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Regional Renaissance Reporter, Issue #9 Winter/Spring 2007

Reuben is featured in a three page interview in The Regional Renaissance Reporter, the number one Midwest Renaissance Festival Magazine in the world Performer Profile: ReubenCorrea Professional Harp Soloist, Harp Teacher, recording Artist and Composer.

As we did last issue with and expanded Faire Recap, this gtime we present an expanded Performer Profile. Please let us know if you prefer these long-form articles over our normally shorter ones. As we grow, we are able to offer longer articles, but only if you wish to read them.- Ed.

Regional Renaissance Reporter (RRR):

RRR: Congratulations Reuben Correa! How do you feel about your song “Chas’n My Tail” - hi-fi - lo-fi from the Our Beautiful Baby CD being nominated for Best Solo Instrumental Song category in the JPF Music Awards!

I understand that this award is the independent musician’s equivalent to the Grammy Award. Reuben: Well actually it is pretty exciting especially since over 350,000 individual songs in different categories were submitted and reviewed for this award. The Grammy Awards only chooses from 1000 songs per year so this was quite an undertaking.

RRR: I understand that the reviewing judges were from Taxi and Disc Makers as well as other music industry professionals. And it took 13months to listen to each song. It’s mind boggling to say the least.

Reuben: Yes that is what I have learned. And that the chances for even getting nominated were extremely slim. I had actually forgotten that I had submitted a cd and thought that my submission was not chosen for anything. I had not realized how important this nomination is.

 I have a performance on the day of the Awards Ceremony and was not going to attempt to go but now I am wondering if I should give that performance to somebody else so that I can go. I’d hate to go alone though because I can’t afford to bring my entire family with me. Interestingly enough that is a piece that has a Celtic inspired feel to it. Maybe as a jig or a reel It was inspired by one of my former cats who even as an adult would find the most precarious places to chase her tail. The place that inspired this piece was the edge of the bathtub and you guessed it she fell in!

RRR: How long have you been playing the harp?

Reuben: About 22 years. I learned early that if I wanted to be in the top 10, I had started to play the harp a hundred years to late. My kind of music is probably not going to get the multimillion dollar sales and contracts. However because it is such a rare and beautiful instrument it has a place in our society and not just as elevator music.

I learned that I like other musicians would have to struggle for a living and carve my own niche. So I have worked hard from the angle of not just playing the same things that everybody else in the neighborhood was playing. I realized that if people were asking for a recording, then they must find my compositions and arrangements appealing and maybe I should attempt a recording.

As an independent musician growth can be slow and of course there are all of the ups and downs of the music business to contend with. I have gone this route the slow way meaning that each recording has to pay for itself. It has to sell, so that it can be reproduced and promoted. Otherwise it sits on the back burner.

RRR: How many recordings have you produced?

Reuben: I have recorded five CDs Sea Whisperings is my first recording and is still my best seller. That recording has nine of my original compositions with a Celtic inspiration and two arrangements of Celtic tunes Greensleeves, Be Thou My Vision. It also includes three popular Baroque pieces from the Christmas recording: Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring, and Prelude in C by J.S. Bach and Canon in D by J.Pachelbel. Approx 54 minutes.

Mantle of Peace my Christmas / Winter Offering includes familiar Carols, one Classical piece Ode to Joy by Beethoven, three Baroque pieces, Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring, and Prelude in C by J.S. Bach and Canon in D by J.Pachelbel and two compositions. Best seller for its season. Approx 53 minutes

“From the Bottom of My Harp” It has five folk tunes and three folk hymns from around the world, six of my own compositions and one classical piece Ode to Joy by Beethoven. It’s costly to produce and not a steady seller so I have removed it from cd sales. I might redo it in the future or send it to the internet. So people can download the individual songs they want to hear. 60 + minutes

Rock of Ages: My ultra-stress relieving cd which approx. 45 minutes of continuously improvised music. Works wonders, miracles actually.

Our Beautiful Baby: dedicated to our first and only child. It also has nine of my own compositions, three classics, three Celtic tunes, and a medley of baby hymns. It is actually recorded for the adult who has to listen to it over and over. No sudden highs or lows. Approx. 60 min.

RRR: Can you tell us a little bit about your journey? How did you become a harp player?

