Thursday, November 29, 2007

Poor Ruby Sue!

I can still hardly believe it. Evalyn and I were in a wreck on the way to school Tuesday morning. Nobody was hurt. The other driver came speeding through an intersection and smacked us. We both claim our light was green. Fault has not been assigned yet.

Our trusty Ruby Sue (the Subaru), whom we've driven for ten years and more than 230,000 miles, is pretty banged up. We kept her in very good shape. We're waiting to find out whether the insurance company will declare her a total loss. If so, we're certain not to get a check from them that'll cover what she's worth to us!

Over Thanksgiving Break my dad was in the hospital having a tumor removed. Lisa and I spent much of Monday helping get him home. He's now preparing for chemotherapy. The doctors say that his type of cancer is highly curable, though he is in for a few months of periodic misery with the chemo.

It's been a tough two weeks, but Lisa and I are trying hard not to let all this derail us. We are hyper-thankful that all of us are safe and in one piece each, and we're anxious to get started working on the Summer 2008 program and schedule, now that the Centennial is over.

To end on a positive note or two...

Here's a photo of Evalyn during "Oklahoma Annie" which we performed with her class for her school last Monday.

My Paws Claws Scales and Tales CD received an honor the other day. It has been included in the Z Recommends Holiday Gift Guide for 2007. Z Recommends is a blog about children's products, and they published a fantastic review of the CD.

Here's a quote from the review: "In the space of thirteen trim little songs, Harper turns in one of the best songs about reading ever aimed at young boys ("Dog Books"), one of the best wholesale rewrites of a traditional campfire song ("The Cat Came Back"), and a sparkling song about a great character of children's literature ("Villa Villekulla Hula," about Pippi Longstocking)."

All six of my CDs have also been approved for inclusion in the Children's Music Hall of Fame, and will be showing up there soon!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Northwood Elementary

Arrrg - it's frustrating not being able to speak! Tomorrow I'll be singing "Oklahoma Annie" with Evalyn's first grade class during her school's weekly "Rocket Launch" assembly. It's their turn to be the featured class and Evalyn's teacher asked if we could do this. So I haven't spoken all day in order to hopefully let my voice recover, since I brought it home pretty shredded from my last two days of performing.

Friday I did three programs at Northwood Elementary in Seminole, OK, one each for 4th, 5th, and 6th grades. These were relatively small groups, gathered in the library. I did an abbreviated "Oklahoma CenTUNEial" program of four or five songs, with some question and answer and discussion of how I did the research and songwriting thrown in. These all went really really well. I enjoyed the extra back and forth with the kids.

The faculty fed me a wonderful potluck lunch and then it was off to Fort Smith, AK for a night in a hotel. I found it highly ironic that after a year and a half of songwriting, recording, and performing for the Oklahoma Centennial, on the evening of the actual event, I was off spending the night by myself in Arkansas. Ah, well.

Saturday morning I did two shows for "Breakfast With Santa" at the convention center in Fort Smith. Here I am with Santa and Mrs. Clause, and then with my four lovely assistants, who gathered kids for my show and then sat with them to help with participation.

My voice was might croaky for both Santa shows, but my host kindly claimed not to notice. And maybe she really didn't - people don't know what I'm supposed to sound like, and they often express surprise that I'm having any trouble with my voice. To me it sounds awful! But if I just power on as if nothing is wrong, my audience reacts about the same as usual.

I'm very thankful that my voice held out at all for the last of my November programs! Now I get a nice long break from touring while I contemplate bug songs for the Summer 08 reading programs.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Stoneridge in Piedmont and Sacred Heart in El Reno

I got through my morning show at Stoneridge in pretty good shape. By the afternoon, my voice actually felt a bit stronger. Let's hope that trend continues!

At Sacred Heart I performed for Pre-K through 6th grade. First to enter the room was a group of three-year-olds, and they were each carrying a paddle-shaped fan with my face on it and the words "Monty Harper Fan Club" on the back! I was flabbergasted, to say the least. They had been listening to my Jungle Junk cd, and were clamoring to hear "The Kid Who Ate a Bug."

