Wednesday, May 31, 2017

That's a Wrap

Well, another successful and delightful Spring recital is in the books.  Now everyone can heave a sigh of relief.  The benefits of performing in a recital far outweigh the butterflies beforehand!  The experience you gain and the confidence that comes with each performance is invaluable.  A lot of planning, practice and preparation goes into making it a successful experience.

Here are some tips, pointers and suggestions to help you prepare and be proud of any performance:

The way you practice in preparation for a performance is different than daily practice.  Start playing your piece from start to finish; instead of working on it in small segments as you have been doing.  Always work on those rough spots as you go if they crop up.  Have places in your piece where you can go to if things fall apart (called repair points), so that you can skip ahead or backward to those spots and carry on. Sometime, I'll tell the story of when my mind went completely blank in the middle of a performance.  Thank goodness for my repair point!!  It saved the day.  Make sure that you have the beginning of your piece very solid under your fingers.  That's the time you are likely to have the most butterflies and your fingers may be shaking.   If you slightly tense up your fingers during those moments, it will help with the shaking.  Once you are into the music a few bars, you probably will relax.

When you have it perfected, play your piece for your family, friends or video recorder.  It is very different from just playing for yourself in the comfort of your room.  Videoing yourself is a real learning experience.  You get to see your posture, your facial expressions, your technique as well as hearing yourself play the piece.   I also have my students practice how they will end.  When you finish, dampen the strings with both hands and lower the harp, signaling your piece is finished.  Then to wild applause, walk to the front of your harp, put one hand on the column and slowly bow.  A fun thing for students to say (to themselves, of course) as you bow down - "Did I wear my shoes today?" and then on the way up - "Yes, I wore my shoes today!"  This makes the bow slower and more stately than a bob!  And don't forget to smile and now is the time to look at your audience!

The day is finally here!  Your appearance at the recital is important.  Fuller, longer skirts or dresses, or pants are appropriate attire - especially if you are on a stage.  How you wear your hair is important too.  The audience wants to see your face, so pin hair back on the left side, maybe with a pretty clip, especially if it is long.  Even long bangs which fall into your face and have to be brushed away can be distracting to those watching.

Try to focus on the beautiful music you are making and don't let your thoughts get distracted - "How does my hair look?", "Oh darn, I made a mistake, what will everyone think?",  "Oh my goodness, everyone is looking at me!"  If you make a mistake - and you probably will because everyone does from time to time - just keep going. Don't stop or go over that spot to make it right, just continue on as if that's what you meant to do.  Also, don't give it away with your facial expression or head shake.  Chances are, the audience won't even be aware you made a mistake!  They are too busy enjoying the beautiful music.  Don't beat yourself up!  Learn from any mistakes you made and just plan on doing better next time.

In the end - the preparation, dedication, practice and follow-through that you learned will help you in any endeavor you pursue in the future.  And, after all your hard work perfecting the piece, consider playing it at different venues afterwards - church, nursing homes, school talent shows, etc.


Friday, April 21, 2017

Celtic Concert

Sunday, June 26, 2016

How do I find the perfect lever harp for me?

Eeny, meeny, miny, moe - which is the best harp!  Since I am frequently involved in helping students and friends buy or sell their harps; I want to share what I think is important in choosing THE one.  Finding the perfect harp for you can be a daunting process, especially if you are new to the harp world.  There are almost limitless variables to consider and since a good harp is a big investment, you want to be as informed as possible.  Initially, I always advise new students to rent for a few months, for a couple of reasons - first, to make sure that playing the harp is something you want to pursue; and second, to become better versed on what is the best harp for you.  After playing for just a little while, you will develop an ear, appreciate the sounds of different styles of harps and develop preferences.

Since most beginners will start on a lever harp, the focus here will be on smaller harps.  We will discuss additional features of pedal harps at a later date.

In making your selection, you first have to be able to answer the questions below.  Your teacher will be a big asset in helping you:

How many strings to I want on my harp? Folk harps range from 28 strings to 40.
Do I want full levers, none, or partial?
Is ease of moving the harp important to me?
Do I want new harp with a warranty and a higher price tag, or used "as is"?
What string spacing works most comfortably with my hand?
Do I like looser tension or tighter?
Is the size right for my height - is it comfortable to sit behind the harp?
Which type of harp back feels best resting on my shoulder - square (stave back) or round?
Is the harp strung in folk or pedal gauge strings?  Which feels best on my finger tips?
Is nylon the sound that I like or do I prefer the sound of gut strings?
Is the harp made by a reputable manufacturer?
How much am I willing to spend?
And lastly, what wood finish and overall look do I like?  Strictly a personal decision there.

If you are considering a used harp.  There are many places to look for a quality used instrument.  Again, help will be invaluable in this area from your teacher.  When purchasing used, here are some additional questions to ask the seller:
   Age of harp - serial number.  The age can be verified with the manufacturer.
   History of ownership - original owner?
   Has it been keep strung, regularly played?
   Where has it been housed?
   What accessories come with it?
   Any cracks and dings - are they structural or merely cosmetic which can be repaired?

