Celia Ramsay

Vocalist, Songwriter, Dance Caller, Teacher

Fall Weather and Falling Ashes

What a strange time of year, is fall. It's my favorite season, but it brings a mixture of nostalgia for earlier months, accompanied by the realization that the year is nearly over. (And how the hell did THAT happen so fast?) Fall brings that lovely cool air around your ankles while the sun deliciously embraces the shoulders when you sit outdoors. I love having coffee at the table outside my kitchen door this time of year.

Speaking of fall, also known as Harvest Time, did you know that my husband of thirty-one years, Kent Rasmussen, and I earn our living making wine? I would have indulged my musical side much earlier had I the financial security to do so, but living needs $$, and things weren't very easy in my early years "B.K." (before Kent). He and I worked our tails off starting the winery in a garage in 1986, and the hard work, paired with a healthy dollop of plain, old- fashioned luck, paid off. It's lovely to have succeeded in being self-employed, and now, to be able to relax a bit and do some of the things that give pleasure in our (cough, cough) "silver years".

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Knowing this, you can guess we've had a lot of anxiety for friends and colleagues in Napa and Sonoma Counties since Sunday night when the fires started. Our winemaking facility is not in danger, but at this writing, many homes and businesses are still in the fire's path. I'm hearing several things about how best to help: you can donate to the Red Cross, to local food pantries and one I personally trust and have donated to, Napa Community Foundation Disaster Relief. The ashes aren't falling today in Berkeley, but there are a lot of fallen hearts out there. I wish I could reach out and gather them all into my arms.

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INTRO TO HARMONY WORKSHOP FULL! Our November 11 Intro to Harmony workshop is full! However, registration for the intermediate workshop, One Song Learned Well, has been quite the opposite, so we will postpone that workshop until Spring.

WHICH OF THESE SHOULD I FORGET? The song now has verses and a bridge! If you are still interested in the progress of this song, click this link to listen to a very rough little test flight of the lyrics, with a little (rough) piano to give you some chordal context. Still lots of work to do, but thought you might like to hear how it's progressing!

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WHAT'S NEW WITH FORTUNATE STRANGERS? Our new EP is almost done, and the cover design is coming along nicely. It'll be two to four weeks before we have it in hand, but it will be grand to have something representing the work that Kathy,

Joe and I are doing together. By the way, "EP" stands for "Extended Play" and hearkens back to the days of 45rpm "singles". An EP was longer than a single track, but didn't contain enough tracks to be an "album". And may I just say - if you have any idea what I'm talking about, you are officially old!

Our gig at Reno Celtic was a lot of fun. It has all the components you'd expect to find, including pipe bands, dancers, music and booths. The new addition this year was a booth that sold men's grooming products. Mustache wax!

On Saturday, October 14, we will be at the Reno Contra Dance. I'll be calling, and Kathy and Joe will be playing the tunes with the help of their Cíana bandmate, Holly Sternberg, the Nevada State Fiddling Champion, so spread the word and come join us! OH, AND CHECK OUT OUR NEW WEBSITE! (I made it myself!)

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Scotland Sojourn

BY THE TIME YOU GET TO READ THIS . . . we'll be there! In Scotland! (Sorry! Making a Glen Campbell By the Time I Get to Phoenix reference is a bit of a reach - especially since the Campbells were from the west!) Husband-Kent and I will be in Scotland to film myself as I chase down the sites where my favorite songs originate. Why am I doing this? Partly as a framework for visiting places that are not strictly on the well-worn tourist path, but mostly to satisfy my deep curiosity to see the places where these songs - that sort of possess me - come from. 

I've spent quite a bit of time visiting Scotland before, but this time we'll tour the northeast. We're very much looking forward to a visit with Jim and Susie Malcolm in Perth and I'm hoping they will help me review my "game plan" and point out any major flaws. Then from Dundee, we can drive out to places like Blairgowrie, Pitlochry, and Noran Water. From there, we'll move in an anti- clockwise direction up around through Aberdeen and Elgin, looping back to the River Spey, because ...DISTILLERIES ARE IN SPEYSIDE! We'll also head west to see Glasgow and visit Alloway - Robert Burns' birthplace. In each place, I'll make some videos of me singing in situ. I'm not sure what will come from this videographic documentation - perhaps a demo video to show what I'd like to offer as a

class on the origins of these songs in the future? More things to share with you in newsletters? Much will be revealed - to me, as well as you! 

HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY! It's likely you're reading this after the fact, but as a mother, I want to wish all a Happy Mother's Day! If you are a mother, you share the experiences of both delight and fear that this job carries with it. If you are not a mother, you have undoubtedly had one, and the role of being a child carries its own comforts and anxieties over the course of your life with your parents. I am grateful to have two amazing, smart, beautifully different people to call my children. Also, one cannot be a mother without the father who helped you, erm, get into that condition, and I am very lucky to have my Kent, father of Calvaleigh and Webster. 

WHY MORE DANCE? In my previous newsletter, I gave some reasons why you might consider learning to dance and provided a video of how live music can make it irresistible. I know many people worry that they can't learn to dance, but I bet, once you try it--AND do it more than once (because as with all things, learning something new requires practice!) you'll be able to shut down that little judge on your shoulder. It's one of the reasons I like Contra Dance; if you just shut out that voice of judgement, you find it's actually easy to do. And at all Contra Dances, there is a lesson for beginners, then each individual dance is taught. Even if you don't remember what you just learned, the teacher (caller) calls out the figures to help you along till it's clear the dancers are comfortably on track! Watch the video - you'll see!

Sixty Years and Still Learning New Tricks!

I am writing this on my birthday, and hoo-boy, it's a big 'un! Today I turn 60, and there's definitely some creaky-crunchy stuff going on, but hey - I'm glad to be on the planet, and I know that I'm in good company!

Bill Downs, Celia, Stan Dye and Vern Flock

Bill Downs, Celia, Stan Dye and Vern Flock

Birthdays with a zero in the one's place tend to provide cause for reflection. As you can see from this photo of me when I was sixTEEN years old, I've been singing for a long time, but there was a sizable gap in my musical life from about 26 till after I had kids. In fact, I was singing to our daughter when Kent admitted he'd never heard me sing before. I was content to sing lullabies for a while because kids and a fledgling business made it hard to indulge any musical desires. But one night, Kent nudged me to go to an open mic, and it was there that I met Stan Dye and Vern Flock, who asked me to sing in their Bluegrass band with Bill Downs in Napa. I was about 35 years old, then. I had quite an awakening of old yearnings to sing and perform, and those guys helped me bcome confident enough to do that. I honestly think if it weren't for them and some nudging from dance pal, Carlo Calabi, I wouldn't have had the nerve to start calling dances, let alone get in front of a microphone to sing again.

Anyway, I'm here to tell you that not only does life continue to present beauty and challenges, but with four CD projects in five years (with number five under way) I continue to learn more about music and dance, teaching and performing, and all along the way I am building beautiful friendships. There's so much here to play with - and I'm glad to be in the game with all of you!

SPEAKING OF PERFORMANCES

You may still be in a position to join Fortunate Strangers at the Moneky House on Saturday, April 15, at 7:30pm, and the suggested donation is $20. Just come to 1638 University Avenue (near Sacramento) in Berkeley - doors will open at 7:00pm. I'm pretty sure we'll have space for you, but if you want to be sure, you can buy a ticket!

WHY LEARN TO DANCE?

I've been so excited about singing gigs lately, that aside from a recent mention of Family Dances, I've given short shrift to Contra Dance. And having worked as a caller for fifteen years, I feel I should do better. So: why might you want to elarn to danc? There's a veritable laundry list of answers! First the physical reasons: dancing increases stamina, coordination, balance, exercises your heart, releases endorphins, and helps you sleep. There are emotional reasons: dancing creates and maintains community, builds individual confidence, and provides sheer pleasure in freedom of movement. And finally, there are the social reasons: you get to hang out with people, you cooperate with humor, you learn compassion for other dancers and how to be fair & kind to yourself, and you have fun. Oh, and there's this, too (watch the video):

The Place the Songs Come From

My travel-hungry husband has us planning our next trip abroad, and I voted for a trip to Scotland! "Where in Scotland?" said he, and I replied, "To the places where the songs come from!"

