Archive for June, 2012

I have good news for the sun lovers among us. “Summer” is almost here!!!!!

Yeah, I know. The national forecast map looks like a ripe tomato.  We here in the Evergreen State admire your courage, Tomato People!  But for us, the red pen of weather mapping doesn’t really come out until a few days after the 4th of July.

It’s actually very pleasant. Stop laughing! (Excuse me. That guffaw was most of Seattle, all my neighbors out here in the ‘burbs, and the better part of Western Washington. Pay them no mind.) Yes, pleasant I say. We can sleep at night without the AC, we don’t have to water the garden much, and it is beautiful.

How beautiful is it? I have sworn to keep this blog G-rated, so my favorite adverb for conveying emphasis is off limits; just insert your own: it’s ——- beautiful!  Have a look through the pages of Everything Washington and you’ll get an idea.

I’m not really in a hurry to see the sun in full force. As I may have mentioned before, I like mild weather.  But I am happy for my friends and neighbors, to whom it means a lot.

And I am especially happy for the betrothed who are planning outdoor weddings this year. Congratulations, you are almost there! After months of preparations made on cold, wet days, you deserve all the warmth and sunshine you can get. Also, I don’t play so well with cold fingers!

Sunshine and vows on the MV Skansonia 



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My mother had a “darkroom.”  [Note to the young: people used to take rolls of “film” (plastic stuff inside the camera) into these dark rooms, and do something or other with trays of chemicals and paper coated with magical silver stuff,  and come out with pictures.]  We kids could get in BIG trouble if we barged in there during the few precious moments my mother had to devote to her hobby, especially if the Mysterious Red Light was on.

When I was 8 or 9, I realized that not all mommies made their own photographs. Amazing. Once or twice I was allowed to come in and watch her work the magical alchemy.  Absolutely amazing.

I am still easily amazed by the world of photography. The door to the darkroom remains intimidatingly closed for me, not only because I have quite enough to do but because really good cameras always seem complicated in a way that makes me want to go have a nap.

I’ll stick with my iPhone camera, thank you very much.  But for a couple of bucks at the iTunes app store this week, I got to feel pretty clever as a photographer. The app I bought is called True HDR.

My clever husband, who knows what all the buttons on his camera do, tells me that “HDR” is a technology that was invented to capture the light of stained glass cathedral windows without diminishment of the interior features of the cathedral. The idea is to merge multiple exposures into a single image that is uniformly colorful and well lit.

This is as technical as this review is going to get if I’m to avoid undue napping…  First you pick a subject that will hold very still, and you try to do the same. When you click the shutter, the app is going to take three exposures and it takes a while (so hold still!).  Then you hit “merge” and wait some more. Then you will see a screen with little slide-y bars that enable you to adjust the look. (This is the part where you can give photos that antique, “hand tinted” look if you want.)

And voila! You hit “Save,” sit back, and feel downright smug.  Well, I do.  I mean really, all my life I have photographed beautiful scenes, only to come home and find that my flat, boring pictures totally betray the memory of what I saw when I took them.  I always assumed that’s what you get for not using a decent camera.  But Technology has finally rewarded my simplicity!

 Behold, “Stratocumulus Avec Les Arbres,” with and without HDR:

The color in this particular HDR image is a little over the top, but I feel clever just the same.


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Back in my student days, I made a small but embarrassing mistake in a performance. At my next lesson my teacher, Lynne Palmer, listened patiently while I wept over my unworthiness to live, let alone play the harp.

“Do you know,” Palmer said very softly, leaning towards me, “how many really perfect performances I had?”  I blinked, speechless. “I can count them on one hand.” She held her hand in front of me.

ImageMy surprise at her modesty was increased by the thought of how many performances – brilliant performances – that hand must have played.  This incredible musician had studied with Carlos Salzedo; had played under the batons of Toscanini, Ormandy, and Stokowski; had won the very first Curtis Award in 1949 (against such competition as the young Leonard Bernstein).  I will never forget that moment, her humility, and the sense of acceptance and forgiveness.

Some people are really good at shaking off a bad moment. Others are good at holding on to the memory of imperfection and even cultivating it in their minds like an expert gardener until the thing is positively monumental.  I guess I am somewhere in the middle.

If you have ever planned, produced, or served in a large social event, you understand the unpredictability of human endeavors.  We do great things and we do our best, but stuff happens. A sense of humor is crucial.  To that end, I present Five Funny Things I Have Seen At Weddings and Events (in no particular order).

1. A bride had purchased beautiful artificial flowers, made of some kind of fabric, that her bridesmaids could take home and keep forever. The flowers were arranged on long bouquets, like a beauty pageant winner would carry.  One bridesmaid was standing too close in front of the lit candelabra that the church provided, and – poof! – her flowers burst into flames.  No bridesmaids were injured in the making of this scenario. A groomsman stomped out the fire and they all lived happily ever after, as far as I know.


