Reflections on Nicolas Carter, and more

A week ago I said farewell to Nicolas Carter, an outstanding harpist in the Paraguayan tradition, and a fine human being.

From March 16 - 23, Nicolas Carter traveled to Indianapolis, IN; Morgantown, WV; Warrenton and Markham, VA; and Washington, DC. Details from advance publicity here.

In Morgantown, our local newspaper gave advance publicity for the March 20 events, then covered our workshop and produced a 2-MINUTE VIDEO.
I will paste this into the website journal now. Shortly, I will review the further events of Nicolas's tour, and maybe talk about our future direction.



A wonderful visit with Paraguayan harpist Nicolas Carter

Nicolas Carter is a Paraguayan harpist of exceptional talent and skill. He was enthusiastically received between March 14-23 by fans in Indianapolis, IN; in Morgantown, WV; in Warrenton and Markham, VA, and in Washington, DC.

The promotional information, now out of date, is here. 


Nicolas Carter arrived in Morgantown yesterday

He and I went to the Rio Grande restaurant, played for more than an hour. This will be a great week.

Check out the tour here


Thinking maracas today!

I've been playing maracas, inspired by Tony Dentan.

This morning I read his website, fairly brief, worth looking at.

There I discovered this, a young boy "jamming" joropo. Very impressive.



Nicolas Carter to visit Morgantown on March 20, 2014


by Paraguayan harpist 

Nicolas Carter

at South Middle School

500 Park Lane, Morgantown, WV

7 PM Thursday, March 20, 2014


Paraguayan harpist Nicolas Carter to Morgantown in March 2014??

Paraguayan harpist Nicolas Carter and I are discussing a possible visit to Morgantown, WV. He has given me possible dates in late March and early April.

I met him in October at the Southeastern Harp Conference, in Ashville, NC. His concerts are great and his workshops are terrific!

Please DONATE with Paypal to support this live, local event featuring a Latin American folk harpist. Funds in excess, if any, will be used to support a Harping for Harmony Foundation programs, specifically to feature Latin American folk harp music and musicians in West Virginia and elsewhere.


Viaje a Mani

I have been visiting my friends John and Judy Kovac, he is a harp nut like me.

Among other things I've been recording myself for posting online. One of my efforts is Viaje a Mani, originally sung by the great Francisco Montoya. The song tell of a trip by airplane from Venezuela to the Colombian town of Mani, famous for musica llanera.

Here's a Youtube link to the original by Francisco Montoya:

I'll post my own brave effort shortly.


Maracas in Venezuela

The rhythm of maracas is essential in the musica llanera - con arpa, cuatro y maracas.

Here is a youtube link to illustrate. There is no harp, just cuatro and maracas. Adjust the tone on you speakers to accentuate the maracas. More on this in later blog entries.

(Aviso: pretendo escribir una mezcla de ingles y español.)


A Harper for Harmony looks ahead

I am as devoted as ever to my harp, and especially for the Venezuelan style "arpa llanera." I am trying to look ahead as a harper for harmony. This mission is very personal, to promote harmony and community, locally and globally, through harp music.

I've been sort of "in seclusion" for a couple of years. Maybe this journal will be a place to do some rethinking.

Peace. John


Arpa Central (or Mirandina, or Tuyera) and other links...

Victor Morales performing in "central" style, but on arpa llanera:

Again, Victor Morales:

Here is a link to my teacher Jose Gregorio (Goyo) Lopez (I've posted this before):

And the same Goyo Lopez demonstrating an intermediate exercise (my own field videorecording):\


Spanish Language Instructional Enrichment Program

Spanish Language Instructional Enrichment Program:
Live Latin American Style Harp Music and Conversational Spanish

I have begun offering a Spanish language instructional enrichment program, featuring live Latin American style harp music and conversational Spanish for middle and high school Spanish classes. Latin harp style is my special devotion; I speak very good Spanish; I read books in Spanish for fun, and I travel in Latin America every year. A retired cultural anthropologist, I have worked under contract with the WV Department of Education for more than 10 years. Specifically, my work in K-12e ducation has been with Learn and Serve projects and with after-school programs (21st Century Learning Centers).

