Harp Guitars Under the Stars

Harp Guitars Under Stars CoverHarp Guitars Under the Stars
John Doan and Muriel Anderson
CD Price $16.50

A first ever collection of harp guitar duets, this CD was several years in the making and promises to be a landmark work. Muriel Anderson and John Doan, two virtuosos of harp guitar, bring their talents and imaginations together for this remarkable collection of music. Their harp guitars combined comprise a total of thirty-three strings and create a richly detailed nightscape of sound.

Share in this journey – wander among the stars and return back again.

  1. View From Space (4:38) (Muriel Anderson)
  2. Starry Night (5:21) (John Doan)
    Play
  3. Vincent (Starry Starry Night) (5:04) (Don McLean, based on arrangement by Chet Atkins)
  4. When The Stars Come Out (4:23)(John Doan)
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  5. The Gathering (3:56) (Muriel Anderson)
  6. The Old Church of Kilronan (4:15) (John Doan)
  7. Always On My Way Home (4:12) (Muriel Anderson)
  8. Why Worry (3:54) (Mark Knopfler, based on an arrangement by Dan DeVries
  9. Harp Guitars Under The Stars (4:08) (John Doan)
  10. Avocado Minuet (2:32) (Muriel Anderson)
  11. Riding The Low Moon (4:01)(M. Williams, arr. John Doan)
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  12. Velzoe’s Garden (3:01) (Muriel Anderson)
  13. Harp Guitar Dreams (3:40) (John Doan)
  14. Farewell (4:31) (John Doan arr: Muriel Anderson)
  15. Little Sister’s Child (4:03) (Muriel Anderson, arr: John Doan)

Tracks 1, 5, 7, 10, 12, 15 © Muriel Anderson, Heartstrings Attached Music, BMI
Tracks 2, 4, 6, 9, 13, 14 © John Doan, Heirloom Serenades, BMI
Track 3 Don Mclean © 1971 Berny Bird Music, Universal Music Publishing Group
Track 8 Mark Knopfler © 1985 Almo Music Corp. ASCAP
Track 11 Mason Williams © 1990 Weems Music Co. (BMI)
Cover art by Van Gogh & Muriel Anderson based from photo by Deirdra Doan.

The Artists

Muriel Anderson is the first woman to have won the National Fingerpicking Guitar Championship, and is founder of the Muriel Anderson’s All Star Guitar Night and the Music for Life Alliance charity. Her CDs include “Harp Guitar Christmas” and “New World Flamenco,” a collaboration with Tierra Negra. Her obvious joy of life is reflected in her music, and her website includes photos and recipes from the road as she tours year-round.

John Doan has starred in and produced an Emmy-nominated television production (Victorian Christmas With John Doan seen on PBS) among other television and DVD productions and his Eire CD won “Best Celtic Album of the Year.” With three decades of acclaimed recordings and performances he continues here his pioneering efforts to promote the twenty-string harp guitar as an instrument whose time has come.

The Instruments

The harp guitar, once popular in America and Europe a century ago, has been experiencing a renaissance in our own times. A six-string guitar at its heart the harp guitar extends the range in the bass and on John’s instrument in the super-trebles as well to approximate the range of the piano. Unlike the piano there is added nuance of being able to touch the strings to create slides, bends, harmonics and vibratos.

Muriel’s harp guitar, built by Mike Doolin, has 13 nylon strings (6 regular and 7 sub-bass). Smaller than a regular harp guitar, it is generally tuned a minor third higher and is the first harp guitar that employs her and Doolin’s innovation of half-step tuners in the sub-basses. She also plays a steel string harp guitar by David Taylor on track #5. Inspired by John Doan, her new harp guitar by Mike Doolin also has eight extra super-treble strings.

John’s harp guitar, built by John Sullivan with Jeffrey Elliott, has 20 strings including 6 standard steel strings, 6 nylon sub-bass and 8 steel super-treble harp strings. John commissioned this instrument in 1986 and it is now heralded as the “First Modern Harp Guitar” by the Guild of American Luthiers.

The Stories Behind the Music

The following descriptions are by each artist about the various songs.

1. View From Space (Muriel Anderson)
Some years ago astronaut Susan Helms had picked up one of my Heartstrings recordings and told me that “it would be good music to watch the earth by.” It traveled with her 2.5 million miles on the space shuttle “Discovery.” With my harp guitar in my lap, I composed “View from Space” while watching the beautiful images that were taken from the space shuttle.

2. Starry Night (John Doan)
While visiting Arles, France I noticed markers around the village with information and reproductions of Van Gogh paintings that were originally created at each location. He arrived there in 1888 and had the most happy and productive period in his painting career over the following year. I sat at night in the exact location where he painted his now famous “Starry Night.” I tried to capture his childlike awe for the setting in what appears to have been a moment of peace in an otherwise troubled life.

3. Vincent (Starry, Starry, Night)
(Don McClean, arr: Chet Atkins, prelude by John Doan)
Don McClean wrote this song about Vincent Van Gogh, beginning with the line “Starry starry night.” When I first met Chet Atkins, he played his arrangement for me and I was enthralled by its beauty. A few weeks later he sent me a tape of this and other pieces he recorded for me in his basement. Over the years the arrangement has evolved, as though the notes were telling me how they wanted to be played. John adds a beautiful harmony part and composed the gently sparkling prelude and postlude.

