Saturday, June 30, 2012

Strange Zithers & Autoharp Gourmet Beef Stew

There's a pot of beef stew simmering on the stove, and my fingers are itching to play autoharp. I've tried plying them with my kantele, my dulcimer, even pulling out the wood pieces for my kantele kit and I still have itchy fingers. This ailment was probably triggered by writing out a check for my next payment for my Dream Autoharp that is on layaway with d'Aigle Autoharps.

I've also had dreams of strange zithers arriving on my doorstep. Rare and wonderful, I always find they come with complete instructions and I run into people who have played them for years. Never quite an autoharp, they have unusual gizmos or strings to set them apart from the ordinary zither. So now that the little beasties are haunting my dreams and making my fingers long for them, what's a girl to do? Look over her Autoharp Gourmet book that's what!

I have the CD around here somewhere too...ah there it is...much better having the soundtrack for this blog post going. The CD came with an electronic version of the music for every song on the CD. I was just starting to learn to pick melodies on my Autoharp when I had to set it aside due to a fatal crack in the soundboard that made it un-tunable. I was working with Karen Mueller herself as my teacher and her wonderful sheet music that came on the Autoharp Gourmet.

In just a few short months I hope to resume my lessons and continue on my journey as an autoharpist. Until then, I will peruse the web for videos, pictures, and more information. If I cannot feed my fingers by giving them an autoharp to play, then I will at least feed my mind and ears with the sound of this incredible instrument. The day my new autoharp comes will be a joyous one indeed! There will be happy fingers at last, and an Autumn Music party to plan. I love starting new things in the fall, it's a great time for me to learn and enjoy the good things in life. Even though it's the height of summer, that beef stew smells really good right now. I must be anticipating the arrival of the new addition to my little zither clan with all my senses!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Some Assembly Required

Six months ago I bought a new Kantele kit, which I never mentioned here in my blog. Why would a zither enthusiast like myself not mention this you may ask? After all, I was incredibly excited about the opportunity to build my own kantele, and I poured over the videos showing my how to build it. But it was a secret, because I bought one for my twin sister Jane too, and our birthday is June 17th. So I kept them in the closet and only brought them out once in a while to look over the woods and kit parts. She still can't believe that I never even dropped a hint as to what I did, getting us twins each a kantele kit. I had to get them in January because they were on sale. It's my Finnish frugality flexing it's muscles I suppose. So now, FINALLY, I get to gush about this new project that I'll be working on. Jane's not going to have much time until fall to build hers, but I might just have to start mine early. I've already waited six months after all!

So that's what I will be making for myself, and helping my sister make hers as well. I am so looking forward to having a 10 string kantele! It's going to be so much fun learning new songs and having someone to play some duets with. I bought the kits from Music Makers, and they came with all the parts including the correct size drill bit for drilling the holes for the zither pins. When I stumbled upon it online, I was so excited that I knew that both my twin and I needed one, and since Jane loves woodworking, it was the perfect gift. Since I found them just after Christmas, the next best thing was a birthday present. The other thing I loved about it was the chance to order from a Minnesota based business, think globally and buy locally as they say. The only catch was keeping it all a secret for six months. Only my husband knew what I was up to, and he kept the secret as well. Did I mention I was EXCITED! And honestly, I can hardly believe I kept this whole thing a secret myself. But now the kits are out of the closet and I can start assembling my new 10 string kantele. Yay! Another instrument to play!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Neo-Folk Romantique

It's June, the month of wine and roses, and I am listening to Sharon Knight play on her album Neofolk Romantique. A folk musician, cultural creative, and super cool redhead, Sharon's voice is the perfect accompaniment to a cloudy Saturday in Minnesota. Last night I saw her in concert with her talented guitarist and colaborator Winter. It was a rare treat and a feast for this folk music lover's soul. I had only heard a song or two by her before, but I knew I wanted to experience this minstrel live. Clearly, I was not disappointed. Her flaming red hair, her leather corset, her octave mandolin...yes, this is inspiration bold and beautiful. Her voice tells tales in a clear alto that lifts on fairy wings into a delicate soprano, making magic of the words. Whether she was playing traditional tunes or her own passionate and mystical songs, I was entranced by the magic she brings. Somehow she brings the line between old town pub and fairy forest together, in such a way that at the end of the night I felt like I had been in both.

Watching Sharon play her octave mandolin made me want to play my own instruments even more, and maybe take up the octave mando as well! Now I read on her website that she's a fan of Finnish Metal music, and that was definitely music to the ears of this Kantele playing zither enthusiast! While I'm not a huge fan of metal, the Finnish stuff definitely has that special vibe that has more in common with folk music than rock music. Sharon is a wonderful, friendly person as well, and this is her day job. So if you are reading this, you should definitely check out her website. Hard to describe, but her own bio sums it up pretty nicely:

Although her musical foundations are solidly built on her Celtic heritage, Sharon has never been one to hold fast to tradition, preferring instead to look to her roots for inspiration and then chart her own path.

That path often sounds less Celtic and more “Folktales that ran away with the Faeries at the turn of the century and took cover in an old trunk bound for the circus, which was then commandeered by pirates.” She likes it this way.