold and the danger were terrifying, it was the image of the boat being rocked on a gentle sea that made the clearest impression on me. And that impression became the song "Little Boat" as I sat on one of the southwestern-most shores of Ireland with my harp, looking out over a calm lagoon to the wide Atlantic in the distance. (This was the very place I wrote "Nine Waves" in 2006.)

"The Rose of An Grianan"
© Amy Kortuem 2011

I wrote about composing "The Rose of An Grianan" in this post over the summer. But I didn't tell you that this song had its beginnings as Mom, Sheila and I walked the shore of Lake Superior in March 2010. I hummed and hummed and hummed it until Mom asked, "What's the name of that song?" Little did I know it would take thousands of miles of traveling and a chance encounter with a poetic Irish gardener to finally complete and title the song! An Grianan is the name of the beautiful, Georgian mansion where the harp festival I attended was held - it means (loosely translated from Irish) "the sun always shines here."
I hope you enjoy the music and the imagery. And if you do, please share this post with your friends!