YEARS AGO, we needed to Get Out of Dodge, so Kent, the kids, and I went on a Laura Ingalls Wilder "literary pilgrimage". We'd read all of her books backwards and forwards, and thought it would be interesting to visit the places where Laura had lived. That trip still ranks among our favorites, because we saw places we'd never have reason to visit otherwise - and they were rewarding and fascinating!

SO MY BIG IDEA

for this trip, is to visit places in northeast Scotland that are named in the songs I love to sing, and record video of me singing the songs in each of them. This "song itinerary" will definitely bring us to small, un-touristed (and hopefully interesting) locations, but I'm excited that I will get to explore the places the songs come from.

SIXTEEN SOULS SANG SIX SONGS SWEETLY

What a wonderful workshop we had on March 4th! Libby McLaren and I had a blast and by all reports, everyone else did, too! Some people have asked us to next do a more advanced workshop, so we'll work on making that happen. We have to do some schedule work to find out when we can do the next one, but likely it will be in early summer. Folks at the workshop who'd already bought a copy of Carmony reported that they love it! You can find ordering information below. 

SPEAKING OF COOL SINGING, Libby and her partner in life and music, Robin Flower, have a show coming up at the Freight and Salvage.It's on Saturday, April 8, and you won't want to miss it, because Robin and Libby have a wonderful, joyous energy when they perform that just makes you smile. Oh, and I'll be there singing backup harmonies along with Mary Ford and Danny Carnahan, and with Peter Maund on percussion, and Jan Martinelli on bass.

FORTUNATE STRANGERS PLAYED TO A FULL HOUSE!

Wow! Our Carson City gig was delightfully full and commensurately fun. (It also has netted us a sweet gig at the Nevada Governor's Mansion in November! More about that when I have more to tell.) Filling the Brewery Arts Center was no small thing, because on the day before the concert there was serious flooding in the Carson Valley. But that didn't keep anyone away and folks heartily joined in on our sing-alongs. Joe's voice was in fine form and he was great on flute and whistles, and Kathy's rock solid guitar playing kept everything tied together with a bow. Honestly, the unsung guitarists of the world deserve a major shout-out. They provide unfailing rhythm when they aren't shining on lead parts, and for the vocalists and other instruments, they're the bedrock of the band. Our Kathy is all of that for us, and it's a tall job!

NEXT UP, FORTUNATE STRANGERS is set to perform at Berkeley's own Monkey House on Saturday, April 15.Look for a separate reminder, closer to the date, for details!

Upcoming Harmony Workshop

How do teachers learn to teach? Just because you do a thing well, doesn't strictly mean you can teach it. To teach anything, you must understand your students. What do they already know? What DON'T they know? What might get in their way and how do you present new ideas in a way that will make sense to the greatest number of people? And what must a student know at a minimum that will allow them to connect the landmarks (or fill in the spaces between them) that we can offer in the limited time a workshop provides?

Libby McLaren and I have spent a lot of time thinking about answers to these questions, and we think we found some good ways to teach harmony singing - even if you're new to it. We can show you how to find your vocal range, offer tips for practice and tricks for orienting your ear to the strange experience of singing different parts simultaneously with other people. There are two of us, so we can really demonstrate the things you'll want to learn. For us, that's exciting - having a knowledgeable teaching-partner means one of us isn't relying on a piano to model the harmony. For singers, it offers the benefit of two lifetimes worth of experience in one workshop. If your New Year's resolution is to sing harmoniously, Libby and I will be a teaching small group of 10 - 12 people on Saturday, March 4, from 2 - 5:00pm, at my home studio in North Berkeley. $50 covers the three-hour workshop and any materials we hand out. Space is limited, so save the date, and. I'll confirm you're in and supply instructions on where to go and how to pay.

