Everyone lives such busy lives today. From waking up early in the morning to putting in a long day’s work, from dealing with daily demands of life to supporting our family and friends, both young and old. It is hard to feel like there is a moment to breathe let alone enjoy the day or the hours that live within it. Life then seems to become even more complicated with hardship in our personal lives and the tragedies that keep happening around the world. The weight of it all can, at times, seem almost unbearable.
I know that none of us are exempt from the trials of humanity. This is one of the main reasons I do what I do. I try to create spaces in concerts with my harp and voice where people can breath and relax. A place where they can forget, even just for one moment, all the adversity in life. A place where we can remember and focus on the light and happiness that also comes with our precious time here on earth.
Music during the holiday season
Despite our challenges, Christmas is a time to remind us why we value traditions, why we value family and why we hold onto hope. It is a time to reflect, a time to appreciate and a time to remember that the sun really will come up tomorrow.
This is why I am so excited to announce that this year, I will be touring “A Prairie Christmas”. Kim Robertson (lever harp) and Joaquin Ayala (nyckleharpa, symphonie and harmonium) are once again joining me in celebration of our joy of making music together, our long friendship and the holiday season. We will be performing seasonal and traditional pieces that reflect our diverse musical and personal backgrounds.
And, most of all, we look forward to sharing it with you.
Christmas Concerts Dates
We will be performing ten concerts in British Columbia and Manitoba. All of our dates can be found here: Prairie Christmas Tour. Check out any of our concerts in and around Vancouver, the Sunshine Coast, Winnipeg and some surrounding towns.
Tickets are already on sale at some of the venues and they are going quick!
There is something truly magical about harps and Christmas so this year, Kim and I are both excited to announce that we are each releasing Christmas albums! There will be more info about that coming soon as it might be a wee bit early for most of us to listen to songs of the season in September. We dive into the harp and the season in our own unique ways to create albums suited for different moods and energies during the season.
So bring your loved ones of all ages. Get away from the screens and share an evening of music with the the children and adults in your life.
Thank you for supporting our music. We all hope and look forward to sharing with you or new show this year!
As Martin Luther King said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
Let’s bring in the light and love this December. Looking forward to having you join us.
Change. That sometimes frightening and often exciting constant in all of our lives.
This year, there is much in my life that is and has been changing, especially in the month of December. Though the end of the year may seem far away to most, I think about it for a big part of the year!
For the first time, I will not be celebrating Christmas with my side of the family. Any French-Canadian, Manitoban-farm family knows that Christmas with your nearest and dearest is a pretty BIG deal. This got me thinking: what does this special season mean to me? What makes it so significant to so many? Is it the traditions, the food, the gathering of family and friends, the music and celebration? Or, is it possibly about the interpersonal relationships, the memories of Christmas past, the loss of loved ones, times of reflection and realization? What I have come to understand is that it can be all of this and so much more.
Christmas is so often filled with joy and happiness, but let’s face it, sometimes it can be a reminder of the less pleasant things in life. This is one of the many reasons why I love to play during this season. I want my audiences to remember the good times and I hope to help soothe the bad. I am so honoured to continue the custom of bringing beautiful music at this special time of year for all of those people who look so fondly upon this tradition and maybe for some who find it something of a trial.
As many of you know, I have been with the group Winter Harp for 10 years (wow, how quickly time flies when you are having fun!) but the full tour is not happening this season as our gifted director, Lori Pappajohn is taking a break for 2016. As a result, The Nadeau Ensemble was born and I am happy to say that we have eight concerts lined up for its inaugural Christmas season to bring music, love and joy to audiences.
This year, please come and join us in celebrating the season with:
I initially thought that I was going to do this as a solo show but then one day, I was speaking to Kim Robertson about my ideas. To give you a bit of the backstory, I met Kim about 7 years ago at a harp festival. I could barely speak when I met her as she was THE Kim Robertson, in the flesh. She has been a legend and a hero of mine since I was a kid, and she still continues to be. The second harp CD my mom ever bought me when I was a kid was hers! Most harpists can relate. I had the pleasure and privilege of touring with Kim for the last four seasons but this year, her December was open as well. Having her in the show is to have one of the world’s best harpists and arrangers on the team. Cue my happy dance. This is an opportunity that I never dreamed I would have had and I am so honoured to once again share the stage with her and to watch as she works her magic.
