Taking a break

Hi Everyone.

It probably goes without saying, but I'm taking a break from blogging for a while. I'm doing a lot of writing and harp playing. I'm reading like crazy. I'm deciding on my new direction.

Things are exciting!

Please follow me on Facebook for daily updates as everything unfolds.

See you soon.
~ Amy



The people who photograph me are the most patient people in the world. I'm terrible behind the camera. I laugh. I wiggle. I start talking right when the shutter clicks. I want do-overs during which I can't keep a straight face.

See what I mean?

The ultra-talented, hot-voiced, artistic Ann Rosenquist Fee is one of those patient saints. She agreed, on Saturday, to come over on Sunday to shoot me. Because I needed shots in a hurry to make concert posters for my "Irish Pub" Harp Concert in a hurry and...yeah...welcome to Amy Kortuem's sometimes really excellent concert planning skills.

And so she took up my digital camera and began. Scene setting, hot whiskey, 300+ photos and lots of deep artistic talk and laughter later, we were done. I loved the results.

But of course, there were outtakes. And I'm going to share them because I think sometimes the process of a person's art is just as (if not more) fascinating than seeing the final product without knowing that process. (And because I think they're really, really, really funny.)

Here was that process. Enjoy.

Here it comes...

...wait for it...

...laugh attack.

Totally hopeless.

 Ann: "Amy. Give me back the camera. Now."

Much better. Look at those blurry fingers. I'm shredding it.

Wait, how are my shoes? (I'm distracted by shiny things.)

Leaning on it.


Wait, how's my hair?

Wait, I need more lip gloss. Chanel #158 - Braise.

What's that you say?

You say there's whiskey on the table behind me?

Why, yes there is! There IS whiskey on the table behind me!
However did that get there?

 Now we're getting somewhere.

And...it's a keeper.

Thanks, Ann. I owe you. Just imagine what we could do with really good cameras.

And I hope everyone can come and see me play in person. I promise, no giggles (riiiight).


How they do it in Ireland...

A pub in Dingle. A flute. A guitar.
Tiny. Packed. Silent, except for the music.
And the clinking of glasses.

And down the street, these guys. 
Freshly showered, but with mud still on their shoes.
One look at each other, and they began a tune. Perfect unison.

And then the piper joined in.

And the whistler player and the drummer and flute player...

...and the glasses clinked.

And so. At my concert on the 16th, it will be me. The harp. A cozy, intimate place. I hope it will be packed (get your tickets now!). Music. The clinking of glasses. 

I hope you can join me for it.


Something new: "Irish Pub" Harp Concert March 16th

There was a moment during my holiday concert in November. I'd finished a piece, the applause was over, and I just looked out into the crowd of wonderful people who'd come to see me. And I told them it was time for a serious talk.

I've known that I wanted to change the way I do my concerts and performances for a while. But you know how, sometimes, you desperately want to change but you have no idea what to do or how to do it? So I decided to just tell my audience that.

 That I was thinking big thoughts. Dreaming big dreams. 
Wanting so much for new ways of doing what I love. 

And I told them I didn't know what I would be doing for any future concerts. And then I asked them: Would they come along with me for the musical ride, no matter what format or style of music sharing I decided to do in the future?

I'll never forget the sea of nodding heads and smiling faces in front of me. My heart caught in my throat with relief and joy and freedom. Freedom to do whatever I want musically, knowing that my people would be there with me, behind me, in front of me.

And so here it is: my first new thing. And it's just in time for St. Patrick's Day.

"Irish Pub" Harp Concert
an exclusive evening with Harpist Amy Kortuem

When I was thinking about what I wanted to do for an Irish concert, I kept coming back to the feeling I got when I was in the music pubs in Ireland. The intimate settings, the avid listening, the warmth of the people crushed into the small spaces, the joyful music-making. Less "show" and more sharing art in an informal setting. And I knew I meeded to go it alone for this concert. The coordination, the details and the energy of the holiday concert were fantastic, but it was a lot - I needed to go simpler, go solo.

And so I decided to re-create an Irish music pub experience here, in my own hometown. I'm an affiliate of the Twin Rivers Council for the Arts in Mankato and will be holding the concert in the lovely gallery of the Emy Frentz Council for the Arts. I can cram in about 50 people, a few more, Irish pub-like. Pub 500 will be hosting a cash bar for audience refreshment (yeah, you don't want to hear me play after I've been "refreshed..."). The atmosphere will be warm, close and informal. We'll talk, laugh, share stories about the music. Genuine playing. Intense listening. I can't wait.

