Somerset Harp Festival Online

Workshops I through P

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(click on any workshop to read the full description)

If you've ever said to yourself "I always wanted to play the harp" Robbin will answer Frequently Asked Questions in this workshop offered to our daily Visitors as a "get acquainted" session.

The harp was an indispensable instrument, accompanying songs and playing dances. In some parts Hispanic people use the harp still to welcome guests into their homes, to express deep piety in the church, as well as accompany their beloved Romances ( ballads), Danses, and Bailes in the theatres and in the streets. Join in and learn some ravishing songs and rousing dances for harp from 17th century Spain and the New World.

More than 400 Cantigas de Santa Maria, poems and songs, were composed by Spain's King Alfonso X in the 13th century in the Galicia/Portugal. Tomoko will take you through some really lovely pieces which are hybrids of Iberto-Arabic music. Sight reading is required to get the most out of this workshop. Anyone who wants to get the feel of medieval music on harp needs a few Cantigas in their repertoire. Any type of harp is welcome in this workshop. More Cantigas in Tomoko's workshop in our Archive.

Everyone is able to improvise music and discover their own melody hidden within them. Nicolas believes it's an intuitive approach to composing music and he'll prove it to you in this workshop. The improvisational exercises will facilitate defining melodic phrases to create an original composition. Even though this workshop will be recorded for later replay, have your own recording device (like on your smartphone) handy to capture the specific bits that strike you most. Nicolas has been composing and recording music for over 25 years and his compositions combine styles of music from around the world.

Clear off your music stand, breathe in and out, and just sit down and play If you want to really play music from the heart, Edie will give you the confidence to creatively improvise and noodle without sheet music in front of you. A great workshop for beginners.

What is the Tropical music of Venezuela? The “Orquidea” rhythm created by Hugo Blanco composer of the song “Moliendo Cafe” uses 4/4 but it’s distinctive sounds can provide the perfect underpinnings for building your general improvising skills. Eduardo will have you doing some fun fingering exercises to achieve faster and clearer play that will free up some of your creativity to improvise. Play by ear musicians and sight-readers will be comfortable in this class.

Do you long to have fun and jam with other musicians! To hear people say to you "Wow, I never knew you could play THAT on a harp!" If so, then take this workshop! You'll learn the 3 essential musical roles in the Blues--and how to play them with only 2 hands! Learn one of the coolest, and most useful bass techniques at YOUR level of technical ability--a technique that's not just great for the Blues, but for lots of rhythmic music. Learn the wickedly simple harmonic structure of the 12-Bar Blues and why 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.

Tell a story with your arrangements. Kim will give you some simple formulas for creating introductions, interludes and endings that will add dimension to any piece. Learn how to use some chord progressions, harmonic motifs and one and two-hand patterns to create longer and richer versions of your pieces. Reference worksheets provided but reading music is not a requirement.

Start your Irish dance repertoire, or build your current repertoire, with this workshop. 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.

If you love Irish music when other people play it, but you've never tried it yourself, then this is the workshop for you. Stick your toe in the water, so to speak, with some easy Irish repertoire-builders from one of Ireland's top players. This not about playing fast! Learn some easy tunes and get some tips on giving a tune that Irish lilt that cannot quite be captured on a piece of sheet music.

Updated 4/23/21: Listen and talk to uilleann piper, Pádraic Keane, in a relaxed, interview-style session where you will meet with a recognised master musician in the living Gaelic tradition. Pádraic hails from Maree, Co. Galway. He was the 2011 TG4 (Irish TV) Young Musician of the Year, and is the son of Tommy Keane, the well-known piper. Pádraic began learning the pipes from his father at the age of eight, and also received tuition from many leading pipers at various summer schools. He is now a tutor himself at music festivals in Ireland and abroad. In this session, you can ask Pádraic about his background, influences, and style, and what is important to him in performing traditional music well. Immersing yourself in his deep, embedded knowledge, and ingrained style, as a living master, can help you make your own music sound more authentically Gaelic. This workshop is part of the Festival of Early Irish Harp add-on.

Just because they're called "slow" airs doesn't mean that they are easier to play than dance tunes. These beautiful pieces defy written music transcription. Laoise will take you through the fine art of interpreting and learning an Irish slow air and getting the nuances that make these pieces among the most challenging in the Irish tradition to get just right. This workshop is taught by ear and no written music will be provided.

Japanese folk tunes are sometimes a bit sad, but beautiful. Most of the Japanese favorites are about the seasons. In this workshop you will learn beautiful melodies and use easy chords to mark the seasons. Sakura is a traditional Japanese folk song depicting spring and autumn.