Listen to one of her beautiful arrangements of a classic carol, “Silent Night”:
Our dear friend, colleague and master of medieval instruments, Joaquin Ayala heard about it and jumped on the train… and then there were three!
I am now so excited to create a show that will hopefully make you feel like you are back in the living room of a loved one, surrounded by happiness, love and exceptional music. We will share the reasons why the season is important to us as individuals through a selection of our own little memories. Like in my family where we celebrate “Réveillon” which is our Christmas dinner served AFTER midnight mass. We still celebrate it to this day but one of my favourite memories is the first year I was old enough to stay up all night with the adults. I felt so special. Or one year when my Uncle literally got “the worst present in the world” which made everyone laugh so hard for what felt like half an hour. No one could stop laughing for long enough to even get a single word out, it was fantastic,
That’s an example of the memories that make up Christmas to me. What are your special stories? What are your new traditions?
So if you are around, please join us for this year’s “A Prairie Christmas” where we invite you into the living room of our memories and hopefully, also a place where we can help you create a new and lasting tradition for you and the important people in your life.
“The Nadeau Ensemble: A Prairie Christmas” concert dates:
Nov 24- Gibsons, BC
Nov 26- Burnaby, BC
Dec 1- Fannystelle, MB
Dec 2- Winnipeg, MB
Dec 3- St. Francois Xavier, MB
Dec 4- Gretna, MB- Buhler Hall
Dec 6- Winnipeg, MB
Dec 8- Winnipeg, MB- Club Regent Casino
For more information, please visit my event calendar here.
While Heidi Krutzen, (who taught me in my last year of my degree) is away playing in England with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, (so exciting!), I have the honour of filling in her very big shoes at the Vancouver Opera Orchestra for the 2016/2017 season which means that I get to play the Nutcracker this season with the GOH Ballet.
Wait a second… I don’t think that’s how that saying goes. After having been the “entertainment” at about 500 weddings, it was a nice change for me to experience being on the other side, as the bride!
I was never one of those girls who always imagined her wedding day and who had it fully planned in my head. I must admit however, that after playing at so many, I had thought to myself: I wonder if I will ever get married? Who will it be to? If a wedding is in my future, I will certainly be choosing a dress I can dance in!
Luckily for me, my Prince Charming stepped into my life and I am grateful for him every day. He is thoughtful, kind, perceptive, caring, honourable, loving and the list goes on. We laugh every single day and I love the way we navigate through our discussions and plan for our future.
When we decided to get married and we started planning, we decided that the best place to have the celebration was at my parents’ farm in Manitoba. That way, the small group of people we were going to invite could all basically stay very close and we could make it a weekend event.
Almost all of the planning was relatively easy to do (thanks Mom!) and we thought we had everything under control…until 5 inches of rain fell in the 2 days prior, completely soaking the already wet grass right where we had pitched the party tent. The night before the arrival of all our guests, about 6 of us were standing in the tent, feet soaked in muddy water and it was clear something needed to be done. The next morning, my family and very close friends woke up early to head to the lumber yard (the only business in town) to get 70 sheets of plywood an entire pallet of 4×4’s and a zillion screws. We all spent the next many hours building a floor in the huge tent so that we would have a solid and dry surface to dance on. Check out this video my sister made to see what happened:
As the limo bus arrived with our out of town guests, my family put the finishing touches on the walkway. The floor turned out amazingly and I still can’t quite believe that we were able to make it happen. I am so incredibly grateful for it and chuckle back at the thought that we didn’t want anyone to do any work whatsoever; never mind building almost 2500 square feet of tent floor!
The next morning was the wedding!
The guys got ready at my grandparents’ house:
Meanwhile, in my parents’ house, a lot of the women were getting their hair and makeup done:
And then came my turn to slip on my dress.
I ended up getting ready in my parent’s room with them and my sister which ended up being a really beautiful moment in the day that we are really grateful for. With all the running around that had happened, it was our 15 minutes to just be with each other. It was very special to all of us as we are a really close family and it was so special to have that time together on such a momentous occasion.
