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Workshops A through C

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(click on any workshop to read the full description)

Even if you've been playing harp for a while, trying to play dance tunes at speed in an Irish session is a daunting feat. Get some useful tips from Laoise on accompaniment patterns for reels and jigs and maybe a hornpipe that will have you more confident in navigating your way through bassline progressions.

Get over the worry of how to accompany a singer, instrumentalist or ensemble. The harp can be used for rhythmic or harmonic support--learn how to step into a backing role and then step out for a solo. In this workshop, Lisa will help you create a toolbox of accompaniment options to keep at your disposal at anytime and feel ready to jump in and do your part. Besides creating chord charts and working from a lead sheet, you'll learn the secret of how to transpose and change key in an instant and how best to contribute to the whole. Guest artists will participate in this workshop. Sightreading not essential.

This workshop is for those who have the fundamentals down but are looking to go deeper into finger dexterity, sound-control and looking to find more ease with the instrument. We’ll tackle finger-strengthening exercises, jumps, slides and speed playing techniques across both hands with a focus on breath, weight-distribution and lightness. Think of this as a boot camp for technique and be prepared to try new things, let go of old-hang-ups and get more connected to your instrument.

The Angular Harp dominated in Asia since before 1900 BC and was played across the whole continent under various names. The Japanese called it “Kugo.” Tomoko Sugawara will play a kugo replica in this Listening Room experience. Her Chinese and Japanese repertoire hails from the 9th and the 11th centuries and her Ottoman pieces were written seven centuries later. She'll also include Spanish pieces from the 13th century. This is a coffeehouse-style informal concert. Bring your favorite beverage and sit, relax and enjoy the music, up close and personal. This listening room is approximately 60 minutes.

The United States has a rich, diverse tradition of folk music because of the musical quilt of styles brought here by immigrants. Old-country traditions were reshaped by the often difficult lives of the people, and the influence of the sounds of the music of their neighbors, creating stirring and powerful songs. Learn a couple of traditional American tunes from these traditions. Jo will teach simple melodies by ear along with accompaniment ideas. Both an easy and a more difficult arrangement will be provided for each tune.

The ancient Chinese Tang Dynasty was an apex of musical culture which attracted orchestras from adjacent Western regions and sent melodies to Eastern ones, such as Korea and Japan. Though their music disappeared from China itself in remained in Japan where it has recently been deciphered by musicologists. Tomoko has arranged them for harp. It is beautiful music from a distant past, and we can now enjoy it again.

Nowadays, Scottish harpers are just as likely to play jigs and reels as the fiddlers and pipers are, but in the "old" days this wasn't the case. Learn about the "old" harp repertoire and the harpers who played it. Take advantage of William Jackson's expertise in interpreting and arranging this music. The music will be taught by ear but sheet music is also provided as a downloadable PDF.

If you've never taken Sunita’s arpeggio workshop and want to get some new ideas for playing different types of arpeggios, this is the workout you're looking for! Sunita says she works with arpeggios like a sculptor. Learn cool things like how to take the same arpeggio and make it sound like a Spanish Guitar, or romantic or soothing. If you've taken her Arpeggios workshop before, you'll get even more out of this supercharged version. This workshop is targeted to players Intermediate level and beyond who want to learn how to creatively noodle! Learn how to sculpt beautiful phrases and play more musically. This is very hands-on.

Beginners who have never taken Sunita’s arpeggio workshops and want to get some new ideas for playing different types of arpeggios will have fun in this class. This is a no-pressure experience to get beginners really comfortable in using both hands to create the quintessential harp sound. This is very hands on and liberating because there is lots of looking at your harp and not at the paper.

Whether you want to play with one other person or a number of other musicians, there are many tools of the trade for developing interesting arrangements to not only showcase each person's talents but perk up the ears of your audience. With over 40 years experience playing with Magical Strings and in shows with many other artists with diverse instrumention, Philip has a lot of advice and hands-on suggestions to share in this workshop.

Màiri will teach a couple of traditional Scottish melodies by ear and lead you through a range of ways to develop and enhance your expression of these melodies. Learning some ornamentation and fingering tips is essential to getting the real traditional "feel". Once you've got the melody, you'll find out how to build a left-hand accompaniment from scratch using Mairi's ideas and suggestions for structuring and building full arrangements.

