Album Release

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Egan

Two weeks to go now before the big week in the studio! 

I’ve decided to record the entire program on my Celtic harp- a Salvi Egan. Going out on a limb. In the harp world, you’re unfortunately categorized as a pedal harpist or a Celtic harpist. It’s especially disapproving to “go back” to the Celtic harp after “becoming” a Classical harpist. Like you’re backtracking. 

But I’ve got to say: I love the sound of the Celtic harp. Or at least mine! :-) The Salvi Egan. It has a clear, light sound with a rich bass. Choosing to play this harp is also, in a way, a statement from my end concerning the program: so much of the music of Bernard Andres is accessible on the Celtic harp and Classical harp alike. 

And so it will be: this album will be recorded on a Celtic harp. 

I realized while I was changing strings that when the idea for this recording project was born, I was working at the Sylvia Woods Harp Center where I was enveloped in harps of all kinds. I remember thinking that if I could adopt any harp from the floor, I would take the Egan. It was years later that I took mine home. And in a couple weeks, it will have all meant to be. 

Excited. Nervous. Thankful. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Bernard's Christmas

An independent solo harp Christmas album infused with the works of Bernard Andrès, legendary French harp composer...

I've been playing the harp for twenty short years now. It wasn't long into my harp lessons that I was exposed to the works of Bernard Andrès.  Today, I own 36 of his publishings, but my collection is not complete.

I started avidly collecting his works 10 years ago, about when the birth of this project began.  I was experimenting with my way through some of his pieces during Christmastime in my apartment in Los Angeles. As a gift to my family, I had planned to make a little Christmas album of solo harp. One thing led to another, and an improvised album of Christmas music combined with selections of Bernard Andrès was made. 

Bernard Andrès is my favorite composer for the harp. His music is simple, thoughtful, and idiomatic. Oh- and AMAZING! He was born in France in 1941 and lives hours away from my home. I've tried to meet him personally a few times, but have only succeeded by snail mail correspondence. All photos I've seen of him are smiley and warm. My harp students can tell you: I'm a fan. They are each subjected to learn at least one of his pieces at some point. There was even an Andrès piece played at my wedding. So: fan. 

I pull up the album every December. It's one of the few recordings of mine that I actually enjoy listening to. :-) "Wouldn't it be fun to actually revisit this album and record it in a studio?" I've thought to myself for the past 10 years. 

And it finally came time. I mustered up the courage to write to Mr. Andrès and sent him the little home recording, asking him if he would be up for letting me re-do it "for real." And... yes! He said yes!

So the plan is to re-record the album professionally in November and release the new album in time for Christmas 2014. I'm so excited about this project! It's a tribute to Mr. Andrès,  a celebration of Christmas music that I love (no Jingle Bells, sorry), and feels very "me." 

There are many people that come to mind when I'm practicing and preparing to record this program... I think of my aunts that I don’t get to see enough of and them decorating their Christmas tree. I would love for this music to be with them on Christmas eve. I think of my sister and our Christmas album days growing up. We had a few different records that we would throw on and dance around the house to... in bright green socks. I think about those socks. For me, music plays a crucial part in Christmas celebration.

I also think about the baby girl in my belly. She’s getting to hear a LOT of Christmas music and Mr. Andrès’ music... I wonder if these pieces will be imprinted into her conscience.

I think about the words to the Christmas carols and what they mean to me. 

I envision people baking serious holiday cookies to this album. I envision someone listening to this when they might be alone on Christmas eve. Or perhaps two parents throwing this music on while playing Santa Claus.

And, of course, I think of Bernard Andrès and his creative genius. 

Here is the tentative track listing (only the Christmas piece is listed):

The Holly and the Ivy
Whence is that Goodly Fragrance
Unto us is Born a Son
Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day
O Come, O Come Emmanuel
Still Still Still
The First Noel
Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella
Carol of the Bells
Coventry Carol
We Three Kings 
I Wonder as I Wonder
O Come, All Ye Faithful
Marche des Rois
What Child is This?
Basque Carol

Join me in getting this project up and running!


Sunday, August 4, 2013

Blue Lake and Rough Drafts

Heading home now after teaching at the Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp in Michigan... exhausted as usual, ready for fresh food and my own bed. Thankful, as usual, for the experience of being a part of this creativity-factory, surrounded by nature. 

This year I experienced the Blue Lake faculty community in a new way- it wasn’t so much in late night campfires and inspiring conversations, but moral support for being there alone with my 21 month old daughter. Boy, was I optimistically naive by committing to be here. We’ve made it to the end, though, and with one diaper to spare.

My duties consisted of private harps lessons and teaching the “intro to harp” group class. 

The thing I like about this camp is that it’s not a merit-based entry for campers. They are placed into appropriate groups upon arrival, but you could be a beginner or advanced player alike and be welcomed the same. That means that the young people that come are there simply for the joy of music, of dance, art, theater, whatever their interest. Joy. Gotta have it.

They are also there because they don’t mind nature’s inconveniences. Inclement weather, bugs, dirt, powdered eggs- it’s all good. Wind in the trees. The smell of a campfire. Mmmm

One highlight was playing in the Festival Band under the direction of Donald Flickinger. We performed in “the shell”- a covered, open air venue with seats that are interrupted by trees. Amazing acoustics and fresh air- perfect for music making. One of the pieces we performed was Codex for Wind Ensemble by one of the camp counselors, Marko Bajzer. The situation was typical of what goes down at Blue Lake, and it struck me on a personal level...