Many people do not realize that the harp is very popular in Latin America, especially in Venezuela, Colombia, Paraguay, Peru and Mexico. My program provides a mix of live harp music in the Latin styles; questions and answers in Spanish; audio and video materials and other cultural information. Learning objectives include motivating the study of other cultures as well as the learning of the Spanish language. The program includes presentation of folk songs with transcriptions and translations, a tool for building vocabulary.

Please explore this website for more information. Harping for Harmony Foundation is dedicated to promoting "harmony and community, locally and globally, through harp music." Since 1995, projects have touched on topics of peace, childhood, livelihood, health, and democracy.

In the course of a typical school day, the program can be delivered to 5 or 6 classes, to 150 students or more. A daily fee of $400 is requested, negotiable, and may be waived. Travel may be extra.

I invite Spanish teachers, school administrators, and advocates for education are invited to contact John Lozier for more information.

John Lozier


Press Release - Harp Concert May 21 Promotes Music and Healing

    Morgantown, WV, May 5, 2010. Local harpists will offer a concert at 7:30 PM on Friday, May 21, 2010, at Trinity Episcopal Church in Morgantown. Featured local performers are Christine Mazza and Howard Emerson. John Lozier will demonstrate the Venezuelan arpa llanera and briefly discuss his visit there last year. Also performing will be Mazza's Morgantown Harp Ensemble and the Almost Heaven Harp Circle coordinated by Cindy Lewellen.
    Tickets are $10 for adults, two for $15, and free for children under 12. Tickets are available in advance or at the door. Send order to HHF, 345 Virginia Avenue, Morgantown, WV 26505. You also may call 304-599-8233 or 304-276-5141 or email

    Christine Mazza teaches harp at WVU. She performs regularly with opera, ballet and symphony groups in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia, and also in schools and hospitals through the West Virginia Commission on the Arts and the Arts in Education Program.

    Howard Emerson is a Certified Music Practitioner in the Music for Healing and Transition Program (MHTP), and has served on the staff at Ruby Hospital since 2002.

    John Lozier is Executive Director of Harping for Harmony Foundation, established in 1995. Sponsored by the WV Department of Education, he has visited many schools where he offers music from many lands, and particularly from Latin America.

    This year's concert call special attention to the comforting and therapeutic benefits of harp music, and will benefit programs of Harping for Harmony Foundation. Local activities include helping to fund MHTP training for local harpists, and sponsoring the Almost Heaven Harp Circle, under the direction of Cindy Lewellen. The harp circle meets on the third Thursday of each month at the Church of the Brethren, 464 Virginia Avenue. The group consists of musicians of all ages and skill levels, and newcomers are always welcome.

    The mission of Harping for Harmony Foundation is to promote harmony and community, locally and globally, through harp music. In 2000, the foundation began offering Millennium Harper Awards to recognize individual harpists around the world who have completed a "worthy quest" involving live performance, local public service, and personal growth. Through this program, HHF has given away more than 40 small harps. Financial and other support has been provided to harpists and harpmakers in El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Venezuela, Northern Ireland, Haiti, Russia, Mexico and Cyprus.

More information: John Lozier, 304 276 5141


March 20, 2010, Irish Spring Festival, Ireland, WV

Believe it or not, IRELAND is but A DAY'S DRIVE from half the population of the United States!!  I am referring to Ireland, WEST VIRGINIA, a tiny Lewis County village almost exactly at the center of the (almost heaven) the mountain state.

On Saturday, March 20, 2010, harpists from near and far will gather here. Local folks have celebrated their Irish Spring Festival since 1982. I first brought my own harp here in 1994. Soon after, I formed Harping for Harmony Foundation (HHF), and our local harpers (and some illustrious outsiders) have faithfully attended the Irish Spring Festival ever since. (Sue Richards came in 1995, shown in photo here.) The free program offers beginning and intermediate harp workshops, and a free concert for the general public.

This year, I will teach some Venezuelan techniques at the intermediate workshop, and Ruth Heavener will teach beginners. The schedule for Saturday, March 20 is as follows:

  • 10 AM             Intermediate workshop - Venezuelan harp techniques with John Lozier
  • 11:30 - 1:30   More harping, and/or enjoy other festival events
  • 1:30 PM          Concert rehearsal (all harpists present who wish to perform)
  • 2:30               Concert
  • 3:30               Beginner workshop - with Ruth Heavener

All events are at Ireland United Methodist Church. Please come as you are. Extra harps will be available for beginners. No charge for any events, no advance registration is required.