Arranging is more than choosing the right chord to play at the right time. If you want to spice up your arrangements beyond just the basic chords, take this workshop with one of the most inventive and creative harpists on our staff. Learn how to add intros and outros and interludes to dress up pieces in your repertoire. Add a little style that not only keeps you interested in a piece of music, but your listeners as well.

Hymns can sound very heavy when played straight from the hymnal, which are basically written for piano. Sunita will share the arranging techniques she uses to make hymns more harp-friendly and contemporary without losing their original character. Find out how to tweak the harmony and make the arrangement flow so they fit the hand of a harpist. Basic sight-reading is required for this workshop.

There are hundreds of tunes and song out there waiting for you to include in your repertoire. But how do you take a simple melody and arrange it yourself? Aryeh says you start by rethinking left hand technique to be more like a “rhythm guitarist” than a pianist and use left hand chordal patterns to create variety in phrasing. Get some useful tips for creating and developing interesting and evocative arrangements by composing intros, bridges, and “outros” which add a personal and original dimension to any traditional tune. Aryeh will share some useful ideas to create movement, lift, phrasing and dynamics by using a couple of very easy tunes everyone can play and applying these ideas to show how they work. Some notation is used but people do not have to “sight-read.” Reading music helps, but it is not essential to getting something out of the workshop.

Celebrating the 50th anniversary of Alan Stivell's ground-breaking "Renaissance of the Celtic Harp", Tristan will teach some of the tunes of this famous album in this workshop. Discover or develop your repertoire of Breton traditional music. Tristan will teach you lovely melodies and then step you through how to arrange these pieces and add variations. New players to Breton music are welcome, of course! No prior knowledge needed of this type of music. Tristan teaches by ear but sight-readers can certainly download the handout before the workshop.

Many of us started playing the harp because we were drawn to the beautiful sound. Let's delve deeper into the ways we can adjust and enhance our tone. The angle of the finger, the articulation, the placement on the string and your gestures all have an impact on the tone of your music. We will work in a very detailed way to understand how you can change your tone for single notes and for an entire piece. Learn to go from a pretty tone to a gorgeous and beautiful tone.

Get the most out of your Somerset experience and let Debbie Brewin-Wilson guide you through the basics of tuning, hand position, placing, playing. Thumbs up! Lots of hands-on! Get comfortable with the instrument and yourself! These are "live" during the festival and we've also got 6 videos in our Beginners Boost video series. View these videos and refer back to them when you need to after the Boot Camp & Beginner's Boosts.Music-reading ability is not necessary.

Debbie will be reinforcing harp fundamentals and skills she taught in the first Beginner's Boost as well as left-hand chord "cookie cutter" positions in the "live" edition of the workshop during the festival. She'll also explain the Circle of Fifths & teach a tune and get both your hands working together. Plus we have 7 videos in this Beginners Boost 2 series. View these videos and refer back to them when you need to after the Boot Camp & Beginner's Boosts.

This all-day Thursday workshop is especially geared for absolutely new players. Debbie enjoys helping beginners get off to a good start so if you've just gotten your harp and want to start building a solid foundation for learning and playing it, this experience will be immersive. View some of these videos to get a leg up. You'll be able to refer back to them when you need to after the workshop. Get the most out of your Somerset experience and let Debbie Brewin-Wilson guide you through the basics of tuning, hand position, placing, playing, and forming chords while having fun and being introduced to a tune. Lots of hands-on! See our Beginners page for workshops we highly recommend for the rest of your Somerset weekend.

We're still playing their music more than 300 years later and many of their pieces have worked their way into the folk tradition. Learn about the popular harper/composers who are not Carolan and preceded him in the musical timeline. Their simple, elegant melodies have stood the test of time and some we only know from music collections like Buntings. Add some new pieces to your repertoire. Taught by ear with written music in PDF that is downloadable before/after the class.

Broaden your repertoire of Irish dance tunes, with some slides, polkas, barndances and other less widely played tunes. Grainne will teach some of these easy melodies, along with some tips on appropriate ornamentation and how to add lift and rhythm through interesting accompaniment and syncopation. This workshop is ideal for both intermediate and advanced players, as the melodies are not difficult to learn but playing them up to speed can be a fun challenge! Music taught by ear, no sight-reading necessary.

