The Harp Playing Book Fairy

When we are lucky at Halloween and have nice weather, I like to pull out all the stops at my Little Free Library #39136 and have a party. Primarily this is an excuse for me to be able to don my fairy wings and emerge as the Harp Playing Book Fairy. A good time is had by all. Well, at least by me! This year I passed out coloring books, crayons, bookmarks, and, of course, chocolate. Some neighbors came and stayed to watch the parade. A few of the neighborhood goblins also stayed for a song or two. I had my Halloween setlist all prepped with spooky tunes. My ace assistant took some videos too so if you’d like to see those bounce over to my video page.

Lots of Hats

Most independent musicians wear a lot of hats. In addition to being a musician, you are a business person, accountant, public relations and marketing guru, agent, logistics expert, and more. Also, many musicians have other jobs in addition to their music gigs. I claim to have two other jobs, Editor-in-Chief of the Folk Harp Journal, and artist. Lately, a third has developed as I am doing more and more editing and book design work for an important author. Beyond those hats, there is the hubby, the house, the life…

Regardless, of how many hats you want to count, I’m so grateful that I get to find a way to balance all those things into this beautiful, creative, musical life that I lead.

If you would like to know more about the FHJ side of my life, here are two videos that I recently did for the Somerset Harp Festival that happens each year in July. Usually, the event takes place in New Jersey, and I’ve been lucky enough to go in person three times. Of course, last year and this year, they have gone digital, so I’ve been able to attend both. Enjoy.

The Life of an Artist

My husband, Rick Stockdell, needed a sample interview for the Podcasting class he teaches at the University of Arkansas and used me as a test subject. If you’d like to hear the short interview, click here.

A Mermaid’s Tale

As Editor of the Folk Harp Journal I was sent the exquisite book by Marianne McShane, Rónán and the Mermaid: A Tale of Old Ireland. (You should go get it!) We worked together to incorporate a story about her book into the Fall 2020 issue of the FHJ.

The bulk of the work happened in July and my community book challenge theme for this month was SEA. My favorite topic.

While I was working with her I realized I had a lot of mermaid imagery in my life. However, in her tale it is the boy and not the mermaid that plays the harp. But in my world all mermaids play the harp. She just didn’t mention that truism in her story. All of this led me to think about making a book to honor her book. And she has been generous appreciating all the liberties I took with her beautiful book.

Since I started with so many diverse source materials, I decided to turn all the images B&W and color them using felt markers and water on thick handmade paper since I didn’t have any watercolors. And, as always, plans were made, lessons were learned, and I received further evidence about where I am in the artist-engineer spectrum.

Thanks to Sam Divinia and Grace Divinia who gave me a birthday card I treasure that was used in his project. I also used sketches by great harpists, Sue Richards and Becky Szymenski. Thank you!

To see a video of the book in action, click here(Youtube Link). Lastly, I added the title on the spine A Mermaid’s Tale (no photo but it needed that last finishing touch).

Here are a couple images from Marianne’s original book…. again, I can’t recommend it highly enough. The tale is wonderful and the beautiful illustrations are by Jodi Solano.

A Celtic Gala Event

After the emotion of the concert two-weeks ago, I decided that we needed a Celtic Gala of comfort food music. I picked an assortment of some of my favorite classic Celtic songs including “Sheebeg Sheemore,” “Eleanor Plunkett,” and “Fanny Powers” by Turlough O’Carolan. Carolan was a blind harpist in Ireland from 1670-1738. He is considered the patron saint of Celtic harpers and we play a lot of his music today. I had a few Scottish songs including a pipe tune call “Cho Chin t-Saile” and one of my favorite’s “Crossing to Ireland.”

Also, a mash-up song that I created for my CD called “A Gaelic Lass.” As well as a song called “Fires at Midnight” by Wendy Stewart who is a leading Scottish harper. I said she was Welsh in the video and I apologize to her.

We rounded out the evening with a request by my friend, Jo Ann, for Pachelbel’s “Canon in D.” I hope you enjoy the 20-minute video (link below).

A highlight for me was the greatest compliment a musician can receive. My four-year old neighbor said during the concert, “That was the best song ever.” Possibly several times. Ok, she thinks I play a guitar so she needs to develop her musical appreciation skills. But she is obsessed with wanting to play the guitar so clearly she has a musical soul. I’m honored by her faith and will do all I can to foster her love of music. We had a lovely time with our friends and neighbors at the Celtic Gala Event. For me, music and seeing everyone is the best medicine for our troubled times.