FORTUNATE STRANGERS AT BREWERY ARTS CENTER

Kathy, Joe, and I will take Fortunate Strangers to the Brewery Arts Center in Carson City, NV on Saturday, February 11 at 7:30pm. You can be sure that we'll include some opportunities to join the singing, and we promise to provide plenty of songs about love in all its various permutations (and there are many!) Find out how one clever maid avoids a pirate's unwanted attentions, or hear about the lad who kisses his lass through a window - and encounters some unexpected difficulties. With songs of love lost and love found, this show is perfect for sharing with your Valentine!

Carmony - Get it in Time for Christmas!

Well, I'm excited and so is Libby! Carmony is being replicated as we speak and we should have copies in hand to send to you in the second or third week in December! If you want it for Christmas, I will put them in the envelopes and send them to you personally - let me know by December 15 by email.

The three-CD set of lessons will cost $45. And just to recap, this three-level series of lessons teaches harmony singing AND is a tool for practicing it - kind of your own practice buddy! Level One features simple rounds and songs, separating the voices so you can learn both parts. Level Two builds on this with more complicated songs. Level Three gives you the guidance you need to create your own harmonies, including some simple aspects of theory.

How will you be able to get yours, you ask? Well, you can wait till we have it - or preorder. Then you have three choices:

1. Use any credit card to buy the CD directly from my store,

2. Pay via PayPal using celiaramsay@gmail.com as my account name, or

3. Simply mail me a check to my address: 1325 Arch Street, Berkeley, CA 94708.

Libby and I are also planning to do a harmony workshop! We'll let you know when that will be - probably in March here at my home studio in Berkeley. More on that when we get closer, but if you know you're interested, let me know and I'll start a list - with YOUR name on it!

...two years before the story, the Ramsay kids!As I write this, the words "like kids waiting for Christmas" sent me back to Christmas Eve when I was in fifth grade. My sister, Lauren, was telling me with great angst, that our brother, Graham, was questioning the existence of Santa Claus. We were really bothered by that, so we contrived a frantic spur-of-the-moment plan. I went outside into the dark, just outside of the window of our shared bedroom, where she had lured him on the pretense of a shared candy cane. I peeked into the window and could just hear their conversation, and he was indeed asking her if Santa was real, so I took my cue and began ringing jingle bells, trying ever so hard to make them sound like sleigh bells. Lauren in hushed voice said, "Listen! What is that?" (ching, ching, ching, ching) "It's Santa!" she crowed, and Graham's eyes got big, and he ran to the window. I had to duck to avoid being seen, but it worked - he believed he was hearing Santa's sleigh! Our conniving saved Santa for one more year.

Years later, when our own kids were beginning to doubt, I remember Kent telling them, "As long as you believe in him, Santa will come!" They're in their 20's, now, but they very wisely still "believe"!

FORTUNATE STRANGERS AT BREWERY ARTS CENTER

Kathy, Joe and I are looking forward to February 11, 2017 when we get to perform at the Brewery Arts Center in Carson City. Mark your calendars for a 7:00pm show. It'll be so close to Valentine's Day, we'll have to sing some love songs.

AND SPEAKING OF CHRISTMAS...

Think stocking stuffers! Look, you have THREE choices! They cost $15 each, and to buy, follow this link to my new Square store. Want downloads? I can handle that by sending you download cards if you want to gift a friend. For delivery in time for the holiday, you need to order before December 15. 

Working on Carmony Cover Art

We're in the home stretch for our production of Carmony: Learn to Sing Harmony While You Drive, and all our energy is directed at completing a package with three CDs in it. Back in 2014, I'd written about producing the Singer's Request CD, and the various steps for recording in the studio. For Carmony, those are done and the next step is often shorter, but no less convoluted. Libby McLaren and I just finished up a photo shoot and we've been collecting little images along the way to use on the cover for the album. One real boon was realizing that my across-the-street neighbor, David Feinberg, has a really cool little Alfa Romeo, and he was willing to let us pose for our cover photo in it! I don't think I'd ever want to own one, but that little car makes us look pretty darn good - we think you'll agree when you see it. As we tried different poses for the camera, we had to contort ourselves a bit. I do a fair bit of yoga, but I've never practiced the "tiny car pose" before!

