Apparently I needed a little adventure in my life so I decided to build a cardboard harp from a kit. These great kits come from Dennis Waring at Waring Harps and are so much fun and educational to make! If you don’t have a new sincere appreciation for your harp builder after building one of these—you must already be a harp builder. Making the harp was a challenge and there might have been a lot of swearing involved as well but it was totally worth it! I thought I’d share the process with you.
First, here is my finished product! I think the harp came out pretty groovy. I’m just starting to get it up to tune but so far I am very impressed with the sound.
The kit comes in a box with full instructions and almost everything that you need. You supply the paint, if you want, and glue.
The first step is to assemble the frame—with the help of a little glue and some screws. I don’t have a picture of this but I also glued the bridge piece on to the frame. The strings rest against this and you’ll see this later in the process.
Next, if you want, you can paint the sound box and frame. Dennis Waring suggests that you put the zither pins in at this point but I wanted to wait until after everything was painted. I used my favorite spray paint.
Now it is time to assemble the sound box and attach the frame. Spend some time on this stage. Make sure that you see how everything is going to glue together and the sound box will be tight and without gaps. You really need two people when you are gluing. Here is another important point. Make sure you double check the fit and alignment of the frame and the cutout in the sound box for the strings. Pick the box up and peek inside. You might make a small mark on the top of the sound box so that when you glue the frame in place things line up. I missed the mark on this a little bit and it made it harder later to put the strings on. Dumb, dumb move on my part. Also, apparently I’m not as DIY as I thought because I couldn’t figure out the banding ties that he sent to hold everything in place while the glue dries. So I just used some handy paint cans. We’re cooking now!
Here comes the fun part! And as I am want to do, I went crazy with the paint job. Far out, eh? Notice that I even painted the tuning key to match but this turned out to be a bad idea. I think because I didn’t prep it enough—I should have sanded it down a little bit first.
OK. This is the hard part. Zither pins. Hammer, twist, hammer, twist, swear, hammer, twist, swear, then FINALLY! I don’t know why but this part took me forever! But then when they finally seat into place, you can feel it catch and they slide right in. You have to be careful with all of this because you don’t want the pins to be loose later and you don’t want to split the frame. As you can see, there was so much twisting that I rubbed most of the paint off the tuning key! I got out my gardening gloves for this part to save myself from blisters. I guess I really do need to work on my DIY skills.
Now comes the stringing! Dennis suggests that you start on string 19 and work your way up. I suggest that you start on string 13 so that you get into the groove and then do the lower strings which are more difficult to work with. But then again I apparently don’t do enough restringing on my harps! This is a blessing, usually. I also prefer Sharon Thormahlen’s method of tying the inside loop. I also use toggles on every string although Dennis says to start at string 13. The string lengths that Dennis provided in my kit where sufficient but not generous so be careful at this point. I ended up breaking the lowest C string and I’ve had to order a replacement. I broke another low string but I had a replacement for that one in my Harpsicle string kit. I love my Harpsicles, by the way, but I couldn’t resist this challenge of building a harp and getting to paint it. Since I don’t do enough restringing on my Harpsicles I had trouble getting the hang of the motion to lock the strings in on the pins. Here is a quick tutorial…
Step 1. Make sure that the hole in the zither pin is up and down. Then put the string through the hole. On the larger, lower strings, you might have to trim the string to a point to get it into the hole. It is exactly the same width!
Step 2. Twist the pin a little bit, turning clockwise.
Step 3. Loop the string to the back of the pin and pull the string up towards the frame.
Step 4. Hold the string in at the bridge point so that as you continue to twist the pin the string will be caught under the string that is looping, as that strings is falling in place to the right of the hole. See above the visuals, they will help!
Wooo Hooo! We have a HARP! Now, I’m working on tuning and getting ready to play. I’m super impressed by how stable the harp is when it is standing up by itself. The harp feels study and substantial and I think the tone will be great when it gets in to tune.
I love being the editor of the Folk Harp Journal! Truly, this job is such a great fit for me—the perfect storm of all the miscellaneous things I’ve done in my life coming together to work in perfect harmony.
Of course, once in a while, there is a bad note. This is totally my fault. The perfectionist in me screams. You can remind yourself that you were juggling a hundred balls and only one of them dropped but that doesn’t really help.
