Saturday, February 10, 2024 
Online Workshop with James Ruff
"Tree of Strings: A Harper's Journey Through Scotland"
Description below and CLICK HERE to register directly with James. 
Join us for an all-day online workshop: Singer and historical harper James Ruff will lead you through choice pieces from his repertoire of early music for harp and voice from Gaelic Scotland, bringing to life the 17th century world of the historic harper-bards. We will explore repertoire taken from the Maclean-Clephane harp Manuscript from the isle of Mull, the enigmatic Ports attributed to Ruaraidh Dall preserved in Scottish lute Manuscripts and Dow’s “Ancient Scots Music,” and you can try your hand and voice at a 17th century Gaelic song! We will investigate some of the history and lore surrounding these pieces and explore arranging them along historical lines, learning historic fingering, damping, ornaments, and style from the wire-strung early Gaelic harp tradition. These can be adapted and played with success on any harp. We’ll round out the day with an informal online ceilidh, sharing music and stories together.

Session times (United States) will be as follows:

Session OneWest Coast 8am - 10:15am Mountain Time 9am - 11:15am Central Time 10am - 12:15pm Eastern Time 11am - 1:15pm

Session Two: West Coast 11:30am - 1:45pm Mountain Time 12:30pm - 2:45pm Central Time 1:30pm - 3:45pm Eastern Time 2:30pm - 4:45pm

Final SessionWest Coast 2pm - 3pm Mountain Time 3pm - 4pm Central Time 4pm - 5pm Eastern Time 5pm - 6pm

CLICK HERE to register

To learn more about James Ruff, visit his website here:

2023 Spanish Peaks Harp Retreat  Summary


Thank you to all the attendees, instructors and performers for a wonderful 2023 Spanish Peaks Harp Retreat.  As a small, community-based event, we thrive off of the camaraderie of everyone involved and the opportunities to enjoy new experiences and learn from each other.  This year was no exception, with a variety of offerings for participants. 


The Retreat began with a busy Thursday!  Julie Norem Hawley kicked off the day teaching pipe tunes to the harpers.  We then got to experience playing the harp with pipes when we were joined in the afternoon by Cape Breton piper Barry Shears.  Later that afternoon, our Scottish teacher, Rachel Hair, the leading expert in Manx music, gave a lecture/demonstration on the Isle of Man and its music.  Many of us have now added a trip to this Island to our wish lists.


Thursday ended with a concert led by the fabulous local musicians Ken Wilson and Kim McKee.  In addition to this talented duo, we enjoyed the talents and voices of Brenda Hunter (CA) and Julie Norem Hawley (NM).


Our harp classes were held between Friday and Sunday, with the option for participants to move up or down a level as they chose.  There were spectacularly beautiful tunes taught at all levels, with Ireland’s Lynn Saoirse and Rachel Hair teaching the Intermediate and Advanced Levels and Jaimee Joroff leading the Advanced Beginners course. 


Other retreat offerings  included:


  • A pre-retreat virtual harp & story workshop led by Norway’s Rebecca Harrisson.
  • A one woman show by Kathy Wimmer, half of the Bardic Sisters, featuring lore and music of some of the Celtic nations.
  • A sharing circle led by Carol Queener where harpers shared various ways they use the harp, from playing at hospice care and animal shelters to putting poems to music, storytelling, and using apps that teach tunes.
  • An informal concert by the instructors held exclusively for the Retreat participants.  Rachel and Lynn gave dazzling performances while Jaimee told an actual wedding story punctuated with harp (and much laughter).
  • A harp circle.


More than any other retreat, the 2023 one was a community effort.  We extend heartfelt thanks to Carol Queener, Kim McKee, Ken Wilson, Julie Norem Hawley, Kathy Wimmer, Jacquie Quick and Jaimee Joroff….. without your combined efforts, this would not have happened.  And a final thanks to all our participants, new and old, for bringing your enthusiasm and passion to the Spanish Peaks Harp Retreat.



Spanish Peaks Harp Retreat



Traditions, Tunes and Tastes 

with Beth Kolle

VIRTUAL EVENT: Saturday. December 3, 2022

Join us on Zoom, Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022, for a VIRTUAL workshop!


Registration Fee: $40 


Session 1 (with tea break)                                                                      

Eastern Time                    11:30 am – 2:30 pm

Central Time                     10:30 am – 1:30 pm       

Mountain Standard           9:30 am – 12:30 pm

West Coast Time              8:30 am – 11:30 am


Session 2 (with tea break)                                                                      

Eastern Time                    3:30 pm – 5:30 pm

Central Time                     2:30 pm – 4:30 pm         

Mountain Standard           1:30 pm – 3:30 pm

West Coast Time              12:30 pm – 2:30 pm


Questions, more playing & conversation                                               

Eastern Time                    5:30 pm – 6:00 pm

Central Time                     4:30 pm – 5:00 pm         

Mountain Standard           3:30 pm – 4:00 pm

West Coast Time              2:30 pm – 3:00 pm

Scroll down to read about prior retreats
Notes from the 2022 Retreat

As the world learns to live with COVID, the 2022 Harp Retreat was our first in person gathering in 3 years. 

Kathy Wimmer ran this retreat with help from Gwen Easterday and Carol Queener. It was a challenge to come back after 3 years to a new venue, new caterer, and new lodgings (for many of us). Kathy organized well and it was a great retreat.

Nancy Thym started us off on Wednesday with a superb living history presentation of an 1800’s itinerant German harper. We all were left with an awareness and knowledge of the life these ladies led. Switching gears and centuries, Nancy followed with the use of harp in early rock and roll and early blues.  

