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News from Magic Hill – November 2008

The life of Magical Strings and family continues to be full of joy.  Our most exciting news came just before our departure for our annual East Coast Spring tour.  Haydn Patrick was born to Brenin and Sara and we were able to hold him, sing to him and compose a lullaby on the harp which will be debuted at our 30 Annual Yuletide Concert.  At seven months, Haydn is already showing a predilection toward dance and joviality; not surprising since his mother is leader of the Raney Irish dancers, and his sister Rowan has already won many dancing awards. 

Our entire family will be returning home for the final weekend of Yuletide.   Brenin, the cellist, who lives here in the Northwest will be performing at all of our concerts, so you might catch a glimpse of his little Haydn while watching Rowan bring the stage to life with her exquisite Irish dancing. Our daughter Brittany, who currently is in New York City playing her violin day and night all over the Eastern territories, will be flying home just in time for the Tacoma, Seattle and Mt Vernon shows. She has been informed that if she doesn’t play a solo at this year’s Yuletide, there might be rioting in the hall.  Geoffrey who lives in Rhode Island will be bringing his whole family home for the concerts and the Christmas season.  His darling little girls, Kailey and Lindsey who graced the stage last year on violin and harp can be seen in this years Yuletide photo. Lindsey is holding the little gnome and Kailey is standing right next to Pam.   Morgan and Marshall will also be flying in from Philadelphia and Providence.  Marshall has two little girls, whom you might only know by their lullabies, “Margaret’s Arrival” and “Bridget’s Lullaby” (both appearing on Philip’s solo Harp CD Musings). Suffice it to say that everyone is doing exceedingly well, and we can hardly wait to have them all home, where the celebration begins!

This is our 30th year of playing together as a family at Yuletide and we are going to celebrate!!!.  To honor the occasion, Pam and I have put together a 2-CD compilation of our favorite pieces from recordings dating back to 1980 PDA (Pre Digital Age!) when we released our first, Glass Horse, on cassette only.  Drawing from nine major recordings, several of which are now out of print, Best of Magical Strings – Dances and Dreams took a natural direction of organization: CD-I will energize your day, and CD-II will bring restfulness to your night.  We’re quite excited about it, and know that you will enjoy it too!  And that is just the beginning of the celebration—for the rest, you will have to come to Yuletide to experience for yourself!

Amidst the music and the planning, I am still finishing harps for my many wonderful students, and enjoying my teaching life immensely as the School of Magical Strings reaches out from Magic Hill to Bremerton (Harrison Hospital) and from Seattle to Bellevue.  Many people are discovering the simple yet profound joy that the harp brings to players and listeners alike.  We had one of our most successful Magic Hill Summer Harp and Dulcimer Camps ever, and later in the summer children were building fairy houses and dancing about Magic Hill at Fairy School with Pam’s singing, painting and playing the lyre in our studio.   Pam continues teaching the lyre on instruments designed and built in our studio, to children at the Bright Water School (the Waldorf School on Capitol Hill where I now hold my Seattle harp classes.) Pam also is quite committed to her practicing of the movement art of eurythmy. Last May after our annual East Coast performing tour she spent a month at Spring Valley Eurythmy in New York then traveled on to Charleston to see our Brittany perform as violin soloist at Spoleto Festival USA. In the month before Yuletide Brittany will be performing Vivaldi’s Four Seasons as soloist with the New Haven Symphony, one of the many orchestras of whom she is a member. We can’t wait for you to hear her play her solo this year at Yuletide!

Our joy reaches out to all of you with hopes that you will celebrate with us this upcoming Yuletide Season—keep in touch, and keep the light burning brightly!

Philip and Pam Boulding

Previous Newsletters

Yuletide 2006 Greeting

What is Celtic Yuletide?  It's a festival of light, a celebration of family and tradition, a gala that weaves together music and dance, singing, story-telling and juggling into an unforgettable experience of holiday joy.   As our family has grown, so has the community of musicians, artists, and fans with which we are proud to be associated.  They have all become part of our family, and we invite you to join us as well for this our 28th annual Celtic Yuletide Concert series.  What better way to celebrate the light overcoming darkness, when our thoughts turn to peace on earth, than to revel in the harmonies of angels!