Reuben: Actually I didn’t set out to be a full time musician, it just kind of happened. I took piano lessons as a youngster. Then in high school I wasn’t allowed to carry a piano in the marching band so they gave me the next biggest instrument – the Tuba.

RRR: How did you go from the tuba to the harp?

Reuben: To make a long story short after serving in the military just over ten years I decided to get out and go back to college. I was accepted as a tuba player at Bethel University in Arden Hills, MN because honestly what college band doesn’t need tuba players.

Bethel was gifted with a $25,000.00 gold leafed hand carved concert (pedal) harp and they needed players. So in the second semester of my freshman year at the age of thirty, I decided that I would become one of those players. I had thought that I had found my niche with the piano, and basically just used the tuba to get me into schools and get grants.

RRR: What was that first lesson like? Did you like it? Was it difficult?

Reuben: I fell instantly and passionately in love with it the very first time I touched it. I mean it was huge and beautiful and I am something of a ham anyway so it just fit the bill perfectly. But the sound was so incredibly beautiful. My first harp teacher, Anne Ransom was then and I think still is the secondary harpist for the MN Orchestra. She played a few bars of something incredible I don’t remember what but it just filled the room and permeated my inner most being.

 RRR: What is it about the sound of the harp that draws people to it?

 Reuben: You mean besides the fact that it’s a demanding, expensive, rare, instrument that goes out of tune a lot, but oh so beautiful to see and hear. Or that its music just washes over you in a sea of peace and tranquility when you are living in a world of stress, tragedy and chaos?

I don’t know? Hmmmmmmmm, I just can’t figure it out. Really now, that is just it. A harp played well, and I don’t just mean getting all the dots and stems played in the right order in tune and in time. But a harp played as if it is speaking a language from the heart; it penetrates right into the soul.

It is a transparent sound that you can stand next to or far away and be completely enveloped in a meaningful, magical, spiritually peaceful experience. People crave peace.

RRR: Do you still play the piano and the tuba?

Reuben: Actually no. I haven’t touched a tuba since 1989 when I graduated from Bethel and the piano I gave to my brother in 1995.

RRR: Do you miss playing those instruments?

Reuben: Yes and no. The tuba was fun because you could be have serious times and play great music or be goofy and get away with a lot of stuff and still keep your spot in the band. The piano is the instrument I learned to compose on. It is a very expressive and expansive instrument.

Everything is layed out in front of you so you can run up and down the keyboard with your fingers and play all kinds of styles. But you can’t exactly put it in a case and take it with you.

RRR: Tell me about the harps that you play now. How many do you have? Where did you get them? Is there a difference between them and the one you learned on?

Reuben: How many pages did you say I could have? Let’s see I have 4 harps. Three of them are kits that I built from Music Makers Inc... Two of them are 31 string Gothic Style folk harps. One is an early design after the idea was first presented to the harp builder, and the other is a later design of the same instrument.

Basically after I put my harp through holy heck and complained that the bass of the harp was too slender Jerry Brown of Music Maker Kits decided to change a few things. The result is a fabulous instrument with a booming bass and great voicing throughout.

Two of them are in MN and one is in California. Of the two in Minnesota one is the older version of the 31 string Gothic style folk harp floor model and the other is a very small 22 string Clairseach lap harp. Strings are gently plucked using your fingernails.

Then I have a harp that was custom built for me by Stephen Green of Steen Harps in W. Virginia. A masterfully built instrument that is completely magical. It has light tension yet has a great sound that projects well. So it can be heard even in very noisy atmospheres.

It has different timbres depending on where on the string you play. Timbres is just a fancy musical term for different voices. So I can make this harp sound like a piano, harp, guitar, lute, bells and with a whole array of techniques it is like having an entire orchestra in one instrument. Plus this one is built of Bird’s eye maple so it is stronger, stays in tune longer, and is just fantastic to look at.

RRR: How did you become interested in playing at Renaissance Festivals?

Reuben: About 17 years ago my first brief experience with the MN Renaissance Festival was by an invitation to the entire membership of the Minnesota Folk Harp Society for a couple of weekend performances, from Twin Cities harper and contracted performer Gaylord Stauffer.

RRR: What did you like about the Renaissance Festival?