We've sent the text for editing to my pal, Dana Dubinsky, and all the necessary art to my favorite graphic designer, Kim Hughes. Also along the way, we needed to copyright our work, so we sent a copy of our materials to the Library of Congress. Some days I feel like I'm playing at being an adult, and sending mail to the LOC feels exceptionally grown up and official. And here's something funny: I hadn't gotten confirmation that the materials had been received, so I sent an email query. I got this reply: "Please allow 8 - 10 weeks to verify receipt of mailed items; we receive over 10K pieces of mail on a daily basis. -cfk, LOC. " So I replied, "Dear cfk: You mean I'm not a special snowflake? Thanks for your help, and I'll be more patient. -Celia" To which I got the reply, "You're very welcome and thanks for your patience. And of course, you're always our special snowflake!"

TEACHING AT LARK AGAIN!

I just got word that my class was popular enough that I'll be teaching Get Your Voice Out of the Closet again. This time we'll be in the back room of the Dance Hall (fewer mosquitoes) at Lark Camp from July 28 - August 5, 2017. Just in case you're ready to commit to a whole week of music and dance delight, registration is open!

GIGS GALORE - SUCH A GREAT LIFE

 September and October were pure fun for gigs. On September 25, Fortunate Strangers got to perform at Sharon and Jaya Carl's Auburn House Concert series, where we had a lovely audience and a really good time, including some audience sing-along. If you live in the Auburn area, you'll want to get on their mailing list. (Archie Fisher is going to be there in November!) 

The following Saturday, I got to join the song circle leaders at the KVMR Celtic Festival, and we had many folks join us to share songs. This song circle is a lovely idea and I've never seen another festival host a public one, before. Later that night, I called a dance in Nevada City that was a huge blast with the band Hot Cider, and the next morning, my roadie Kent, and I drove to Reno to join Fortunate Strangers at the Reno Celtic Festival. We were treated to a great sound guy and we finished performing just as the wind kicked up to blow in a storm over the Sierras. 

Fortunate Strangers is finding its legs; we are developing our own, unique sound, and I love working with Kathy and Joe Bly!

House Concert Comin' Up!

Yikes! This month's newsletter almost got past me, for all sorts of busy reasons, all of them good! What I want you to think about first, is coming to Fortunate Strangers' Auburn House Concert show this coming weekend, Sunday, September 25. It's time to contact our wonderful hosts, Sharon and Jaya Carl (either by email or by calling 530-­885­-4292) to reserve your seats! Please join us for an intimate concert where you'll be so close you can hear us breathe, ask us questions and sing along with us! Because it's a school night, the show will be at 7:00pm, and the suggested donation is $20. We'll do one lusciously long set, so you can get your money's worth and still be home in time for a good sleep, refreshed and ready for work on Monday!

Next up, we also have a firm time when you can come hear us in Reno: 11:00am on Sunday, October 2, at the Reno Celtic Festival. We'll be on a big stage for that one, at the Bartley Ranch Regional Park in south Reno. There'll be other fine bands, playing, too, and the whole event looks to be a lot of fun with dancers, pipe bands, falconers, trinkets to purchase, and caber tosses and stone putting for athletic entertainment! Be sure to come up and say hello after our show! 

CARMONY RECORDING FINISHED!

We still have to do the photography and graphic design for the cover, but Carmony: Learn to Sing Harmony While You Drive is in the can! We're on schedule for a late fall release! We'll keep you all updated, but if you're already on my list of folks who want copies, I'll be sure to notify you when we have it ready. If you're not already on my list, but want your own special email announcement of the arrival of Carmony, shoot me an email at celiaramsay@gmail.com. IT IS REALLY WONDERFUL! And I'll have a really funny story for you in my next newsletter about cars.

CALLING PRIVATE DANCES

Periodically, I get hired to call private dances and they are a lot of fun, so I'm just mentioning this in case you've wondered about doing that for an event of yours; I can even hire the band for you. Here, you can see me calling a dance for the Westwind Community Barn in Los Altos Hills. This photo is at the beginning, when there were only a few small children who got up to join me, but after a while their recalcitrant parents joined in. That's a funny thing, isn't it? So many people think they can't dance, but once they've tried doing a family dance or a contra dance, they are so consistently surprised at how easy and how much fun it is, they often tell me they wish they'd tried it sooner. The kids know--if you can walk, you can dance. 

