Sunday, October 26, 2008

I'm too Jung to be a Freud:

Candles as an "enlightening" psychoanalytic tool

At first, the job seems simple: go to a major box store and purchase all the candles required to put on a series of Winter Harp concerts. The math is simple: 2 candelabras times 25 candles each times the number of shows and about half as many in case there is a draft and we have to replace candles at intermission. This year that amounts to some 900 candles.

The logistics are a consideration. What does that much wax look like? The answer, once I had it loaded up, was essentially a complete shopping cart level full. "That's a lot of candles" said a young woman shopper buying a single package. "I'm not into the whole electricity thing" I reply. She seems satisfied by this explanation.

Pushing something this heavy through a store filled with shoppers is also an exercise in harrowing near-misses. Finally I reach the long lineup at the cashier and breath a sigh of relief.

"You into some sort of ritual?" asks the gentleman in front of me in the lineup.
"Umm, you could say that," I say trying to be as vague as possible.
The worried look on his face betrays that he is thinking about large Victorian mansions on moonless nights filled with cloaked figures. He moves forward in the line.

A middle aged woman joins behind me in the lineup.
"You're quite the romantic guy I see" she says, looking at my cart.
"Umm, we actually use these on stage" I reply.
"On stage? You mean in public?"
"Yes, for the act."
"The... 'act'?"
"Yes, there's several. It's quite popular."
"I'm sure it is" she says, looking astonished.

I'm at the cashier. "You always buy this many candles?" she asks, not looking forward to scanning an entire shopping cart of one item.
"It's not what you think..."
"How many?"
"One hundred and twelve packages of eight."
"You look honest"

I pay and wheel my purchase to the parking lot and neatly pile everything into the trunk.
It's not everyday that I get mistaken for an anarchistic ritualist with a suspect side act: buying candles as an exercise in the projection of inner personality conflicts.

Truth is not always stranger than fiction.
In my case it is far more wonderful than the most feverish imaginations.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Alfredo Ortiz

South American harpist visits Vancouver

The famed South American-style harpist Alfredo Ortiz was in Vancouver in September where he gave a workshop for some 20 harpists. This was Ortiz’s first visit to Vancouver -- and we were thrilled to have him. Ortiz plays the Paraguayan harp and specializes in performing the lively music of South America. He has numerous CDs, DVDs and music books about how to play this music with its intricate and fascinating rhythms.

After the workshop, Ortiz gave some special one-on-one coaching to Winter Harp harpists Lori Pappajohn and Janelle Nadeau.

Ortiz is one of the top-performing South American harpists in the world. Besides having a medical degree, Dr. Ortiz’s background includes studies and work in the fields of music therapy and sensory motor learning in South America and at California State University-Long Beach and UCLA (University of California-Los Angeles).

His workshops have been presented internationally at universities as well as harp events including the World Harp Congress, the National Conference of the American Harp Society and the International Folk Harp Conference.

If you have not heard Paraguayan or South American harp you may be
surprised at the difference from classical and Celtic harp. It is lively music you'll want to dance to.

For more information visit

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Ashcroft Opera House

Visit the Ashcroft Opera House

If you are going anywhere near the Ashcroft or Cache Creek area, plan your trip so you can take in a concert and a meal at the famous Ashcroft Opera House. This is probably the most unique venue in all of B.C. -- for a number of reasons. First, it is in the middle of nowhere. It brings in top acts, it serves the world’s best vegetarian food, and the owner is one of those fascinating people who you could spend hours talking to because his life is so amazing. And you need to go this fall, as its season ends in November.

The Ashcroft Opera House, as its name implies, was indeed an opera house. Built in 1889, it was THE place to be for miles around. Dances would start at 8 p.m., with a full course meal served at midnight, followed by more dancing which often continued until dawn. Those were the good old days.

For years the old opera house has sat neglected and empty. But a couple of years ago, entrepreneur and five-star chef Martin Comtois bought it and is returning it to its former glory.

Martin loves great music, so he brings in some of B.C.’s top bands and acts to perform on his stage. And every concert is preceded by a meal lovingly cooked by Martin. And this guy can cook. We’ve eaten many exquisite vegetarian meals -- and his are by far the best. The guy knows all those secret ingredients that makes every dish so good you actually dream about them later.

If it’s a hot sunny day, Martin may even take you swimming in the local swim hole in the Thompson River. Okay, this isn’t actually swimming. This is jumping into a semi-dangerous, fast-moving river and having it sweep you along at a brisk 30 kph. You have to keep your wits about you to swim into shore at the right moment to avoid being tossed and hammered through the rapids further down stream. It’s a real thrill to float on the water and watch the shore, 10 feet away, whipping by at 30 kph. Makes you feel like an Olympian -- if you survive.

But back to the Opera House. You can catch Winter Harp’s Joaquin Ayala, Lori Pappajohn and Janelle Nadeau performing there on Sunday, October 19.

Learn more about this great venue and what acts are scheduled by visiting

Monday, October 06, 2008

Tribute to Jurgen Gothe

Jurgen Gothe tries his hand at playing the harp with a little encouragement from Winter Harp members (right) and Detroit jazz harpist Christa Grix (left).

Harp Tribute Concert Thanks Jurgen Gothe of CBC Radio

Winter Harp had the honour of playing in a multi-harp concert in September that was a tribute to CBC Radio’s Jurgen Gothe. Over the years, Jurgen has played a generous amount of harp music on his show -- and harpists wanted to thank him for it. When you think about it, other than CBC, there aren’t a lot of stations that play harp music. By playing harp music, Jurgen helped raise awareness of the instrument and he also helped further the careers of the harpists he played.

Jurgen played Winter Harp frequently -- and for that we are forever grateful. Thanks to him, people nationwide learned about our ensemble.One Christmas Jurgen played our entire CD -- Child’s Christmas in Wales. And that was a real honour for us. Jurgen also played a lot of music by Detroit jazz harpist Christa Grix. And she was so thankful to him that she flew out from Detroit to be in the tribute concert held in North Vancouver.

The concert brought some tears, for as we know, Jurgen’s famous Disc Drive show is no longer on CBC Radio. The concert closed with a jazz version of Disc Drive’s theme song featuring harps, drums and bass. It was a nostalgic moment. And as harpist Alys Howe said before she played: “Jurgen -- we miss you!”The concert was a fundraiser for the World Harp Congress which will be held in Vancouver in 2011. The congress will showcase the world’s greatest harpists in a week-long harp extravaganza. Performers at the tribute concert included: Elizabeth Volpe-Bligh, Lani Kranz, Josh Layne, Kaori Otaki, Alys Howe, Christa Grix, Blanche Olivar, Lauri Lyster, William Fawcett, Rong Jun and Winter Harp with Lori Pappajohn, Janelle Nadeau, Joaquin Ayala and Lauri Lyster.