2. Many years ago I was booked to play for an evening cruise on Lake Union. I knew the location of the dock, but had not expected such a small ship. Before me lay a somewhat narrow wooden plank that connected the ship to the dock, suspended some 10 feet over the water. The stuff of nightmares. I parked my harp’s dolly and went to tell the hostess that I could not wheel it over. I just couldn’t risk it.  The guy she enlisted to carry the harp onto the ship was a workman from the neighboring ship who cursed, in French, under his breath the entire time. I apologized and thanked him, in my own rusty French.

3. I was hired to play for a Renaissance themed wedding in which everyone was dressed in 16th century garb. Including the dog, who came down the aisle just ahead of the bride. Dog of Honor?  I was just so glad that the dog didn’t do what dogs do (emphasis on that last word) when they get nervous.

4. This one didn’t actually happen to me personally. I just find it so funny.  An acquaintance was hired to play at the Convention Center for an event.  She was positioned at the top of an escalator and given a mermaid suit to wear. Keep in mind, in order to play a pedal harp, one needs both hands and feet, but this harpist’s feet were to be enclosed in her mermaid tail.  “Not a problem!” The only thing they wanted her to play was glissandi – that’s where you just run your finger up and down the strings, up and down, up and down…    For 45 minutes.

5. I was playing with a fiddler for a Scottish wedding and we launched into the processional requested by the bride, “Mairi’s Wedding.”  It’s a peppy tune for a processional – usually a more stately piece is chosen – but the bride was certain of her choice.  Or so we thought.  After playing through the short tune twice, the whole wedding party was out, except for the bride. We kept playing, and playing…  After what seemed like 5 minutes, my fiddle player actually walked out of the room and into the hall – while still playing! – to find the bride standing there looking confused. The poor lady thought we were going to play something else and was waiting for the music to change.

I have seen many mishaps over the years: dresses ripping, bee stings, outdoor decorations spoiled by wind, people so consumed by emotion that they could only sob and not say their vows.  “The best laid plans of mice and men…” And yet, the imperfect events are sometimes the most impressive.

When you listen to a music CD, the imperfections have been scrubbed out through multiple “takes” and countless technical tricks. But in a live performance, what you play is what you get. And yet, errors are rarely noticed by an audience. That is because the live experience is worth so much more than the sum of its parts.  The humanity and the art speak louder than the technical details. And so it is in life.  And so shall it be for you.



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Can someone please explain this to me?

Here we have a normal pedestrian crossing button that I often pass on my morning runs. A normal button at a normal level.  And a second button, for… trolls? People who ride those really tall unicycles? Bears? I actually did see a bear crossing this road once, but she wasn’t in the crosswalk.

I just know this is going to turn out to be something so obvious. Common knowledge. And I’m going to feel like a total ding-dong for even asking.  That’s ok. Tell me anyway. I will just be so glad to not feel that creepy being-watched-by-something-large-and-sinister-in-the-woods feeling every time I’m waiting for that walk sign.

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…it won’t rain.  Is that true for blogging about grey skies as well?  This morning was all blue sky and sparkly sunshine. Here is the top of our maple — it was such a wee thing 5 years ago that I could bring it home in the back of my car.

Did you know that most harps will go flat or sharp when the weather changes?  A good quality harp will be a bit more stable than others, but all wood reacts to its environment.  It’s a bit like having a six foot tall barometer in the room.  Flat? Storm coming. Sharp? Probably time to fire up the BBQ.

Right about now the piano owners in the crowd may be wondering how often we harpists tune.  At my house, the poor piano gets tuned once a year if it’s lucky.  But the harp? Every day. And twice a day if I do double practices. And every time it is moved. And practically every time someone opens a window (here in the Northwest, not very often).

I seem to be all about the weather this week.  Our family went to see The Tempest with Christopher Plummer last night. It was a “Fathom Event,” where they play an opera or a theater production in a movie theater for “one night only!”  BRILLIANT production.  Julyana Soelistyo as Ariel: how cute is she?

Off to “make hay while the sun shines.” Cheers!

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Some people call it “Junuary.”  Some people seem surprised every year… where is summer?!?  It doesn’t help much that we nearly always get a burst of warmth and sunshine in May.

I confess, I like the grey. And most of the time, I like seeing it spelled with an e. It’s not a big deal, but the e somehow transforms a bleak day to a more romantic version, as if we are talking about the coast of Scotland rather than rush hour in downtown Seattle.

The grey weather is certainly not good news for outdoor events, and it strikes terror in the heart of harpists, whose precious instruments must be kept dry.  But I do like the light, and the cool air. I have no plans to move south, and I vow to remember that when tempted to complain.

So here is the beginning of my blog. I’m afraid it is a pretty wimpy start. Downright grey in fact. Bear with me; “it’ll burn off.”



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