Take this workshop if you want to have fun and jam with other musicians and hear people say to you "Wow, I never knew you could play THAT on a harp!". Besides learning the 3 essential musical roles in the Blues, and how to play them with only 2 hands, you'll get one of the coolest, and most useful bass techniques at YOUR level of technical ability. This technique is not just great for the Blues, but for lots of rhythmic music. DHC will show you the simple harmonic structure of the 12-Bar Blues and how that simplicity is such a rich field for creative expression. Get the ultra-fun swing rhythm at the heart of the Blues--it's already deep inside your body.

Get ready for a rhythm workout! If your feet can’t stop moving when somebody else plays the Bossa Nova, you’re ready to start adding some great Brazilian music to your harp repertoire. Bossa Nova is the 60s fusion of jazz and samba. In this fun workshop Edmar will give you solid methods for building independence, yet cooperation, between your hands to play these great rhythmic syncopations.

It's very easy to develop any kind of a habit doing something we do all the time. We all do it. When you're playing music hopefully most of the habits help your playing. Breaking bad habits? Christy-Lyn will give you solid tips and know-how to change your technique that is impeding your playing progress. Find out how to make a new normal without rebuilding from the ground up and then how to actually make the changes stick.

Breton music is part of the Celtic repertoire along with Irish, Scottish or Welsh music. Tristan will introduce you to the traditional music of Brittany, which is now part of France. Add traditional dance tunes, marches and songs to your repertoire and learn the different styles with different modes and rhythms. You'll learn a melody by ear and then Tristan will step you through basic arranging appropriate to this music. No prior knowledge of Breton music is needed. This workshop will be taught by ear with music handed out at the end. You are encouraged to bring a recording device.

There is a vibrant music scene in Brittany which uses traditional music as a springboard to more contemporary-sounding arrangements. This class is for you if you would like to learn some of this repertoire and go deeply into the traditional style. The only way to feel the swing of a tune is to experience it with other people, which we can do through the magic of video editing to make you feel like you are part of a bigger group. Take this workshop to develop the real "feel." Working by ear is essential in this workshop.

Dennis Waring of Waring Harps will guide you through the construction of their 19-string, corrugated cardboard and wood harp, built from their unique kit. In the first part you'll build the harp and in the second part you'll string it and tune it. Purchase the kits before the festival for the discounted price of $125+$50 shipping.

Some musicians approach music of long ago with an ear as to how it might originally have sounded, researching the original instruments and evidence for historical tuning, temperament, articulation etc. But it is obvious that one can never be confident of how close one really gets to the musical past. So why try at all? Can this ‘hopeless’ task deliver surprising, satisfactory, even fascinating results? How? This illustrated talk triangulates some of the issues in early Irish harping pre-1800, deciphering juicy historical music sources, and aiming to share a great deal about what is known about historical Irish harp performance practice. It further explains how gaining knowledge in this area can lead a 21st-century harpist to an abundance of ‘new’ ancient music to play, meeting it humbly, on its own terms, without shoe-horning it into modern styles. This workshop is part of the Festival of Early Irish Harp add-on

You can replay last year's Carolan Marathon featuring Grainne Hambly, Kim Robertson, Dominique Dodge, and Kathy DeAngelo in a celebration of Carolan's 350th birthday. We had over 150 in the room playing along on some of his most popular tunes.

We're still celebrating Carolan's 350th birthday by doing an "after hour" marathon playing of some of his most popular tunes. See our Concerts/Events page for the starter playlist. Play by ear or bring your book of Carolan arrangements.

We're still playing O'Carolan's music more than 350 years after he was born. These are simple, elegant melodies that are as popular today as then. Learn about Carolan's life and the times he lived in and some of his music in this hands-on workshop that will add 2 new pieces to your repertoire. Taught by ear with written music distributed at the end of the workshop. The festival will be having a Carolan Marathon as its special event Saturday night to mark Carolan's 350th birthday.