Also at that time, I opened Toby’s card. He is a very sentimental and thoughtful person. It only took me 4 tries to get through it without tears.
Some finishing touches, and… off we go.
Toby and I had discussed if we were going to see each other before the wedding or not. We asked family to weigh in on the matter and it really opened my eyes to how important tradition is to people; those you would expect to want to keep with long-held customs and those you wouldn’t. Their opinions gave me a lot of perspective about what other couples must face when dealing with cross-cultural differences or even just variations of opinion. Marriage celebrations, and the ritual associated with them, can be a very big deal to the loved ones of the couple! I found it important to take their feelings into account during the planning process but to stay true to what we envisioned as well.
In the end, we decided to see each other prior to the ceremony so that our guests wouldn’t have to wait between the ceremony and reception (and so we could get a handle on our emotions!). A lot of people were very sentimental about our wedding so it was nice to at least see each other briefly beforehand so we could compose ourselves some and feel more comfortable making that walk down the aisle:
This post would not do the day justice if I didn’t mention the crazy weather. The day of our ceremony, many friends from around Manitoba said that they were thinking of us. They knew that the bulk of the weekend’s events were outdoors and it was pouring all over the province; while we were getting dressed the radio warning system announced that three tornados had developed (one not even that far from where we were!). This huge cloud pictured below graced us with its presence 10 minutes before the ceremony but decided to play nice. It sure made for some striking photos.
The time for the start of the ceremony came quickly. It was a very special moment which ended up being very emotional for many – it was beautiful. We didn’t have any bridesmaids or groomsmen, because all of the people attending are extremely special to us.
I remember when I was a little girl, my Dad talked about how walking his daughters down the aisle was going to be a massive milestone for him and one he was both looking forward to and dreading. It was a very happy and powerful moment, for the two of us and many others…something I won’t ever forget.
So, what does a girl who’s played at 500 weddings do for music at her own? She hires one of her greatest friends, Jeannine, to perform!
In fact, there is no other person in this world that I envisioned playing at my wedding. Her and I have played a lot together over the years, all the way back to when I was small. We connect on both a personal level and on a musical one; it meant so much to me to have her there. During the ceremony, my little cousins walked down the aisle for us, as flower girl and ring bearers. My sister Kara officiated, my Mom and Toby’s parents each offered a reading, my cousin Kailyn passed along the rings and Toby’s siblings Jeff and Sally signed for us. We wanted this to be a family participation kind of wedding!
Having my sister officiate was really important to me. We are very close and the decision felt totally right to both Toby and I. She did an amazing job and I couldn’t be more grateful that she married us.
I’m not sure why we put so much rice in the containers but it ended up being hilarious. I wouldn’t be surprised if a rice paddy starts growing on my Dad’s beautiful lawn in the spring!
One of the reasons why we chose to get married this past summer and on the farm was because my grandpa George had not been doing well for quite some time; we wanted to be sure to have him attend. We are so happy that he was able to be there with us at the ceremony. He got to see the following picture a week before he passed away. He laughed when I told him that he looked like the Godfather with his son and grandson behind him, looking like hitmen bodyguards while Toby shook his hand. A handshake to seal the acceptance of Toby into “the family” perhaps? I am so glad that my Pere was able to be there.
What to do at the end of a wedding ceremony? Celebrate!
The whole gang!
A huge reason why we kept our wedding so small was because we wanted to focus on our families. With life being as busy as it is for everyone, we aimed to visit with each person and not be in a rush. We also wanted our families and friends from far away to get to know one another at least a little bit anyway. One of my greatest treasures from the weekend is having these family photos.
Like mother, like daughters.
When one doesn’t have a wedding limo, a golf cart proves to be even better. My cousin and his girlfriend surprised us with it! It was important to me that everyone could see and be a part of the whole evening so we placed our tables in a U shape with simple decor.
We placed our immediate family at our sides and my Dad was our emcee. I was quite adamant that the speeches were going to be from our parents and us but then people started taking the mic and sharing lovely stories and well-wishes which ended up being so beautiful and so special. We laughed and we cried and it was one of those moments that you can’t plan which ends up being better than anything you could have imagined.
