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Workshops D through H (updated 4/3/22)

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(click on any workshop to read the full description)

An introduction to the technique known as dampening or muffling. It's a routine part of any Celtic harper's playing, but strangely, many lever harpists never learn how to do it. It's primarily used by the left hand to clean up the long sustain of the bass string but can be used in either hand to give more tonal clarity as well as to create contrast and interesting rhythmic effects. Exercises will include individual finger damping, open hand damping, muting, staccato, walking bass lines and more. Go to enough Somerset concerts and you're sure to see a lot of it, so if you want to know how to make it happen, take this workshop. No need for sight-reading.

One of the most important musical skills you can develop is the ability to learn by ear. It allows you to really dig into the core of different styles by transcribing and learning from recordings of the musicians you love, to dive into playing situations where we might be unfamiliar with the music with more confidence, and get the music that’s in our heads onto our instruments. Màiri will share her top tips on techniques, tools and exercises for developing your ear, looking at hearing and identifying patterns and shapes, and getting out of your head when it all feels a bit much! Targeted to any level player who is inexperienced in learning by ear or wants to improve that skill.

Find out more about the first collection of Irish music published in Ireland in 1724, which included some tunes by Carolan and other well known pieces such as Molly MacAlpin. We will discuss the background to the collection and learn a tune from it, including ideas for the left hand arrangement.

Learn to Do It Yourself. You are, inevitably, going to break a string. You should know how to change it. Take this workshop and get a lesson in knot-tying and replacing strings. If you're a beginner or have never changed your own string, you must take this workshop!

Learn to Do It Yourself. Liza focuses on properly using your tuner and tuning your harp. Essential! Is there a difference between tuning with levers up or levers down? What about the difference between tuning loud or soft. Then what do you do when your lever buzzes when engaged? You gotta know this stuff.

to be announced

Yes! You can begin on a double-strung! This workshop is for those who are new to harping and the double-strung. You will learn how a double-strung is different from a single strung harp, how to hold your harp, basic harp technique and easy exercises appropriate for any kind of harp, and how to use them effectively on the double-strung harp. You will also learn about basic hand shapes for chords, and how to turn those into fun rhythm patterns as well as beginning techniques like echoing and overlapping that are unique to double-strung harp.

Don't let your Double-strung arrangements be limited by lever changes on the "blind side." Deette says they can be managed by careful planning and willingness to use RH and LH for both melody and accompaniment. Take this workshop to explore the options with pop songs and Christmas carols. It will open up a whole new world!

You want your time with patients to be quality for you and them. Deette will show you how to create intros, interludes and outros for the songs you like to play in your therapy work. You'll get some solid tips on alternate harmonies and rhythms to enhance your patients' experiences.

If you already play the harp, this is your chance to learn how the double-strung adds interest to your arrangements. We'll learn how to take advantage of never having your hands get in each others' way and work around having to change levers. You'll get solid new exercises to assist you with hand independence and new ideas for "thinking outside the box" when creating your arrangements.

Whatever your level as a therapeutic harper, you'll want to find out how a double-strung harp can be your best friend in therapy work. Based on her thousands of hours of experience using her double-strung in therapeutic work, Nan will treat you to a brief harp therapy session, share stories and demonstrate how the resonance possible with a double-strung harp can be doubly effective in healing. The ability to improvise easily is vital when doing therapeutic work and Nan will show you how effortless this is on a double-strung. In this demo you'll be given concrete suggestions of various double-strung techniques that are most useful in harp therapy. Handouts will be provided. Harps are not needed to enjoy this workshop.

A progression is a series of chords – and some are especially powerful for improvisation. Once you learn how to use them, you can easily create spontaneous improvisations – or use them as intros or interludes for the music you already play. In this workshop, you’ll learn one of the world’s most useful progressions, the “two-five-one-six”, that DHC calls the “Power Progression” because it can be used in so many ways: for intros, improvisation and to modulate from key to key. You'll learn how to put it together, build jazz chords on it and then improvise with it. Once you learn how to do this, you’ll be able to add jazzy chords to other progressions DHC will show you in the workshop.

The ancient Irish harp of Ireland and Scotland is richly portrayed in legends and poetry, and imbedded within are deep truths about the evolving traditions. Ann Heymann will take you on a journey following the "echoes" of archeology, mythology and history, revealing deep esoteric traditions and a conjectural role of the Irish harp in the development of the harp in Europe.

Improvisation is an important technique that not need only be associated with jazz but with whatever musical situation you find yourself in. By explaining basic jazz harmony and how to voice it tastefully on the harp, Maeve will help players ease into the world of improvisation. She'll use a standard jazz tune as a base for improvising over chords and form. Get some of the basic blues patterns and groove.

Ergonomics is not just for working from home during a pandemic! Music Ergonomics refers to how a musicians hold and use musical instruments in ways that promote comfortable and stress-free playing. In this workshop, learn the five ways that music ergonomics will save you and your playing, and the importance of fitting your harp and environment to you! Join Jen to learn the impact of your body mechanics on your playing, and some common techniques to observe your own performance.