What A Lark!

What an amazing summer. Lark Camp was everything I'd hoped it would be and then some. My workshop, Get Your Voice Out of the Closet, was very well attended, and I got excellent feedback from students who seemed to feel my class was valuable for them. New this year, there were two additional singing sessions held in the morning: Appalachian tunes led by Rachel Goodman & Steve Coulter, and Sharon Carl and Jeremy Friedenthal also hosted a wonderful song circle. Clearly, more people are looking for opportunities to sing! You can imagine how happy that makes me!

Every year, I look forward to hearing the songs people bring to camp to share, so the two evening song sessions that Shay Black leads are a must for me.

Danny Carnahan's Songwriting workshop got the creative juices flowing and I have several new songs in the pipeline. It was wonderful to see old friends and many new faces. I found the late afternoon Swedish/Nordic music class for all instruments led by Aryeh Frankfurter on his nyckelharpa (you MUST listen to this link!) to be the most entrancing thing to hear just before the cocktail hour. I wish I could convey the magic of being among redwoods with nothing but music, dance & friends.

There was one supreme tragedy; Bulgarian music instructor, Vassil Bebelekov, died on the secondday of camp - on his 56th birthday. He'd recently had heart surgery and suffered a cardiac arrest while napping between workshops. It made every one of us acutely feel our own mortality and none could pass another withoutstopping to hug. Vassil was a master at playing gaida, a Bulgarian bagpipe made from the entireskin of a goat or sheep; watch the video to hear the sound of this haunting instrument as he accompanies his wife, Maria, at the Drone Magic Festival of Bagpipes. I did not know Vassil personally, but his music followed you around camp. We took some small comfort in thinking that if you could choose how and where to go, dying in your sleep while camping amidst redwood trees surrounded by music you love would be a pretty good choice. 

CARMONY KEEPS GETTING BETTER!

We only have a few more things to fix before Carmony recording studio medicine cabinet we put on our editing/mixing hats for Carmony: Learn to Sing Harmony While You Drive. We have to plan our album cover, and organize notes and written material, but we're hopeful we're on schedule for a late fall release! Most of all, we are feeling very proud of our work at creating three sets of lessons that are different from each other, but are logical stair steps of progress for singers who are new to harmony singing. Now we're toying with the idea of leading workshops together. Interested? 

BREAKING NEWS FOR FORTUNATE STRANGERS!

Fortunate Strangers, my wonderful Celtic band with Kathy and Joe Bly, will be performing at the Reno Celtic Festival on Sunday, October 2. I'll be in Grass Valley for the KVMR Celtic Festival on Saturday, October 1, to join the song circle that day, and will be calling a Contra dance that night in Nevada City, so I will probably eat my breakfast while I drive to Reno on Sunday morning! If you're in Reno, be sure to look (or listen?) for us. We're also very much looking forward to performing at Sharon and Jaya Carl's house on Sunday, September 25 in Auburn! 7:00pm, $20 and you'll need to make a reservation by calling 530-885-4292 or emailing info@auburnhouseconcerts.org. We'll see YOU there!

I Got Ahead of Myself!

EDITOR'S NOTE: OOPS - I GOT AHEAD OF MYSELF

Sorry! I know exactly how I did that. Several folks told me they get inundated with newsletters and email at the beginning/end of each month, so I thought I'd be ultra-cool and send mine the third or fourth Saturday of each month. But the trouble is, it looks weird to send out a newsletter titled "August Newsletter" when it's still July. I mean, it might be useful information FOR the month of August, but it was written and sent in July! So this is officially July 2016's Second 2016 newsletter, and this little hiccup should straighten things out. Henceforth the newsletter title will reflect the month in which it's written! 