Well, that song is not normally part of my "Oklahoma CenTUNEial" program, not to mention that the Oklahoma program isn't really designed for three year olds, so I wasn't sure how this would all pan out. But I was amazed at how sweet and well behaved those little ones were through the whole program, so naturally I tagged "The Kid Who Ate a Bug" to the end for them - how could I not?

Tomorrow, Northwood in Seminole, then Saturday it's "Breakfast With Santa" in Ft. Smith, Arkansas. Ironically, after all the effort I've put into celebrating Oklahoma's centennial, which is tomorrow, I'll be spending that evening in a hotel room in Arkansas! Life is weird sometimes.

I won't get to post again until Saturday at the earliest, so I'll say it now:

Happy 100th, Oklahoma!!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Chisholm Elementary in Edmond

I did two shows today in Chisholm Elementary with my croaky voice. The kids didn't seem to mind that. Both groups were great participators and seemed to enjoy the show. The painting I'm posing in front of is just one of a dozen or so that cover the cafeteria walls. Very cool!

Three days to go...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Millwood and Cordell

I wish I could've been running a video camera from onstage during "The Wind Energy Song" at Cordell Elementary today! The kids did such a great job - it looked really cool. I did the next best thing and took a photo of the audience from the stage after the show. I also stopped at Thomas on the way home and took some photos of the wind farm that stretches along Highway 40 right there. So you can combine the two photos in your imagination!

Oh, man, I have nightmares like the way today started out, where I have a show about to start while one thing after another keeps me from getting there to set up. Meanwhile the audience is arriving...

I'll give you the quick version: I got lost on the way to the school, got lost in the wrong building, got lost in the right building, and got lost looking for the auditorium. By the time I carted my sound system into the room to set up it was five minutes to showtime and the Pre-K were already seated.

But my contact person at Millwood was great and we got it all sorted out.

Then there was the run in with the police (wrong way on a one way street) and the misbehaving sound system at Cordell, plus my voice nearly giving out. But as you already saw, that one turned out well in the end.

I don't think I've ever had such a string of bad luck on one day! Wish me good luck for the next four!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Pretty Prairie

I spent the night in Wichita last night, so I could drive to Pretty Prairie, KS in the morning for a "Reading Celebration" program. Then I spent the day at Pretty Prairie meeting with smaller groups for Q&A and a bit of songwriting.

Thanks to librarian DeAnna Goering for taking these photos of me with the kids, and also for the cool illustration of my "Take Me to Your Library" song, which she hung in the hallway in preparation for my visit. All last week, apparently, kids were trying to figure out the meaning of the alien's speech balloon. When they finally heard me sing "Akbo ekto... " etc., it clicked - "Hey, that's what the alien in the hallway is saying!" Pretty cool!

Wish me luck - I have five more days in a row of performing this week, and my voice is already starting to give out, due to drainage down the back of my throat. Yuck!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Geary, Oklahoma, Geary, Oklahoma, Geary Oklahoma

I had a fun time in Geary, OK today. I performed for PreK-4th, then after lunch I met with three small groups to talk about songwriting and share some extra songs. The 3rd and 4th grade group seemed especially interested and we got into all sorts of details about the mechanics of creating melody.

Tomorrow Duncan, and twelve shows next week!

P.S. Here's a photo of "Annie," a puppet named after the pony in Evalyn and my song, "Oklahoma Annie"!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Lisa and I Visit Evalyn's Class + A Buffalo at Sooner Elementary

Yesterday Lisa and I visited Evalyn's first grade class at Richmond. Lisa usually goes in on Tuesdays to read to the kids. Here's a rare photo I took of her in action!

I came along with Lisa yesterday to rehearse "Oklahoma Annie." Evalyn and I were asked to lead the class in a performance of our song for the opening assembly coming up Monday the 19th.