Join Philip as he traces Turlough O'Carolan's musical journey from composing in the older, Gaelic style of music he grew up with to the newer contemporary style of Baroque music sweepig through Ireland in the early 18th century. Carolan composed a number of airs for Bridget Cruise, which you'll learn and play through in this workshop, that will demonstrate these influences.

Our frenzied and fast-paced modern world influences how we view time and probably how we feel music. Travel back in time with Andrew to unearth an older perception of time and see how it flowed into the rhythm and tempo of the harpers of Carolan's time. How does it feel to play music of an earlier time? This workshop is part of the Festival of Early Irish Harp add-on

Christina will lead a "play-along" of many modal melodies that will get your improvisation skills a fun workout. She'll have a bevy of tunes in lead sheet format that you can download in advance of the workshop and she'll talk everyone through modulations that will make some magical modal sounds.

Take a trip in this workshop and find the many smaller countries that have a Celtic Connection with wonderfully vibrant music. Explore the music of lesser known Celtic nations like Cornwall, Galicia and Asturias. What gives their music their special flavor? Find out! There are other ample opportunities at the festival to explore the traditional music of Ireland and Scotland. Tunes will be taught by ear with music downloadable as a PDF.

Based on her years of studying and living in Ireland and Scotland, Tina shares her Scoil (school) of Healing and Music and asks, "what can be more healing than the ancient tradition of the metamorphosis process from seed to tree to harp to song?" In this workshop, you'll be looking at, and playing, the lovely HarpTree Lament plus other tunes from the Isles. With Tina's guidance you'll see how the longing for harmony and deep rooted connections to nature bring forth a sense of connectedness. You'll learn how to combine these tunes into a sound experience by using techniques such as frictive intervals and nostalgic ornamentation while keeping the essence of the tune very simple.

Debbie is our official pastor in residence! Join her for her Sunday morning worship service and make "a joyful noise".

Discover how the court music of the ancient Tang Dynasty (700-1000CE), which disappeared from China, survived in Japan as the Emperor’s court music, Gagaku. These manuscripts were taken to Japan, where they survived. Scholars have transcribed them into Western music notation and now some of these simple and beautiful pieces have been arranged for harp by Tomoko, who presented and performed them last year at Shanghai Conservatory of Music. Be part of the revival of this ancient music. Suitable workshop for beginners who can sight-read.

Known for her soulful Christmas recordings, Kim will share some secrets for arranging Christmas music. She'll cover classic and lesser-known carols and give you solid tips on choosing intros & chords patterns, substitute harmonies, creating medleys and other innovations that will breathe new life into standard carols. Sample tunes will be on lead sheets.

Philip has been performing with Magical Strings for over 40 years. They and their family have been performing an annual Celtic Christmas concert. Even if you haven't been near enough to Puget Sound to attend one of these concerts, you may have one of their many Christmas CDs. It's only fitting that we tap Philip to do this Play-Along workshop to learn how to take some of the most popular tunes of the season and arrange them in new ways.

Here is an entertaining way to spice up your Christmas repertoire! Nicolas Carter has put a new twist on beloved North American traditional Christmas pieces so you can wake up your listeners with joyful rhythms and a delightful surprise to the ear. Nicolas makes all his workshops FUN, so he'll show you how to play "Joy to the World” as a Colombian Cumbia, a very popular Latin dance music style that will truly bring joy to the song.

What makes a new composition sound traditional? This is a comprehensive look at the structure of traditional music and the modes and rhythms used from Gaelic song, strathspeys to jigs and reels. Learn how to use a simple chord progression as the basis for developing melodic ideas and then expand these melodic ideas into a larger work.

Eibhlís Ní Ríordáin, Pádraig Keane. Prize-winning, Irish-language singer, Eibhlís Ní Ríordáin, is the only professional performer singing Carolan’s harp songs while accompanying herself on a copy of an 18th-century Irish harp, strung in brass wires. For this 350th anniversary celebration of Ireland’s iconic harper – originally planned for 2020 – Eibhlís is joined by another soloist, star young piper Pádraig Keane (2011 Musician of the Year), who comes from a line of Galway pipers in the west of Ireland. Pádraig plays Carolan melodies and also rare, old pipes repertory that weaves around Eibhlís’s song sets, completing this celebration beautifully. This workshop is part of the Festival of Early Irish Harp add-on.

