4/29/2011

An invitation to the Royal Wedding!

It came yesterday morning around 9:00 a.m. I was to be awake at 4:00 a.m. the day of the wedding. I was to have my coffee made and to be dressed shortly thereafter. And I was to be next door at Ethel's house by no later than 4:20 a.m. to watch on TV as all the royals and all their hats arrived at Westminster Cathedral. And I had better not be too late, or I'd miss seeing the bride get out of the car.

Ethel may be small, but she is not to be disobeyed. "Yes, ma'am," was my reply to the invitation.

It was early, but it was fun. We critiqued all those hats (really, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, what were you thinking?). We wondered why the Queen didn't wear a crown. We loved the wedding gown. And we fell in love with Prince Harry (did you know I named my Harry cat after him? True 'dat…).
 But where was the royal harpist?

Nowhere to be seen. In my mind, she should have been playing "Canon in D" non-stop as the bride traversed that endless aisle. And she should have accompanied those cherubic, ruffle-collared boys as they sang a song or two.

 I guess they're saving her and her harp 
for the private receptions at Buckingham Palace.

When I told my friends on Facebook that I wanted to be somebody's "official harpist", I had several offers. None paid well (ok, none paid at all), but I found out that I'm officially their favorite harpist. Which is, really, even more valuable.

(Images ©PA)

4/23/2011

Harp Tuning - in progress

It's been a rough road tuning Jack's lovely little gold harp. Here's where we started:

video
Ugh. Ouch. Painful.

It was kind of alarming, how badly out of tune the harp was. I really didn't know where to begin. So I decided to start around middle C and tune upward and downward from there. With my electronic tuner and my own well-tuned concert harp at hand for reference, I worked on the middle couple of octaves. When they were fairly correct, I tuned every note by octave (all Cs, all Fs, all As, etc.). Then I started over. Then I had lunch, took a nap. Then I started over. Then I went for a run, took a bath. Then I started over again. And here's where we ended after a few hours:

video
Not bad. But not great.

This is going to be one of those "wash, rinse, repeat" (i.e., "tune, play, repeat")  projects for quite a while, I think. I underestimated it, greatly. But a harp is a harp, and I hate to see one languishing. Moreover, this is JACK's harp. And even if it takes me all year, I'll do what I can to get it back in shape for him.

4/16/2011

Harp sitting

A few days ago, I called Jack McGowan, the man who gave me my first harp. He answered like he always does: "Yeah, this is the old man." And when I said, "Hi Jack, this is your favorite harpist," he replied, "Oh, the good looking one!"

(Yeah. I'm the ONLY harpist he knows.)

We talked for a little bit about the website he was creating for his History Fest extravaganza, and then I asked the question that had been nagging me for a long while: "So, have you been playing your harp much?" There was a long, guilty silence. "Ummm..." Jack began. I know he's been busy. I know he's making life wonderful for countless people with all his entertaining doings (case in point: he's taking a group of church youth group students to a reservation in South Dakota this weekend to put on a History Fest entertaining / learning opportunity for the children there).

But that doesn't negate the fact that - THE MAN HAS A HARP AT HIS HOUSE THAT IS BEING NEGLECTED. My protective streak took over. And I told him, "I'm coming out to get that harp, and I'm going to get it tuned and stablized and cleaned up and regulated and I'm going to PLAY it - even take it to gigs. And when you're ready to have it back, when you're ready to PLAY it again, come and get it." There was no argument. I think I even heard relief in his tired voice.

I drove out to his farm this morning, packed up the harp and took her home. Jack has had this harp since 2002. He bought it from the sisters at Good Counsel Convent. I remember seeing that harp sitting in the sacristy in the Chapel long before I even had my own harp. (Did you know I lived at Good Counsel for a year? It's true...but that's another story.) Jack took the harp to its birthplace, Lyon & Healy in Chicago, and had it restored.

She's a lovely little thing. 
Lyon & Healy Style 14 Gold. Built in the '30s.

And, as befits a gold harp, 
she even has a crown on her column.

I was wondering how the cats would take to the addition.
But they recognized those "claw" feet and 
welcomed it as one of their own.
"Oh, it's just another one of THOSE things," 
I could hear Harry thinking.

Jingle Belle even approved of Jack's masking tape
"crib notes" on the pedals...
(I'm leaving them on because it's just so hilarious).

Jack sent me home with the harp's equipment box -
extra strings, tuning wrenches, etc. 
There was even a remote in the box.
Jack said he used it to play the harp. Har har.

Getting the harp into the house (and finding a place for it amid the other 4 harps plus the piano in my living room) were just the first steps. It needed some dusting (ok, a lot of dusting) and a good checking over. Now I'm ready to get out the tuner and start the long, exacting job of getting the little gold beauty back in tune. It'll take a couple of weeks. Why? On first pluck, middle C was somewhere down below F...

4/07/2011

Images from "Song of Ireland"

My photographer friend Rick just gave me these photos he took during my "Songs of Ireland" concert in March. (Rick is wonderful. He works for free tickets and for his tip, he got to buy me dinner at a local Mexican restaurant and watch me almost die from the hot green sauce. Yeah.) Rick photographed me for my "All Hayle to the Days" and "The Month of January" CDs. He has the patience for my antics and giggling and constant do-overs (priceless). And I love his work.

The scene is set. 
(I'm glad somebody remembered to light the candles!)

The Celtic Band.

Mom says she always gets nervous when 
I pick up the microphone to introduce songs. 
I have been known to tell some stories about her from the stage...

Megan dances up a storm -
those are her hard shoes for the hornpipe.

Ann and Sara joined me to sing "Ave."
(Speaking of shoes, theirs stole the show!)
And this is my favorite photo from the night.
This is how I FEEL when I play.
I had no idea I LOOKED that way, too.

The concert was beautiful. I loved every moment - and it all went so fast. I'm still working on getting some video techy-ed up to share with you!

Photos compliments of Rick Apitz, Shayds of Color, New Ulm