Play pain-free by caring for your body. Patricia will demonstrate exercises that focus on posture and muscles used in harp playing. Learn how to stretch, what to stretch, and when to stretch to get the most out of your time. Learn to build a base of support for harp playing by building core strength and learn the benefits of cardiovascular exercise.

Sunita wants you to make the connection between tone and phrasing with fingering. You might be looking for tricks and the easiest way to play but lose out on musicality. Focus on fingering to remedy phrasing that is sometimes stiff or clunky. Very often, better fingering can change the ebb and flow of the music you create. This workshop builds on Sunita's previous Fingering video now in our archive.

The difference between lovely and breathtaking is often in the phrasing. Sunita will zero in and work on the small details in your dynamics, timing, fingering and gesture. Find out how to go beyond the dots on the page and work on examples to control the push and pull of dynamics and rhythm. Let's define nuance and breath. You will be given specific tools to guide you towards the phrasing you have always wanted. This is hands on. Be ready to experiment.

Improve your sight reading, placing, memorization, and improvisation! Discover new and fun ways to warm up and make practicing more enjoyable. Shelley will give you exercises, practice strategies and a floaty piece with lots of fancy flourishes in it, all designed to help your visual recognition and muscle memory. Find out how you might use ‘fancy flourishes’ for improvisation and inspiration.

Originating in the 12th and 13th century, French Estampie are finely crafted and timeless dances and music, meant to evoke a full range of scenarios: from an intimate dance of veils to an earthy and exquisite celebration of movement. In this workshop, Christa will show how the simple verse-refrain form of French Estampie make them easy to play and serve as a base to improvise. Sight-reading required but good ear learners will have no trouble picking up the refrains.

You'll find yourself transported to the dance-halls of Montreal to enjoy its vibrant French culture in this workshop with Ailie. Quebec has a rich tradition of achingly beautiful waltzes and airs, as well as wonderful dance tunes. Come and learn about the lyrical Quebecois tradition with its sweet melodic lines and rich accompaniment. Old and new compositions will be explored. You will leave with your fingers flying, your feet tapping, and your heart full of joie-de-vivre! Taught by ear with sheet music available as a downloadable PDF.

Learn about the history of the famous Cuban habanera music genre, its influence around the world and "the tango connection." Alfredo will show you accompaniment patterns and easy ways to create variations. Music samples will include Alfredo's compositions Habanera Gris, Habanera Rosa, Tango Triste, and the world favorite "La Paloma."

Build on your current Irish repertoire with this bonus workshop from the 2021 Somerset Saturday series. Gráinne will teach a dance tune by ear and show you how to do the various stylistic ornamentations that give the music that lilting quality. Gráinne will also give you important tips on fingering that will help you play more quickly. While Irish music is all about the melody, you'll learn how to add an appropriate accompaniment.

Learn one or two lovely wee tunes from the Gaelic mouth music tradition. Get the background on this tradition. You'll hear how the language impacts the rhythm of the tunes and get some fingering and ornamentation tips from Màiri to help the tunes flow on the harp.

Explore the world of digital sheet music and how to make the switch from paper to tablet. Robbin will go over the basic starter pack and give tips and favorite shortcuts and enhancements to make going digital easy and helpful. Find out how liberating it is not dragging a case of music to a gig and having access to music that is not even in your paper library yet. You'll get all the pointers in getting started, including how to convert music you already have, organizing tips, best practices for using the tablet in practice and at gigs and so much more.

There are gospel songs and spirituals that stand the test of time and transcend generations, denominations and all spiritual situations. Robbin will actively lead participants and take one of the classics and turn it up into a 21st century gospel hit! You'll learn tips for arranging, adapting and assessing how songs can be updated, which will be applied to a variety of gospel songs. By the end of this workshop you'll be playing the new gospel song arrangement and have the tools to learn and arrange other gospel songs.

Experience the charm of music popular in the American Colonies from collections such as the Scots Musical Museum, theatre songs from England performed in New York City, a collection of Favorite songs by Alexander Reinagle of Philadelphia, and a little ditty that Washington’s granddaughter, Eleonor Lewis Park, may have played on her early French pedal harp.

This topic is something that often works it's way into Maeve's teaching regardless of topic but in this focused workshop, we hone in on the mind and musical benefits of utilizing our two hands as separate instruments. Not only do an independent left and right hand allow for more interesting arrangement and composition ideas but they blast open up the musical mind and allow a deeper connection both material and instrument. Learning to practice in this way is a process that will never be boring. You'll start to understand how to cultivate your curiosity into a constant stream of learning opportunities. It might sound a little complicated but Maeve promises you'll have fun!

The mysteries of harp regulation will be completely resolved in this one workshop with our expert harp technician! Liza will answer your questions about what it means to have your harp regulated and all its associated concerns such as what happens to your harp as it ages and why the harp shifts. See what that looks like. Bring your harp to this workshop and see it for yourself. How old is too old for your strings to be on your harp? What are the top 5 reasons your harp will buzz? There are all sorts of things to be learned about your harp--no matter how long you've been playing you'll learn all kinds of useful info in this workshop.