Mairi Chaimbeul, Grainne Hambly and William Jackson, Tristan Le Govic, Maeve Gilchrist

Kim Robertson, Eduardo Betancourt, Ailie Robertson, Aryeh Frankfurter & Lisa Lynne

Siobhan Armtrong, Ciarán Ó Gealbháin, Breda Keville. Listen to three solo masters of their genres, who in turn all look to star musicians of the past for their inspiration. Ireland’s foremost early Irish harpist, Siobhán Armstrong, plays music of the old Irish harpers, which she lovingly recreates from the earliest manuscript sources. Ciarán Ó Gealbháin sings his evocative sean-nós [‘old-style’] unaccompanied Irish songs from his native Ring peninsula in the south-east of Ireland. Master fiddler from Galway, Breda Keville, demonstrates her unhurried, lyrical playing, influenced by the 20th-century fiddler Bobby Casey, and the legendary piper, Willie Clancy, among others. This workshop is part of the Festival of Early Irish Harp add-on.

Christina Tourin, Rachel Hair, Erik Ask-Upmark, Deborah Henson-Conant

Dominique Dodge, Nicolas Carter, Grainne Hambly & William Jackson, Maeve Gilchrist

Performers to be announced

Sunita Staneslow, Robbin Gordon-Cartier, Joy Yu Hoffman

Performers are Philip Boulding, Ann Heymann, Laoise Kelly, Edmar Castaneda. The Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented to Ann Heymann.

John Metras, Mairi Chaimbeul, Rachel Hair, Deborah Henson-Conant

Almost everybody loves the music of 17th century Irish composer Turlough O'Carolan. Take a cue from Kim's inventive experience, and find out how to add a modern twist to some of those pieces. Using a few of his well known and lesser known pieces, discover how to create intros, interludes, rhythmic motifs and alternative harmonies for making contemporary arrangements of these timeless melodies. Lead sheets will be used. A basic knowledge of chord structure helpful.

What makes some of Kim's music so compelling is her inventive and cool left-hand accompaniment patterns. This is your chance to look under the hood at how she does it. Learn some of Kim’s cool LH accompaniment patterns and find out how to add rhythmic complexity and harmonic spice to any melody. In this workshop, you'll learn how to build on drones, use 5ths and harmonic variations. Kim will also challenge you with more advanced syncopated patterns. Reference worksheets provided but reading music is not a requirement.

Fully explore the benefit of working with arpeggios as part of a comprehensive exercise and dexterity program. Delve deeply with Maeve and find how using them in different shapes will help stretch fingers and break muscle memory while increasing dexterity over the full range of your harp. By using unorthodox shapes and different inversions, arpeggios can be the most beneficial exercise that will help free up your hands and navigate your instrument more freely.

Learn some useful harp chords and progressions for therapeutic and other environments and how to create patterns for improvising in any key. Learn the how-tos of choosing or creating appropriate music for many situations.

At its closest, Ireland and Scotland are only separated by 12 miles across the Irish Sea. They share similar Celtic albeit distinct cultural flavors and their histories are inextricably entwined, politically, and for our purposes, musically! Well-known Scottish harper William has deep family ties to Donegal and will take you through a musical exploration highlighting the cross-musical connections between Ireland and Scotland.

Dive into the fascinating world of the chromatic cross-strung harp and learn about its history in its various forms. John will play musical examples showing how the instrument can play music of all styles with all the “juicy” chords that are often eliminated in lever harp playing. Hear about the pros and cons of this fascinating instrument and find resources to help you get started. All ability levels welcome.

Dive into the fascinating world of the chromatic cross-strung harp. In this second part of John’s introduction to the Cross-strung Harp, you will have the opportunity to learn how play melodies, chords and scales. Be sure to download the PDF for this workshop as you get ready to view this video.

Add some famous Cuban rhythmic styles to your repertoire. From the "Cha-cha-cha" to the "conga," Cuban rhythms are beloved around the world. Bring your harp to learn some very easy pieces. Easy printed music in the downloadable handout. You will also learn about the famous romantic Cuban "bolero" music style for a contrasting touch!

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Updated 5/4/21 Workshop descriptions and schedules are subject to change. Refresh your browser to make sure you have the latest version of this page.