Mar 29, 2010

An Interview With Halley Weaver - Portland's 'Zero Emissions Harpist'

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Halley Weaver - Portland, Oregon's 'zero emissions harpist'
Halley Weaver, Portlands very own "zero emissions harpist" will be playing at the 'Night of The Living Bards' in Portland, Oregon on October 7th. This event is part of the Left Coast Eisteddfod 2010. Americymru spoke to Halley about her love for the harp and her future musical plans.

Americymru: You have been described as Portland's "zero emissions harpist". Can you explain this for our readers?

Halley: Many harpists, whether folk or classical, get from gig to gig by use of large station wagons, even to the extent of small panel trucks. When traveling around the city of Portland, I opt to use my bike and a custom-made trailer whenever possible. When the bike and trailer aren't appropriate, as in the case of very severe weather, I take public transportation. This is sometimes, annoying, to say the least, but it's great to talk to people on the bus, curious about the harp!

Americymru: What attracted you to the harp? How long have you been playing it?

Halley: As a little girl, I was in love with fantasy books, medieval history, fantasy role-playing games, etc. At some point, a switch went off in my mind and I wanted to play the folk harp. There was no epiphany moment while at a Celtic festival or while watching a movie. I just decided. I don't even recall having any "harp contact" before I got my first one. I do remember drawing a little "savings meter" and marking it off with red marker every time I saved money for my harp fund. It took a couple years of persistence before my parents deemed I was serious about this infatuation. That was almost 12 years ago, and I know that they don't regret finally giving in to my whim!

Americymru: We learn from your site ( link ) that you were, at least initially self-taught. How difficult was it to learn to play the harp?

Halley: This is my dad's favorite story. When I got my first harp, I was also given a "teach yourself" book. I spent the entire day in my room devouring the book and the next morning at breakfast, I performed the first few songs in the book to my family. I remember there were times when I was extremely discouraged and frustrated. Felt clumsy, stiff-fingered and slow. But then, there are times last week when I felt like that while practicing! It's definitely an act of love, though. And as with most love, sometimes I'm a little blind to the less-than-stellar times.

Americymru: What is your typical repertoire? What kind of events do you perform at?

Halley: My repertoire is so fluidly organic and changes (sometimes on a daily basis!). I peform an eclectic collection on traditional folk and Celtic pieces. I really enjoy dance tunes; jigs, reels, etc so a lot of my music has a very bright, springy flow to it. I've played a variety of venues from retirement centers, weddings, funerals, corporate banquets, Renaissance fairs, churches, craft fairs, art galleries and street corners. I've become pretty versatile to performing in a bunch of unique environments. It's always a lot of fun and everyone has their different charm.

Americymru: Do you plan to release any cd's in he near future? Is there anywhere online where people can hear your music?

Halley: I have been in the long, long process of trying to get a CD recorded on a very limited budget. I've started actually two different times last year and because of my very generous recording friends' schedules, things have fallen through both times. Third time, being the charm, I am taking my time and saving my pocket change so that I can afford to get it professionally done. But regardless, I am hoping by the end of summer to have the CD out. Music samples will be available at my website by the end of April, but until there, there is my gig webpage at:

Americymru: You have been involved with the SCA ( Society for Creative Anachronisms ). Care to tell us a little more about your involvement with the organisation?

Halley: I was involved in the SCA in northwest Washington for a number of years. It was a deeply rewarding experience where I volunteered for many of their public demos, teaching children and adults all sorts of nifty things from chainmail to fencing, making bread, working wool and about period instruments. I became my "barony's" ambassador to the "East Kingdom" when I went away to school in Massachusetts and then later to "Artemesia" (Utah). While my membership has lapsed and I currently don't have the time to dedicate to such a fun, educational non-profit, I still have tons of photos all over and my "Award of Arms" framed and hanging in my art space. (I still plan family visits to Washington around events, "accidently" though, so I can duck in and say hi to friends!)

Americymru: Have you ever accompanied other musicians or do you always perform solo?

Halley: I regularly "jam" with other musicians whether it's in my home or during a pub's monthly "session." I love impromptu jams on the street corners and have met some amazing people that way and some really great friends. I have performed a few times with violins, flutes, guitars and piano. Am looking forward to some future projects this summer with folk, gypsy/klezmer and just some crazy musicians!

Americymru: Is there any performance that you are particularly proud of? Any memorable incidents whilst performing?

Halley: I have performed for audiences of over 2000 people. I have performed for huge, gorgeous weddings set in amazing locations. However, the performances that really stick in my mind are playing for retirement centers and events where it's smaller, more intimate - where people can ask questions and I get to mingle and really meet the people that I am playing for. I have many, many memorable incidents, but one in particular that I love is playing at the Waterfront Park in Portland, which is a paved multi-use path along the river. During the early summer last year, there were a lot of muscle guys jogging. Not one would make visible eye-contact with me, but quiet a few would stop within earshot as their spontaneous place to stop and do calf stretches on the handrails.

Americymru: What kind of music do you listen to? Are there any performers that you draw inspiration from?

Halley: I listen to a lot of country/folk rock music. Andrew Bird, Billy Bragg, Robyn Hitchcock, The Mountain Goats, Casey Neill and the Norway Rats, just to name a few. My first love with celtic pub music was with a Winnipeg band, The Dust Rhinos. 10 years later, they're still my favorite band. I don't know if I draw inspiration from any particular performer. I do know that the first time I heard Robyn Hitchcock though, I was inspired to begin writing my own music and get the bug every time I go to a live show to run home and work on music.

Americymru: Any final message for the members and readers of Americymru?

Halley: I want to say something cheesy about following your bliss, but you know, without making it sound cheesy. I just know that I have worked a lot of jobs; marketing, tech support, food service, etc and while I've had some jobs that I've really liked, I love being a performer and educator. Last summer, I was able to successfully support myself by harp alone and I am really hoping to continue with that trend through this summer. Not everyone has the lifestyle that they can drop everything and start over, but I was given that opportunity two years ago, and I have been truly happy with my decision since.

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