Somerset Harp Festival Online

Workshops A through C (updated 5/25/22)

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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.

After celebrating Alan Stivell's ground-breaking album "Renaissance of the Celtic harp" last year, Tristan will celebrate this year the 50th anniversary of Stivell's most important concert known as the "Olympia " concert (1972). This turning point of his career launched a Celtic wave and some of his tunes have been performed all around the world since then. Tristan will teach some of the famous tunes of the leading Breton harper.

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.

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.

Carnavalito is a traditional indigenous dance from northern Argentina. Its current form is an expression of a syncretism between Pre-Columbian and Spanish colonial culture. The song has a catchy melody that will invite you to skip around the house. If you love the flavor of Andean music this workshop is for you.

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.

So many tunes, so little time! Learn some practical and quick ways to create interesting arrangements in a hurry for various performance demands. Various left hand patterns, chord vamps and interlude ideas will be covered that are easy to play but will give instant variety to any arrangement. Students are invited to bring in one of their own arrangements for ideas, time-permitting. No need for sight-reading.

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.

If you've ever heard someone say, “Just noodle” and then ask yourself “but HOW???”, this is the workshop for you. You’ll learn to noodle on chord progressions that you can use as intros, interludes or improvisations and maybe even more importantly – how to noodle elegantly when you get totally lost, in a way that brings you back to the tune you’re playing. This is the one workshop at Somerset where we want you to noodle!

One of Shelley's favorite composers is Beethoven--and maybe yours too. Here's a chance to add some Beethoven to your repertoire. Learn the beautiful "Shepherd’s Prayer" from Beethoven’s 6th Symphony with Shelly showing you how to embellish this and other simplified Beethoven tunes, like "Ode to Joy". By the end of this class you will gain confidence working with the I vi ii V progression and 4 note inversion shapes. She may use a looper as part of this workshop but you don't need one to enjoy this class. Folks with a looper will get basic ideas on working with a looping pedal tangentially from this workshop.

New harpers or those who need a refresher should take this workshop so Debbie can guide you through the basics of hand position, placing, and playing. You'll get lots of hands-on pointers and exercises to help you grow comfortable with your instrument and learn to play more fluidly.

We've brought back 3 videos from Debbie's Beginners Boost 2 series. View these videos and refer back to them when you need to before our 'live' festival and your sessions with Debbie. In this segment, Debbie gets to showing you 3-finger chords, starting with triads, and explains how these chord patterns easily translate to every key. Learn to place, then play. Placing is important.

We've brought back 3 videos from Debbie's Beginners Boost 2 series. View these videos and refer back to them when you need to before our 'live' festival and your sessions with Debbie. In this segment, Shapes of chords, Debbie calls them cookie cutters, become all-important and once you learn the shapes it will make your playing clean and beautiful. Consistency is key. Place, then play, is the harp mantra. Learn which finger to play for which intervals.

We've brought back 3 videos from Debbie's Beginners Boost 2 series. View these videos and refer back to them when you need to before our 'live' festival and your sessions with Debbie. In this segment, you'll learn the most common "big" chord patterns or "cookie cutters" as Debbie calls them. Be sure to place, then play! Thumbs up!

If you've just started to play the harp, this video workshop is from a series Debbie created for the Beginners' Boot Camp in 2020. If you already know how to tune the harp, sit at the harp and your basic hand positions, start this video! Now start learning the notes and how to pluck! Thumbs up! Get comfortable with the instrument and yourself! Music-reading ability is not necessary. Video 4 from the 2020 Series.

If you've just started to play the harp, this video workshop is from a series Debbie created for the Beginners' Boot Camp in 2020. This segment continues on from Beginner's Boost Exercises 1 and here you're learning how to position and playing using more fingers. Practice plucking and playing scales. Thumbs up! Use both hands and practice cross-overs.Music-reading ability is not necessary. Video 5 from the 2020 Series.

Debbie gets you off to a good start with some solid foundation in learning how to position and sit at the harp and how to work on hand position. Review these "basics" videos as often as needed to establish good habits. Video 3 from the 2020 series.

If you've just gotten your harp and want to start building a solid foundation for learning and playing it, the first step is actually learning how to tune it! Debbie explains how to use a tuner to do that. Video 2 from the 2020 series

If you're having trouble getting your hands to cooperate with forming chord shapes, Debbie will demystify chord structures and reinforce the harp fundamentals you’ll need to become more fluent in playing chords. She'll show you how to play your favorite tunes using a “lead sheet” , which is just music that displays a chord letter rather than using the bass clef for the left hand.

Feeling that you can play one hand or the other but not both at the same time? This is common for beginning players. Debbie will review some of the basics to lay the groundwork, then focus on pointers, to help you get both hands working together. She’ll teach a tune to reinforce good playing technique with both hands, while reviewing chord structures at the same time.

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.

Erik's previous workshops at Somerset in medieval and renaissance music have always been popular, and this one follows in those footsteps, only now he's focusing on a single year and a specific event in history-- the fateful year 1350 AD and the Black Death! It's not as gruesome a subject as you might think. The era is home to some amazing music, utterly captivating and especially poignant considering the times and circumstances in which it was composed. If you have even the slightest interest in history and medieval music, you will find this workshop very fascinating! Historical harps are of course welcome but not needed as any harp will do fine. Part of the workshop will explore the possibilities of singing with the harp while accompanying ourselves.

Their music is very different than that of O'Carolan, probably the best-known, today, of the blind harpers. So who was Rory Dall? You and Blly will explore the music attributed to the 17th century blind harpers Rory Dall Morrison of Scotland and Rory Dall O'Catháin (Roger O'Keane ) of Ireland, and the confusion over the authorship of their compositions. This is yet another link in the music connecting Ireland and Scotland.