In the Winter 2015 issue of the FHJ, I included the first page of a song and not the second. I’m am grateful to Chris Neiburger for sharing so many of her wonderful arrangements. Here is the link for both pages of her arrangement of “Now a New Year Opens / I Saw Three Ships. (Now a New Year Opens.Neiburger)”
There was also a missing phrase in Joan Reid’s arrangement of “I Wonder as I Wonder. Here is the corrected file… I Wonder as I Wander-corrected
After a very busy summer (including an amazing trip to the Somerset Harp Festival in New Jersey) and anticipating an equally busy upcoming late fall/winter… I had an unexpected break in my schedule. So what did I do? I had hand surgery. As you can imagine this is generally not something that a harpist wants to do in her downtime. Especially since I had surgery on both hands.
This was a good way to get out of doing dishes for several weeks but I still don’t recommend it. Luckily, my harp roadie husband is the real angel in our duo.
The last few years I have developed fibroid lumps on my knuckles and sometimes they do bother me while I play. A few years ago I had one taken off the middle finger on my left hand. This time I had one removed from the ring finger on my left hand and my right pinky. Pop quiz…. If a harpist has a ring finger and pinky out of commission, how many playing fingers does she still have? Seven! Harpists don’t use pinky fingers while playing. Aren’t you glad you know that?!
Recovery on this surgery has gone better than expected and my fingers are quickly getting back up to speed. Actually, it was a lovely break and I enjoyed letting my serious bookworm side have free reign for a while. After the stitches were removed and I was further along in recovery mode, I did some concentrated work for the Folk Harp Journal. Typing is excellent exercise for the fingers.
Also, as they say “absence makes the heart grow fonder” and while I didn’t think I could be any “fonder” of my harps, it is true. I’m very excited about being back to work! I have some exciting new material that I am working on, lots of weddings coming up, and concerts planned. My fingers are stronger, better, and up for the challenges.
I look forward to playing for you soon!
This past weekend I was lucky enough to participate in the Trail Mix Concerts as part of the Artosphere music and arts celebration sponsored by the Walton Arts Center and Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Saturday I was on the Trail in Fayetteville and Sunday in Bentonville at Crystal Bridges.
It was hot but the energy of the fantastic crowd really heated things up and I had a memorable weekend. Interacting with the crowd and the kids (of all ages) made the time fly along with my fingers. Both days were just too short and they had to pull me off the trails. This weekend was just another reminder of why I love the beautiful area that we live in—the wonderful people and the groups that are committed to arts and music in the community.
Here I am on the Trail getting ready to play. (This photo won 2nd place in the Artosphere photo contest. Thanks to my hubby and the many hats he wears.)
Here is a small sample of the crowds going by!
Here I am tucked in the trees at Crystal Bridges.
This beautiful couple started to dance to one of my songs.
A nice article that appeared in the What’s Up! section of the paper before the weekend.
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.
I’m very excited about the great concerts that I have on tap for this summer! Come out too one of these public events and join me. See the calendar for more details.
Recently, I added a new title to my life. One that I’ve never had before, never expected or even imagined. I don’t like to tell people that I got a new job because then they assume that I have stopped being a full time harpist and that definitely isn’t correct. So I like to tell people that I’ve put on a new hat that blends well with the rest of my outfit. I am now the newest editor of the Folk Harp Journal (FHJ) which is the publication of the International Society of Folk Harpers and Craftsmen (ISFHC). I’ve been working on the Journal for many years, never expecting to be in this position, but I’m extremely excited about the opportunity and the adventures to come.
Four years ago when the last editor left, the thought did cross my mind that I would like that title but I knew at that point I didn’t have any of the qualifications needed to make me even a remote possibility as a candidate. After that, it never crossed my mind again until late November when Tammy Feil, the past editor, told me of her plans to retire.
A few months ago a friend of mine had approached me with a business opportunity. That was a surprise and I was seriously considering it although I didn’t really feel the need to add a major challenge to my life. Things are grooving along quite well and Rick and I love our life together. However, it would have been a good fit with my current work and it is something that I’m passionate about doing. So I was pondering the pros and cons. And pondering.
Then the editor position for the FHJ came up and I didn’t have to spend much time pondering it. It hadn’t been on my radar and I hadn’t thought about it but there it was and I knew it was the right step for me. As a self-employed artist you do have to wear a lot of hats. I have become better at writing as I work on this blog. I’ve had to learn several new software programs to create and edit my CD and to work on marketing by designing advertising and concert posters. I’ve definitely learned more about organization and project management which I was already pretty good at from my days of corporate life. And as a solo artist you really have to learn self-motivation and determination. It is all up to you, baby.