Thursday saw Kathy assuming still another role; she sat in for Julie Norem-Hawley and led us all in the harp and pipe day. Joined by Barry Shears (who was wonderful and we all want him back again) in the afternoon, we practiced some of the tunes he had suggested.

Thursday evening Beth Kolle shared a lecture/demonstration on Nordic harp music which she would be teaching starting the next day. New to most of us, this was beautiful as well as informative.   This was followed by a concert by festival favorites Willson and McKee who were spectacular as always and left some of us in tears.

Friday through Sunday were our classes. Nancy teaching Bavarian and German tunes and Beth offering Nordic and some Celtic. The advanced beginner class, taught by Jaimee Joroff, was given a variety of tunes from “God Save the King” (with an imaginative accompanying story of Queen Elizabeth’s ‘visit’ to Gardner) to “Hey Jude” with the aim of playing by ear. A few Irish and Scottish tunes introduced along the way.

The Harp Circle was led by Kathy on Saturday afternoon with each participant choosing a tune for the group to play. This was followed by some of the pipers joining us playing the tunes we had learned on Thursday.

We parted Sunday afternoon with hopes of meeting again in 2023. Most grateful to Kathy, Gwen and Carol for making this happen. And grateful to all the harpers who joined us both in person, and in spirit from afar. 

"We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams." ~Arthur O'Shaugnessy

Endless thanks as always to Julie Norem Hawley for she does throughout the year creating and compiling music for the harp circle! 
2021 Harp Circle 
Julie Norem Hawley graciously 
continues to lead our Harp Circle, 
a very relaxed experience for all level harpers. 
She sends music to interested players in 
advance, conducts a few practice sessions 
during the festival, and then leads us all playing 
on the streets of La Veta and Walsenburg.

Notes from the 2021 Spanish Peaks Harp Retreat  

Just when you think it can’t get any better… it  goes way out of the ballpark!

2021 was our first virtual retreat and it was a unique one.  Aine Minogue went deep into the research, checked with experts in the field and presented a scholarly history of the lowland Scots who had to leave Scotland, their settlements in Ulster and, the Ulster Scots journey to America and final settlement in Appalachia.  She introduced the music they left behind, the tunes they brought with them, and the variations of some of those tunes in Appalachia. 

During the retreat, harpers were able to play along with, among others, Lead Belly, Loretta Lynn and Kurt Cobain.   The information kept coming and so did the tunes.


Jaimee Joroff presented a session on “Tuning and Modes and Changing Keys” or

 "Cool it Mozart, we're keeping this simple."  She also created a Harp Trivia game at night, and tricked her intermediate group by using a few hand positions (without any music) and naming keys into suddenly realizing they were playing a Chieftain’s tune.


Aine and Jaimee gave the history and the back stories of tunes they presented.


Thursday was our harp and pipe day.  This was led by Julie Norem-Hawley and, in the morning by piper Robert Mitchell .  Julie led the afternoon session herself with the help of two of her Taos musical friends which added more instruments to the mix. She led all the harpers through the piping tunes.


Saturday evening Aine gave a presentation on keening and then we all saw a wonderful musical play by the Bardic Sisters.  Kathy Wimmer and Gwen Easterday played their harps and described the last day of O’Carolan.


Sunday morning was a return to Scotland and the Carolinas.  Bonnie Prince Charlie, Flora MacDonald, Robert Louis Stevenson, and even Outlander were all tied together.


The five day retreat ended with a meditation session led by Aine followed by Susan Spangler spontaneously playing a perfect ending for the meditation and the retreat.


We thank all the harpers who attended. Thanks to Zoom we were able to have attendees from Massachusetts, Florida, Tennessee, Texas, Colorado, New Mexico, California and Wyoming.


For harp trivia, history, and fun, follow the 
Spanish Peaks Harp Retreat on Facebook. 
Click the Facebook icon to glissando to our Facebook! 
Visit our sister festival! 
Spanish Peaks Intl. Celtic Music Festival
Click the logo to visit their page. 

People are Talking!

"Beautiful location, wonderful warm community. Nancy hasn't just built an
amazing harp retreat, she's facilitated a true harp community that people
come 'home' to year after year. The Spanish Peaks festival is a joy for
musicians, students and visitors alike!"   Aine Minogue, teacher and performer

I came home from this year's retreat with Christina, Park, and Maire, absolutely filled with a sense of the living essence of music--in rhythm, tone, and effect, versus it just being the thing we do. Totally transforming. I'm a different musician now."

I have attended the Spanish Peaks harp retreat now for 8 years. Every workshop brings the best players from the Irish and the Scottish traditions. Each year, my understanding of the songs and the culture deepens. I really love the intimacy of our circle of players. We get to know each other in a smaller venue and we are able to converse with our teachers and get to know them too. Southern Colorado is absolutely gorgeous in the fall-the mountains and the skies. I would not miss it!

I played Maire ni Chathasaigh's version of The King of the Fairies (from the Rogha na gCruitiri Harpers' Choice book) last night at our harp recital for the first time in public. I have been working on it since 2011 and I realized it was directly due to you that I was able to do that. It was because of your Harp Festival and what you do to help all us with bringing in such phenomenal teachers and all the inspiration and amazing support and of course, the chocolate!

"This year, I learned so much from Christina, Park and Maire.  The instruction from each teacher was personalized yet geared for everyone.  During lunches and breaks I had ample opportunity to speak with each instructor and discuss ideas.  (I know I am a better harp teacher for attending.) I wouldn't miss this weekend for anything.