You may have attended some of Tomoko's previous workshops on this music. Japanese folk tunes are sometimes a bit sad, but beautiful and they are frequently evocative of the seasons. In this workshop Tomoko will teach some beautiful melodies about families and use easy chords.

Join Tristan for this fun workshop to learn how to use colourful chords or scales, groovy basses and swing to make our Celtic repertoire sound a little more contemporary and jazzy. A good understanding of playing chords and theory fundamentals is needed. We will go in a step-by-step progression. You'll learn some tools to understand the process of arranging: take a teaspoon of theory and just add a pinch of analysis (nothing hot, it’s for the flavour). Learners by ear and/or with the music are all welcome.

Did you know that Jazzy Arpeggios can be easier than regular arpeggios? That’s because they’re visually symmetrical. And here’s what’s so great about them: there are only 4 possible shapes for a 7th chord arpeggio and once you learn those shapes you can learn basic jazzy arpeggios, hand-over-hand and cascading inversions. And that’s what we’ll do in the workshop! The best part is that you’ll be able to put what you learn immediately into play by using these beautiful arpeggios as introductions and interludes to any tune you play.

Jewish music often has a distinctive and passionate sound created by the modes that it uses. What modes are commonly used in Jewish music? Sunita will give an overview and cultural signifcance of these modes and what will help make your arrangement or performance sound more authentic. You'll learn two traditional Jewish melodies that will give you the confidence to play for a Jewish wedding or audience. Add some Jewish flavors to your repertoire!

Joropo was a Spanish word that originally meant "a party", but now it has come to mean a type of music and dance that identifies Venezuelans. Typically, played on a Llanera, a Venezuelan harp, Edmar will teach the bass lines and chord progressions and get both your hands working together. You don't need a llanera to take this workshop! Any harp will do.

A looper pedal enables performers to record their playing live on stage and then perform over their recorded ostinato tracks. Learn the joys of using ostinato patterns in your own playing and discover some basics on how a looper pedal can be used with harp in performance. You do not need a looper pedal for this session, but you will need to download the paper print out of one!

Most of the world's cultures include some kind of waltz in their dance repertoire. In this fun workshop, learn about the distinct characteristics of waltzes in Latin American music and how specific Latin harp techniques will make you sound like an entire band. Nicolas will teach the music "by ear." Nicolas will use the Paraguayan waltz Lena Luna. You can hear him play it on the video on his bio page. Bring a recording device to jog your memory later.

In this workshop you'll be building on fundamental Latin rhythms and focusing on Salsa, the roots of which lie in eastern Cuba but grew and developed in New York City during the 60s. Different regions of Latin America and the United States have distinct salsa styles of their own, such as Cuban, Dominican, Puerto Rican, Cali Colombia, L.A. and New York styles. Both hands will get a heavy-duty workout and you’ll leave this workshop feeling energized and accomplished!

Latin American harp traditions include many unique and fun special effects. Even if you've never heard these terms before, you'll learn muffling techniques, muffled glissandi, Paraguayan "trino" (mandoline-like effect) and more. If you're interested in pop or jazz or looking to do something with your own compositions, this workshop will expand your technique repertoire with these interesting effects. Even beginners will be able to master some effects right away while understanding others to put them into practice in the future.

Edmar will teach you how to use Samba, Bossa Nova and Joropo as the rhythmic left-hand springboard to your right hand improvisation on melodies and harmonies. You’ll get some terrific bass lines and some percussive techniques for your left hand that will really make your harp come alive! Jazz it up with some right-hand improvisation and you’ve got some jazz-infused Latin music for your repertoire.

The traditional harp styles from Latin America are very rhythmic and exciting and use fun accompaniment patterns. You'll get the various unique rhythms, polyrhythms and syncopations of several countries and transform some well known melodies into habanera, salsa, cha-cha, meringue, conga, tango and more. Alfredo will teach you various ways of using octaves and chords for repetitive patterns while minimizing the effort to do it. Then you'll take these ideas to create your own rhythmic patterns for other music styles.

Lullabies are particularly well-suited for small harps, with their sweet, bell-like tone. Kim will teach some lovely traditional lullabies along with some accompaniment patterns that make the most of a smaller range. Excellent class for a beginning player and because it's Kim, the more advanced player will get quite a lot of ideas on accompaniment. Reference worksheets provided but reading music is not a requirement.

Smaller than even most lap harps, how can you make the most out of a 10-string lyre? Nicolas explores many ways to make music with the lyre, techniques, musical patterns, rhythms, special effects and even half steps notes. You will be surprised with the musical possibilities. Check out his quick little video

It may be the smallest of the Celtic regions but the Isle of Man can still pack a punch, musically speaking. Due to its isolation in the middle of the Irish sea it's been one of the only places in the world where folk have been allowed to play concerts and sessions over the last year and as a result the tunes have been flowing! Come learn some of the tunes which have been making waves in its tradition, both old and new from Rachel Hair, widely regarded as a world expert on Manx harp. Tunes will be taught by ear, but music provided in advance.

