Wonderlust, an audiovisual show travelling through America and Europe
After releasing the successful CD "Nightlight Daylight", two years ago, which won 11 prestigious awards, Muriel Anderson, one of the most prominent Finnish-American harp guitar players of today's music scene, is now working on a new project, called Wonderlust with Bryan Allen, a celebrated photo-artist who participated in this CD, and in the process they became partners of the heart as well as the art. Wonderlust is an audiovisual show: together Muriel and Bryan take the audience on a journey around the globe, full of joy and humanity, with new tunes, old favourites, stories and images. Muriel says: "We are doing the audiovisual show this May and June in Italy, Germany, France and Switzerland. Bryan sets his beautiful imagery on a giant screen behind me, while I play the music on stage. The show is still growing, artistically, and continually changes. It is an interesting combination, I am still composing more music for this project and Bryan will be capturing more images as we tour together. We also plan to return to Europe next year in March. The show has been met with great enthusiasm in the USA, and I am very excited to bring our Wonderlust show to Europe." You can see a sneak preview at the following exclusive link: www.murielanderson.com/vip.
"I felt the harp guitar could reproduce the sound, that I was hearing in my head."
Harp guitar player Muriel Anderson, born in Downers Grove, Illinois (USA), has been living for many years in the Chicago area, but now has her home base in Nashville, Tennessee. As she is of Finnish descent, she still speaks a bit of Finnish ("My great grandparents came to he USA from Finland, we are of the fourth generation. My mother still spoke Finnish to us when we were small children, but only very simple Finnish. So I guess you could say I have Finnish blood"). Muriel Anderson has been playing the guitar already from age 7. Her mother was a piano teacher, her grandfather a saxophone player. Muriel played the piano as well, an instrument which she later exchanged for the guitar and harp guitar. "After playing folk, jazz and bluegrass music in high school, it was when I was in college studying classical music, I discovered the harp guitar," Muriel says. "While making some of my arrangements and compositions, on my guitar, I had seen pictures of the harp guitar. So I went looking for a harp guitar and said: this is the instrument that could make the sound that I am hearing in my head."
Muriel continues, "It was not because of the shape of the harp guitar, but just because of the music that was happening, because of what it could do with sounds. When music calls for specific lower notes, then they are there with this instrument. The harp guitar is becoming more and more a part of my music. It allows me so many musical effects, with the extra bass strings it has. This guitar opened up new possibilities for me. One day I went to a Michael Hedges concert in order to hear a harp guitar for the first time. I sat next to a gentleman who was writing a book about these instruments. He asked me to come and record the CD for his book, which was called 'Guitars and mandolins in America'. That was my first time playing a harp guitar, one of the old harp guitars from around 1900. Finally I found a builder who offered to make a harp guitar for me. It was Del Langjans. I told him I always wanted a harp guitar so he built me a most beautiful harp guitar, similar to the Dyer harp guitar that Michael Hedges was playing. So Del Langjans started my voyage on the harp guitar. Later Mike Doolin built me a smaller harp guitar for travel. I had it built with nylon strings, instead of the traditional steel strings, and found that it had a beautiful lute-like quality to it, a whole different sound. That harp guitar became my new voice."
"I started composing songs on the piano out of curiosity, when I was 4."
Already at an early age music fascinated her. At age 4 Muriel started to compose songs on the piano. She enjoyed the sounds around her. She passionately talks about her musical youth. “My brother, my sisters and I all started with the piano and I composed a song on it when I was 4. I did it out of curiosity. I just heard the sound of the doorbell ring, and tried to play that sound on the piano. And then I found that the sounds made a chord, so with the left hand I made a chord and with the right hand I played a melody. I wrote words to it and I called it Ding Dong. I had a very direct contact with music. When I was 6 my mother started teaching me the piano. But when I discovered the guitar, at the age of 7 or 8, playing the guitar for me was fun, playing the piano was work. From a very young age I knew that I wanted to do something with art, and I also knew I wanted to do something that would affect a large number of people in a positive way. I diodn't yet know if it had to be music, or painting, or creative writing, but I felt that so strongly, I knew it was my calling to do so. By intuition I found the guitar, I loved the way the guitar vibrated against me and it could make a beautiful sound; it was speaking to me and so I was talking with it. It was a very wonderful experience, when I got my first guitar, I clearly remember that I was taking it out and figuring out melodies on the backseat of the car, on the way home. I went to the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago, where I learned a lot of music including many Bob Dylan songs. Later I taught guitar music there. After high school, I went to the DePaul University in Chicago to study the classical guitar. I studied there for 4 years, from 1978 to 1982, under Leon Borkowski. He was a very good teacher for me. He allowed me to discover things on my own; that was my method. For me the process of discovery was really a good way to learn music. I didn't want to imitate what someone else had been doing, but find my own way."