Never played Latin Music before? 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.

Samba, with its roots in Africa, is the very percussive national music of Brazil. In this fun workshop Edmar will give you solid methods for building independence, yet cooperation, between your hands to play these great rhythmic syncopations using one of the popular Brazilian sambas.

Merlin, Broceliande, Korrigans and other fairies. Brittany is full of legends and myths on which many tunes are based. Tristan will present and teach some historical music related to those myths. No level requirement for this workshop. Everybody is welcome. You will learn at your own speed and level. Bring your harp and/or just enjoy listening to legendary tales!

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.

Dennis Waring of Waring Music will guide you through the construction of their 19-string or a Double-strung, 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: double-strung $235 or 19-string $140 (email Dennis)--Dennis will bring your kit to the festival, so no shipping. This workshop will not be simulcast on Zoom for Online-Only attendees. Contact us to access our video in Archive.

Join Mary, co-owner of Afghan Press and Melody's Traditional Music, for a lively give-and-take discussion on thinking 'outside the soundbox' on the possibilities and earning potential in being a career harpist or harpist supporter. Join the discussion about the many contributions you can make to the harp world in any capacity, at any level. Explore what else you can do besides playing weddings.

Mary Radspinner, co-owner of Afghan Press and Melody's Traditional Music, will talk about what it takes to create and publish your own music. She'll cover the many situations that come up during the process of writing, arranging and publishing your own or others' harp music. Here are just some of the topics she'll cover in this fast-paced 90-minute workshop: creating harp-able arrangements, desktop publishing and music editing software, proofreading, what you do after the arrangements are done, cover and binding considerations, PDF music, pricing and sending samples. She'll answer what Net 30 is and much more.

You can never know too many Carolan tunes! Try your hand at one of Carolan’s more complex and tricky compositions in this intermediate/advanced level workshop.

You can replay 2020'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.

In honor of Turlough O'Carolan's 350th birthday Somerset sponsored a Carolan Play-Along for Lá na Cruite, Harp Day, on Oct. 17 with Grainne Hambly & William Jackson and Cormac de Barra in Ireland, and Kim Robertson, Dominique Dodge & Kathy DeAngelo in the US. Here's the sequence of tunes on this video and the final playlist: Aibhlin McCrann of Harp Ireland, which organized Harp Day, gives introductory remarks.

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.

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.

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.

Have you opened up a fake book and seen a lot of chord symbols that you don't recognize? Not to panic, as you have a cross-strung harp, meaning that you can play any of them. This workshop will show you how to create the most commonly used chords and give you a chance to play along with a few chord progressions, simulating songs that use a number of altered chords.

The order in which we stack chord tones has a huge impact on the sound of your accompaniment and the elegance of a phrase or form. Maeve will show you how to use some simple chord progressions as vehicles for exploring voicings. By finding common tones between chords and minimizing jumping around different registers, we can create a more sophisticated and cohesive accompaniment while using less energy!

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.

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.

Join Billy for this comprehensive look at the structure of traditional music and the modes and rhythms used from Gaelic song, strathspeys to jigs and reels. He'll show you how you can get started composing your own tunes by learning to use a simple chord progression as the basis for developing melodic ideas and then expand these melodic ideas into a larger work.

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.

In this creative workshop you and William Jackson will choose one of the blessings and incantations from the Carmichael collection and create a melody and arrangement to one of the English translations. How do you fit somebody else’s words to your new melody? Be guided through the creative process. Who was Carmichael? By day he was a tax collector and the rest of the time Alexander Carmichael collected a vast amount of lore and traditions in the Scottish Highlands and Outer Hebrides where he lived from 1864 and 1882. His compendium Carmina Gadelica (The Hymns of the Gael), published in 1900, cast a light on “Celtic” spirituality.

Robbin Gordon-Cartier, Nancy Hurrell, Grainne Hambly & William Jackson

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

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

Kathy DeAngelo & Dennis Gormley, Rachel Hair, Deborah Henson-Conant

Dominique Dodge, Nicolas Carter, Grainne Hambly & William Jackson and Maeve Gilchrist. We also have special end-of-concert song and celebration of 20 years of festival.

Shelley Fairplay, Rachel Hair & Ron Jappy, Erik Ask-Upmark, Deborah Henson-Conant, and our closing song guests

Dominique Dodge, Debbie Brewin-Wilson

Sunita Staneslow, Robbin Gordon-Cartier, Joy Yu Hoffman

Jo Morrison, Christina Tourin and Alfredo Rolando Ortiz

Christa Patton, Kim Robertson, Edmar Castaneda

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

Philip & Pam Boulding, Ann & Charlie Heymann, Laoise Kelly, Edmar Castaneda and his quartet. Ann Heymann receives our Lifetime Achievement Award. Video tribute.

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.

Modern musical styles use chords that include notes beyond the triad, and rhythms that sometimes swing, sometimes syncopate. In this workshop, you'll be looking at chord extensions and altered chords used in jazz, pop and blues, how they’re voiced and how they function within a major key. Verlene will also cover the standard jazz and pop rhythm patterns. You'll get a chance to play through examples with Verlene. Come prepared for a real workout!

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.

In this hands on workshop Edie will identify what a dreamy sound is and show you how to notate it. Then she'll show you how to free yourself from the page by playing from your heart. All levels of harpists.

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.

Dive straight into the beautiful and creative possibilities with your harp. You and Sunita will play gorgeous glissandos and use these as a backdrop to creating instant beauty. Learn to explore the different ways to create the sound of snow, rain, and starlight. You'll take it to the next level and jumpstart improvising on your harp over simple chords. You have more imagination than you realize. Technique will follow.

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 5/25/22 Workshop descriptions and schedules are subject to change. Refresh your browser to make sure you have the latest version of this page.