4. When The Stars Come Out (John Doan)
One summer night I sat watching the stars awaken one by one as the light of day slipped off to its evening slumber. They seemed so quiet and distant at first and in a waking dream grew into a choir of celestial harmony. A solo voice, a fallen piece of heaven, streaked the void as the concert continued until dawn.

5. The Gathering (Muriel Anderson)
This piece was inspired by the Harp Guitar Gathering, a time a small group of harp guitarists from around the world come together for camaraderie and sharing music until late into the night. It was at this event I first heard John Doan, and envisioned this project together.

6. The Old Church of Kilronan (John Doan)
In a small churchyard just outside the quiet hamlet of Alderford, Ireland, Turlough O’Carolan’s grave lies here within the walls of the old church of Kilronan. With the oak beams and slate pilings gone, the remains of Ireland’s greatest harpist now have an unobstructed view of the firmament of stars. I sat there wondering if a song or two played 300 years ago by the master himself could have wafted up into the cosmos, bounced off a distant celestial body and returned to earth this very evening while O’Carolan gazes at the moon.

7. Always On My Way Home (Muriel Anderson)
I wrote Always On My Way Home just before leaving for a long European tour. The vocal version expressed both the sentiment that the journey at any point is always coming back home, and also that the journey itself is on its way to understanding the people in diverse parts of the world and feeling at home in another culture.

8. Why Worry (Mark Knofler, arr: Dan DeVries)
My student and fine guitarist from Indiana, Dan DeVries, brought in this arrangement just about the time Chet Atkins recorded it with Mark Knopfler. It has evolved with some influences from Chet and Mark’s arrangement, and now with John’s harmony part.

9. Harp Guitars Under The Stars (John Doan)
While walking along the canals in Venice, Italy, the evening light draped the centuries old buildings as the water steadily lapped against their outer walls. A Church door momentarily opened revealing a few strains of Vivaldi – a music intricately woven into the fabric of this sea bound city. A lively banter of melodies in a quasi-baroque style came to me as the moonlight shimmered in the waters reflection as a gondolier pushed past.

10. Avocado Minuet (Muriel Anderson)
I wrote this piece for virtuoso violinist Rachel Barton. I wanted to give her a piece that was both virtuosic and playful, classical in nature yet with a South American flavor. I arranged it as a challenging harp guitar duet for this project and we had great fun playing it together.

11. Riding The Low Moon (Mason Williams, arr: John Doan)
I adapted this guitar solo by Mason Williams striving to capture his childlike awe for the wild woods where he grew up as a boy in Oregon. As he and I walked a deer trail on the way to a favorite fishing hole I could sense the Cathedral-like branched ceilings with its stain glass-like illuminated leaves was a place where his young imagination was stirred. Filtered moonbeams lit the path back to his cabin among the pines.

12. Velzoe’s Garden (Muriel Anderson)
Velzoe is one of my dear friends and a great inspiration as a person and musician. She performed and conducted her band “Velzoe and the Upbeats” recently at her own 100th birthday party. When I first met her at her home in Santa Cruz on a beautiful sunny day I asked if I could weed her garden. I had a lovely time and she told me she intended to post a plaque “Muriel Anderson weeded here.” I then wrote this song for her and her garden.

13. Harp Guitar Dreams (John Doan)
I tried to capture the moment of drifting off to sleep while exploiting the sustain and broad range of the twenty-string harp guitar. Based on the fundamental tones of a major chord it suggests calm and that all is well in the world or that whatever is left undone will wait until another day. It is basically a time of surrender, a time to dream of things to come.

14. Farewell (John Doan, arr: Muriel Anderson)
I found this tune to be one of John Doan’s most beautiful melodies, in the style of the classic Irish folk tunes. I prefer to think of the title as “Greetings” instead of “Farewell,” as we continue to enjoy the music together. I perform it here in my style and John sprinkles in an icing of harmony notes. He wrote the piece while working with folk legend Burl Ives. At night John sat beside him while he lay in bed exhausted from his life’s farewell concert. As Burl drifted asleep John musically sketched the scene.

15. Little Sister’s Child (Muriel Anderson, performed and arranged by John Doan)
As a fan of Muriel’s guitar music I wondered what it might sound like on a harp guitar. Over time working with her on this recording I have come to know her almost as a little sister. I saw into this piece a remarkable person away on hundreds of concerts a year, with constant practicing, composing, article writing, teaching, correspondence, concert and travel logistics, and a lively social life. After a concert we did she laid back on a couch while sleep laid its restful hand upon her like an eye in a wonderful storm of vitality and creativity.

Tracks recorded at Tapestry Productions in Salem, Oregon 2004-2010 with engineers C. J. Washington and John Doan, and M.A. studio, Nashville TN. All tracks edited by Muriel Anderson. Mastered by Jim Falzone at Venus Mastering, Nashville TN. Graphics by Deirdra Doan

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