CARMONY KEEPS ON DRIVING FORWARD -

Libby and I are scripting the third level of Carmony: Learn to Sing Harmony While You Drive, the icing on the two-layer cake. Level One takes you through basic explanations and the opportunity to sing two simple rounds and three songs, so you can practice alone . . . only you'd actually be singing with Libby and me. Level Two is similar, but utilizes one round and two songs that are slightly more challenging. Level Three will be more descriptive and will demonstrate ideas on how to find your own harmonies, rather than following ours. I'm thinking that we might have it all finished in the fall. 

OH, AND THAT REMINDS ME... 

I'll be teaching my week-long class called "Get Your Voice Out Of The Closet" at Lark Camp. I'll be in Camp One at 4:30 at the north end of the Dance Hall. As you know, I'm very much looking forward to Lark Camp and if you are amongst the lucky ones who plan to be there, I'm hoping to lure you into a Carmony preview.  I duplicated copies of the Level One lessons to bring with me. Now these are not the final deal--truly

this is preview material, as it only is Level One and it hasn't been fully mixed or mastered, so they'll be a little funky compared with the polished gem Libby and I expect to be able to present in the finished version. But several people have asked for copies ASAP, so I had these made up as an exclusive Lark special preview. If you buy this one for $10, I'll credit that $10 toward the purchase of the finished two-CD set when we have it available, but meanwhile, you'll have something to work with for the remainder of the summer! This is a special Lark Camp deal, only. The rest of you will want to wait for the real deal!

Expect the Unexpected!

You just never know what will happen! This past month I was asked to call a one-hour contra dance for Ritual Coffee Roasters' eleventh birthday, and Richard Mandel with his guitar, Corwin Zekley with fiddle in hand, and I, gamely did our thing for a big barista birthday bash. I wasn't sure what to expect, but it was fun, and wandering around Folsom Street in SF at night is quite a scene, with loads of people headed for all the various clubs. At the event, Richard, Corwin and I were competing with a mechanical bull in the spacious and FULL Folsom Street Foundry event venue. 

It was fun watching folks do the Virginia Reel while juggling their cocktails! Allemand right? Drink goes to the left hand. Allemand left, switch drink to right hand. Two hand turn? Um . . . well, more cooperation required with dance partner!

I'M A PROUD SISTER: My brother, who is a classical music composeras well as a professional photographer (with a day-job at MIT), has been commissioned to write an organ work for the Montrèal Organ Festival. Organ jokes aside, this is a very big deal, as they sought him out and have asked him to write the opening work for a recital by Christian Lane at the Maison Symphonique to premiere July 5, 2017. Kent and I are planning to attend; must make a note to self to brush up on my poor-ish French skills!

LOVELY HOUSE CONCERT: Small but mighty was our audience for Fortunate Strangers' house concert, but of course we were in competition with Memorial Day vacations and Warriors' game #6, so we were pleased with the turnout. We had a good time; there was both laughter and tears at songs we performed, we all enjoyed our guest performer, Holly Sternberg on fiddle, and our audience sang along with us on several songs. Our next concert will be in September in Auburn - part of the Auburn House Concerts series hosted by Sharon and Jaya Carl.

NO BAD TRACKS: My pal, Steve Baughman just released a new album entitled O'er Quiet Lands Suspended. It is solo clawhammer banjo(s) with some vocals, and not only are the songs & tunes captivating, the different banjo voices that Steve presents are rich and varied, and sometimes you can't fathom what ethereal instrument you are listening to. Plus there's a reimagined version of the Cruel Sister Child ballad, that in my mind makes it worth owning the CD artifact; this album gets my "no bad tracks" rating! 

UPCOMING CONCERTS: August 14, Sunday: Dave Nachmanoff will be performing at the Freight & Salvage and I'm to be one of several guests. This will be a matineé - save the date and watch for more info in my next newsletter!

September 25, Sunday: Fortunate Strangers to perform at Auburn House Concerts; details soon!

Reserve Seats for Fortunate Strangers in Berkeley!