It was so great to see everyone we love so much having such a good time. The festivities continued to the dance floor where Toby and I started with a slow dance for about a minute and then broke into the routine from Napoleon Dynamite. This was Toby’s idea, not mine, but I am so glad we did it. It was worth it just to hear everyone scream and to set the tone for what ended up being a dance-filled party until the wee hours of the morning kind of evening.
Our father-daughter dance was to an Alan Jackson song that my family and I used to dance to as kids, every Sunday morning with the music cranked up super loud. We danced together for 15 seconds before my sister jumped in and then immediately the party got started!
I am so grateful for all the work that everyon put into making our day so memorable and extraordinary. Everyone says that your wedding day goes by so quickly, but thankfully for us, we really felt like we had so many special moments throughout the weekend. We really were lucky to be able to take the to soak up all the love and happiness that were surrounded by.
So many people have asked us if anything has changed since we got married. Our lives and daily routines are still the same but our perspectives have definitely changed. We now have this deep sense of comfort in knowing that he now has a wife and I a husband. OMG!
We are also so happy and honoured to have spent such precious time with the people we love. We were reminded how lucky we are to have the health, happiness, love, friendship and trust of the many amazing people in our lives. These are bonds and relationships that are fragile and sometimes hard to find and we are so grateful to everyone who made the effort to come and of course to those who went way above and beyond to lend a helping hand or three!
The weddings I have played since I got married myself have left me feeling very warm inside as I now see these gatherings from another perspective. I admit that I didn’t always fully understand each wedding or some decisions the couples I have played for made, but now I know that none of that is important. The things that do matter are the couple cherishes each other, the families that have loved and supported them all the way up to that day, the joining of friends and family for a lifetime event and all those special hugs, comments, I love you’s and every other little detail. It certainly helps to make you realize what life is really all about.
Thank you to all of our wonderful friends and family for all of their hard work, energy and love but especially to:
My parents – without them, this wedding really wouldn’t be possible. They worked so hard to get the yard ready and bought all the decorations. My Mom fed everyone all weekend! I’ve really got some pretty amazing family.
My sister – without her, we wouldn’t officially be married and for all of her hard work.
My Uncle Deano – for his mastermind/project coordination work on the tent floor.
Everyone who worked on our floor – without them we would have been dancing in the mud. (I am still shocked and amazing that this happened and how wonderful you all were with making it so).
Elke – without her our tent would have not looked nearly as amazing as it did with her decorating.
Also a big thank you to our amazing friends and family who flew or drove to be with us on our wedding day.It wouldn’t have been the same without
A big thanks as well to our amazing vendors, especially:
Jeannine Guyot for her beautiful playing and singing. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org. For links of her playing, visit: Jeannine’s solo playing and singing and here with her Guyot Musical Trio. If you are in Manitoba, contact her for your next event! Jessica Stuart-Crump for her amazing designs on all our invitations, for her friendship and for coming a day early to help out with everything. She continues to do work for a large company you all know so you’ve likely seen her work all about. If you need anything designed, contact her! Love Laugh Cakes for our amazing desserts. She is as sweet and professional as her creations! Bisou Bridal for my beautiful dress. Deseo Bistro for our lovely and delicious food. Two Chicks and a Bag of Makeup for their amazing makeup for our families.
Sandy & Jen from Edward Cariere for the beautiful hair they did on the ladies!
Last but not least, we would not have this blog and the beautiful photographic memories without the stunning work of Mairen from Lucky Girl Photography. She also helped us hire her friend Jesse who took video of our day which we love as well. Check him out: Jesse Vanderhart. You guys were wonderful! Thank you!!
One of the best things about my career is the diversity it affords. As I reflect on this past year, I realize that my work has varied greatly throughout. From releasing my debut CD, to solo shows, wedding ceremonies & receptions, to large and small ensembles, choirs & orchestras and everything else in-between I am always up to something. On top of all that, one cannot overlook all the business & marketing side that needs my attention too! Lately, my harp and I are out of the house about 3-5 times a week for performances and I am constantly working on new and exciting projects. Sometimes I get overwhelmed by all there is to keep on top of, but in these moments of reflection I am reminded of how fortunate I am to be doing what I love.