During the last few years as I’ve worked on the paid advertising for the Journal I’ve actually designed a few of the ads and gotten to know all of the people that are involved in the magazine and society. It is a great group of people and I’ve really been glad to be a part of it. So at this point it felt like a natural next step for me even though I couldn’t say being an “editor” is something that I’ve done. It was a great leap of faith that the board of the ISFHC has taken in hiring me but I plan to make them proud.
I got the official word on December 31st and after that it was honestly like getting hit by a tidal wave. There was no time to ease into the transition! The deadline for publication was bearing down and I had a lot to learn. Mark and Tammy Feil were awesome in helping me walk through things but it was just nose to it to get everything organized and ready for my first issue. It was a steep learning curve but I felt up to the challenge. By the time I sent the magazine off to the printer for my first issue I was a week ahead of schedule! I had purposefully left a little cushion room in there in case of bumps but everything went smoothly. The Spring 2015 issue of the FHJ should be hitting mailboxes soon.
I’m already at work on the next issue and I’m looking forward to many more. There are so many exciting things going on in the harp world and I’m thrilled to be a part of it in this new way.
Below is my “Note from the Editor” which is included in the Spring Issue.
It is an honor to have been chosen by the ISFHC Board of Directors to be the new editor of the Folk Harp Journal. Working with Tammy and Mark Feil on the FHJ has been a pleasure and they have taken the publication to new heights. They are helping me tremendously through this transition time and I will miss working with them.
Nearly fifteen years ago, I dreamed of learning to play the harp. One of my first purchases was membership in the ISFHC. The FHJ was my catalog of hope and inspiration. After I got my first harp and started to play, the Journal was by my side when I was looking for conferences so I could learn and interact with other harpists. The pieces of music printed in the magazine over the years have become some of my favorite songs to play. Stories of other harpists gave me the courage to go out and perform, to work in hospice and to become a harp teacher. In January of 2011, I become a full-time harpist and this past October I released my first CD. I never dreamed when I began this journey that I would come this far. The FHJ has been with me every step of the way and helped me fulfill dreams I couldn’t imagine when I started. My goal as editor is to continue to foster and inspire the dreams of harpists wherever they are on their journey.
In early 2006, Mary Radspinner asked me if I could help her a little bit with the classifieds for the Journal and since then my duties with the ISFHC have grown and changed in unexpected ways, especially this newest phase. Above all, I have come to sincerely appreciate how much work goes into keeping this organization growing and vibrant and the wonderful people who are involved. This community has so much to share and learn from each other. It is never ending exploration and limitless imagination.
Beth A. Stockdell
It has been four months now since I released my debut CD “A Priceless Meadow.” It was a hard but fun journey getting to that day so I’ve enjoyed this post project time. My family, friends and many random people made the release a big success in my eyes. So many people bought multiple copies that they gave away as Christmas gifts. It was very gratifying that people loved it enough that they wanted to share. I’ve sold enough to make it worthwhile even though I still have a few stored in my studio. I think that sales will continue and I’m also able to give them to clients and friends as a nice Thank You gift.
Since the release I’ve had many nice reviews from friends and colleagues. People have told me that they are using the CD in yoga classes, in offices, a calming mechanism in the fight against LA traffic and as part of a training program for stress reduction! One thing that has been interesting for me is that I have the album on my iPhone which I almost always have on a global shuffle. Let me tell you my music collection is nothing if not eclectic! So periodically one of my songs will pop up unexpectedly. It always makes me pause and think “Wow, that is really me.” It is a heartwarming experience.
It is interesting to me to hear from many of the other musicians I know who have said that they all look back at their first album and now say they can’t stand it. I’ve been a harpist for almost twelve years and this album took about three years to complete and I think that in general it is a good thing that it took me so long to finish this project. Right now, I feel really proud of this album and can’t imagine looking back and feeling that way about it. On the other hand, I do plan to continue to grow and progress as an artist so part of me does hope that I feel that way someday. But not anytime soon.