It was the work’s premiere performance. Marko played the French Horn for the concert, but during rehearsals, he assisted the conductor in molding the piece into what he wanted it to be. What an opportunity for him- to have professional musicians debut his piece, on live radio, at the age of young 20 something, in front of 800 enthusiastic junior highers! It must have been a total thrill, to finally hear your work finished and performed after hours (years?) of thought, rough drafts, and artificial playback.

I feel like I’m in the “creating” stage of so many things right now. I’m in the middle of a heck of a lot of thought and rough drafts, not knowing exactly what the finished product will finally sound like. Family, love, friends, music, teaching- it’s all a big rough draft somehow. I’m still figuring it out. 

Bear with me here... 

It’s kind of like the composition of LIFE: a series of thought and rough drafts that lead to DEATH: the premiere performance in which the big picture is finally revealed, with each instrument’s part fitting together perfectly. 

It’s gonna be (better be? lol) beautiful. One day, everything I’m doing and have done is gonna make sense and I’ll get to hear my life in something better than artificial playback. 

In the meantime: more thought, another rough draft, more thought, more artificial playback, listening listening listening, another draft. And perhaps the most important... giving way to the Conductor to help me mold the bits in place. 

Deep stuff over here. 

Anyway, here we come, la France! Until next time, Blue Lake.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

In with the 2013

When I was growing up in Phoenix, my family would buy a live Christmas tree for the holidays, then plant it in the back yard next to the cacti and creosote shrubs when the holidays fizzled out.  

Christmas tree shopping in France isn’t quite the same experience as in Arizona. No boy scouts. The trees are from Turkey and super small. I bought a live one this year, though, and planted it in front of our house yesterday. I was thinking of the year-in-end, Eloise was playing with dirt, and Cash was surveying us. 

2012.There were some rough days in there along with some great memories. Top 10 would be:
1.Bringing Eloise to Phoenix this summer, chilling with my parents, seeing my brother and sister, smelling the desert air.
2.Playing for the Prince of Monaco at his ball thing.
3.Playing music with my next door neighbors in their garage from time to time, after-hours and when Eloise was in bed. I love them.
4.Seeing the mountains of Corsica up-close and in person- I had only admired them from afar, from the mainland of Cabris. Being at their feet, even if it was on a ferry with my family in law, was magical.
5.On that same trip to Corsica: Eloise saying “mama” (and meaning it) for the first time, in my arms, under the sun, wading in the sea. It was like a marriage proposal. Heart-melter.
6.Having a pizza with Francois the other night in Cannes: our first time in too long to be away and alone together.
7.Teaching a first harp lesson to a new student, fresh ears, clean slate--- it’s an honor to teach a first lesson! Such a responsibility, if you ask me.
8.Getting to know Anita, my Nepalese au pair friend
9.Inviting my friend Santiago to Cabris this summer for a harp masterclass, all the way from La Mexique, being inspired by his mere presence, and thanking God to have him as a friend
10. Wearing Eloise everywhere, seemingly. In particular: the strawberry patch in back this summer. Those were some sweet mornings, picking strawberries and passing them over my back to be grasped by a little hand and devoured.

I was thinking about some of the rough days and wondering if it was time to forgive anyone that pissed me off in 2012. Ding! It was immediately obvious: the general practitioner in Cabris. 

My parents came to visit this Spring, and my mom caught a bug on the plane over. She was not herself, and her state was worsened because of her multiple sclerosis. I took her to see the doctor in Cabris, and in his cold manner, he prescribed medicine. We were sure to be sure that he had the list of her current medications, but sure enough, he prescribed something that was never meant to fly with something she was already taking. Bad to worse. Days later, we finally realized what was going on. 

I have hands-down never been so angry. “Angry” doesn’t cover it. I was shaking with rage towards this man. I exploded on him in his office, in front of other patients, demanding a humble apology that never came. I was furious for my mother’s sake, to see her as she was and to know that it could have been helped. Thinking of that day brings the hot tears back into my eyes. 

To this day, when I see the guy driving around in his little orange car, I shiver. But the truth: he’s just a guy that messed up. It was a mistake.  Mistakes are unintentional. The dude didn’t mean to destroy my parent’s visit and put my mother into an utter mess. It happened. 

I mess up, too. 

Hate sucks. I didn’t realize it was making me ugly until I was digging a hole for the tiny Turkish Christmas tree. It’s got to be done: Cabris doctor, I forgive you for messing up and hurting my mom. I’m letting it go. I’m letting you go. Forgiveness with no holds barred. Over.

Back to the hole, I wondered what’s in store for 2013. We rang in the New Year with pancakes and pajamas this morning with rain outside. Quiet start. 

And for the infamous New Year’s resolution: I’ve got it in my heart to do less and “be” more. It’s an ongoing project and I’ve made some huge strides thanks to Eloise, but I’ve still got a ways to go. 

I like seeing the little tree out front, letting its roots do what they do, adapting to its new life in France. Welcome to chez nous, little tree. 

Happy New Year, and best wishes for us all in 2013.