  Three generations of families and artist will come together this year, making our Celtic Yuletide Concerts more spectacular than ever.   Enjoy the sounds of the seven-plus member Boulding family, who bring you Celtic harps, hammered dulcimers, violins, cello, whistles and concertina.  Joining us will be the Raney family Irish dancers, led by our daughter-in-law Sara; look especially for Sara and Brenin’s "little tornado," seven-year-old Rowan, who will light up the dance floor in full Irish regalia.  Also part of the concert series will be lyrical juggler extraordinaire Thomas Arthur and master Irish piper Tom Creegan.   New to this year's program is the dynamic Scottish music band The McKassons, comprised of Ryan McKasson on fiddle and his sister Cali McKasson on piano, along with Ryan's wife Brooke on vocals and brother-in-law Matt Jerrell on percussion.   In the final weekend of concerts, Brittany will return home to offer a soaring violin solo along with her lively Irish fiddling, and the classic Celtic tale of St. Bridget will be accompanied by eurythmy and harp.  And because we consider you, our audience, as part of our family, we wish to involve you in the fun with an opportunity to don a costume and dance through the Great Hall as in the days of old.   Rounding out our group of gifted artists, Mark Raney will lead us all in songs of the season, closing with a rousing rendition of "All Through the Night."

The Yuletide season is an opportunity to reflect on the blessings of the past, attend to the needs of those around us, and envision a better world to come.  Please join us this year as we celebrate this time of renewal, reconciliation, and goodwill to all!  

Update Brief on the Boulding family—
Starting with our youngest:  Brittany our star violinist, at 24 is in Los Angeles finishing up her graduate studies at Colburn Conservatory after performing at the Tanglewood Music Center all summer.  Among the highlights were her performances of a beautiful Brahms Sonata, and quartets of Mozart and Shostakovich at the Seiji Ozawa Hall, sitting as assistant concertmaster with the Boston Symphony in a concert under the direction of John Williams, having some moments with
Yo-Yo Ma, and studying with the brilliant violinist Pamela Frank.  Following those two months in western Massachusetts, she gave a stunning recital in Maine where we were all witness to her maturing artistry.  Our whole family gathered for a reunion on Penobscot Bay where we sailed, swam in crystal clear lakes, spent a glorious few days on a light house island composing music by day and reading poetry at night. . . . . .  Joining us in Maine were Marshall and Abby  with their two darling daughters, seven-month-old Bridget and expert sandcastle builder two-and-a -half year old Margaret.  While visiting them on our spring tour last April, we were inspired to compose a lullaby for little Bridget, to be debuted at this year’s Yuletide!  That same journey also took us to Philadelphia for a visit with our son Morgan and his wife Lara, who spends long hours buried in medical studies.  They both graced us with a lovely visit to Magic Hill this summer while she fulfilled her first residency/rotation with doctors in the Northwest.  Brenin, our cellist, continues to spend long hours at the Raney family chemistry lab in Seattle with his wife Sara, leader of the Raney Irish Dancers.  Their little Rowan can hardly wait to be performing on stage at this year’s Yuletide season, she has become quite the dancer and is already competing at Northwest Irish Dance Feis.  Our eldest, Geoffrey, who joined us in Maine this summer for our family’s reunion, is enjoying his new position at Brown University in Providence, immersed in electron-microscopy, while his wife Erin keeps busy as director of collections for Johnson and Wales University’s culinary museum.  They recently bought a charming house near the river and park, where six-year-old Kailey and one-and-a-half-year-old Lindsey can walk and play.  It is a special bonus for us that we can visit two families and 4 of our 5 granddaughters within 20 minutes of each other while on spring tour!

It gives us great joy to see our children working creatively in the world, and bringing up beautiful children who will no doubt tackle a very challenging world in the future (it’s beginning to look like the Matriarchy is due to take over…)  Magical Strings harp on MauiAs for Pam and Philip, we have been enjoying our creative life here on Magic Hill.  We often manage to slip away, however,  and it was last February that we found ourselves on a beautiful tour in Maui, giving workshops, school programs, and concerts culminating at one of our favorite spots—the quaint little St. John’s church in Kula, on the mountainside of the great Haleakala with an unforgettable view over this tropical island paradise!  Imagine listening to Philip’s newly composed slack-key style lullaby on Celtic harp, ‘Ohana Kai’, while the sun is setting over the world with a slowly changing panorama of spectacular colors… you’re all invited next time, with plenty of Aloha to go around! 

Meanwhile, Philip has been enjoying his work in the shop building and designing harps (look for the new “mid-size Oladion”, a portable 4-octave range from low G with the sound of a concert harp!), while Pam has been spending time in Portland for intensive weekends of eurythmy training as well as another year of teaching lyre to children at the Bright Water Waldorf School in Seattle.   This August we hosted our 6th annual Summer Harp Camp here on Magic Hill to a marvelous group of students from all over the Northwest and beyond (including California and Colorado).  At the close of the summer Pam and I took a sojourn to the Olympic Peninsula and the wilds of the Washington Coast, camping, writing, and taking in the elements to rejuvenate us before the onset of our fall schedule of teaching, harp-making, and Yuletide preparations. We continue to enjoy making music together —especially our spring tour’s grand-finale of a standing-room-only concert at the Kennedy Center on the Millennium Stage!  Coincidentally, the McKassons also had a debut on the same stage this past year—our paths have just been waiting to cross! 