Reuben: It was a fun, exciting experience; I got to be close to the people. It’s like a big masquerade party every weekend. People are dressed up in great costumes, and could ham it up, be themselves, or be silly, or serious about their art, and just have a lot of fun, eat great food and just be free to express themselves rain or shine.

Plus as I was just starting to get my music business started I could see that it was a great venue for exposure. It was also my first busking experience, when I saw that people were willing to toss money into a basket for the entertainment I gave. Compared to Europeans who appreciate art for the moment and are generous with their tips American’s don’t seem to understand that anything less than paper money is inappropriate. You could literally live off of your tips in Europe and starve in America. Americans would rather take a piece of you home with them so they will buy recordings if you have them.

RRR: Have you played in any other Renaissance Festivals?

Reuben: I started my early renaissance journey by playing for the Iowan festivals which started in Mason City, Clearlake, Okoboji, and Des Moines. But I have also played in San Antonio TX. for a brief one year event. I didn’t do much character development then. But I did make my own costumes by hand and played my heart out as I do today.

RRR: Have you learned anything from playing at the festival?

Reuben: You learn a lot about people when you play in these kinds of circumstances. “Minnesota Nice” almost dictates that people will stand behind me, or just off to either side in my peripheral vision, because they don’t want to interfere with my music making.

If I don’t resist the temptation to look at them they will leave because they have been discovered. People from other states will actually talk to me while I am playing, and in some states they are so bold as to actually touch me or the harp while I am playing. And for some reason everybody wants to check out my fingertips to see if I have calluses. I don’t. I have tough skin but only one callus on the side of the fourth finger of my left hand. It plays the bass steel and or nylon wound strings.

RRR: Have you won any awards for your playing?

Reuben: Oh yes! I have to admit though that it is not about awards that I play and compose. It is because it is fun. I love it and would perform daily if I could. My first competition was in San Diego, California while I was attending an International Folk Harp Society conference. I was awarded first place overall competitors and first place Professional in the 1992 Scottish Fair, in San Diego.

The next year in 1993 I was a finalist, top 5 in the World for one of my compositions in Dinan, Brittany France.

I also tried my hand at composing Scottish style music and received 3rd place in a contest at the Macalister College Scottish Fair in St. Paul, MN.

I was nominated in 2002 for the Cracked Cup award for rookie musical acts, at the MN Renaissance Festival.

In May of 2006 I made it to the top 120 artists semifinalist status in the Independent Music World Series, out of 1,100 Musicians/bands.

Now as you know, I just found out that one of my compositions Chasin’ My Tail from my Our Beautiful Baby Cd I has been nominated for the Just Plain Folk (JPF), music awards, Best Solo Instrumental Song category. This last award would be really sweet because it is the Independent Musician’s equivalent of the Grammy Award. It took JPF 13 months to listen to over 350,000 song entries one song at a time.

RRR: When do your most fun and meaningful experiences happen.

Reuben: I have realized that I have the most fun being discovered by patrons as surprise gem in the setting of the festival not necessarily as a stage act. The harp is an otherworldly instrument it creates an aura of peace and an uplifting spirit.

It is an enjoyment that allows people to see their surroundings immersed in a beauty that can’t be described in mere words. My most important audiences and entertainment moments happen in the lanes at the festival, nestled in among other artists and merchants. It is inspiring for me to be in the midst of beauty created by many hands and minds.

RRR: How do you make the harp special to the patrons?

Reuben: I try to do what the Celtic & Renaissance musicians did. They didn’t have the luxury of trotting off to the music store to buy their music. So they had to create it. This is what I do, on the spot, I improvise and create fresh new music hour after hour.

Then I pick the melodies that people respond to best and make them part of my repertoire. This way the patrons get to hear different music from different artists, I am not merely repeating the music of the other harpists. I also try to get the children and the child in all of the us to strum the harp.

This is most unusual for a harp player (harper) because you have to let them touch your instrument. I make up a little line and demonstrate it for them. Like:”Show me your finger” “One finger.” “Other hand” (this helps for positioning) “Now wipe it on your shirt.” (they think there’s something magical about wiping their fingers on their shirt.) (actually it just gets rid of boogers and sticky, oily stuff.) “Now do this” and I demonstrate how to strum.

