Ramsey the conductor, Go Tarheels!

What a fun evening! After living in North Carolina for over 7 years, I got to meet Ramsey for the first time. He's a little taller then I thought he'd be, and oh so talented! He's both a fine conductor and a talented aspiring harpist. 

 

UNC's Eschelman's School of Pharmacy is ranked number one in the country and just received a 100 million dollar gift. They are having a good year to say the least. I had the pleasure of playing for a celebratory event for their many donors. While getting ready to play, Ramsey came to say hello, gave me a hug, and strummed the harp. Then, I played the harp for him and while he conducted with a fantastic view of the football stadium in front of me. Smiles around in the Tarheel State and thank you to the Pharmacy School for having me!

Favorite Wedding Music: a brief history

We are all familiar with a number pieces popular for wedding ceremonies—but where did they come from? Below are the origins of some of the best known music chosen for wedding ceremonies.

Seating of the Mother’s

Ave Maria by Bach & Gounod

Bach wrote his Prelude No. 1 in C as a solo piece to perform on the clavier and almost 150 years later, Gounod used this music as a pre-written accompaniment to an improvisation with the text, “Ave Maria.” Today, it is a favorite at weddings to seat the family.

Ave Maria by Schubert

This is a popular choice for the seating of the bride & grooms parents, (now often extended to the entire immediate family). “Ave Maria,” meaning “Hail Mary” honors the virgin Mary and therefore motherhood and is often sung with the Latin text for the Catholic prayer, “Ave Maria.” Schubert’s piece was actually written as part of a song cycle of 7 songs about the exiled Lady of the Lake who has gone to live in the goblin cave!

 

Processionals

Bridal Chorus by Wagner

This tune, written in 1850 and commonly called “Here Come’s the Bride,” was written for Wagner’s opera Lohengrin. The bridesmaids sing this melody as the bride, Elsa goes to the bridal suite. It became popular as the bridal processional when Princess Victoria married Prince Frederick William of Prussia in 1858. If only trend forecasters were that good!

Trumpet Voluntary by Clark

Trumpet Voluntary is sometimes called the Prince of Denmark’s March and was composed about 1700. A Trumpet Voluntary, was typically performed on an organ using the “trumpet stop.” Charles Prince of Wales & Lady Diana Spencer’s chose this tune for their wedding in 1981.

Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring by Bach

This piece was originally intended as an accompaniment for a hymn. Bach used a melody written by violinist and composer Johann Schop and harmonized it. Since then, it has become an enduring wedding processional.

Canon in D by Pachelbel

This famous tune was written in the 1700s and largely forgotten until 1913 when it was re-discovered. Some historians believe it was written for Johann Christoph Bach’s wedding in 1694 and is still a beautiful choice for processionals.

 

Recessionals

Wedding March by Mendelssohn

Composed as part of the incidental music for Shakespere’s play A Midsummer Night’s Dream and was used as a recessional for the first time in 1847 for the wedding of Doroty Carew and Tom Daniel at St. Peter’s Church in Tiverton England and became hugely popular when Prince Frederick William of Prussia’s and Victoria, The Princess Royal married in 1858.

Spring from Four Seasons – Vivaldi

This is from a series of 12 concertos and by far Vivaldi’s most popular music and some of the most loved music of the baroque era written in about 1720.

Ode to Joy – Beethoven

This the climactic moment in the final movement of his famous 9th Symphony composed in 1824 and is the anthem for the European Union. This piece is frequently used as a protest anthem and music for celebration!

Trumpet Tune – Clark

Often misattributed to Henry Purcell, Trumpet Tune was written for the semi-opera The Island Princess which was produced by Clark and Henry Purcell’s little brother Daniel Purcell in the baroque period.

Allegro Maestros from Water Music by Handel

Handel's patron, King George when he requested a concert on the River Thames & Handel supplied his famous Water Music Suite.

Hallelujah Chorus from Messiah

This is final movement of Handel’s oratorio, first performed in Dublin in 1742. This is a religious opera about Jesus Christ beginning with Nativity, Passion, Resurrection and Ascension. This jubilant ending is an ever popular wedding recessional.