Now we are preparing for the culmination of our year—the pooling, condensing, collaborating and synthesizing of many talents and experiences into the blazing festival of Yuletide!  It has been a special treat to work with the McKasssons, and we’re getting into high gear for a rollicking 28th season!

*Read on below for more news and history on the Boulding family written January of 2006.

Epiphany 2006—Reflections from Magic Hill

On this sixth day of January we celebrate the Kings’ visit to the Christ-child. It is the time when we reflect upon the festival of Christmas, our Celtic Yuletide journey and the year past before we look to what our tasks are for the future. 

It has been a year of abundant grace for us.  Nearly everyone was home for the final weekend of our 27th Annual Celtic Yuletide Concert season, with the exception of Marshall and Abby.  They are awaiting the arrival of two-year-old Margaret’s first sibling. In preparation for this mid-January event, Marshall, who manages his own business designing and building homes, is putting the finishing touches on a beautiful new “spa/bathroom” for their little farmhouse in Warren, Rhode Island. Abby, in her third year of teaching fourth grade, is hoping to continue working right up until delivery.

It was at this very same time last January that Geoffrey and Erin gave birth to their second child, Lindsey Gwen. With always a smile upon her face she brings much happiness to the whole family, especially to 5-year-old Kailey. “Grandmommy” swiftly made her way to Lansing, Michigan to sing lullabies to granddaughter number four.   Philip had to postpone his meeting with Lindsey until the spring as he was headed for Oregon to record two double-CD albums of solo harp and solo hammered dulcimer (available on our website: www.magicalstrings.com.)

Both Pam and Philip resumed their teaching schedules, Pam with lyre classes at the Bright Water Waldorf School in Seattle and Philip with harp classes at our own School of Magical Strings in Seattle and Olalla. Along with local Magical Strings performances, we began an extensive school tour lasting until early March. We presented assemblies and workshops for over 5,000 children, giving a hands-on experience with our own hand made harps and dulcimers while treating the students to some of our favorite Celtic and original music and stories.  For a month afterwards we were flooded with heart-warming letters from hundreds of children.  One second-grader handed us a note: “Thank you so much. Now I’ve found what I have been missing in my life —music!  I want to learn to play the harp, and when I do, I will make it rock!”  A teacher shared with us that for this little girl, school and family life were very difficult.       

Our spring performing tour began in Virginia on St. Patrick’s Day – the earliest ever.  The tour included workshops and a concert at the Upper Potomac Dulcimer Festival in scenic Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia, then a full circuit from Virginia to New Hampshire and back.  We managed to fit in wonderful visits with family and dear friends: a little “side-trip” to Lansing for Easter with Geoffrey and family, precious moments with Philip’s mother outside of Boston and on Cape Cod, a few days with Marshall and family in Rhode Island and finally a brief stay in Philadelphia with Morgan and Lara.  Morgan is currently working for a small high-end construction company as foreman and master of many tasks while his wife Lara pursues her second year at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.  They both keep incredibly busy schedules but find time to go birding, run a few side businesses and jet off to Iceland on a study break!   Our East Coast tour came to a beautiful close with almost all of our family coming together to celebrate the Christening of the youngest, Lindsey at the Virginia home of her other grandparents, the Marvins.

Upon returning home, Philip went back into the studio to record another 2-CD set of Christmas music for solo harp while Pam’s niece Phoebe joined the family for a visit and began working in the Magical Strings office.  June found us off and traveling again.  First to San Diego to welcome little Sevilla into the world, born to our niece Carew and her husband Aaron.  We love Carew like a daughter.  (She came to live with us one year when she was in high school and later attended UW in Seattle.) Then we traveled straight away to Breckenridge Colorado, where our darling daughter and concert violinist Brittany was in residence with the National Repertory Orchestra.  The highlight of the summer and perhaps even the year was to experience Brittany’s spectacular solo performance of Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto with the NRO under the baton of guest conductor Larry Rachleff (Music Director for the Shepherd School Symphony at Rice University – Brittany’s Alma Mater.)  Philip, with an early birthday present in hand, was able to capture the performance on video!
 
We made it back to Olalla just in time to welcome Marshall, Abby and nineteen-month-old Margaret for her first adventure on Magic Hill.  With visits to the zoo, ferry boat rides and a picnic in the pasture with friends and family we are hoping that she will want to return every summer to be with her “Mamala and Papa.”