The Isle of Man is sandwiched in the middle of the Irish Sea between Scotland, England and Ireland, and its music has some similarities to its surrounding neighbours but also some unique qualities. Learn about how the music was revived and learn a sampling of this particular flavor of Celtic music! Tunes will be taught by ear, with music provided as a downloadable PDF.

Sandwiched in the middle of the Irish Sea, the Isle of Man and its music has some similarities to its surrounding neighbours in Ireland, Scotland and Great Britain but also some unique qualities. Learn a sampling of this particular flavor of Celtic music! Tunes will be taught by ear, with music provided as a downloadable PDF. To learn more about the culture, see Rachel's Manx Music 101 in our Archive for a tour of the island and more tunes!

The mysterious island in the middle of the Irish Sea, the Isle of Man, is the smallest of the Celtic Nations, but in recent years has been making waves in the Celtic Music scene. The Claasagh (Manx Gaelic for harp) has been undergoing a recent revival on the island, so come help further the cause and learn some of the tunes from the island in the process! Add some Manx tunes to your repertoire. Tunes will be taught by ear, with music provided at the end of the workshop.

Arranging is a fantastic way to find your own voice as a harp player and this workshop is geared to expanding your tool kit and inspiring some new ideas! How do you build a balanced arrangement that both supports and illuminates a melody in your own unique way? Maeve will use a simple melody as a vehicle to build an arrangement from the ground up; looking at multiple accompaniment options involving textural, harmonic and rhythmic possibilities.

Estampies are instrumental pieces played for courtly dances in the 13th-14th centuries. The music has several verses anchored with a repeated refrain, making them easy to learn. Nancy will lead you through “La Manfredina” and “La Quarte Estampie Royal”, two tuneful pieces with an exotic medieval flavor. Sight-reading is necessary.

Cass brings to this class her 20 years of experience in ministering to those who are dying. Because not all music is created equal in this situation, playing in a hospice environment or other situations where a loved one is actively dying has a special dynamic that requires the utmost sensitivity. She will lead this workshop on the specifics for playing harp and/or singing at the deathbed through demonstration, discussion and group participation. Beginners should know simple chord structures.

Just as there are many recipes for Chocolate Chip Cookies; there are many ways to learn how to read music. The key is finding the way that works the easiest and quickest for you. In this workshop Robbin will go over the many ways to learn the basics of note reading, drills for practicing reading and how to go from reading notes on the paper to playing notes on the harp.

Building on Music Reading 101, this workshop will incorporate reading chords, playing from lead sheets and recognizing patterns rather than reading the notes one by one. Robbin will help you work on sight reading skills and identifying key signatures to make note reading as easy as reading words in an article. Learning how to count out rhythms and note values is also covered.

This workshop is meant to expand the repertoire for fans of Nordic/Scandinavian music or those who would like to add to the 101 workshop. Tunes will be taught by ear (sheet music will follow) and Erik will focus on different types of polskas and other types of Swedish tunes, looking especially at how to achieve a truly danceable rhythm. Lots of work with left-hand accompaniment and techniques will help make your melodies lively and danceable.

In this general introduction, Simon covers aspects of the history of the harp in Ireland and Scotland from earliest times to the present day. He will look at the old harps, the manuscripts containing old harp music, and the information about the old harpers. Why did the tradition come to an end, and how has it been rediscovered and revived? This workshop is part of the Festival of Early Irish Harp add-on.

The old harpers didn’t write down their music, because they learned it, and passed it on, by ear. When the inherited oral tradition came to an end in the 19th century, that transmission stopped. So anyone since then who has wanted to play old Irish or Scottish harp music has had to get it from somewhere else, from outside the harp tradition. From the 16th to the 19th century, other musicians did write down harp music, and adapted it for keyboard, fiddle or other instruments. This session will discuss some of these sources, trying to understand them as second- or third-hand witnesses to the lost old harp traditions. This workshop is part of the Festival of Early Irish Harp add-on.

Widen your horizon regarding “the right music” for those very special circumstances in hospitals, meditation and other delicate moments. Based on his real life experiences in many different settings from nursing homes to hospitals and various healing situations, Alfredo will share his unique approach and solicit input from attendees as well.

You've heard of harp therapy and therapeutic music training programs, and you are interested in this field, but how does doing this work differ from a wedding gig, playing at church or a recital? Come and find out what therapeutic musicians do every day and what it's like. Discover what a fulfilling day can be and what special skills are needed. Come if you're interested in the topic. You don't know what you don't know.