This annual event is sponsored jointly by the Shamrock Extension Homemakers' Club, Harping for Harmony Foundation, and the Almost Heaven Harp Circle. For more information, contact John Lozier (304 276 5141) or check the following links:


ARPATUR 2009 Summary Report

ARPATUR, a mission of Harping for Harmony Foundation in Venezuela

I spent the month of November, 2009, in rural Venezuela, chiefly in the region known as the llanos, in the states of Apure, Barinas, and Portuguesa. This was my fifth sojourn in the region; we have come to call these trips ARPATUR (harp tour). Over several seasons, ARPATUR has helped to draw attention and prestige to the strong traditional music of harp, cuatro and maracas.

During the first week, I traveled with four companions, visiting traditional musicians in towns and villages, and on farms. The party consisted of Adolfo Cardozo, singer and professor of agriculture; Fernando Guerrero, lawyer and pedal harpist from Caracas; Adolfo's wife Erika Escobar; and my brother Dan. See details of "La Baecera Initiative" below.

After the first week, I settled in Barinas and studied intensively with harpist Jose Gregorio Lopez, better known as "Goyo." I also attended harp classes at the Casa de la Cultura. Also, on several occasions I visited Caney del Arpa in Guanare, where harpist Aurelio Rodriguez (better known as "Longo") performs with other musicians in a longstanding circle of friends.

La Baecera Initiative

The focal point of ARPATUR 2009 was on the first Saturday night at La Baecera, a rural settlement of scattered ranches near Elorza. Adolfo and Erika had taken me each year to spend a couple of days to her family farm, El Coromoto. On this occasion about 50 friends, neighbors and relatives had gathered to celebrate the inauguration of a folk arts school, called the Semillero de Arpa y Joropo de La Baecera "Tio Esteban y Juana Romero" (workshop for harp and dance at La Baecera honoring Uncle Stephen and Juana Romero). At this stage, the school is not a physical place but rather a meetingplace of minds interested in cultural preservation. At the celebration, a harp, a cuatro and a pair of maracas were presented to the new school.

The turnout was very satisfying to Adolfo and Erika, who proclaimed the event a resounding success.

Tio Esteban was a harpist, a neighbor and relative, who played for dances a generation ago. Juana Romero, also a neighbor, was a beloved dancer and teacher. Tio Esteban and Juana Romero are both remembered in the lyrics of a song recorded by popular singer Alfredo Parra.

El Tuco, the local harpist at the celebration, learned to play from Tio Esteban. Tuco will be the first  harp teacher in the new school. According to Fernando, Tuco's style of harping is very authentic, simple, and typical. A landless leatherworker, now in his 50's, Tuco cultivates a garden with a wife and daughter. Tuco's harp has been in disrepair for some time, so he can only play when another harp is available. His harp was sent for repair, and another harp left with him for his use. Recently, Adolfo reports that Tuco and his wife and daughter all play the harp on a daily basis.

Barinas Harp School and Private Study

At the government-sponsored Casa de la Cultura in Barinas, various classes are offered for children and adults, including harp as well as guitar, dance, puppetry, painting and more. I was readily accepted at the Oswaldo Zapata's harp classes which are offered two days a week for 2 hours. I was also referred to Jose Gregorio Lopez as a private harp instructor. Given my limited time, I resolved to take advantage of both opportunities.

I attended about 6 harp classes. These classes attracted as many as a dozen participants, mostly male children and adolescents, but also including two females who appeared on one or more occasions.

In Zapata's classes, I saw a great enthusiasm for the harp from these young people. Most of them were technically advanced well beyond my level. Classes were held in a small patio, with everyone playing at once. It was difficult to hear oneself over the din. The teacher went from one student to another, observing technique and making suggestions. In this situation, I did not command much attention from the teacher. As days passed, I got a bit more attention from Zapata as I began to display what I was learning from Goyo Lopez. I was never asked to pay for these classes. Quite properly, Zapata dedicated his attention to his young students and not to me, an outsider who would likely never amount to much. I later discovered that Zapata himself was a student of Goyo Lopez.