The shade in the driveway created the perfect atmosphere.

Driveway Peace Concert June 2, 2020

My last blog post (Healing Harp) was about the new world order but the world feels more like chaos every day. On May 23rd, with just a two-hour notice I did a little driveway concert for a few friends. Being able to SEE everyone was wonderful and lifted my spirits tremendously. Hopefully, it did for others as well. Actually, I know the music did help a few people beyond those I saw in my driveway because a few days later I received an anonymous note from a neighbor that they had heard and enjoyed the concert so much. What a kindness that they sent the note.

Last week, on June 2, 2020, there were many peace rallies going on across the nation for Black Lives Matter. This was a tough week. So my small contribution was to have a harp concert for peace and love in my driveway. Although most of my friends were down at our local rally a few neighbors and friends came to watch. I had carefully crafted the set list to specifically talk about what I was feeling through the use music. The night proved to be emotional for many of us. We had music from Bob Dylan, the Beatles, several hymns and gospel songs, as well as a patriotic tribute and some mood lifters. You can’t see it but my shirt says LOVE! While the video skills of my main grip might need perfecting I do plan to keep him on staff for many more years. (You might see an actual professional videographer in the crowd, but he’s not mine, so we’ll have to wait to see what comes of that tape.)

I hope you enjoy a small excerpt from the concert. Video link below.

Harpist Beth A. Stockdell giving a driveway concert on June 2, 2020.
Wide view of the driveway concert on June 2, 2020.
View from the rocks.

Healing Harp

My last blog post was about the weird world of a harpist in the midst of a pandemic. Here is a little more about this new reality.

After one of my busiest holiday seasons ever I was pretty burnt out on my harp. So I took a break. January is a magazine month and February was catchup time, travel for my husband’s work, and I was sick for a while. Just when I was trying to psych myself into getting ready for wedding season everything started to crash. So I wasn’t actually too disappointed as I glided into April and another magazine month. Now that I’ve had a little recovery time I’m feeling surprisingly motivated towards my harp. We are getting along quite well and the break seems to have been a good plan.

There have been so many musicians doing livestreaming concerts, neighborhood concerts, and good deeds with their music. I have felt bad that I wasn’t out there doing my part to lift spirits and spread joy by playing the harp for people. But sometimes self-care comes first and I needed my break. However, now I’m energized and ready to get to work. Better late to the party than never! Next week I have a surprise planned at one of my favorite locations to thank the incredible people there who have worked tirelessly through this tough time. I’m working on this for a couple other locations too. There are going to be a few pop-up concerts announced which we will try to livestream and/or a few dedicated livestream concerts as well. Stay tuned.

We appear to be in this changed world for the long term so maybe being late to the party isn’t so bad after all. As this new reality continues to impact our lives, I believe music will continue to be one of the things that lifts us up and keeps us going. The harp is very healing, especially for burnt out harpists.  

A Harpy in the time of Corona

Below is my calendar for May. See an ocean of blank. Not the picture a few months ago when the calendar was full of wedding gigs and travel. My calendar has NEVER been this blank—and I’m a low-key homebody! My calendar is always busier than my husband would prefer but pretty quiet by many people’s standards. But since I already work at home, and we live outside a major metro area, my life hasn’t changed as much as it has for many people.

In March several important gigs were cancelled so I took the opportunity for some guiltless time in my art studio and made things to mail to family members. In April I generally spend most of the month doing 10-hour days in front of my computer working on the Folk Harp Journal. So life was almost completely normal for me except that several weddings were postponed or cancelled. Now May will be different. Normally, by early March I would have added several new weddings for the summer. That certainly didn’t happen. A nice trip we had planned for May has been cancelled and we obviously don’t know yet when we can re-schedule. The biggest disappointment is that our late July-August trip to Wales for the World Harp Congress has been postponed until 2021. I’ve been waiting 18 years to go to that conference! The conference is every three years in locations around the world and ever since I started playing the harp, I’ve sworn I’ll attend. I promise myself, next year.

My husband has the good fortune to be on his first sabbatical EVER after teaching at the university for 40 years. He was actually still going up to his office most days but stopped when campus shut down mid-March. Therefore he luckily didn’t have to pivot his classes to online teaching but is starting to wonder about the status for fall classes. But we never have, and never will, get tired of being together so his being home isn’t a problem.