New format for this year's Escape! In the first session, everybody learns the same "group" tune and adds accompaniment suited to their level. Then each group will learn additional tunes, learned by ear, and get left-hand tips and tricks for the accompaniment in the second session. This is an Add-on to an All-Access ticket. People who are signed up for this will get access to download audio files to listen to in advance. This Add-on includes a second weekend event on 9/17. Debbie will be leading the beginner-level group.

New format for this year's Escape! In the first session, everybody learns the same "group" tune and adds accompaniment suited to their level. Then each group will learn additional tunes, learned by ear, and get left-hand tips and tricks for the accompaniment in the second session. This is an Add-on to an All-Access ticket. People who are signed up for this will get access to download audio files to listen to in advance. This Add-on includes a second weekend event on 9/17. Grainne will be leading the advanced-level group.

New format for this year's Escape! In the first session, everybody learns the same "group" tune and adds accompaniment suited to their level. Then each group will learn additional tunes, learned by ear, and get left-hand tips and tricks for the accompaniment in the second session. This is an Add-on to an All-Access ticket. People who are signed up for this will get access to download audio files to listen to in advance. This Add-on includes a second weekend event on 9/17. Billy will be leading the intermediate-level group.

New format for this year's Escape! This Saturday is a continuation of the Escape at the July festival, an Add-on to an All-Access ticket. Review session is followed by the Use It or Lose It session with the entire group. A Teacher's Concert ends the day.

The Monday Harpers' Escape Play-Along group has been meeting virtually since the start of the pandemic, playing through the Escape repertoire. Kathy DeAngelo, Grainne Hambly, William Jackson and Debbie Brewin-Wilson will lead this Friday night event, where everybody finally gets a chance to play in the same room together! Everyone is welcome to attend.We will also Zoom this. Playlist will be listed here later.

What did harps sound like in Ireland and Scotland centuries ago? Come and explore how new technology is being used to investigate historical instruments. See and hear how recent discoveries are helping to reconstruct a lost sound world, as new harps come ever closer to recapturing the historical craftsmanship of the last surviving instruments from an ancient tradition.

From the moment over 40 years ago that he first heard the lush warm sounds of Keola Beamer playing guitar in the ‘real old style’, Philip thought this music (with 200+ year old origins from the Spanish cowboys in Hawaii) could just as readily have evolved on the harp. Slack-keys refers to the dropped open guitar tunings. Since he hadn't been playing harp long, Philip has developed this style for the harp, using his own guitar experience and a collaboration with Keola himself. Philip has ‘translated’ this style for the harp that is accessible to all harp players. Music for ‘Ohana Kai’ and ‘Warm Island’ will be available in the handout download. (Note: sound files also available from Magical strings Bandcamp site)

King Henry the VIII of England was a well known music lover and patron of the arts. In his personal psalter he is depicted playing a harp as his fool stands by. Many compositions attributed to him can be found in a manuscript named after him. You and Christa will be looking at these sparse but lovely polyphonic pieces and enjoying how well they fit the harp, both as complete pieces to play alone or in consort with other harps. All harps are welcome. Sight-reading needed.

The bell-like sound of the harp of Ireland and highland Scotland was heard in great halls throughout the Gaelic world. Built to be strung with wire, the substantial frames of the few surviving historical instruments stand in silent testament to a rich, centuries long musical tradition. Karen will premier the results of her forensic analysis and study of Ireland's Hollybrook harp.

From the middle ages through the early modern period, the bell-like sound of the harp of Ireland and highland Scotland was heard in great halls throughout the Gaelic world. Built to be strung with wire, the substantial frames of the few surviving historical instruments stand in silent testament to a rich, centuries long musical tradition. Today, this type of harp is undergoing a revival, as musicians seek to recapture its lost sound. In this presentation, Karen will trace the history of this iconic instrument through the surviving harps. Hear how Karen's ground-breaking forensic analysis of the Queen Mary harp and other recent discoveries are reshaping our understanding of these ancient instruments and are making it possible to build new instruments that more closely follow the craftsmanship of the originals.

The descending bassline from the classic "Hit the Road Jack" contemporary song is as old as the hills. This progression that underpins Greensleeves for example, and many other repeating basslines and their harmonies invite you to create your own melodies. Enjoy learning these timeless harmonic progressions and make up a few melodies if you are inclined. Understanding of playing chords is helpful. Chromatic harps are welcome but not essential.

Hymns remain popular music in many denominations and should have an important place in your repertoire if you play for services, rituals like funerals and other life events. Robbin will cover three popular hymns and lead you through arranging them in different ways to fit different parts of the service.

Even single-row players are always looking for ways to make their hymns and chants less predictable and more interesting. Take this workshop and let Deette show you how you can take advantage of your unique instrument's qualities to create interesting arrangements. Learn how to use special effects, different harmonies, rhythms and registers.

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Updated 4/3/22 Workshop descriptions and schedules are subject to change. Refresh your browser to make sure you have the latest version of this page.