Concurrently with Zapata's classes, I studied privately with Jose Gregorio "Goyo" Lopez, who turned out to be an excellent teacher and generous spirit. In the days ahead I had a lesson almost every day, and twice on some days. Goyo also encouraged me to make video recordings.

My experience with Goyo Lopez was much more productive in personal terms. However, Zapata's harp class at Casa de la Cultura deserves a great deal of credit for sustaining the cultural tradition.

Harping for Harmony Foundation Involvement

Harping for Harmony Foundation invested $5552 in ARPATUR 2009. $1000 was earmarked by the board specifically toward the purchase of a computer for Adolfo. Airfare was $1252. The balance of $3300 is shown in the accounts as per diem for 33 days at $100/day.

Actual per diem costs were lower, offset in many instances by private hospitality (room and board). Funds  thus saved were in turn used to offer reciprocity including meals, supplies, remunerations and donations of various sorts. Harpist Tuco received $50 for lessons he gave me; Goyo Lopeze received $300; Tuco's harp was sent for repair at a cost of $200; the La Baecera folk school initiative received $300.

I give much credit to the harp class at Casa de la Cultura, but did not offer any financial support as it is a governmentally funded institution.


Last Day in Barinas, Venezuela

Harp here is nothing strange, so many fine harpists! I´ll post some video
in days and weeks ahead.

Living here evokes a sense of how things might have been in Scotland or
Ireland, in earlier times. This country is divided by class. The slick
Sunday papers are all about style, conspicuous consumption, with countless
ads for plastic surgery to enhance feminine ideal beauty. On the other
hand there is a vaste class of workers and the under-employed, ranging from merchant and service enterprises down to day laborers and beggars (limosneros).

People here are somewhat distrustful, but also courteous and
generous, they do not ignore the beggars.

In this setting, it is instructive to read Romulo Gallegos, who wrote
about this land almost 100 years ago. More on this maybe later.

For two weeks I have been playing my harp in the Plaza Bolivar, early
morning and throughout the day. Folks sometimes talk to me. Some are
highly educated, like to share their views with me. Others are the simple
street people. Their question is most often "How much does a harp like
that cost?" Sometimes I answer, but more often I avoid the question.

Bottom line, the harp is expensive. For the poor, learning to play the
harp well is an avenue to social advancement. For the well-off, the harp
is likely to be regarded as a hobby, more a risk than an enhancement of
social status.

With mixed feelings, I´m leaving Barinas in a couple of hours, will be
back in the US tomorrow.

Regards from Venezuela.


My Harp Teacher in Barinas - Jose Gregorio Lopez

Goyo Lopez has been giving me instruction once or twice a day since last
week, and I´m so glad. He is very patient, very precise, does not let any
mistake go uncorrected. This is so important when the rhythm is so
intricate and particular.

I´m working mostly on Seis por Derecho, a very universal form based on a
certain rhythmic and harmonic repetition of chords 5 5 1 4. There are
numerous variations in both bass and treble parts. However, there are a
few cardinal errors that just seem to come naturally to a North American
musical mentality.

Pajarillo is another universal form here, which folks have told me is just
Seis por Derecho in a minor key (tuned with a sharped seventh). Here´s
Jose Gregorio Lopez doing Pajarillo on youtube (I hope this works)...

At my first lesson, Goyo said he has worked 40 years experimenting with
alternative tunings, in order to perform a more chromatic style. He
demonstrated for me, but since then I´ve been focused on getting the
basics. Maybe some other time, I´ll work on alternative tuning.





Venezuela Manicure

I got a manicure yesterday afternoon here in Barinas, Venezuela. It was a stroke of great good fortune.

At the harp class on Wednesday, I was like everyone else, playing as hard as I could just to hear myself. Everyone was playing independently, as the teacher came around and gave personal instruction. Afterward, I noticed that I had broken my left index fingernail. What a disaster! With two weeks to go here, I would not have time to grow it back out!

Beauty parlor to the rescue. The young woman did not seem at all surprised when I showed her the broken nail. It was only half broken. She glued my left index first, then went to work on my right hand. Then she worked back and forth, giving each nail three coats of acrylic stuff, and a top coat of clear nail polish.

The creole harp technique here uses a lot of fingernail, but also use the finger pad for its own special effect. Pure nail gives a tinkling sound. Pure pad is used in the bass, along with damping, for a thumping effect that is very much favored. In the extreme, the thumping is almost toneless, snapping like a drum.

