Amy Kortuem's Celtic Band: history

 The view from behind my harp.
This scene makes me so very happy.
Harps tuned, chairs ready for the band, candles lit.

The band and I have been rehearsing and rehearsing for the holiday concert coming up on November 24th. I love it when they come over. Somehow, the house knows it will soon be filled with music - it always feels warmer, the lights are brighter, the air is charged right before they arrive.

And then they show up with their instruments, all smiles.
Here, Martha (center) is showing us her binary counting skills...

Martha has been my partner in musical crime the longest, since 2003, when she played on my "The Harp Her Soul Required album". I remember being a little concerned about whether she, as a classically trained orchestral musician (her instrument is oboe), would feel comfortable playing Irish music. But when I put the music in front of her, all worries roared out the door. The woman can sight read like no one I've ever met and she added such finesse and feeling to the airs, jigs and songs. And she was all in for the adventure of performing for the first holiday concert later that year. Over the years, we've played in costume, in dusty old barns, at elementary schools, in high winds and heat, and she has been a joyful and generous presence at my side through it all.

Sam The Drummer (right) - called such because I have a cat named Sam, and it can lead to awkward moments if I mention in public that "Sam was crying outside my bedroom door all night" without distinguishing between Sam The Drummer and Sam The Cat - is the quiet, steady undercurrent of the entire band. He's been with me since that first holiday concert in 2003. A friend of a friend of a friend gave me his name, and when I called him I barely got out "I'm giving this concert and am wondering if you'd like to play percussion..." when he broke in with "I'll do it." And he has, ever since, keeping me on track and on the beat. He doesn't say much, but when he does, I listen and always follow his wise advice. And it's good he doesn't say much, because there are some pretty wild Behind the Scenes with Harpist Amy Kortuem stories he could tell...

And Marti (left). Sweet, gentle, deep thinking and positive Marti. She joined the band in 2006 for a St. Patrick's Day concert and has stuck with me since. She just recently shared how difficult it was for her to follow my rather "intuitive" (ahem) arrangements of music at first - the arrows, the stars, the who's playing which repeat, the A sections, the B sections, sometimes even the C sections, the difference between my interpretation of a descant and a harmony and a drone. But she got it, and she got it beautifully. Marti has brought her love for Irish music to the band and has shared her favorite pieces, all of which have become band favorites (have you heard her play "The Irish Washerwoman"? yeah, like that). 

I lucked out finding these incredible musicians. I lucked out even more that they've become good friends. We've grown together, experienced loss together, supported each other and celebrated milestones - like Sam The Drummer's wedding to the beautiful Jess, like the arrival of grandchildren for Martha and Marti, like my grants and travels.

I can't wait for you to hear what we've been practicing up. Please, please join us on November 24th!


  1. Barbara11/08/2012

    Wish I could be there this year. Your beautiful music ushers in the season in a heart-touching way that leaves a lingering smile.

  2. The photos are lovely! And I enjoyed learning more about your band. I kind of know them, but now I know them better!

    This makes me want to play music again. Some day I would love to get back to the piano.

    1. Do it, Rachael! Music will get a different part of your brain working and open up space for writing ideas. I promise.

  3. What did you eat?
    Looks like fun...very glowy and warm

    1. We did eat - we drank! Deep, spicy red wine.
      And it is very warm when they come over.