This Saturday marks the end of this year’s wedding season and I would like to take the time to share with you some of my most memorable experiences from this year’s nuptials.
A highlight for me was working with so many fabulous couples. The pictures below are from one of my favourite weddings this year, mostly because of Angie, AN amazingly sweet bride who wedded her partner Adam at the Vancouver Art Gallery. This ended up being the perfect setting for a modern and exquisite couple.
Here is the lovely couple walking out:
This couple did a great job with their decor, they hired fabulous people and it was very cool to watch their guests move around in the unique space.
I also had many requests for songs to play on the harp this year. Here is a list of my Top 5 well-known favourites for a live wedding playlist:
1. Can’t Help Falling In Love – Elvis
2. Here Comes The Sun – The Beatles
3. What a Wonderful World – Louis Armstrong
4. Just the Way You Look Tonight – Frank Sinatra
5. Unchained Melody – Elvis
These are my top 5 favourite things about the weddings I play at:
1. When everyone is happy. Yes, it’s simple but true! It is so easy for me to see when people are happy and supportive and I love it when they are.
2. When, at the end of the aisle, the father hugs his daughter and then the groom. It is such a sweet moment.
3. When the couple has hired a supportive and experienced team of vendors. Every moment is seamless, effortless and executed the way it was planned.
4. When couples write their own vows. I know this is not everyone’s cup of tea but those are the ones that I love the most as they are so unique and special.
5. When the couple incorporates special details. This can be anything from a familial or cultural tradition, to lighting a candle to symbolize the presence of those who could not attend. These are the moments and touches that make the day unique and meaningful.
I started playing weddings at 13 years old and I believe I have played around 800 to date. As you can imagine, I now have quite a few stories as a result! So many celebrations have been incredibly beautiful and some have made last impressions for all kinds of reasons.
I have started a list of don’t’s which I am calling “Etiquette by Janelle.” Below are the first 10 and after that, I will be posting a new one to the list every Friday on my Facebook and Twitter. Each post will be accompanied by the hashtag: #EtiquettebyJanelle. These posts are meant to be entertaining, tongue-in-cheek and perhaps some readers will learn a valuable lesson or two and avoid any potential aftermath!
Here are the first 10 “Etiquette by Janelle” tips:
No 1. Always practice walking in your gown before the wedding day. You don’t want to look or feel uncomfortable.
No 2. If I am given a three page itinerary, just for myself when I show up, you’ve gone too far with the micro-managing.
No 3. If I am wearing my sunglasses outside, it’s because I need to see my strings and music. Don’t worry, it won’t effect anything!
No 4. If it rains, I absolutely cannot have my harp outside without adequate cover. And no, a tiny umbrella just won’t work.
No 5. Take the plastic off the flowers before you walk down the aisle.
No 6. The base of my harp is not a stool to elevate yourself to get a picture.
No 7. Do research on your vendors so you can have peace of mind and be sure that you can fully revel in your day without worrying.
No 8. Touching or testing out my harp is not ok just because I had to step away for two minutes.
No 9. My harp column is probably the worst place in the whole venue to put down your drink.
No 10. Last but not least, this day is a big one. Enjoy it!
Tune in to my social media to hear more tips from a Vancouver harpist!
Hello to all my wonderful, loyal fans out there and also to those of you who are new to my site! I’m happy you are spending a few minutes to pop by and thanks very much for showing an interest in my exciting new debut album. I am officially releasing the CD on October 8th, which is coming up quickly, so remember to preorder your very own copy today!
It is hard to believe but after years of playing the harp, I am thrilled to say that I am releasing an album! I have been so honoured to work on other people’s CDs and to have an amazing performance career so far and now it is time for a new celebration. I can now offer the people who have supported me and a whole new group of listeners, my own album.
Here is the cover of it:
I named the album These Roads because I feel that this album is an account of the many roads I have travelled throughout my life. I grew up on Manitoban country roads and I have traveled city roads as well as many around the world. All of these experiences have influenced me, my music and my stories thus creating my debut album.