Forming the NC Harp Duo

Our teacher, Jacquelyn Bartlett, introduced us via the North Carolina Harp Ensemble. Grace Wepner Ludtke and I met while playing in the North Carolina Harp Ensemble about 4 years ago. Grace manages the group and plays as well, and I am now involved as the development coordinator. We played in the advanced group together, enjoyed playing and became friends gossiping about the joys and woes of harp playing that our husbands just don't always understand. The seemingly minute difference between fingering a 5th with fingers 1 & 3, versus 2 & 4, the value of tall thumbs and the challenge of pedals have a way of losing their punch when discussing with muggles. 

Playing with the NC Harp Ensemble, we learned quite a bit of fabulous repertoire written for two harps, so as two young professional harpists in the music community, forming a duo was the only logical step for us.

Grace grew up in Newton, NC and gave the newly renovated Newton-Conover Auditorium the brilliant suggestion to begin a Lunchtime Concert series called the "Bach Lunch N' Listen." They agreed, and Grace presented a fabulous opening performance to begin the concert series. With each luncheon selling out, the new series was a success, and we landed our first gig as a Harp Duo this past spring.

Next, we discussed names (and repertoire). Between the four of us (harpists & our spouses), we came up with the following:

  • Tangled Harps
  • One Pluck One
  • Harp Burn
  • Harp Worm
  • Harp Felt
  • Harp to Harp
  • Artichoke Harps
  • Harps of Palm
  • Harp Attack
  • Achy, Breaky Harp
  • Tear'n up my Harp
  • Harpbeat!
  • Lonely Harps
  • Harpland

We're all suckers for puns, though perhaps we can use these to title future albums, programs or original music. After many laughs, the North Carolina Harp Duo won.

For our debut performance as the NC Harp Duo, we selected our favorites from the ensemble repertoire and learned a couple new pieces. Some of the music, was written for harpists within our harp community by composer Jack Jarrett. 

Mr. Jarrett is the grandfather of a student of Grace and a talented conductor and composer. As a gift to his granddaughter and her grandmother (who are both harpists!), Mr. Jarrett wrote, "a Little Harp Duet" for beginning harpists. He also arranged a number of Folksongs for various arrangements of ensembles, and Grace recommended that also arrange these for harp. Jack agreed, and arranged three more folksongs for harp (Black is the Color of my True Love's Hair, He is Gone Away & Shenandoah). Though we love all of his arrangements, we could only fit the Folksongs on our Newton program. But, we did get to play all of his music as duets when we made recordings of the music as a thank you to Jack Jarrett for composing.

At the first session, we worked with only the recording engineer, Ben Blozan. At our second meeting, Jack Jarrett was able to join. His intimate knowledge of the music he composed and keen ears gave us some great ideas while recording. You can listen to the completed recordings here.

When we can, we play in orchestras together, trading off as Harp 1 & Harp 2 and dream often of the repertoire we will learn and play, inviting other instrumentalists to collaborate with us and looking for new venues and concert series to play.

Symphony Mice

Last weekend I played with the Durham Symphony Orchestra for the first time. It’s a semi-professional group lead by Maestro William Curry using the combined talents of volunteer and professional musicians. An interesting group, that I was delighted to join for their May 17 pops concert, a tribute to Paul Roberson.  

They rehearse Tuesday nights in the basement of the Durham Arts Council. I arrived about an hour before the rehearsal, unpacked my harp and introduced myself to the librarian and personnel manager (both players in the group as well!). The librarian kindly told me that she was going to slide my case to the side, because she had just spotted a mouse running along the baseboard nearby.

A mouse? Oh dear.

Musicians trickled in at first, and one of them, an expert violinist emptied a nearby box, trapped the mouse and re-homed the baby rodent in the parking lot outside.

Whew! The mouse has left the building.

The rehearsal begins, I start counting, listening and playing my part. Everyone’s grooving to an arrangement made for Charlie Parker, “Just Friends.” When suddenly, someone gets too excited, gasps and stands up. 

