11/29/2011

The concert was wonderful

It was an amazing evening. Really. The music was so lovely thanks to all the help from my ensemble and to Ann and Sara of Prima Vox fame. The crowd was warm and responsive. Many more people came this year than last to benefit VINE Faith in Action. We truly drove the cold winter away, if only for a few hours. A precious, beautiful few hours.

 Afterward, I kicked off my shoes, took the flower from my hair 
and enjoyed some mulled wine at my house 
with the generous people who helped make everything happen. 

I promise I'll post some video excerpts of the concert for you to enjoy. So stay tuned! But for the next few days I'll be resting and reorganizing, letting my thoughts unravel, creating a clear slate in preparation for the rest of December's performances.

However, I will give you this sneak peek at the dress I finally decided on wearing...

Rich, red and ruffly. A crowd-pleaser.

 And the flower.
 I want to wear a flower in my hair
every single day until spring comes.

What do you think - do you dare me?

11/24/2011

Happy Thanksgiving

Dinner is over.
Everyone is taking a nap.
Except for Amy, who made the interesting decision to drink real coffee this morning.
Besides being very talkative, she is not interested in sleeping at all.
(And for some reason, is referring to herself in the third person...)


 Anyway, off I went on a walk in the woods.

Mom and Dad live on a ravine acreage. The woods have always been my brother's domain. But today, the sun and the warmth and the cool breeze were just too enticing.

I took along this critter, Sophie the French Brittany Spaniel,
Dad's hunting dog.

Who wanted very, very, very much to run straight
to the bottom of the ravine, but who ended up being
very good on a leash for me.

We found acorns.

And a natural sculpture that looks a lot
like a pair of dinosaurs fighting.

When we came back inside, all windblown and breathless, people were eating pie. Oh, the sloth. Oh, the gluttony.

Oh, the happiness of it all.

11/22/2011

It all comes together

There have been last-minute set list adjustments (several).

There have been total mind-changes about what I'm going to wear (at least 5 times).

There have been major and minor artistic panic attacks about how in the world this concert is going to come together.

And then these wonderful, talented, generous
and very, very, very patient people come over
and the music makes it all better.

My band. Marti the violinist. Martha the recorder/whistle player. Sam The Drummer. They have such musical intelligence and sensitivity, and I'm so honored that they share it with me. Tonight they sat through one of those set list adjustments and gave great advice (the homemade rose liqueur I plied them with helped, no doubt).

We're ready for the concert. We had our usual fits and starts tonight at rehearsal, as happens right before a performance. But we laughed through them, tried them again, worked them out.

 Then we toasted ourselves and the music with some
homemade rose liqueur I made at midsummer.
Heart-warming.

The band is helping me bring new life to the music I first recorded in 1999 and haven't played since. They're helping me express who I am now through the music choices I made 11 years ago for that recording. Full circle, kind of.

I sent the band into the chilly, damp November night with wishes for a Happy Thanksgiving, and then I came back inside, lit some candles and sat for my own run-through of the music.

Harry, he's a good leg-warmer while I rehearse.
Though he's taken to yeowling whenever I sing lately...

Only 4 more days to go and the concert will be here. I have a few more details to take care of, my outfit to finalize (red ruffles or black lace?...) and of course 4 more rehearsing sessions.

And then I'll bring this music onto the stage and out to you. I can't wait.

11/18/2011

The Light and the Lady - the recording that started it all


Almost from the day I’d gotten my first harp, I’d toyed with the thought of recording, but didn’t have contacts, didn’t feel I had the experience, didn’t think I was good enough, didn’t have the first idea of how to go about it.

I’d like to say that the inspiration to finally record came to me in a flash, a burst of angelic light, a voice from beyond. But what really happened is that it grew from a small, secret hope (that one day I’d have the experience, the talent, the idea) to a recording date slowly, surely, naturally.

Since I was a little girl, I’ve been obsessed with the Blessed Virgin Mary. I used to have dreams about her in which she’d save me from the devil and hold up her light-filled hands to me. (Before you start thinking I’m a saint or something, you need to know that I also dreamed about Rocky and Bullwinkle…a lot). My Catholic upbringing and my very Catholic, rosary-praying grandmother instilled in me a deep reverence for Mary. Because really, what a woman. What courage. What a journey.