One of the reasons why I am so excited about this album is because I had such wonderful people on my side. It began with incredible support from my family, my colleagues and my teachers. Then, I was connected with amazing songwriters, especially my amazing co-writer, Jaylene Johnson. I am so lucky that she and I have always been on the same page. We connected from the beginning. When you click with someone and open yourself up to the possibilities and vulnerability of songwriting, beautiful music can happen.
Next, I met up with the man who really understand what I wanted and helped me to create such an amazing product. Stephen Fisk recorded, mixed, assisted production, played and sang on the album. How awesome is that? Everything he did impressed me and I am so lucky that he jumped right in and gave it his all.
Though there have been so many exciting things surrounding this, one of the things that I am most looking forward to is my album release concert at the West End Cultural Centre!
Here is the poster with all the information:
I am also incredibly excited about all of the amazing publicity I have been getting with this album release! Here is a taste of the material that the press is getting:
Manitoba Harpist and Farmer Ploughing Ahead with her Musical Dreams
CD Release Set for Wednesday October 8 at the West End Cultural Centre. She’s a Manitoba farmer who also happens to be a classically trained harpist. Now, Janelle Nadeau is ‘combining’ her interests, releasing her debut CD These Roads at the West End Cultural Centre on Wednesday October 8, 2014.
What: Janelle Nadeau’s These Roads CD Release Concert
When: 8 p.m., Wednesday October 8, 2014 (doors at 7:15 p.m.)
Where: West End Cultural Centre, 586 Ellice Avenue, Winnipeg, MB
Tickets: $25 advance l $30 door. Tickets available at the West End Cultural Centre, Music Trader, the Winnipeg Folk Festival Music Store or Ticketmaster athttp://goo.gl/s08JWN
It’s an interesting juxtaposition. In the summer months, the 28-year-old Manitoban operates huge farm machinery, working the fields as a combine and swather operator at her family’s grain farm in Fannystelle, about 50 kilometres southwest of Winnipeg.
For the remainder of the year, Janelle lives and works in Vancouver as a classically-trained harpist.
Janelle does not just play the classical harp, but Celtic and electric harp as well.”It weighs about 90 pounds with the case and dolly,” says Janelle of her six-foot high pedal harp. She herself weighs only 120 pounds but manages to lug her instrument around with ease.
Janelle’s October 8 concert will feature a blend of Spanish tunes, Celtic, blues, country, popular and original music. This performance promises to be a toe-tapping, lively type of show, paired with introspective moments.
“This will be much different than a typical harp concert,” explains Janelle. “The music selection is varied and is not made up of only slow music.”
Janelle will also showcase her vocal abilities, with her singing a perfect complement to her proficient playing.
Ian Mackie (drum/percussion) and Stephen Fisk (guitar/bass/vocals) will accompany Janelle – a fitting selection as Fisk also produced and recorded the album.
Janelle is especially excited to debut the original songs she wrote for the album, many of which were co-written with local songwriter and music heavyweight Jaylene Johnson. For instance, one of the songs, Grant Us Pardon, was influenced by Janelle’s 2014 visit to Rwanda. At an orphanage where she volunteered, Janelle met with genocide victims, and also had a chance to meet with an African father who was forced into war. “He had a wife and eight kids. He had to do the killing in order to guarantee the safety of his own family. That’s what the song Grant Us Pardon is about,” says Janelle. “Who are we to judge, when we don’t know everything about a situation? Sometimes people are forced to make decisions that are extremely difficult. At the end of the day, what is needed is forgiveness.”
While this is Janelle’s first CD, she is already an accomplished musician. In 2008, Janelle graduated from the Harp Performance Program at the University of British Columbia. She has been touring western Canada and the Yukon for the last eight years with the acclaimed music group Winter Harp, which performs Celtic, medieval, and classical music. She has toured with the Canada National Youth Orchestra, Home Routes and Manitoba Arts Council. She plays regularly with the Vancouver Opera and has played in the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, and she has even backed up Kanye West during a Vancouver performance.
Janelle’s interesting musical history has earned her the respect, and attention of others. Winnipeg radio host Ace Burpee (Virgin Radio 103) recently named Janelle one of 100 Most Fascinating Manitobans of 2013 (Janelle was #51 to be precise).
Janelle was also selected as one of five finalists in the On the Coast region of CBC Radio’s Searchlight contest with her song Leavin’ (co-written withJaylene Johnson and Arun Chaturvedi).
