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“I remember…” is a series of posts about places from my childhood where I sometimes find myself today. I will be performing a solo show in one of these places, Eugene, OR, on Wed. March 30 at The Shedd Institute for Arts.

I was living in Eugene, Oregon with my parents and my new baby brother at the Amazon Housing Project – married student housing – where we had a small 3-room apartment.  The largest room served as livingroom-kitchen-diningroom.  As usual, my parents had painted one wall mustard yellow. This was a tradition in each new place we moved.  in this case, it was a narrow brick wall which I’m now thinking must have enclosed a flue of some sort.

In the outside bedroom, I slept in a bed covered with stuffed animals. Mostly dogs.  My brother slept in a drawer on the floor. My parents had the other room.

The Amazon had originally been built as army barracks. Our own complex included about 30 families, give or take 10, but there were several other complexes a short walk away.

I became friends with a girl in another complex, and we decided one day that we would have an outing to the local drugstore for grilled-cheese sandwiches and cokes.  This was a big splurge, for which we would prepare all day.

She had the idea of coiffures: we’d curl each others’ hair, and then head down to the drugstore.

Simple enough, I thought,. I’d never curled anyone’s hair before, and no-one in my family curled their hair, but I’d seen a great aunt of mine once with spit curls.  I can’t remember who went first, but I know my hair was rolled onto a multitude of empty frozen juice cans.  That seemed pretty tame. My idea was to create a single, superlative curl on the top of her head, which I wound up and secured with bobby-pins.

She didn’t seem happy about this.  I got the sense she didn’t think my idea would work, but I was very optimistic.

An hour or so later, we unveiled our masterpieces.  I had a glamorous head of curls.  She had one curlicue sticking straight out the top of her head.  I tried to be impressed by it,  but I knew immediately that I’d missed the point somehow.

I sensed, without being able to articulate it, that I had merely pointed to something, whereas she’d embodied it. I’d played at the idea of a curl, and she’d invested deeply in the concept of fundamentally making my entire head curly.

I’d created a decoration.  She’d changed the underlying structure.

I’ve seen this many more times in my life.  Struggled with it. Know I’m missing the point, but no idea how to get it.  But at least I can identify it: “Right … it’s the curl again.”


“I remember…” is a series of posts about places from my childhood where I sometimes find myself today. I will be performing a solo show in one of these places, Eugene, OR, on Wed. March 30 at The Shedd Institute for Arts.

Noah, a recently graduated harp student at the University of Oregon drove me through Eugene yesterday after a masterclass I gave.  We passed the YMCA where I once took tumbling lessons, and pulled into a student housing complex.

I used to live here, in this same complex, 50 years ago, in 1961.

Noah parked, and we walked a little ways through the complex.  I realized I was looking for things that aren’t there, that a different time is a different place.  And I don’t want to lose that place I remember.
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NOTE: This is the story of a piece I’ll be performing with the Tacoma Symphony Orchestra this coming Sunday March 27th in Tacoma, WA and in my solo show March 30 at the Shedd in Eugene, OR. Read the rest of this entry »

Electric Harpist Deborah Henson-Conant with the Tacoma Symphony Orchestra Sun. March 27, 2011

>>> MARCH 27

by WEEKLY VOLCANO editor Matt Driscoll:

When I lived in Olympia, my next door neighbor was a delightful woman named Diana, who like clockwork every morning (read: afternoon – I was in college) would gently strum a massive and beautiful harp in her living room.  The calming and angelic sounds wafting into my bedroom and helping to clear the fog in my head. When she wasn’t playing the harp, Diana could often be found trying to convince me that raw foods could cure my Planter fasciitis.

She may have been right – but that’s really not important to this story. What is important is Deborah Henson-Conant, the “Electric Harpist” will be in Tacoma in March, brought to you by the Tacoma Symphony Orchestra, and the vibrations emanating from her fingers will sound almost nothing like the sleepy, atmospheric groove usually associated with the harp. It’s an electric harp, after all (think of the difference between Woody Guthrie and Jimi Hendrix). Henson-Conant has toured the world and been nominated for Grammys – but her greatest achievement may be the creation of a sound no one else is even coming close to. With her self-concocted harness harp in tow, and weaving flamenco, blues and anything else that gets in her way into a jambalaya of sound and entertainment, Henson-Conant is sure to deliver a show you won’t soon forget.

