I’m going to Harp Camp!!! Ok, it isn’t really camp. It is a beautiful Hilton Hotel in New Jersey but it will feel like camp! I’m like a 10-year old excited about summer vacation and getting to see old friends and meeting new ones. Of course, there will be lots of music and songs but I’m sure the Hilton will prefer that we skip the campfires.
The first harp event that I ever attended was the Somerset Harp Festival. It was 2003 and I had been playing the harp exactly four months. It was an amazing and overwhelming experience for me and I met several people that changed my life. I was in awe of the performers, presenters and teachers and felt more out of my comfort zone than I had ever felt before. However, I was struck by the kindness of so many of the people and their willingness to befriend, teach, and encourage. I was able to go back in 2004 and I felt only slightly less overwhelmed.
A lot has changed since 2003. I’ve been able to attend harp festivals and gatherings from coast to coast, both big and small but haven’t been back to Somerset. I am still awed by the people that I met at those early conferences (and since then) but now many of them are friends and most are colleagues—either directly with my work for the Folk Harp Journal or in the wider sense as we are all professional harpists trying to make it in a tough business. This year will be a totally different experience then that first time but I know I will still be overwhelmed and inspired by the performances and teaching. I’m spending a full day taking an improv class with the incomparable Deborah Henson-Conant whom I’ve never seen before in person but I know this will be fabulous. I received a professional artist’s grant from the Arkansas Arts Council to help with expenses so I will be partially representing the state of Arkansas. But primarily, it will be an honor to be there representing the FHJ and the Folk Harp Society (ISFHC). I’m so thrilled about this and it is mind-blowing for me—something I never would have dreamed of or imagined back in 2003. It feels so perfect and appropriate that Somerset will be my first official event as the editor of the FHJ.
One project that I have been working on as editor of the FHJ is to update the index that we have of back issues. It has been interesting to review the past issues and see all the people and work that has gone into creating and maintaining this impressive society that we have. When a group of harpists get together, we generally call it a harp circle. A circle—no beginning, no end, not limited in width or circumference and strengthened by the bond of all of those gathered together. I’m so thrilled to be a part of the circles that will form at Somerset—just slightly disappointed that there won’t be a campfire.