Falling in love with bluegrass music at a very young age
“During my high school years I was playing the guitar in a college jazz band, and I also played in the Old Town Jazz Ensemble and in a bluegrass band. I loved bluegrass music, which is a kind of old fashioned country music. I loved the music of Bill Monroe, who was the father of bluegrass music, but I also loved the music of Christopher Parkening, one of the greatest classical guitarists worldwide. I loved the tones and the phrasing, the beautiful music that he was able to pull out of the guitar. It was then that I fell in love with the technique and this classical guitar style. I use many of these techniques in my music.” Bluegrass has mixed roots in Irish, Scottish, Welsh and English traditional music, and was also later influenced by the music of African-Americans through incorporation of jazz elements. At college Muriel couldn’t play bluegrass music. She explains, “The only way to study guitar in college was to study classical music. After my studies at the DePaul University, I took some private master classes from Christopher Parkening. After I left university at age 23 I found some work playing the classical guitar in a very nice hotel in Chicago. I realized I had to play the music that was in my heart, the music that I love, which is music from all kinds of different styles. So I played some wonderful classical pieces, and jazz and bluegrass music, and some of my own compositions. I started playing all these different styles in one concert. At that time nobody else was doing that in concert.”
"I was lucky to meet the famous Andrés Segovia, who has done so much for the classical guitar."
Muriel couldn’t have wished for a better music education than the one she experienced in practice. ”I learned bluegrass from Bill Monroe's guitarists and from Doc Watson, and classical from Christopher Parkening. I didn’t play with them professionally, but I had the opportunity to learn from them. I was lucky to learn from so many wonderful people.I was able to study guitar in college because of the work of Andrés Segovia, the great Spanish classical guitarist who made the guitar accepted as a classical instrument. So when he came to Chicago, I was so full of appreciation of his work that I baked cookies for him. I thought when people are touring, they want something homemade. He didn't know me as a guitar player, he just called me the "cookie lady" and I made sure to have some cookies ready every time he came to Chicago."
Meeting with the biggest guitar legends: Chet Atkins and Les Paul
Muriel Anderson met many guitar legends, great personalities such as Chet Atkins and Les Paul. Those encounters were a stimulation for her artistic career. She enthuses, "I met Chet Atkins, who also taught me a lot about music. I learned a lot from his country style. He is a hero in the field of guitar playing. He was a mentor for many young people. I remember goling to his office in Nashville and he would directly teach me all kinds of tunes. There were many players coming in and out of his office all the time. I joined him in several concerts as a guest player, one at Orchestra Hall in Chicago. It was great. Peoiple asked me if I was nervous, but that wasn't the case. He was so supportive, if felt great to be in his presence. He was very uplifting. I also met of course Les Paul, and I played as a guest on his show many times." Les Paul, who died in 2009, was one the most famous American guitarists, who played witrh his wife Mary Ford and Nat King Cole among others. He was also a recording innovator and inventor and is credited for sound-on-sound recording techniques and the solid-body electric guitar."
All Star Guitar Nights: a popular guitar event, organized by Muriel twice a year
Widely respected as one of the premier fingerstyle guitar players on the scene today, Muriel Anderson is the first woman to have won the National Fingerpicking Guitar Championship in 1989. She is host and originator of the renowned "Muriel Anderson's All Star Guitar Nights" and founder of the Music for Life Alliance, a non-profit organization to put musical instruments in the hands of underprivileged children by providing instruments and funding for music education to schools and grassroots programs nationwide. Muriel explains how it all began with the All Star Guitar Nights: "I have been doing it for 20 years now. It started off just as a party; we were just playing music with each other and we discovered we had so much fun, that we did it in front of a life audience the next year. So it began very organically, I have been doing this for 20 years." From Chet Atkins to Peter Frampton, guitar masters of all genres and from all over the world have performed with Muriel at the yearly spectacular "All Star Guitar Night". Thanks to Truefire, the same company that films Muriel's online instructional courses, you can see videos from many of the shows at www.allstarguitarnight.com and also at www.ASGN.tv.
Music for Life Alliance: an initiative to support young children.
Muriel Anderson is also the founder and director of the Music for Life Alliance, an initiative which is meant to support young children, who want to play music. Muriel explains: "I started the Alliance 15 years ago, it is a way to encourage young people to play music directly. We support organizations across America for children who - without their support - would not have been able to play music otherwise. They are helping those children and fulfilling their needs by giving them instruments and lessons. And the Music for Life Alliance helps those organizations by giving them grants and recognition. The proceeds of the All Stars Guitar Nights are being donated to the Music for Life Alliance. I felt I was so fortunate when I was young to have a guitar in my hands, and that I could play; so I wanted to do something back for other young children, to enable them to play music as well. Through our Alliance we allow music to be a part of somebody's life. We want to enable children to create music at an early age."
For more information please visit the following website: www.murielanderson.com