For more information, please visit www.janellenadeau.com or contact publicist Janelle Johnson at email@example.com or 204.330.0853.
Thank you so much to everyone for all of your amazing support and I am so looking forward to sharing this with you! To purchase my album, please email me directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Online purchases soon to come!
Over the years, I have often reminded myself to feel grateful for the amazing life that I lead. The simple pleasure of having a warm bed to sleep in and food on the table every day is more than what most have. I rarely think about how those simple day to day luxuries are more than what so many are afforded.
This past February, I had the honour of visiting an orphanage in Rwanda called L’Esperance Rwanda. These children do have the privilege of meals and a bed to sleep in but being with them taught me about life and happiness. They gave me memories that I will cherish for a lifetime.
Below are some of my writings in my journal while I was there.
The Real Story: How is it possible for a child to end up in an orphanage? How is it possible for a single parent to give up his/her child for an orphanage? As an extended family member of a child, how does one allow him/her to live in an orphanage and not in the comfort of their own home?
For most of these children, their mothers died at child birth and their fathers gave them up unknowing, unwilling or unable to care for them. For some of these children, their stories are even more grave.
Most of the people in the countryside can barely put food on the table once a day and for others, there is no food at all.
The government attempts to keep up appearances and tries to implement laws that the country is not yet ready for. One such example is of the government wanting all children to be “accounted for.” As a result, they are closing all orphanages and expecting the children to go live with family who cannot support them, who don’t want them or who will try to kill them in order to own the land that used to belong to the child’s parents. The government seem to forget that the definition of an orphanage is a house for children who are without an able or willing family.
On the topic of the government: it does not support anyone with disabilities because it believes the family should take care of that person. But when that person has no family and no education; what happens? I understand that Rwanda is still a developing country who is desperately trying to emerge from the ashes of the genocide but I can’t help but wonder if it is always the right decisions that are being made.
I sit here in shorts and a T-shirt knowing that I have it all. I am loved and have always have been by many people. The sheer good fortune, wealth, health and security that I have been lucky enough to have in my life is greater than so many will ever know. I knew that already, but now, it is different. I now possess knowledge that will never allow me to go back to the way I used to think.
Erina is in the picture above. I met her my first evening at the orphanage and then I spent most of my time with her. She told me that she could no longer go to school because in September she started having pain and weakness in her legs. I did everything I could to ensure that she would get a proper doctor in the city, we did exercises to strengthen her extremely weak muscles and we did a lot of learning together. She is one of the brightest and coolest people I have ever met and I have such respect for her. We had a bond that I will always treasure.Typically, after a day of studying and hanging out together, the rest of the kids would come back from school, we would work together all afternoon and in the evenings I would listen to them sing in their language and usually do a bit more studying or chatting. The older teenagers were my favourite because they had such depth. They had to grow up way before they should have, but as a result they have turned into these amazing human beings with an enormous amount of strength and maturity.
My Last Night’s Thoughts: The director said he has never cried so hard or laughed as hard as he did here. He has never felt so alive and yet so dead at the same time and never so helpful and yet so hopeless.I cannot think of a better way to summarize my experience here. I have seen so much happiness on these children’s faces as well as a delight and an eagerness to learn, be cared for and to have a bit of attention. Really, a big thing that these kids want is to have people who care about them.
One of the guys said he was sad that I was leaving because not many people sit with them and care about them. I sat with these people every single day. I taught them, I listened to them and loved just being with them joking around and having fun. I am not sure if they will remember me for the rest of their lives but there is no way I will ever forget them during mine.
I never want to forget the feeling I have today of giving and of love. I know that I am meant to be on this earth to give and that is my true “calling.” Real struggle allows true love and happiness to bloom; superficial and material things are not what is most important in life. If at any time I start to feel down on myself for the type of day I am having or for my troubles, I will try to remember that no matter how bad my day is going, someone else is having a worse one.
I want to remember to have the courage to walk off the beaten path, to remember that what I have is more than enough and to remember that giving is truly more gratifying than receiving. I want to remember to follow my heart down the path it leads me no matter how strange or untraveled.