That being the case, you’ll need a meal that holds serve. Much like Henson-Conant’s fusion of sound, Masa on Sixth Ave is known for its Mexican inspired fusion of taste creations that run the gamut of simply unusual to downright revolutionarily delicious. The beef and chorizo enchiladas would compliment the Electric Harpist quite nicely. – Matt Driscoll

[Pantages Theater, Saturday, March 27, 2:30 p.m., $24-$77, 901 Broadway, Tacoma, 253.591.5890]

Hey, thanks, Matt!  Apparently Diana didn’t know that plantar fasciitis can be cured by putting bare foot on soundboard of concert harp, while harpist plays – especially those ringing bass notes.  It may take awhile, but it works … probably.  If you ever see a harpist with both feet bare, up on her soundboard, now you’ll know what she’d doing.

I won’t be doing that March 27th with the Tacoma Symphony, but I will be having a heck of a good time!  For more info and a link to tickets, check out this page.

A Hands-On Arrangement Workshop for all musicians by Grammy Nominated Composer, Arranger & Performer

Deborah Henson-Conant

Arrangement is about learning the building blocks of musical structure.
Once you know the basics, you can turn any melody into a ‘piece,’
or turn a piece into anything from a jazz improvisation to a meditation.”
– Deborah Henson-Conant –

DHC Hands-On Harp Workshop - Arles, France

Tue. Mar. 29  •  Shedd Institute for Arts  •  7-10pm

868 High Street – Eugene, OR 97440
Hands-On Participants: $35 / Auditors: $20
Call for Tix & Info: 541-434-7000

Whether you play classical, folk or improvisatory jazz – whether you’re performing for an audience of thousands or at the bedside of a friend – the skill and art of arrangement is one of the most important skills you can have as a musician. Once you know the basics of arrangement, you can turn any melody into a ‘piece,’ you can vary the length and even change that arrangement on the spot if needed.

In this workshop you’ll learn the basics of arrangement structure, how to use that structure at any skill level, in any style and on any instrument. You’ll learn how to simplify a piece for situations where you want to sooth your audience – or how to make it more dynamic for situations where you really want to shine. You’ll learn how to expand – or condense – a piece from the front, back or middle. You’ll also learn how to create simple bass patterns to support a melody, and how to create a simple ‘vamp’ to use for anything from jazz improvisation to meditation.

Deborah Henson-Conant is an award-winning composer and performer who specializes in the development and arrangement of music for harp, chamber ensemble, orchestra and music-theater. She’s the world’s leading electric harpist, publishes works for solo harp, piano-vocal, chamber ensemble, symphony and is well-known as an improvisor and collaborative musician, working in projects from Early-Music to Jazz.

And for musical-dessert you’ll come away at least one cool jazz lick to impress your friends.

This workshop is open all solo instrumentalist (vocalists also welcome). Musicians are encouraged to bring their instruments. Auditors are also welcome

Tue. Mar. 29  •  Shedd Institute for Arts  •  7-10pm

868 High Street – Eugene, OR 97440
Hands-On Participants: $35 / Auditors: $20
Call for Tix & Info: 541-434-7000

p.s. from Deborah: I know all these pix below are with harps, but I promise this workshop isn’t only for harpists – although there will probably be many harpists there !  These are just the only photos we had handy.

DHC & first protoype of "DHC Blue Light" harp

Solo Concert  – Wed. Mar. 30th, 2011 – 7:30 pm
“The Shedd Institute for the Arts” in Eugene, OR

Read the full release, including info on the special Hands-On Arranging Workshop for Musicians Tue. Mar. 29 from 7-10pm

She strides onto stage like a rock-star, with an electric blue triangle wired with 32 multi-color strings. She plays, she sings, she tells tall tales about her life. She’s the harpist your parents never warned you about: the electric harpist.

Henson-Conant is a one-woman orchestra, using a “looper-pedal” to layer sounds from her harp in real time, then weaving solo lines and vocals above it. Forget the demure harpist – Henson-Conant is a showman, entertainer and solid musician who’s been compared to artist-performers from Leonard Bernstein to Elvis Presley and Van Halen.  She’s been featured on CBS Sunday Morning, The Today Show and NPRs Weekend Edition, and has starred in two full-length PBS music specials.

Her signature instrument was invented and named for her (the “DHC Blue-Light”). It weighs 11 lbs, has 32 strings and is made of carbon fibre. Created for her by the CAMAC Harp Company in France, it’s now one of the fastest-selling new harp models in the world.

Henson-Conant’s voice is compared to Carly Simon and Joan Baez; her playing to Chuck Berry and Jimi Hendrix; and her humor to musical comedian Victor Borge. The shows are tied together by powerful, funny, affirming stories and universal humor. Her website, and YouTube channel, give a good overview of what you can expect at the show.

She’ll perform a solo show Wed. Mar. 30, 2011 at 7:30 and an open workshop called “Arrange It” on the art and skill of arranging – for all musicians, all levels on Tue. Mar. 29, 2011 from 7-10pm . Both events are at The Shedd – 868 High St. – Eugene, OR 97440.

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