The rest of the summer included Pam’s teaching painting and music to children in our studio, a week-long eurythmy workshop in Portland, Philip’s building and displaying of fine harps and dulcimers at Northwest art fairs, festival performances and our hosting the 6th Annual Magic Hill Summer Harp and Dulcimer Camp.  Philip built nearly twenty harps and sold most of them before the weekend was over.  Pam and Philip taught dulcimer and harp while Brenin, Sara and Rowan cooked and served gourmet vegan meals for fifty people—it was our best summer camp yet!

Harp camp was followed with a lovely visit from our dear friend Virginia Peterson who at 84 was just beginning to walk again after an accident on a ship the year before.  Soon she will be travelling the world on another ship!  Pam’s older sister, Peggy traveled from Maine to join us for Wagner’s Ring cycle—a deeply edifying experience and an unforgettable and loving time together for sisters. Brittany returned for a brief visit just in time to join us for two of the operas before returning to her second year of graduate studies at the Colburn Conservatory in Los Angeles, where she was among a few students worldwide accepted to study with Robert Lipsett after her graduation from Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music in 2004.

Philip and Pam’s wonderfully long summer came to a close with a weekend sailing cruise to the San Juan Islands.  The winds were gusting at 35 knots, we were fully reefed and Pam was thrilled to be at the helm.  Our friend, the skipper and boat builder, was explaining to Philip that the line across the water far off in the distance was a convergence, where winds moving in two different directions come up against one-another.  “So, if we sailed to that line,” Philip asked, “and I took out my harp and began to play, we would have a harmonic convergence?”  Without missing a beat, his 10-year-old daughter replied, “No, we would have a Philharmonic convergence.”

In late September we found ourselves once again on the road, this time heading south for a West Coast performing tour.  Our Bay area concerts were scheduled at just the right time! We were able to celebrate with Brittany after she won her first symphony audition.  She is now a first violinist in the Oakland East Bay Symphony the under the direction of Michael Morgan.  In Los Angeles a few days later Brittany was able to join us on stage for our grand-finale concert just before she departed for Houston where she gave a stunning solo recital.

Philip drove home from LA to prepare for his full registration of fall harp classes, while Pam flew directly to Providence to spend precious time with the three East Coast granddaughters and to visit Geoffrey in his new office!  In August Geoffrey moved his family from Lansing Michigan, to Providence Rhode Island where he, in keeping with his talents, accepted a position managing the Bio-imaging facility of the Biology and Medical Division at Brown University. Erin has just accepted a position as the Collections Manager for Johnson and Wales University’s Culinary Archives and Museum in Providence.  Kailey and Lindsey love living near their cousin Margaret and making frequents visit to the farm only twenty minutes away.

Finally back at Magic Hill, we both began preparing for our Yuletide concert season. Yuletide could not be possible were it not for Brenin, Sara, and 5-year-old Rowan. We feel so fortunate that they live close by in Seattle where they work together managing the Raney family chemistry lab. Brenin plays a major cello-role with Magical Strings throughout the year, while Sara leads her sisters as the Raney Irish dancers at all of our concerts, and teaches and runs the Tara Academy of Irish Dance. In the midst of all this they are also homeschooling Rowan, even “Grandmama” has enjoyed participating with storytelling, singing, lyre playing and painting. This year at Yuletide Rowan danced a fancy reel to Philip’s new toy-accordion piece!  He has taken up this tiny instrument as a light-hearted balance to his 30 years of harp playing, quoting the Gary Larson cartoon:  “Welcome to heaven, here’s your harp/ Welcome to hell, here’s your accordion!”
 
Many of the concerts were sold out, and the little cousins had endless fun playing with one-another. Lindsey made her Yuletide debut, in full Irish costume, clanging away on the glockenspiel for the opening “Love Came Down at Christmas,” and with her aunt, uncle and parents played a star role as the babe in our story about kings and shepherds.  Brittany commanded instant standing ovations for her solo violin performances of Ravels electrifying “Tzigane.”   As the audience began to settle down Philip remarked “Did we really give birth to this child?” to which Pam quickly replied “No, my dearest—I did!” More than a few tears were shed during the harp/cello/violin trio on “Farewell,” in contrast to the lively Irish dances and processional that had the entire audience clapping along.  Philip’s mother Elise, at 85, can no longer travel to these as events as she used to in earlier days with Kenneth, but has been kept in close touch from her place at North Hill.  Philip asked if she had a message for our audiences. She replied: “We all need to find peace within ourselves in our daily lives, and then figure out how to connect that with all those around us, and to the world.”

Christmas was celebrated with almost everyone home; the New Year was approached in prayerful silence with family and friends, and then greeted joyfully outside with the ringing of bells and gongs.   As the winds and rains fill these Northwest winter days, we anticipate with determination the challenge of the year to come, and look forward to the warmth and light returning to our earth and to seeing many of you, our dear family and friends, again.

Philip and Pam Boulding

Past Year's letters 2005 2004  2003

 

 

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