Finally! A chance to breathe! It’s been a crazy few months, but things have finally settled down for the time being. I thought I’d take some time to talk about highlights from the past few months, so prepare yourself for pictures, stories, and maybe even a video or two!
Picking up where I left off in my post in early February, some of my students gathered at my parents’ home in Athens, Alabama for a fantastic Masterclass in mid-February! It was a wonderful and casual opportunity for each of the students there to perform a couple of their solos for one another, without the stress and audience of a full student recital. Each performance was followed by feedback from me and a sort of mini “group lesson” on each piece. After the performances, I spent some time talking about a few topics that students had suggested, topics that are hard to take time to discuss in-depth during lessons, but are important for everyone. This was the first Masterclass for each of the students in attendance and I received some very positive feedback. I’m hoping to continue having Masterclasses once every 6-12 months, depending on schedules.
The Masterclass was recorded for students who were unable to attend. As always, I forgot to ask someone to take pictures, so here’s an action shot from the recording.
Performance in Alpharetta
The weekend after the Masterclass, I performed at the Alpharetta Presbyterian Church as part of their Kirkin of the Tartan celebration. It was such an awesome celebration of the church’s Scottish heritage and as I always do, I really enjoyed having a change to perform some of my beloved Celtic music. It was also a joy to perform in such a beautiful location and show my appreciation for the church’s willingness to host my solo recital there in late April. Unfortunately, I ultimately had to cancel the recital and was unable to perform there again, but I’m hoping to arrange for another performance sometime later this year!
Bernstein in Montgomery
Speaking of beautiful churches! At the beginning of March, I spent a few days down in Montgomery, Alabama for rehearsal and performance with the Montgomery Chorale. In celebration of Leonard Bernstein’s 100th birthday this year, I performed on the chamber arrangement of Bernstein’s gorgeous Chichester Psalms. The original composition is for full orchestra with 2 harps, whereas the chamber arrangement is written for 1 harp, 1 organist, and 1 percussionist. This performance included 8-9 percussionists, along with myself on harp and the organist. The Chorale choir and director were absolutely fantastic to work with and the First Methodist Church of Montgomery where we performed was probably one of the most beautiful churches I’ve ever had the opportunity to play in.
Here is an excerpt of the 2nd Movement of the Chichester Psalms, as I performed it with the Montgomery Chorale. This video was taken by my mom, so it’s very centered on me. 🙂
AHS Evaluations, Day 2
Mid-March marked the 2nd day for the American Harp Society Evaluations. Each of the students that had performed for me on Day 1 in early February returned to perform for me again, demonstrating in what ways they had improved during the weeks between. It was really great to see how much of my feedback and advice had been taken to heart and I saw tremendous improvement in all of the students. Different teachers may have different opinions sometimes, but I was thrilled that the students’ normal teachers took my feedback into consideration as well. There was a wide range of student ages and levels that performed, while many of the younger students performed in a recital for friends and family.
Preparing for Recitals
Between teaching and performances, I was working hard towards my 3 recitals in Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia. As you can see from my last post, the Georgia recital was unfortunately cancelled, but the Tennessee and Alabama recitals went off without a hitch!
Here are a few pictures while preparing…
Before moving to Georgia, I was pianist at Blackman United Methodist Church in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. My husband and I were thrilled to visit in March and see some of our old friends at the church, where I played for a church service in the morning before the church graciously hosted the first of my recitals that afternoon. The audience was small, but filled with family and friends from the church. Most of my husband’s family that were there had never seen me play the harp before, so it was great to show them a bit of what I do.
Here is my Tennessee performance of Grandjany’s transcription of “Pavane et Bransles,” the piece that I played to begin each of my recitals. I’m having difficulty converting the videos from my Tennessee recital to an editable format, so there is no video to accompany the audio for this one.
Hope Church in Madison, Alabama hosted the second of my recitals. There was a big turn-out for this recital, with a full audience of church members and friends that they had invited from elsewhere. I was so happy to see so many people in attendance when hardly anyone there had ever met me. It’s difficult to advertise and promote a harp recital in general, let alone somewhere you don’t live. I think it’s a testament to the welcoming and kind nature of Hope Church that they were so inviting.
Here’s a clip of my Alabama performance of Renié’s amazing “Ballade Fantastique,” a piece that follows completely the short story “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe. This clip is just the beginning of the almost 15 minute long piece.
And Last, but Not Least…
My months of endlessly busy weekends wrapped up this past weekend with a wedding up in North Carolina. The forecast called for 60%+ chance of rain most of the day, but it held out and the sun came out long enough for a beautiful outdoor wedding. Outdoor weddings are always a gamble for me with the harp, as I can’t take the instrument outside in certain weather conditions, so I’m grateful the weather held off long enough for me to perform. The couple asked for several specially requested songs that I made my own arrangements for, so it’s always fun to play something new!
What Comes Next?
While I’m definitely happy to have a break from the non-stop busy weekends for awhile, I’m already looking forward to what I’ll be doing in the coming months!
As I believe I’ve mentioned before, I will be a guest instructor for the Adult Harp Retreat in mid-June, spending about 8 days at a lodge in the Smithgall Woods State Park in the north Georgia mountains. The students at the retreat are all adults, coming from a variety of locations and backgrounds and playing levels. I’m really looking forward to working with each of them one-on-one in private lessons, as a group in masterclasses, and leading them in one of my favorite things…harp ensemble!
Recently added to my schedule, I’ll also be spending about 8 days in mid-July up at Lake Junaluska, North Carolina as an assistant instructor at the Summer Harp Academy. I’m especially excited to be at SHA because it is a week-long camp for pre-college and college age students, run by one of my former teachers and favorite people in the world…Elzbieta Szmyt! One of my younger teen students, April, attended SHA last summer and will be returning this year as well, so I’m also looking forward to spending time with her!