I am very pleased with my new hard nails. Mine are very conservative, clear and not very shiny, maybe 1/8 of an inch showing when looking at my fingertips from the palm side. I´m guessing local harpists have 3/8 inch, maybe more.

I should have figured this out a long time ago. Any other players have stories about how they manage their nails?


My first harp class in Barinas, Venezuela

The harp class was cacophonic, but productive. Seven adolescent males and
an old guy (me) were scattered around the small courtyard, each harping on
whatever was their currently limiting technical hurdle. There was no
attempt to teach as a group. Teacher Oswaldo Zapata moved from one to
another, in turn, observing and correcting each harpist. These youngsters
are VERY GOOD, and very DEVOTED to the traditional harp style.

Classes are offered each Tuesday and Wednesday. I lucked in the day
before, arriving just in time to audition for Zapata, and to learn about
the schedule. Next afternoon, there I was, the first to arrive, at 2 PM.
Zapata opened the air-conditioned storeroom, unlocked the chain that ran
through the ten fine harps, and selected one for me.

In the courtyard, he asked me to play Seis por Derecho. Luckily, I had
learned a bit of it from Fernando Guerrero, so I could show a little
something. Encouraging but not at all satisfied with my effort, he
corrected my fingering and assigned a couple of variations to practice.

There is nothing on paper, all is taught by ear. There is no string color
coding, the harpist must simply find the tonic note and go from there. To
further confuse the color-coded harpist, some of the strings are
variegated, changing in color along the length of the string.

I had visited this harp class last year, but only as an observer. My hope
to become a student this year seems to have materialized. I have my own
harp at my hotel, so I´ll practice every day and go to class for the next
three weeks.

This class is at the Casa de la Cultura here, part of a folklore program
that includes various instruments as well as dance and puppetry. I was
welcomed into the class with no formality, no registration, no fees.

The first week of my visit here was ARPATUR, my fifth time visiting the
harpists here. We did a lot of driving, put up with a lot of tropical
heat, but hey, we really did hear the great harp music.

By the way, for HISTORICAL HARP devotees, let me say that Fernando and I
are projecting an article that will suggest that in Venezuela the old
performance standards persist in use. If you really want to know how early
music was performed you would do well to investigate Venezuela. Fernando
is author of the book, El Arpa en Venezuela (the harp in Venezuela), and
he is a world-class pedal harpist, so he has some authority.


A Harpist at Plaza Garibaldi in Mexico City

Garibaldi is a place in Mexico City where musical groups and party planners go to meet up and make deals. The musicians also play for tourists, each tune for a price.

I went in the afternoon looking for harpists, and found Alfonso Garcia, harpist with a conjunto jarocho group called Los Cocuyos. Here's his picture:



I got his contact info and we tentatively planned that I would visit him at his shop tomorrow (his card says "construction and repair of harps"). However, as he explained, this is tentative because the top priority will be to land a gig for this important holiday weekend (Dia de los Muertos, "Day of the Dead"). If the meeting comes of I'll write more, otherwise this is it.




From Mexico

I am writing from Casa de los Amigos a quaker guest house in Mexico City, where I arrived on Thursday. I will leave on Monday to go to Venezuela.

Thursday evening I played a harp concert for an audience of about 20 folks. Friday evening I was the "resource" for an English conversation group of about 15 people, this also turned out to be a mini-concert and talk about harps.

Casa de los Amigos was established back in the 50's, but the Mexico City Friends Meeting was formed even earlier in 1938. This is the only established unprogrammed meeting in Mexico, perhaps in all of Latin America. The primary mission is hospitality as a guest house. They have social action missions to support human rights for migrants in Mexico, and to promote "economic solidarity" with small producers.

They invite applications from volunteers to make a commitment of 6-12 months on these missions. The staff and volunteers are not all quakers, mostly young. There is also an invitation for "resident quakers" to come for extended periods.

They have a lot of visitors, foreign and domestic (Mexican). They have developed a very nice set of bilingual pamphlets for first-time attenders.

I am looking forward to the meeting for worship tomorrow.

In the next month, I plan to post occasional trip reports here, maybe photos, recordings, even videos (but I can't promise!).