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Performance Video: Jamaica/Nonesuch (English Country Dances, arr. Shelhart)

This pair of English country dance tunes from the Playford collection has been a favorite of mine for many years. I learned Jamaica from the playing of Boston-based dance band Bare Necessities.

Recorded in April 2021 at St. John’s United Church, Chesterton IN, for the 2021 Gebhard Woods Dulcimer and Traditional Music Festival.

Learn more at http://www.gebharddulcimer.org/.

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Performance Video: Limberlost Angel (Cynthia Shelhart)

This 1993 original, the title track of my Limberlost Angel CD, was inspired by the 1904 novel Freckles by Indiana author/naturalist Gene Stratton Porter. In the story, Freckles, an Irish orphan from Chicago, finds work guarding valuable timber in the Limberlost forests and swamps of northeast Indiana. Despite many challenges, he meets and wins the love of his life, known to readers only as “the Swamp Angel”; I gave her the new nickname “Limberlost Angel” after composing this air.

Recorded in April 2021 at St. John’s United Church, Chesterton IN, for the 2021 Gebhard Woods Dulcimer and Traditional Music Festival.

Learn more at http://www.gebharddulcimer.org/.

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Performance Video: Campbell’s Farewell to Redcastle/A.A. Cameron’s Strathspey (Trad. Scottish/J. Scott Skinner)

The name of the opening 2/4 march is a bit of a mystery; no one is quite sure where “Redcastle” is.

A. A. Cameron of Dochanassie, Invernesshire (1877-1951) was a world champion Highland heavyweight athlete.

Recorded in April 2021 at St. John’s United Church, Chesterton IN, for the 2021 Gebhard Woods Dulcimer and Traditional Music Festival.

Learn more at http://www.gebharddulcimer.org/.

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My Hogwarts letter: from contract to concert

Back to school! By now, you’ve started a new term at Hogwarts, right? Unless it’s your first year, or you grew up in a Muggle family (or both, like Harry), you already knew the drill.

September 1, Hogwarts Express from Platform Nine and Three-Quarters at King’s Cross. Check.

Before that, back-to-school shopping in Diagon Alley. (And maybe a butterbeer at The Leaky Cauldron.) Check.

And you ALWAYS know what to buy—all thanks to your yearly Hogwarts letter via Owl Post. Check.

Now, even though it’s already October, It feels like my Hogwarts letter finally arrived. After gazillion days of playing at home (and a pretty cool virtual festival—you can check out performance videos on my YouTube channel), I just learned that I’ve been booked to play a LIVE, in-person concert!

So, now what? How do I get ready? What does MY Hogwarts letter have in common with, say, Hermione Granger’s? Two things: routine paperwork, and excitement. (You know she couldn’t wait to see the book list!) 

Details change, but the routines stay the same. When Hermione shopped in Diagon Alley, she bought different History of Magic and Transfiguration books every year (the heavier, the better), but her shopping list always arrived in her Hogwarts letter.

Same for me. When I’m booking and preparing a concert, the details change, but I use the same paperwork each time: worksheets, contracts, spreadsheets, and setlists. Here’s a little more about the routine paperwork I use to get ready (and how the excitement joins the party).

Worksheets and Contracts

After someone contacts me (Hey, Cindy, I’d like to book you for a concert!), that’s where I start gathering information for the contract, using a fill-in-the-blanks worksheet. Here’s some of the stuff I need to know:

  • Date and time: am I available? Check that calendar. 
  • Location: near or far? Round trip mileage? Indoors or outdoors? (If it’s near my home in the Midwestern US, I play indoors only between October and April. Brr. Not harp-friendly weather.)
  • Fee quote and deposit: for concerts, deposits are preferred, although not always possible. It’s my decision whether or not to accept a gig with no payment up front. (This is different than freelance gigs, like weddings and background music, where a deposit is always required.)
  • How long will I play? How many sets? (If it’s for more than 60 minutes, I’ll need to break the performance into more than one set, with a stretch break between sets.)
  • Music requests, if there are any.

After the contract is approved and signed, and the deposit is processed, I reserve the date and time in my calendar, and add it to the Events page on my website.

Spreadsheets and Setlists

Now that I know when and where I’ll be playing, it’s time for the “what.” Here’s where the excitement comes in. Time to plan and prepare that music!

  • For repertoire I already play, I keep repertoire spreadsheets, so I can quickly find and sort the tune information I need, including when and where I’ve played it. This is really helpful if I’m playing a repeat gig. Same audience as last time? They’d like to hear something different for this concert.
  • Using the contract information, I plan my set(s) with a setlist template that gives me a variety of tempi, types of tunes, and more. And it’s a perfect cheat sheet on my iPad Pro during the concert! (I love the forScore app.)
  • Now that I’ve decided on my setlist, I can practice the music for the concert! If I want or need to add new music for this concert, additional prep time is needed to arrange the piece.

Other Details

Of course, I have other things to do for a concert, like loading my car, travel, setting up my harp and equipment—and PERFORMING! Then, after greeting fans and selling merch, it’s time to tear down, load the car, and hit the road for home (or a hotel for overnight). Follow up might include getting the final payment, if not already paid. And I like to send a thank you note, and ask my booking contact for a testimonial.

So that’s how MY Hogwarts letter works—the routine paperwork that makes the music happen. I’ll share more about my harp systems and routines another time!

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Performance Video: Eleanor Plunkett/Fanny Power/John O’Connor (Turlough O’Carolan, arr. Shelhart)

I’ve been playing this set of tunes by Irish harper Turlough O’Carolan (1670-1738), named for three of his patrons, for a long time. Eleanor Plunkett was my very first O’Carolan tune, and it still holds a special place in my heart.

Recorded in April 2021 at St. John’s United Church, Chesterton IN, for the 2021 Gebhard Woods Dulcimer and Traditional Music Festival.

Learn more at http://www.gebharddulcimer.org/

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It’s festival time!

Finally! Excited to return as the harp headliner at the 2021 Gebhard Woods Dulcimer & Traditional Music – yes, they have harp! This year’s virtual festival is free, with no registration needed.

My concert and both workshops are all on Sunday, June 13, 2021. The harp workshops are for *all* lever harps (key of G tuning); be sure to download handout PDFs before the workshops . I’ll feature the double-strung harp in my concert set.

My Sunday, June 13 GWDF concert and harp workshops (all times US Central):

  • 1:00 PM: Workshop: Flora & Fauna: Outdoor Tunes for Indoor Harpers.
  • 2:30 PM: Main Stage double-strung harp concert set (prerecorded).
  • 4:00 PM: Workshop: Fit for a Queen: English Country Dances for Lever Harp.

GWDF Festival Home Page: http://www.gebharddulcimer.org/2021
GWDF Facebook and Insta: @gebhardwoodsdulcimerfest

The Festival Home Page is the hub for all GWDF activities, including my concert set and workshop links. You’ll need Zoom technology to participate in the Main Stage, Workshops, and Community Tent.

Zoom Workshops: access via the GWDF Festival Home Page. The Zoom link for each workshop will appear ca. 10 minutes before the hour, and you can join the workshop until 10 minutes after the hour. You’ll also need a camera and microphone on your device for workshops.Download harp workshop PDF handouts, and the workshop schedule, on the GWDF workshops page: http://www.gebharddulcimer.org/workshops-2021

GWDF performance schedule page: http://www.gebharddulcimer.org/concert-schedule-2021