What happened I wondered, did they play a wrong note? Did their string break?

Nay, nay. A second and bigger mouse ran through the cello section and directly into the instrument closet. Probably looking for his quarter-sized violin. The maestro locked the mice in the instrument closet for the duration of the rehearsal and we continued.

Joplin rags sound great played by an orchestra. I think the mice agreed. A third creature made an appearance. His presence formally announced by gasps, shrieks, and a well-executed wave in the string section. (Baseball fans would be in awe).

Without an instrument closet to find refuge, the expert violinist again grabbed her box, and relocated the mouse to his new home in the outdoor parking lot.

Rehearsal went on uninterrupted, and the following week, the baseboards were lined with mousetraps. 

Tying the knot: she is 92 & he is 93

I played for an unforgettable wedding. The bride phoned me up about three weeks before the wedding, she found me on the web and wanted to know if I was free for her date. When I heard her voice, I first assumed she was kindly calling on behalf of her daughter. She said, "I'm 92 and I'm getting married, isn't that something?" She told me about her groom, and meeting him at the community where they live and shared her wedding plans. The gathering was to be small: close friends and family only with hors'devores, drinks and classical harp music. 

The weather was perfect, clear skies and even a bit warm for a winter day. I arrived about 45 minutes before the start of the prelude, unpacked my harp and set my case inside the caterers office across the hall. It wasn't long before I met the bride and groom. She walked in with a big smile and looked over the set-up, and went through the schedule of when her family/friends would arrive.  As most brides, she was joyful and bit nervous before the ceremony.

I met her grandsons when they arrived and she asked them how she looked, and wondered about her hair. She made a lovely bride and was a vision in pink! One grandson asked why she didn't wear white, to which she responded, "Well, I think I'm about 50 or 60 years too late for that!"

When her groom arrived, her eyes lit up and I shook hands with her husband to be. She adjusted his shirt collar before the wedding, and he asked flirtatiously, "Shouldn't you wait until after the wedding to adjust my shirt?"

I began playing prelude music when the first guests arrived, and the ceremony began shortly there after. I played "Canon in D" by Pachelbel to signal the start of the ceremony. Everyone sat down as they exchanged their vows. From where I sat, I could see the bride clearly. Her eyes moistened as he placed the gold ring on her finger, and they shared a kiss as soon as the officient declared them husband and wife (just before the famous words, " you may kiss the bride"). Her guests erupted with applause!

They began feasting and drinking, talking and laughing while I played. From my seat, I could tell they were a happy bunch! They cut the cake together and dessert was served. When her friends left, the bride invited me to join her family at their table. I enjoyed the rest of the evening with the bride-groom, her grandsons and her son. As all brides do, she showed off her ring, talked about the future and laughed.



For Marriage Equality

For harpists, wedding ceremonies claim a large portion of bid requests and I respond to most of them with the same enthusiastic greeting, “Congratulations to the bride and groom!” But that line is hardly all-inclusive and may leave many feeling marginalized.

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House Call

Always a friend of harpists, harp techs travel the world adjusting these instruments. Harp techs are far and few between. A fellow from California told me once, statistically, you are more likely to win the lottery than run into a harp tech.

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Why does your harp have polka-dots?

Students asked tons of practical questions from “how do you tune it, “and “how much does it weigh” always followed up with “how do you move it?” Other questions were more surprising, like “why does your harp have different colored polka dots?”

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Practicing with my Neighbors

As per usual in the evenings, this same gentleman was outside singing, but when I stopped playing, I heard an exact echo of what I had been playing on the harp! The doors were open, so of course he could hear, but I had no idea he was listening so intently.

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Just Married

My new husband and I just got married early September and I have to say married life is great! I may even get to retire from harp moving! 

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Opening Studio in Chapel Hill Area

Well, it’s time! Let’s get started and play the harp. I’m opening my own harp studio just outside Chapel Hill, NC in Carrboro. The harp is a wonderful instrument to learn. It sounds beautiful from the very first day! 

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