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Nancy Harris  

entertainment agent, musician, U.S.A.

Silverwood, Nancy Harris and John Grammer, U.S.A.

My current involvement in music takes on many different flavors. My main job is that of owner and president of an entertainment agency, Harris Entertainment. This is a small company consisting of my husband Sam and myself, plus a recently added part-time agent.

We book commerical engagements for individuals, associations, and corporations. This can include wedding ceremonies and receptions, military reunions, retail store promotions, street festivals, trade shows, holiday parties, retirement home dinners, fund-raisers, and a host of other events. We also place individual musicians in back-up orchestras for national acts as well as touring Broadway shows which play in the area (Sam's forte with the agency). We've been doing this since the early 1980s.

Another part of my musical involvement is playing flute. I graduated from the University of Louisville in Louisville, Kentucky, USA, with both bachelor's and maser's degrees in music education, flute emphasis (1967 and 1978). My current mainstay of musical performance is my flute and guitar duo Silverwood. Silverwood began as a purely classical ensemble. Through the years I've had several different guitarists. We would dabble in pop music (standards, from the Beatles to Cole Porter), filling occasional requests for weddings, but we mainly stuck to classical.

During this time I also played with a Celtic band called Tight Squeeze. I was with Tight Squeeze from 1985 when the band formed until 1992. Originally the band was keyboard, accordion, guitar, and me. After a year or so, the keyboard player moved across the country and we performed as a trio for a while. I played silver flute and soprano recorder, eventually adding pennywhistle. We decided we needed a fiddle and found an excellent one who was classically trained and had never played Celtic before. He was a quick study. In 1988 we made our first and only recording, a self-titled work which featured very traditional Irish and Scottish tunes. Jigs, reels, strathspeys, and waltzes. We did the entire album in one six-hour recording session, something I wouldn't recommend to anyone.

Before Tight Squeeze I was with a Scottish band for five years. The band was called "Scotch on the Rocks." We were a five-piece band: accordion/vocals; piano; piano/flute; fiddle; and me. Several times the band tried to add drum set but the drummers never stayed long. In fact, one of the drummers was Sam and that's how I got involved. When I joined this band, I had never played Celtic music before. I had a love for the Elizabethan and medieval sound and could hear that sound in the Scottish music.

The Celtic band, Tight Squeeze.
Nancy Harris is holding the flute.

The early settlers in Kentucky were Scots-Irish and the music of Scotland and Ireland are basic to Kentucky music. Bluegrass music grew out of the Celtic sound. Being a life-long resident of Kentucky, I guess the music was in my soul from the beginning.

In 1993, when I started playing with my current (and hopefully last) guitarist, John Grammer, I had to have an outlet for the Celtic music. John is very versatile, playing pop, fusion, blues, and funk as well as classical, so it was no problem for him to learn the Irish and Scottish styles. Now we do an equal amount of classical and Celtic, having no fear of mixing them on the same job. We have found that many brides are delighted to have an Irish jig for the recessional. I play silver flute, recorders, and pennywhistle in Silverwood.

...Another performance outlet is the duo my husband Sam and I have. He's a percussionist and an excellent performer of many styles. We both love world music and have quite a collection of flutes and percussion instruments.

Sam and I began performing together in 1981 when our daughter's kindergarten teacher found out we were musicians. She asked us to perform for her class (which turned out to be four classes of kindergartners and fourth graders). We enjoyed it so much we decided to create a program that would be both educational and entertaining. Our first program centered around the acoustics of sound and featured fairly common flutes and drums. For the past several years we have been doing a program called "My Music, Your Music, Our Music" in which we present music from many cultures, stressing the oneness of humanity as represented through the music. We want the kids to leave the program with the sense that the music we consider "ethnic" is, to someone in a far-away country, as common as what we hear daily on the radio. Our music is "ethnic" to someone else.

In these programs, I play silver flute, piccolo, pennywhistle, shakuhachi (Japanese flute), and panpipes. Sam plays steel drum, vibraphone (somewhat like a xylophone but electric with metal bars and very mellow), bodhram (Irish drum), African talking drum, the Brazilian cuica and, of course, drum set. We also have a battery of percussion instruments which the children play...

Sam gave me a beautiful set of Chinese orchestral flutes for my birthday and I hope to incorporate these into the program in the future. The Chinese flutes are the only ones I know of which actually use a reed. An odd concept to me, and I'm still having trouble getting the reed on right. The reed, which looks like thin cigarette paper, has to be secured over a hole which is between the embourchure hole and the first finger hole.

The music Sam and I play for the school performances (under the name "Harris & Harris" ) is probably more settled into a groove than other performances I do. We change things a bit when we get new instruments we want to incorporate into the program or learn new tunes (like the Indian song we learned from Kevin Locke). But because it's only a 50-minute program and we try to cram so much into it, we're reluctant to stray too far from the plan.

Once, my agency got a call from a Museum of Fine Arts which was having an opening of art from the late 19th/early 20th Century American West. That means cowboy music. So we added Sam to Silverwood and performed these wonderful songs on two guitars, flute, soprano and alto recorders, Indian courting flute, ocarina, accordion, and various percussion instruments. The music we do for Bahá´í events is probably the most fun to put together. It's not a "professional performance" and the Bahá´í community is always so welcoming of what we offer. It affords us the opportunity to do something different from our normal performance outlets.

Excerpts from Arts Dialogue, February 2000, pages 6 - 9

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