Use the chord progression in the ever-popular Pachelbel Canon to improve your technique and sound. Your hands will get a great workout and Edie will lead you through some satisfying variations too.

All Paraguayans harp players learn "Llegada", a classical introduction to Paraguayan style of harp playing. You don't need a Paraguayan harp for this workshop--any harp will do! You will explore the fascinating Paraguayan syncopated rhythm that combines 3⁄4 and 6/8 and learn to coordinate both hands under Nicolas' expert guidance. This song has a simple melodic phrase that will allow us to explore the wide range of Paraguayan decorative harp techniques. Though the music score will be available as the downloadable handout, Nicolas will teach "by ear" and you'll learn most by observation, listening and working on the melody pattern in relation to the various Paraguayan harp playing techniques.

Nicolas will teach this classic Paraguayan folk song (The Bell Bird in English) and you'll learn to use the Paraguayan syncopated rhythm that combines 3⁄4 and 6/8. Though the music score will be available as the downloadable handout, Nicolas will teach "by ear" and you'll learn by observation, listening and work on the melody pattern in relation to the various Paraguayan harp playing techniques.

If you want to perform, you DO want to play with fire! Regardless of whether you’re a Fledgling or a Professional, jumpstart your own path to playing with greater passion with this workshop from the fiery harp diva herself. Using her dramatic harp showpiece “Baroque Flamenco,” DHC will show you how to go from just "learning the notes" and “counting it out” to finding the core of a melody and playing it with a grace that transcends playing ability, then expand it as your skills increase. She’ll show you how your body can lead you to the 'character' that brings the music alive. This workshop will totally energize your morning and have you tapping in rhythm the rest of the day!

In this special all-day Sunday Add-on, DHC will show you what it means to learn a tune 'by the numbers' so you can play through your favorite songs no matter what playing you're at now. She'll give you the tools to recognize groups of chords (or progressions) that show up over and over in music, so they'll start to become familiar to you and you can get away from playing from a page. This Add-on requires advance sign-up.

Maeve will walk you through how to play both faster AND better, something that you might think is impossible for you. Maeve makes it look easy but there's a process she's worked for years that makes her playing look effortless. It's not really a secret but it will take some dedication! If you're interested in working on building up your dexterity, style and comfort in more up tempo music, this is the workshop for you. You won't be going from 0 to 60 by the end of the workshop, but you'll be headed in that direction.

Edie will share her repertoire and programming tips on her work in Lifecare Communities which includes conducting Sing Alongs and Name That Tune games in Independent Living, Assisted Living and Dementia Units. This is a hands-on on how to play chords to accompany yourself singing along with the seniors you'll be playing for which is much easier than having to deal with both melody and harmony. Edie will show you various ways to play the chords—from simple one-hand accompaniment to somewhat more complex stuff, with focus mainly on I, IV, V chords. You'll be singing and playing some simple chordal accompaniment in no time! Participants for the whole workshop will receive a discount coupon for Edie’s Strike the Harp and Join the Chorus, a guide on using the harp as an instrument of accompaniment.

A foundation course covering how to arrange, write and play pop/rock music on your harp with pizzazz!

Few of us have unlimited amount of time to play our harps. Life interrupts. So how can you make real progress with only 10 minutes practice? Christy-Lyn will show you how to practice effectively and make real progress. Instead of just playing through your pieces every practice session, find out how to get the best bang for your buck with your practice time.

Every harp player needs to be aware of how their technique and body should work together to prevent injury and playing problems and facilitate the performance of difficult passages. With his medical background in the fields of Music Therapy and Sensory Motor Learning, Dr. Ortiz will help you focus on the right aspects of your technique and learn good habits. Prevention is the key and breaking bad habits may seem difficult but learning how your body works and responds to your playing technique is essential. Take this workshop if you've ever gotten up from the harp with sore hands, arms or shoulders!

You’ve heard people play jigs, reels, strathspeys and more, and you love it, but when you try to play these tunes yourself, especially when learning from sheet music, it just doesn’t sound the same! If this rings true, this workshop is for you! Join Màiri to explore the rhythmic nuances of some of these Celtic tunes, and work through some tips and exercises on how to get that special lilt into your playing.

The early Irish harp enjoyed a position of high status in Gaelic society, and has endured as an emblem of Ireland for centuries. In this presentation, Karen will explore what made this musical instrument special and show evidence of its importance on the surviving old harps. She'll regale you with its history as Ireland’s emblem and further delve into its music. This workshop is part of the Festival of Early Irish Harp add-on.

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Updated 4/28/21 Workshop descriptions and schedules are subject to change. Refresh your browser to make sure you have the latest version of this page.