Another interesting thing that happened is that one musician friend said that she had trouble with some of the rhythmic issues on a couple songs. I appreciated the feedback so I went to look into what she was pointing out. Turns out it was specifically on the two songs where I had created the mash-ups and I had purposefully put these songs together. And in BOTH cases they had a certain rhythmic pattern that appealed to me. I liked the ebb and flow of the two songs against each other and I think it works. It didn’t work for her but that is ok. I learned something very interesting because of her comment and I also know that you can’t please everyone.
One of the nicest reviews that I had on my CD is being published in the Spring issue of the Folk Harp Journal. It was written by harpist, Martha Gallagher, whom I greatly respect. To have the CD reviewed in the magazine of my peers means a lot to me.
A Priceless Meadow
Beth A. Stockdell
This debut CD from Beth Stockdell is filled with a peaceful gentleness. From the first haunting chord of the first tune, “A Gaelic Lass,” I was led by the music to a gentle and quiet space. While the music styles and arrangements do vary, the sound and feel is kept consistent throughout the entire recording. This consistency invites the listener to simply sit back, relax and enjoy the music for the tranquil journey it creates for them.
Beth’s music choices complement each other splendidly. Her arrangements of several traditional Gaelic and Scottish tunes are woven into lovely medleys that flow well together and highlight the lovely sound that Beth draws from her harp. Employing the full range of the harp, the arrangements feature lush bass notes, full tones of the mid-range and brightness of the upper octaves, woven together in concerted harmony. Her arrangement of the traditional Irish tune “Kilcash” is appealing with its pleasingly clean lines. Her arrangement of the Scottish tune “Bovaglie’s Plaid” has a gentle playful joy to it.
The music glides from serene to plaintive, from tender to wistful. Light touches of jazz give a contemporary and harmonious feel to the music. The selections also include contemporary compositions by several harpists well known in the harp world for their wonderful compositions. Original pieces by RoJean Loucks include “Promises” and “Farewell”; the CD finishes with her truly lovely “Cyndee’s Farewell.” Carolyn Bame’s tranquil “Etude” and “Beside the Still Waters” sit beautifully among the traditional selections, including Joanna Mell’s engaging arrangement of “The Castle of Dromore.” The deliciously melancholy “Come To Me,” by Dave Parker and Kathy Walden adds another fine musical element to the recording. “Windows of Paris,” by William T. Mahan has a charm to it that transported this listener, in my mind, to a Paris of misty memories and romantic dreams.
In October, I applied to be an artist on the Arkansas Arts Council Artists on Tour Roster for 2015. I was lucky enough to be asked to do a presentation in Little Rock on November 7th to the Council Board. It was an interesting experience although, unfortunately, unsuccessful. FOR NOW! But as for the future… try, try again!
For the Art Council I presented a concert program which is based on a tag line that I have had on my website since the beginning of my harp days…. Journeys of the Harp. This past year I did two concerts and from those and the training that I do for volunteers at Circle of Life I have developed what I believe to be a really great concert performance which blends the music of the harp, in all it’s different modes, as well as my journey with the harp. The Council ended up being split in their decision about accepting me into the Artist on Tour Roster and for now they think I don’t have enough experience presenting this program. I can appreciate that. I think perhaps they got my presentation idea a little too confused with my work in healing music and couldn’t separate the two. I want to take both my harp work and myself on a journey down an additional road. Not to leave the healing work (or wedding work!) behind but just to make new paths!
So my challenge for the year is to come up with some additional places, especially out of the Fayetteville area, where I can present my concert. If you have any ideas, let me know!
It was a fun experience presenting in front of the Council and I enjoyed meeting all of the people there. They put you on a very tight schedule and you have exactly 20 minutes to get in and do your presentation. The Council meeting was in a conference room in downtown Little Rock so I set up outside the room in the lobby of the building. While I was sitting in the lobby just tuning up the harp, people were coming in and out of the building and they were all startled to see a harpist sitting by the elevators. I became quite the photo op. Of course, at the moment that Rick walked away for the restroom Dustin McDaniel, the Arkansas Attorney General, came into the lobby. He exclaimed several times “There is a harp in my building! There is a harp in my building!” He couldn’t quite get over it. Someone was talking to him but he stopped and said hi to me before he went up the elevators to his office. Later when Rick came back I sent him up to give Mr. McDaniel a CD. It never fails to be exciting to see people responding to seeing a harp in person!
Here I am tuning by the elevators.