   Be sure to play the harp and assess the sound and feel.  Then weigh the cost and quality of a
   used harp at a lower price with the comparable new harp with a warranty.

GOOD LUCK - and happy harping!

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Oh, Give Me a Home -- SOLD

Looking for a quality lever harp?  Consider me:  I am a 36 string Salvi Livia, built in 1998 and have a walnut finish.  I've had 2 owners.  The serial number is #20768.  A new Livia sells for $4,250, so I am a bargain at $2300.   I come with a dust cover and a heavy duty fitted, padded transport cover with convenient wheels which is like new (sells for $340)!  My tuning key and a digital tuner are included.  Height, weight and all dimensions can be found on

Notes from sales agent (aka - me):  This is a former student's harp 
who is no longer playing.  The harp is fully strung and holds its pitch and has a full, rich, sustained tone.  It is strung with folk nylon and has a full set of sharping levers.  There are some minor nicks and scrapes as any harp would pick up along the way.  There is also a nonstructural crack about 1" long off the side of the second sound hole from the bottom.  It does not affect the integrity or sound of the harp in any way.  An estimate to repair this is $200 by a good luthier or competent furniture repair person and that is reflected in the price.  Located in south Orange County, California.  Any shipping costs will be paid by the buyer.  Sold as is.

Call, text or email with any further questions.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Upcoming Harp Concert

The Orange County Harp Troupe is so excited to be presenting Kim Roberston!  She will be here in a little over a month.  No tickets needed, so come early to be assured of a seat.  Doors open at 6 pm.   Refreshments will be served after the concert and you will have a chance to browse Kim's books and CDs.  Look forward to seeing you there!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Pedal Harp - For Sale SOLD

I am helping sell the harp of a dear friend and former student who passed away suddenly.  It is a beautiful Salvi Diana, high gloss mahogany finish in pristine condition.  It was built and purchased in 2006 from the manufacturer.  She was the original - and only owner.  The harp was purchased for her own enjoyment and it was never used as a gigging harp.  It comes with the additional accessories of:  harp trolley, dust cover, three piece transport cover, collapsible padded bench, and folding music stand.  There is also a tuner, metronome, and tuning key.  If you are in the Southern California area, you are welcome to come by and play it.  Her family is asking $19,000.

Please pass the word to your harp friends.  I can be reached by email or phone [listed under Teaching Studio] for any additional questions.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Ensembles - You Mean I have to Count?

If you are fortunate enough to have a harp ensemble in your area, consider giving it a try.  Playing with others is a great way to learn new skills, gain experience, and challenge yourself; as well as make lasting friendships.

Our local Orange County Harp Troupe was formed several years ago.  It all started when a student new to the area wanted a join harp circle, since she had enjoyed one at her previous home.  I held a tea in my home and invited anyone locally who might be interested in forming a group to come.  It was after a local harp concert, so there was a large group of interested people to draw from.  Regular meetings began shortly thereafter.  We have had an amazing 15 years and are still growing strong.  We have played for churches, hospitals, nursing and retirement homes, veterans groups,  and Irish and Scottish fairs to name a few.  We have also had Christmas parties, end of the year pot lucks, sponsored workshops and concerts, and even took a cruise with a presenter!  The opportunities are only as limited as your groups collective imagination.

HELPFUL HINTS learned along the way:

Start by laying a good foundation for your meetings.  You will need to select a board – at least President, Vice President, Treasurer and Secretary to run the meetings and help determine the direction of the group – frequency of meetings, music, events to perform, etc.  There should be time either at the beginning or the end of each rehearsal for a general meeting for voting and discussion.  Ahead of time usually works well. This cuts down on chatter during your rehearsal and there is always time during refreshments afterwards to toss around ideas.

At the designated meeting start time, everyone should be setup, tuned, and ready to play.  Have a tuner that picks up the vibrations of your own harp only.  It takes some longer than others for setting up and they should plan accordingly.  Try to start on time and don’t wait for latecomers.  There will always be some!

During your meeting allow time after each piece for discussion - tempo, tough parts, repeats.  Remember to have a pencil handy to mark your music so your memory doesn't have to work overtime! Designate one person to count two bars at the beginning to start everyone off.  During rehearsals, a loud ticking metronome is helpful too, to keep the tempo even.

For performances, strive to look like a professional group.  Position yourselves in close proximity to each other, so you can see and hear each other.  If the venue allows, a semi-circle is best.  Learning to listen to others and playing together is a real skill!  Practice pulling your harps to your shoulders at the same time, as well as muffling at the end of each piece, and standing your harps back up in unison.  Also practice bowing - the audience will be clapping!   For a cohesive look at performances, wear coordinated colors; or try matching accessories, such as a scarf, to unify the look of your group.

If you are in the Orange County area, please join us - beginners welcome!  If there is no harp group in your area, consider starting one - your life will be enriched.