I am incredibly blessed. I get to devote my life to art, music, and books, and I never take that gift for granted. Although my income is normally about 50/50 between the Folk Harp Journal and harp gigs, because of my husband, we have a stable income. And, as I like to say, as long as the mortgage is paid and the kids aren’t starving, we’re good. Luckily, our “kids” are both lovely, functional, happy adults and we don’t have to worry about them… much. Of course, we still worry. Within my family circle, we have nurses, teachers, a news producer, a corporate event planner, several in the high-risk category, a mother-in-law that fell and broke her hip the day the world shut down, some personal health problems, someone who had the virus before we even knew there was a virus, and other fears. Each has had their issues and trials, but, overall, we know we will weather the storm.

Today, I sent the Summer issue of the Folk Harp Journal to the printer. Last I heard they were running on schedule and I hope this is still true. On Thursday, I’m thrilled to be taking part in a virtual event of “40 Women Artists of Arkansas.” I made as many new books and gifts for the sale as I could sneak in around my FHJ work. Not sure how sale this will work but fingers crossed. I have a very cool (hopefully) book planned for my monthly #areyoubookenough challenge using the headlight from my Grandfather’s 1920s Model T.

And now, on to May, and the blank page. There has been a lot of talk and little action lately on my long rumored new CD, Beneath the Starry Moonlight. I plan to work on that this month and maybe livestream a driveway concert (stay tuned for alerts!). If I can figure out how to do that… I’m sure there will be more time in my art studio and I’ll tackle a few household projects.

Most musicians look back on their earliest CDs and cringe. Musicians hope and want to move forward and always improve so looking back can be painful and I thought about this as I released my first CD. But I do cringe now, some, even though I swore I wouldn’t. Also, at the time, I needed the CD to serve too many purposes at once. And I think I can safely say I’ve progressed and evolved quite a bit as a harpist since the CD was released. Someone received this CD this past week and sent me the kindest note about how moved they were by the music. As I thought about it, I realized that usually in May I’m complaining (mostly good naturedly) about all the pop music that I have to learn for weddings, staying up-to-date with trends, and requests. Now I can put that off until mid-June… hopefully. But truly, if I’m going to sit down and play for myself, going back to those early songs is like comfort food. And that is nice. So, I’ll learn a few new pop songs, and work on my favorite love songs for the new CD, but I’ll probably spend some time with those wonderful tunes from the old CD. Because we all need some comfort right about now, don’t we.

Ok. We are now under a tornado watch. Really, that’s too much. So I need to post this but I think it is also beer-thirty. Corona, anyone?

Beneath the Starry Moonlight

Normally, I don’t make big announcements about what is coming up in my harp world. But for my second CD project, I’ve been talking about it quite a bit. One, sharing helps keep me motivated and, two, I’m just excited about the project! My second CD will be called “Beneath the Starry Moonlight” and will feature love songs with a star and/or moon theme. And maybe a few oddballs. Somehow brought together by the harp.

If you have roamed my website or seen my social media feeds you will know I’m crazy into making books. I’m involved in a book making community that has a friendly monthly challenge and the theme for March was Flight. Of course, one of the songs on the list for my new CD is “Fly me to the Moon.” So I decided to make a little book to honor the project. And once I finished the book a friend wanted to buy it as a wedding present for a relative that is getting married on the full moon this month! Since this was going out as a present, I made a custom box for the book. There is also a video below so you can see the pop-up elements of the book.

Family Postcards

In November 2018, my father sent me a box of postcards. The box contained two sets of cards. One set was a group of cards that were sent to my Grandmother between 1910-1920 when she was a young girl. The second set is unsent cards from about 1930 that give a great tour of the highlights of Oregon. From these cards I ended up making four books. For the three books that include the actual cards, I created pages with windows so that you can see both the front and the back of each card. The postmarks, text, and postcard descriptions are all priceless, so we had to be able to see everything!

For the set of cards sent to my Grandmother I split the cards and made one book for my cousin’s daughter, Natalie, and one for myself (nearly identical on the outside except for the binding thread). Natalie is the youngest female in our family so I thought she might appreciate the cards. For her book I created a letter that tells her about the cards and includes a little family history. We seem to be losing more and more of those tales over the years.

For the Oregon cards, there was one oddball card which actually turns out to be a key piece of our families Oregon history. This turned into a great opportunity to have my Dad write up a few of those tales that we are on the brink of missing out on forever. Dad spent some time at the Oregon State Insane Asylum… as a doctor. I made one book for myself with the actual cards and then a second book for my brother with scans of the cards. I know he will appreciate the family history too. You can read the intro letter.