They usually copy me exactly and we have a beautiful strum! The MN Renaissance festival mints special coins that we can buy so I usually give each child a crown for entertaining me. The look of absolute wonder and joy that they have made a beautiful sound the first time they tried is a rare experience.

It transforms their faces you can see it makes them feel better! Uplifts their countenance. Excites them! It is like a drug for me. It brings tears to my eyes, melts my heart, and it makes the moment worth it.

RRR: Don’t you play any of the traditional Renaissance Music?

Reuben: Oh yes I sure do. Everybody wants to hear something they know played on the harp. I have familiar tunes for babies, little children, brothers and sisters, parents and grandparents. I use these categories because they’re more in tune with my audience. There is no such thing as just population or customers to me. People are all elements in the family structure of our society I try to treat each one as an important part of life.

RRR: If you had to sum up your experiences playing the harp in Renaissance Festivals in one idea, what would that be?

Reuben: Fun! It’s fun to be a part of the festival and to be a part of getting other people to have fun. It’s rewarding too but it’s mostly just a lot of fun! To get more information about, buying recordings, harp lessons and hiring Reuben for special engagements, visit his web site: reubencorrea.com Email: harp@reubencorrea.com or phone: 763-546-5290

Exciting News!!! Ta - Da! November 2006 Congratulations to Reuben: Mr. Correa is a talented professional harp soloist and is CEO of his own Independent Label: R. Correa Music. One of his original compositions: Chas’n My Tail from his fifth cd Our Beautiful Baby was recently nominated in the JPF Music Awards (Just Plain Folks) category for Best Solo Instrumental Song. This is the Independent Musician’s version of the Grammy award. Upon return from Santa Ana, California where he attended the awards show at the Galaxy Theater Reuben reported that his song was awarded 6th place. Nominees were chosen by music professionals and peers over a period of 18 months. There were 69 categories in a field of 350,000 submissions from 100 countries. (whew thats a mouthful) This award places his abilities in the top 1% of the world for composition, performance, and recording. Please join us in congratulating him for this accomplishment.

Independent Music World Series

Reuben Correa whose original compositions from the Sea Whisperings CD, has been chosen as one of the 120 Semi-Finalists in the Independent Music World Series, Midwest Division. The next competition will narrow the field to 6 Finalists Congratulations! Our A&R screeners worked through an impressive 1,104 submissions from 24 states and Canadian provinces and have selected 120 Semi-Finalists in the MIDWEST. Entries were judged on Overall Vibe, Songwriting, Vocal/Lead Instrument Performance, and Talent/Performance. Six acts from this exclusive list will be chosen to perform at the Elbo Room in Chicago on August 17th. Finalists will be announced on July 21st.

iTunes Music Store now Carrying Reuben Correa's Sea Whisperings CD

Great News!!!!! Reuben's music is now available on iTunes. to purchase downloadable tracks or the entire CD Check it Out!!

Lyon & Healy West Harpmakers to the World since 1889.

Reuben Correa’s CD’s Sea Whisperings, Our Beautiful Baby and Rock of Ages have been accepted into the International Harp Archives Housed at Brigham Young University in Utah. It is a goal of the Archives to build a comprehensive library of scores and recordings that feature the harp. It is important that this work be officially saved for future generations of harpists.

WELY

Reuben Correa is announced to be the "Official Harp Dude" of Boundry Waters Radio station WELY for his rendition of the opening hook of, Smoke on the Water. Look for an up coming call in radio event where Reuben will be playing a harp rendition of some yet to be chosen rock tunes. That should be a lot of fun.

MN Renaissance Festival

Reuben Correa has been invited back for a 3rd time at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival's 2005 Season Saying " In view of your upstanding performances in past years we hope you will accept your role in the 2005 festival cast. Congratulations.

Patient's family member

Reuben: I wanted to let you know how grateful we are for your music. My nephew, Andrew Swanson, is fighting the battle against a cancerous brain tumor at a local hospital. You first met him in October in ICU the day of his biopsy, where he was at peace listening to your music. I purchased a CD from you for him for Christmas, and he listens to it all the time. Andrew is currently in ICU at a local hospital, and I purchased Sea Whisperings so he could listen to you as he lets the machines do the work for him and he rests to gain strength and fight the battle. If you are at the hospital this week, please stop by and say hi to his parents, Rick and Lisa. They are so grateful. Peace and thanks~

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