Christmas tired us out

Belle, snuggled in her nest.

Sam The Cat, lounging in the sunshine.

Yeah, ok, Harry.
I guess I forgive you for the
fiery cookie baking incident...

We've all been taking it easy during this "in between" week. Lots of naps, lots of snuggle time on the couch. Good times, Amy and kittens.


Christmas baking, with Harry's help

Every year, I make my Dad dozens and dozens of his favorite chocolate chip cookies for Christmas. He affectionately calls them "lard biscuits" - each batch calls for a cup of oil AND a cup of shortening. Mmm, delicious. Ahem. So I put on my favorite Christmas CDs and got ready.

I had everything on the counter I needed:
flour, sugar, brown sugar, said oil and shortening,
salt, cream of tartar, eggs...

...and the New Oxford Book of Carols
right beside the candles.
You know, to double-check the lyrics to 
"E la don don Verges Maria" so I could sing along.
Loudly. And correctly.

Everything was going so well. Several batches were cooling on the counter. One batch was waiting on cookie sheets on the counter...beside the candles...

Yeah, you can tell where this is going, can't you?

I was doing some dishes when I smelled something burning. It wasn't the cookies in the oven; I'd just put them in there. When I turned around, I saw that Harry had jumped up on the counter and was standing over the candles to get to the cookie dough. And he was smoking on both sides.


After much screaming (me) and hissy-hissy-hissing (him) and hosing him down and finding (relief) that he wasn't hurt and cutting off his burned fur and opening the doors and windows to get the smell out and tossing out two pans of cookie dough...

...I gave up. I baked the last batch of cookies and closed up the bakery. Harry sulked in the corner, nursing his pride and mourning the loss of huge hunks of glorious white hair on his sides. 

Oh, merry. So Harry-merry.


A harpist's Christmas story

It was hard to get in the Christmas spirit this year. There hasn't been snow for weeks. It feels more like March than December outside.

I didn't put up a tree this year. For the last couple of years, the cats (the boys, I think) have confused the tree skirt for a litter box and I just couldn't deal with it this year.

 So these wreaths had to do for Christmas decorations.

 Much safer, with the evergreens up off the floor.

And I had a crazy performance schedule this December. I played for lots and lots and lots of events the first two weeks of the month, and then had nothing to play for until Christmas Eve. Not a single party, church service or happy hour. It was odd, strange, empty. I paced a lot. Finally, I called my Mom and asked, "What should I do for two weeks in December if I'm not playing the harp?"

"Bake cookies and wrap presents like normal people," she replied. Normal people. I haven't been a normal person in December since I got a harp 23 years ago.

Finally, Christmas Eve arrived. The service wasn't until 7:00 p.m., so I did have time for some present wrapping during the day. (The baking? Yeah, read about that fiery disaster in a future post...) I polished up the harp, put on a pretty dress, warmed up the truck and...

...ahhhh. The harpist finally had a purpose
in December. 

I played mostly by the light of these trees.

In a full-circle story, this church was where I played my very first Christmas Eve service, many many many many years ago. I remember that night they turned off all the lights when it came time to sing Silent Night for the candle lighting, so a beautiful little girl came forward with her candle and knelt beside me so I could see my music. It's one of my favorite Christmas memories of all time. And that girl's mother became my dear friend.

The magic of Christmas Eve. I hope yours was wonderful, too.


More Concert video: Ave

The song I wrote in Ireland, the words that I hold dear, performed by the women who make my songs compositions come alive.



Concert Video: Lo, How A Rose E'er Blooming

A last-minute set list change. And I'm so glad I included it.

A rose in winter.

(one more video coming...stop back!)


Concert Video: Blessed Be That Maid Marie

This is one of my favorite pieces from The Light and the Lady. I love how it sounds in this arrangement I made for my band for the concert - they take it back to its medieval roots so well!

A lot of notes for the harp. 
Each one a joy to play.

(still more videos coming!)


Winter Wedding

Outside it was cold and blustery. But inside...

...warm, elegant and romantic!

This was my view while the couple said their vows and exchanged their rings. The bride wore a white lace dress that I dare say was just as beautiful as Kate Middleton's wedding gown. And in her hair: a spectacular, sparkling flower. (Girl after my own heart!) And I loved the color scheme of deep eggplant - so rich for winter!

This was the last wedding of 2011. And what a year it was - there were weddings inside, outside, rainy, hot and steamy, and so windy we almost blew away. But it was a year filled with much love and much harp music.

Bring on the 2012 brides!


Get your Christmas shopping done here!

There's still time to order my CDs for Christmas gifts!

You can purchase CDs directly from my website, www.amykortuem.com, and I'll mail them out to you right away.

There are four to choose from, all are $15.00 each.

All Hayle to the Days
— Carols and Songs to Drive the Cold Winter Away

The Light and the Lady
— Carols of Mary

The Harp Her Soul Required
 — Traditional Irish Music

The Month of January
— My original music and traditional Irish favorites

You can hear samples of songs on the ordering page at my website. Enjoy!


Concert Video: A Virgin Most Pure

I've always loved how this song sounds on The Light and the Lady, solo harp. I couldn't imagine making it better with an arrangement for my band. But when we played it together for the first time, I yelled "Pretty!" out loud. And I kept saying it, every time we played it.

The band teased me that I'd say it out loud without thinking during the concert. Did I? See for yourself...

Pretty. Very, very pretty.

(more videos coming later this week!)


Concert video: Of the Father's Love Begotten

It was the first and last song I included on my recording The Light and the Lady - inspired by the alpha-omega, source-ending lyrics. So I just HAD to begin this concert with it.

The recording is solo harp in Good Counsel Chapel. I was really wanting to mimic that big sound, that ring, that mystery at this concert. So I added some special surprises played from the balcony (played by my wonderful band)...

It was magical.

(stay tuned for more videos this week!)


What should never, EVER fall out of a harp...


And it came from here...somewhere.

This happened the night before the holiday concert. I pulled the harp back against my shoulder for a final practice session and..."clunk."

Yeah. Harry didn't know what to do either.

So I panicked. Then I ate some chocolate. Then I went to my Facebook friends and they all said "oh no" etc. etc. etc. And then I called my harp regulator, Dan, in Chicago. 

HE DIDN'T ANSWER. So I ate more chocolate. Panicked a bit more on Facebook. 

Then Dan called back. "Oh, it's just a base frame bolt, worked loose from the vibration of the music," he said calmly. He even laughed a little bit at me. "Nothing to worry about."

Yeah. "Just" the bolt that holds the bottom of the harp to the...rest of the harp. That little thing. Dan gave me some good instructions on putting the bolt back in and when he heard my voice waver, he told me I could do it. And if I couldn't do it, he'd come from Chicago to help me (awwww...)

I hope you never have to see a harp in this position.
(Or a harpist trying to get it in this position...)

But Dan was right. I did do it. It took a lot of chocolate and a little more panicking, but I did it.

 And all was well.
This sight is more like it..


The first Christmas party of the season

The December day dawned with a kiss of snow.
Just to set the mood.

And it ended with an evening Christmas party.
Lights, harp...

...and a harpist who can take a dare.
(Notice the flower in my hair?)


It didn't get much better on the second try...

Harry, he always gets the last word.


Rehearsing with Harry

He's such a good rehearsal partner.
Pretty soon, I'm going to give him his own, hairy show.