Today I performed my Oklahoma program for two enthusiastic groups at Sooner Elementary in Moore, OK. Here I am, posing with the buffalo that greets visitors in the front foyer.

Tomorrow I'm in Geary, then Duncan on Friday; next week, six days in a row of programs! The centennial is the 16th. After that I get a break from performing for a while, and I plan to do some writing and recording, plus catching up on all kinds of things...

Saturday, November 03, 2007

TPAC Library Programs

I had two more shows based around the book Tomas and the Library Lady in Tulsa libraries today. For the first program, at the Nathan Hale branch, there were six kids and two adults in the audience. I did a new song inspired by the book, "Reading Lifts Me Up." I improvised the verses based on input from the audience. It's nice with such a small group because each kid got to help make up their own verse, and that was a lot of fun.

At South Broken Arrow, I had no audience! The librarians couldn't leave the checkout desk, so I brought my guitar and concertina out into the main library and sang a few songs for them.

It's really too bad these shows weren't more well attended, because the concept is really cool. About four times a year the Tulsa Performing Arts center brings in a play based on children's literature. They call it the "Imagination Series." Some titles they've done include Pippi Longstocking, Little House on the Prairie, and Junie B. Jones. Coming up are Madeline and the Bad Hat, and Miss Nelson Has a Field Day, plus of course Tomas and the Library Lady, on the 9th of this month.

In conjunction with each of these plays, the TPAC Trust and the Tulsa Library Trust present a series of library programs based around the books, in which the performer reads from the book as part of the show. They also give away a free pair of tickets to see the corresponding play at the TPAC.

It's disappointing that this series isn't wildly popular. I'm afraid if they keep going unattended they'll disappear. Let's hope the library system keeps plugging them, and that they'll catch on!

Friday, November 02, 2007

Eufaula Elementary

Wow, this morning I got to be a rock star! The kids at Eufaula have been listening to my CDs. They recognized me in the hallway when I arrived and were excited to see me, giving high fives and even asking for autographs. This was the first time I did my Oklahoma program for a group who had learned the songs ahead of time. I absolutely loved hearing the kids sing right along! That's the kind of stuff that makes this a fun job!

The librarian, Robyn Burris, even wrote a new verse for my "Oklahoma Heroes at the Library" song! Here it is, but I'm not going to supply the answer - you'll know it anyway.

She was a small town girl attending NSU
When she left Oklahoma for her tv debut.
On American Idol she could not be beat,
Her songs have topped the country charts week after week.
Her family in Checotah always knew she was good.
Sing a song at the library with...

I learned a couple of new greetings for the "Howdy Song," as well...

In Afghanistan they say "sing-gay" and the word for friend is "jor-day."
Also, the Creek say "stungo."

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Immanuel Christian Academy, Martin Regional Library

This morning's Oklahoma CenTUNEial Celebration program was at Immanuel Christian Academy in Broken Arrow. A student took these photos after the show. I was invited to stay for lunch, and enjoyed talking with the kids.

Then it was off to Martin Regional where I did another of the programs centered around the book Tomas and the Library Lady. As you can see they have a very colorful and cozy little story time room. It was fun singing in there.

I have a very early morning drive tomorrow to Eufaula! Then on Saturday, two more Tulsa Library shows. I hope to see you at one of them!

Halloween Madness

Evalyn was a butterfly for Halloween, as you can see!

I sang a few songs at her class party, after the costume parade and refreshments. It helps to have an "in" with the party planner, which was Lisa. If you'd like to hear my Halloween songs, click "Halloween Madness" in the list of podcast titles in the right-hand column of this page.

We had a fun time trick or treating with Evalyn. This was the first year she didn't feel timid about it, and we came home with a pumpkin-load of candy.

Today will be interesting. I have two shows to do in the Tulsa area. The first is an Oklahoma Centennial program at an elementary school, and the second is a reading program at a library. This may be the first time I've done two completely different shows in one day!