 Grandma's Mary statue and rosary.
(That's her Jesus in the background, too.)

I loved Christmas especially for the carols about Mary and equally loved playing those carols on the harp. And out of that love grew the idea for The Light and The Lady — a musical meditation on the journey the Blessed Virgin Mary took from annunciation to nativity.

If nothing else, Mary is really a symbol of saying “yes” to divine inspiration. I took this to heart (believing that inspiration to do good and to use our talents is always divine) when planning the recording. I wanted to chicken out and scrap the project several times, only to think about Mary saying “yes” to something much bigger, much more life- and world-changing than my recording project. A miraculous conception and birth, a life of persecution, a son who would be sacrificed and launch a major religion…vs. a little CD. Yeah. Humbling.

It was 1999. I rehearsed 4 hours a day, prayed the rosary a lot and was prepared. 

 I showed up at Good Counsel Chapel, set up the harps, lit some candles.

For the next six hours, I played my heart out. The music flowed. The sound was rich, resonant. I was amazed by it.

By November, I had a CD. People were surprised when it came out and had a photo of Mary on the cover. They thought it should feature a photo of me and the harps. But that wasn’t what it was all about for me. It was about the music that told the story of divine inspiration, of a perfect example of saying “yes” to it. And that perfect example wasn’t me. My harps and I were just the vehicle for telling the story. 

I put our photos on the back...

...and on the inside.

I really thought I would end up giving the CDs away to my family and friends. But I sold hundreds the first Christmas. I had to order even more CDs in 2000. 

 And I just placed my third re-order for the recording a month ago. 

When I decided to play songs from The Lady at this year's holiday concert, I hadn't touched the music since the day the tapes stopped rolling. It was somehow too emotional to revisit, and that creative rush was too magical to try to mimic. Plus, my ideas have changed since then. I've changed dramatically since then. I wondered if I could bring the same warmth and power to the music that I did in those 6 hours at Good Counsel. But perhaps enough time has now passed. The music is flowing once again. I can't wait for you to hear it on November 26th.

Thanks, Mary.

11/11/2011

Getting ready for the concert

Everywhere I look these days, there are piles of music, harps at the ready...

and cats staring at me 
until I'm done practicing.

The holiday concert is two weeks away (November 26th). When I haven't been behind the harp playing, I've been...
~ getting advertisements ready
~ organizing the venue (the beautiful First Presbyterian church in Mankato)
~ scheduling radio appearances
~ hanging posters
~ accosting everybody I know (and some people I don't know) with flyers
~ arranging ticket-takers and CD sellers
~ and trying to figure out what I'm going to wear (but that's a topic for another post...)

Some days I wish I had a manager to take care of all the non-musical things for me. But I've been told before by people who have tried to help me that I'm "unmanageable". I guess I do like to have a sense of control over my musical pursuits. OK, total control. OK, OK, bordering on control freak.

When I am behind the harp playing, I enjoy every note, every single phrase. Revisiting this music from The Light and The Lady has been a beautiful, sentimental trip down musical memory lane. I'll tell you more in the next post about that recording experience 11 years ago, that music, that concept, that consuming project that started my recording career.

Today, I've got ads to create and record, notes to give to my band, reserved seating to plan, candles to buy, TV stations to grovel to...

11/10/2011

Join me for my holiday concert November 26th!

'Tis the season!

I'm so excited about this year's concert. It will feature traditional favorites and my original music, plus music from my very first recording, The Light and The Lady, which I recorded in 1999. 

It was such an emotional experience, that recording. So much so that I haven't performed the majority of the songs on the CD since the minute the tapes stopped rolling! Revisiting that music and arranging it for my band has been wonderful. The music is so lovely, so lyrical, so beautiful. It's like opening a musical time capsule and finding delight in every single note.

I'll be joined at the concert by my ensemble — Martha, Marti and Sam — and by some special guest vocalists — Ann and Sara of Prima Vox. Prima Vox has been on hiatus for a while, and reconnecting our voices together feels great. 

I hope you can join me at the concert. If not, consider purchasing The Light and The Lady so you can experience the music yourself!

As always, a portion of the proceeds from the concert will benefit VINE Faith in Action. My personal effort in helping to "drive the cold winter away."