Somerset Harp Festival Online
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Workshops D through H

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(click on any workshop to read the full description)

Spend a Sunday Add-on afternoon with one of the people responsible for the creation of the double-strung harp and one of its most inventive players. The first workshop is "Rearranging Your Single-Course Tunes for Double-Strung Harp" and the second is "Setting Levers for Double-strung Accidentals and Tunings". Laurie will wind up the afternoon with a concert for her workshop attendees. This afternoon will be recorded for later viewing for those who are signed up for the event only.

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.

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. This mini-workshop 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.

Every level of double-strung player is invited to this no-holds-barred session to talk directly to one of the people responsible for the creation of the double-strung harp and one of its most inventive players. Whether you've had lots of double-strung instruction, or none at all- - in either case you have lots of questions. Come prepared to ask your questions and get them answered. No question is too simple or too complex. Beginner players can learn a lot from the questions from more experienced players. This session will be recorded for later viewing too.

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 the best ways to hold your harp for comfort and stress-free playing, how to hold your hands and arms for relaxed and effective technique and plucking for best tone as well as easy exercises and hand shapes on the strings. Laurie will teach basic music concepts like chords and patterns and how to create a rhythm. Laurie will teach specfic double-strung techniques like doubling and echoing, and other double-strung technques.

Improvising on the double-strung is twice as much fun and twice as easy! You don't have to be a genius to improvise. We will learn the "Two Ways": Improvising From Beginner's Mind, and Improvising From Knowing Mind. For the first, no prior knowledge is necessary. For the second, we will explore the basic structures of music so you will have the tools to create any music more easily.

If you already play a harp, this is your chance to learn how the double-strung adds interest to your arrangements, and what makes it sound like two harps at once. Laurie will show you how to take advantage of never having your hands get in each others' way and how to use your single-course arrangements on the double. Enhance your arrangements with new techniques and learn to use your levers advantageously. Laurie will lead you through creating meditative music as well as creating exciting rhythms. You'll get solid new exercises for doubling, echoing, and overlapping, and so much more in this workshop.

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.

Curious about the early Irish harp? See and hear a demonstration on a replica of an historical instrument. This workshop will introduce you to the harp that entranced listeners in Ireland and Scotland for centuries. Strung with metal strings, it has an enchanting resonant sound, with a long sustain. We’ll cover the basics of how it is tuned and played, and where you can find resources such as instruments, music, and lessons.

You don't need a historical harp to play in this workshop or to play this music! Erik will take you through European music from the 13th to 15th centuries and show you how to adapt it to the harp. Sources will include the Spanish song collections Cantigas de Santa Maria and Llibre Vermell, as well as music of the troubadours and maybe even a piece from the Nordic countries.

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.

Celtic melodies are timeless and offer a perfect palate to develop your own playing style. Sit down with Kim and learn to “think outside the box” and get some ideas for rhythmic accompaniments patterns, alternative harmonies and mash-up medleys. If your goal is to become a more inventive arranger, this is the workshop for you. Reference worksheets provided but reading music is not a requirement.

Many versions of Eibhlín a Rún [‘Eileen Aroon’], and harp variations, were collected in 18th-century Ireland. It is still in the living tradition. In this class for voice and harp (any kind of harp!), you will learn how to pronounce the Irish words, and work on breathing, phrasing, intonation and ornamentation. We will look at how singing with your harp can inform and enhance your harp playing using word-painting, rhythm and phrasing. You'll also look at Edward Bunting’s 18th-century harp manuscript settings. Please download the well-sourced handout before coming to the class.

Meet three strong-minded Irish harpists: Sydney Owenson (novelist), Frances Power Cobbe (Fanny Power’s descendant) and Miss Egan (the harp maker’s daughter). These women defied 1800s gender roles to forge independent careers with lasting cultural legacies. Drawing from her research, Nancy will tell the long-buried stories of how the harp played an important part in their interesting lives.

Scotland has a wealth of regional fiddle styles and it's North-East tradition can lay claim to an unbroken 250 year tradition of fiddle composers. From William Marshall and Scott-Skinner to the father and son of Neil and Nathaniel Gow, Rachel will teach you some of their most harp suiting tunes and have you "harpily" fiddling away on your harp in no time! Tunes will be taught by ear, but music provided in advance.

Do you avoid buying music that doesn’t have the fingering markings included? Do you have music that you have never learned because no fingerings are marked? Do you “not have a clue” about how to go about putting fingerings in a piece? Although fingerings are sometimes personal preference, there are some simple rules that Sylvia will share with you to help de-mystify this task. The whole class will work on fingering a variety of harp patterns, so please be sure to bring a pencil to this workshop. Bring your harp to work on the fingerings, or you can just play "air harp". Once we’re done, you’ll have the confidence to learn all those un-fingered pieces sitting under your music stand.