Joe, Kathy and I are gearing up for our second concert, this time at my digs in North Berkeley on Saturday, May 28 and as I write this, we've only got fifteen seats left, so it's time to reserve yours! You can do that by emailing me or calling 510­-995-­6615 (be sure to leave me a voicemail if I don't pick up!) Fortunate Strangers is an unpretentious, delightful little band, and we offer a program of Scottish and Irish traditional folk songs and instrumentals. Kathy plays guitar, Joe sings, plays whistles and flutes, and I sing and play bodhran and I'll bring out the shruti box. (You'll have to come hear us to find out what that is!) This show will start at 8:00pm, doors open at 7:30pm and the suggested donation is $20. Since it will be a Saturday night, you can make a lovely evening of it with all the nearby restaurants, here in Gourmet Ghetto. 

AUDITIONING STEERING WHEELS FOR CARMONY:

Things are perking along (they sure ain't parking) and I'm beginning to turn my thoughts to cover design. Libby and I have some ideas about the cover photo and it might involve one of these steering wheels (there are three stacked on this chair, waiting for an audition!) But exactly how we'll do that is still on the drawing board. Creative thoughts are tumbling at a mile a minute, including one we got from our wonderful engineer, Derek Bianchi, who suggested we come up with a "bumper". That's a film term that's not about cars, but is sort of a car-metaphor for the intro and "outro" jingles that precede and end your favorite TV sitcom. So, we wrote and have recorded our own audio bumper, and if you go to this link, you can hear it

We've almost finished our Level Two lessons, and LOVE how it's turning out. I really think you'll find the CD helpful, and we think all three levels, comprised in a two-CD set, will be ready in the fall sometime. I'll probably bring some Level One CDs with me to Lark Camp to sell to any students in my "Get Your Voice Out of the Closet" workshop. Uh . . . you are coming to Lark Camp, aren't you? 

Carmony Progress - Level One

Libby McLaren and I have finished recording our "Level One" lessons for Carmony: Learn to Sing Harmony While You Drive. We're very pleaseed with how it sounds, and think that it will provide a great foundation for learning basic harmony singing. Now we're onto planning for Levels Two and Three. Level One is very basic with simple explanations and familiar tunes to learn and practice against. By that, I mean that you can learn both the melody and the harmony, but because we provide tracks of both, once you've learned, say, the harmony, you can practice singing "with" us, by singing your part against the track of us singing the melody. Or the other way around!

We're pretty sure that once you've mastered the Level one material to your satisfaction, you'll be keen to take on some more-challenging songs. That's where Level Two and Three will come in! Also, we plan to provide PDFs of all lyrics and muscial notation on our respective websites. There's a reason we don't want to include these in the CD package: Libby and I both feel - no, let's go further and say, we know - learning by ear is important for harmony singing -

It's the best way to let your brain gather it all in!

Why? Harmony singing requires you accustom yourself to singing a part that is different from what others around you might be singing at the same time. You have to learn to hear differently, but if your eyes get involved in the process (reading notes or lyrics) you are using a dfifferent part of the brain than if you're listening to learn. Based on our many years of experience, we know this is the most organic and successful way to do it. But we also know some folks will want the paperwork to refer to - especially those who are music sight-readers. So anyone who is keen to have the supporting paperwork can get it - but you'll have to work a little bit! Besides - you better not be reading while you're driving!

GREAT GIG IN RENO and RESERVE YOUR SEAT FOR BERKELEY!

Fortuante Strangers offered a lovely short Celtic music program at Mountain Music Parlor in Reno, Nevada that was followed by an Irish jam session. Mountain Music Parlor is the dream child of Don & Renee Lauderback. It's a new music store, classroom and performance venue all rolled into one, and we really hope they are successful. If you're Reno-local, check them out.

For Fortunate Strangers, it was a nice way to start our career together; we had an appreciative audience and many folks brought instruments and played afterward. One gal didn't bring her guitar, but she got to "audition" one from the store!

Joe, Kathy and I are gearing up for our second concert at my digs in North Berkeley on May 28 at 8:00pm, and personally, I think it's time to start reserving your seats. You can do that by emailing me or calling 510-995-6615 (be sure to leave a voicemail if I don't pick-up!) And if you'd like to host us in a house concert in your home, email or call, and I'll tell you how that might work!