The thought makes me happy.
Very happy.

Space at the Gallery is very limited, and so I'm making my foray into selling advance tickets so there'll be no risk or rush at the door. Tickets are $20 and available at Tune Town (630 North Riverfront Drive, Mankato) and Music Mart (1014 North Riverfront Drive, Mankato).

And you can get them from me by emailing me at harpist@amykortuem.com or calling me at 507-387-2564. 

I can't wait to see you there, nodding along to the music.


I've had the flu. And I've been sad.

Cough. Cough-cough. Hack. Hack-hack. Nose blow, nose blow, nose blow...

Such has been my routine for almost two weeks now. The flu never comes at a good time. But it came at an especially bad time for this harpist-singer.

I had to play at a wedding last Friday. Everything was fine until I had a coughing fit during the psalm, but the guests sang on and I managed to play to the end. The sweet bride told me everything was still beautiful. Oh, how nice.

I had a booth at the Mankato Bridal Show last Saturday. Handed out hundreds of fliers and business cards to hundreds of brides, played Canon in D for hours on end.

And then, on Monday, I played at the funeral of my friend Lisa, who "went to Heaven" as her mother told me, last Wednesday. I was so worried that I'd not be able to sing How Great Thou Art and O Holy Night, as Lisa requested. I was terrorized by the memory of that coughing fit at that wedding last Friday. My voice had to hold out. I had to make it through, for Lisa and her family. I had to.

So I did lots of gentle practicing in the days leading up to the funeral. Got lots of rest, drank gallons and gallons of tea, took everything my wonderful pharmacist put in my cart.

Harry helped with the practicing. Oh, good kitty.

I decided I would be just fine. Everything would be fine. My voice would be fine, I would play just fine. And everything was coming along just...fine...

...until Lisa's mom brought this over to my house 
the day before the funeral.

It's a gift basket Lisa got for me at a benefit four days before she died. She'd texted me allllll day long about getting me one, I texted back with "no, you don't have to do that," she texted back with, "yes, I'm going to anyway." And she did. It wasn't even noon when Lisa's mom dropped it off. I popped the cork anyway and poured a glass to honor Lisa and to stop the tears that I knew would flow and stuff me up and cause a coughing fit. 

The funeral on Monday WAS fine. My voice did hold out. My harp sang and put forth that beauty and healing that only it can do. I felt it change the atmosphere in the church. I didn't cough. I didn't cry. I did my job. I did it. But I've been so sad ever since. At the loss of Lisa. At the loss of a friend. At the unfairness and ugliness of cancer. All of it. 

But Harry came to the rescue again. 
He flapped his tail right into my face the night of the funeral
and he kept it there for an hour. 
Oh, good kitty.

Oh, goodbye, Lisa. I'll miss you, my friend.


Christmas knitting

Somehow...magically, miraculously...I carved out some hours from my holiday playing to knit some things for my Mom. I always like to do  something special and handmade for Christmas for her. And this year it was this:

A little knitted and felted and needle felted and beaded purse.
All pointy and cute and asymmetrical and fairy-like for my Mom,

Knitting to felt (or full, I guess it's technically called, but felt sounds nicer) is a crazy process. You start out with a big, floppy, shapeless piece of knitted fabric...

(looks like a pair of stretched-out socks, doesn't it?)

...and then you put it in the washing machine on hot and cold and spin and voila...

...you get this thick, lovely, wonderful piece of fabric!

Before I stitched it together, I needle felted on some designs and added some beads. I love needle felting. It's a good thing to do when you need to get out some frustrations - it's a lot of stabbing with a sharp needle but with lovely results.

 A close-up of the results. LOVE.

I have to give credit where credit is due, however...my friend Melinda raised the Icelandic sheep that grew the wool that was spun into the yarn I used to knit this lovely piece. You can find out more about Melinda's yarn on her etsy page: http://www.etsy.com/shop/WellspringWoolens

 And I did have some design help from SamTheCat.
Thanks for choosing that green roving, kitty.
It was perfect.

Now I'm on to more knitting - with some beautiful yellow yarn from Ireland (that I brought back from my last trip to Dingle). I'll keep you posted on the progress of that.

Ah, January. I love the knitting breaks you offer between writing bursts!


The best cures for the Mankato Flu

I caught it, despite positive thinking, hand washing, crowd avoidance and lots of vitamins.
Now I'm pulling all my favorite cures:

Naps under a Hungarian goose down comforter
Vats of hot tea
A good book

...and a Jingle Belle cat.