Mailí Bhán was traditionally the first tune taught to Irish harpers. Edward Bunting collected it from the harper, Patrick Quin, just over 200 years ago. Through learning Mailí Bhán, you will also be learning the principal fingering movements, both by name and by 'doing'. When you have learned these fingering movements, and they have become assimilated into your hand, you will be ready to move on to the other first tunes. These are the fundamental building blocks for exploring more old Irish harp repertory, style and technique.

If you've seen Maeve perform, you know that she easily executes daring feats of lever flipping without breaking a sweat. How does she do it? Get up close and sit with Maeve through some fun tunes as she steps through the mechanics and timing involved in getting comfortable with flipping out!

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.

From her lifetime of artistic research, Ann Heymann has collected published and unpublished statements that, when combined with known performance standards, reveals deep truths of style and technique extending from medieval times to the music of Turlough O’Carolan and Denis O’Hampsey.

Ann and Charlie Heymann team up in this workshop to teach (by ear, of course!) a song in Gaelic (you don't have to speak Irish to take this class!) and find out how less is more when accompanying yourself—or another singer. Also, for an instrumental break, explore the basics for creating harp ceol mor variations. The history and story of the song will be given and the lyrics will be taught phonetically. Ann will be on Gaelic harp, but the material is suitable for any 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.

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.

It's the Harper's Escape at Somerset! 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. A group session will finish the day after dinner with all the levels playing together. People who are signed up for this will get access to download audio files to listen to in advance (as is the way for the Harpers' Escape). William will be leading the intermediate group. This is a separate all-day event that you need to advance register for.

It's the Harper's Escape at Somerset! 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. A group session will finish the day after dinner with all the levels playing together. People who are signed up for this will get access to download audio files to listen to in advance (as is the way for the Harpers' Escape). Grainne will be leading the advanced-level group. This is a separate all-day event that you need to advance register for.

It's the Harper's Escape at Somerset! 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. A group session will finish the day after dinner with all the levels playing together. People who are signed up for this will get access to download audio files to listen to in advance (as is the way for the Harpers' Escape). Debbie will be leading the beginner-level group.

Get an up-close view of the historical harp-making processes through a detective’s lens and peek into a historical harp maker’s workshop. Discover the constructional differences between historical and modern Irish harps, and learn about temptations as well as challenges in reconstructing historical instruments in a modern environment. We will look at somewhat unexpected, but common, features found across most of the extant old harps held in Irish and Scottish museums, and learn how these challenge a contemporary harp maker. We will also devise historical construction methods and techniques. See for yourself why it is so important to be able to look at the original instruments from all possible angles, inside and out, if one wants to create a true copy of an actual historical harp.

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 o 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 spare 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.

Imagine playing a beautiful song on the harp in the quiet of one’s 18th century parlor, 16th century chamber or even in the great hall of a 14th century castle. Kings brought harpers with them into battle to soothe their frayed nerves with stories and songs. Enhance your repertoire with some beautiful harp-friendly songs from the time of Machaut to Mozart!

Written a thousand years ago, the medieval morality play “Ordo Virtutum” by Hildegard von Bingen has special resonance for today. Learn about the mystic Saint Hildegard and create a free-flowing harp part for Ordo using these techniques: shadowing the soaring melodic lines, patterns of tone clusters, rhythmic textures for light (Heaven) and darkness (Devil), and the all-important grounded drones.

It is generally assumed that the old Irish harpers’ playing style was lost when the tradition died out c1800; that only the melodies of their compositions survive. This illustrated talk presents new evidence uncovered by Siobhán Armstrong during her recent PhD studies on the historical Irish ‘lower hand’ as she now calls it. She outlines a totally accessible, easy-to-reproduce, authentic playing style, which will appeal to harpists of all levels, particularly those who feel frustrated at handling complicated bass lines, chords and harmonies. This clean, spare, more ancient approach is appropriate for Carolan, and also for the harpers who came before and after him. Hear more about what Siobhán has discovered, taking a close look at pages from the harp-music collector, Edward Bunting’s field notebook of the 1790s, in which he transcribed music gathered from the last surviving early Irish harpers.

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. This is an interactive online lecture where you'll have a chance to talk to Karen directly and ask questions about her research.

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.

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Updated 2/9/21 Workshop descriptions and schedules are subject to change. Refresh your browser to make sure you have the latest version of this page.