In the summer, I set my alarm for 4:30AM to get up and get ready for a photo shoot. Briar from Epic Events asked me to be a part of the shoot for a feature in the beautiful Heirloom Magazine. As we swatted away mosquitos in the early morning and stepped on dewy grass, the sun began to rise and with the stunning decorations and flowers, the vision of the photo shoot started to unfold. A few months later, and we were given this beautiful spread from the magazine:
I learned a few new design tricks that day:
– Artichokes look beautiful in bouquets.
– A black sequined table cloth can add an understated bit of glamour to a rustic event.
– I love lanterns.
– Hanging flowers are just so beautiful.
– Take the hair elastic off your wrist before a photo shoot.
Now for the beautiful video that Modern Romance Productions put together featuring my song that I cowrote and recorded, “Caught in Between”:
I know I have said this before in my blogs, but sometimes I pinch myself because of the great job I have. Do not get me wrong, even though everything looks so elegant and beautiful, this job is very demanding and has its downfalls. I am often stressed and overwhelmed with what has yet to happen and what isn’t happening. But at the end of the day, I do what I love. Nothing beats a beautiful Vancouver wedding except a beautiful Vancouver wedding with a harpist… : )
Each year the tour starts again and I ask myself that very simple question. That question is magnified when looked at it through the scope of 20 years which is how long Winter Harp has been around. Director and creator, Lori Pappajohn, who is a dear friend and colleague of mine, celebrated this incredible milestone this year. When she asked me to join Winter Harp eight years ago, the magnitude of being asked to play in such a fantastic group had not yet hit me. Today, I feel fortunate to play in a group that tours and touches thousands of people’s lives every year. I also feel that much of my career as a harpist and being a Vancouver based musician can be credited to my dear friend, Lori Pappajohn.
These two videos give a little example of the magic and beauty created by Winter Harp:
From left, the musicians that are playing on stage: Lauri Lyster (percussion), myself (classical harp), Kim Robertson (Celtic Harp), Lori Pappajohn (Celtic Harp).
From left, the musicians that are playing on stage: Patrick Ball (wire strung harp), myself (classical harp), Kim Robertson (Celtic harp), Lori Pappajohn (Celtic harp).
Throughout the years that I have been with Winter Harp, the group has always had small changes in the musicians on stage which keeps it fresh and fun for both the musicians and the audience. Two years ago, a life long dream of mine came true when Kim Robertson joined the group. I wrote my feelings about this on my Facebook Music Page this past December:
“At 3 years old, I told my parents that I wanted to play the harp. Without knowing where to begin, my mom bought me a CD by Kim Robertson. As time passed by, she become an idol of mine. Twenty four years later, I have had the honour and pleasure of sharing the stage with this incredible woman for two tours. I am so thankful the universe has given me this opportunity and has landed me exactly where I feel I am supposed to be. I will continue to pinch myself as the tour rolls along.”
Happy 2014 to all! I wish you much health, happiness and beautiful music.
One of the great perks of the new and updated website is that people get the chance to see what I do and what I am all about. I have had many people in my life tell me that my personality has come through on the website. I have also had many people whom I have never met say that the website has an inviting feel and that they felt like they got to know me just from reading the pages.
Finding my webpage is actually what brought me and one of my recent clients, Rodrozen Designs together. They recently had a breakfast event where people in their industry were invited into their store; I played and sang as the guests mingled. If you need any kind of design or renovation for your home, office and beyond, these are your guys! They have beautiful art work as well.
I absolutely love performing in this setting. I get to share my singing and the beautiful music of the harp, all while playing a diverse set of music and meeting many new people . I am doing what I love and am so happy that my website is helping to spread the word all around Vancouver! To keep it accessible for everyone I try to incorporate: standards, some pop stuff, a little classical and even some of my own songs. People are always surprised by the versatility of my music and the many places in which I play: events, fundraisers, parties and beyond. They are often taken aback by the fact that I am not a stuffy musician but I bring humour and fun to my gigs.
The wonderful photographer for these shots was Mark Whitehead from gettheshot. He has some amazing photos!
If you know of someone or a company having an event, this kind of music would definitely add that “je ne sais quoi” feel as harp music fills the air! Need a musician for hire?- contact me!