You guys! It’s been SUCH a whirlwind few weeks. I’m so excited to share finally, a preview of a BRAND NEW CHRISTMAS ALBUM! Recorded with Toronto based Harpist Chantal Dube (known for her work with Drake) we recorded in two different cities (when I was 8 months pregnant and couldn’t travel!) to create this beautiful serene instrumental Christmas album with all your favourite Christmas Carols! Out NOW: https://music.apple.com/ca/album/christmas-classics/1544864440
Chantal began her musical journey when she was just four years old under her mother’s expert tutelage. Her mother, who owned and operated a piano studio, remained a constant inspiration in Chantal’s life as she explored her passion for music and ultimately, the harp.
In 1992 Chantal attended the Royal Conservatory Summer School of Music at Ridley College, which was sponsored by the Niagara Symphony. Here she began her enduring relationship with the harp and she continued to take lessons with the Niagara Symphony’s Principal Harpist, Doris Scharing.
As Chantal advanced her harp-playing techniques, she initiated studies with the Principal Harpist from the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, Suzanne Thomas.
In 2006 Chantal and violinist Cheryl Hodgson recorded a Christian album entitled “Unto His Name”, a collection of spiritual songs interwoven with some well known classical pieces. After many requests for a solo album, in 2008 Chantal recorded her third album entitled “Still Moments”, a collection of hymns that have helped her through her spiritual journeys. Chantal also recorded a solo harp Christmas album titled “Heavenly Peace” which debuted on 100 Huntley Street Dec 7, 2012. You can purchase her latest albums on iTunes or email her at email@example.com to purchase the CD.
Since 1996 Chantal has been sharing her musical prowess with others through performances at occasions such as weddings, banquets, funerals and cooperate events. Her repertoire is very current including songs from the Top 40 charts and consists of many genres of music to please the varied tastes of her audiences. Chantal performs for over 50 events a year, with her years of experience in the wedding industry she comes highly recommended by Toronto’s top wedding vendors and venues.
Most recently Chantal was contacted by Drake’s producers to record for Drake’s album VIEWS. She received credits for her work on Drake’s album VIEWS which was released in April 2016. The harp can be heard on the tracks titled: Keep the Family Close, U With Me & Child’s Play.
In her spare time, Chantal enjoys volunteering at the Credit Valley Hospital playing in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for the premature babies. The harp has been scientifically proven to benefit preemies. This is a unique way that Chantal is able to give back to her community.
“Chantal’s harp music brings a wonderful calming effect. The music creates a soothing environment for the infants, moms, and dads. It gives family members a moment to pause in an environment that can be very stressful and make families very anxious.” ~ Nancy Frank Patient and Care Manager, NICU.
So last year, I changed my stage name, which many of you know. Some of you guys still know me as Sophie Serafino and that’s cool, I used that name for a long time. In changing my name back to my maiden name – my birth name of Armstrong (Scottish), I became more interested in my family’s history… and have a bunch of info courtesy of Clan.com and Wikipedia and the Armstrong Clan Association: “The legends of clan Armstrong say that the earliest ancestor was Siward Beorn (‘sword warrior’), also known as Siward Digry (‘sword strong arm’). Another traditional story claims that an armour bearer by the name of Fairbairn rescued his master, the king of Scotland, mid battle by pulling him onto his horse by the thigh. Fairbairn was allegedly later given the name “Armstrong” and granted lands in the Borders. It was in this border region between Scotland and England that clan Armstrong became one of the most historically powerful clans in the country’s history. Between the 13th and 17th century the Scottish Borders were in turmoil, with anything between personal rivalries and all-out war common between the two countries. The Armstrongs were arguably the most dangerous clan during this period, with King James V of Scotland believing they were a threat to even his authority.” So basically, the Armstrongs were quite defiant and non cooperative (at least I know where I get that rebellious streak!) so ultimately the Crown forcibly dispersed the clan who were moved into and scattered across northern Ireland. My great grandfather later brought his family to Australia in 1881, with his Irish wife. I also have a Dutch grandmother and my mother’s family are British… It was pretty amazing digging up all these details!
This is the Armstrong Clan coat of arms and family crest (courtesy of kingarthur.com and thetreemaker.com). There are a few variations out there, some Scottish, some Irish. The motto is the same, “Invictus Manneo” which is Latin for “I remain unvanquished”. So there is the inspiration for my latest single! I had SO much fun exploring this while pregnant with our third little one, and I’m excited to share this journey in my language of music.
From the moment I had my first child, I felt the instinct, to sing to him. The same with my daughter as well. I have always sung songs to them almost every night. I think it’s very natural, and I’m certainly not alone! No matter how you sing, your baby will know your voice. It’s so natural! I also play violin for my little ones, and we sing songs, take music classes together and play with different instruments that we have at home. Our house is rarely without music.
This post is for any new student of mine, and for anyone else looking to start studying the violin. Firstly, congrats on choosing an AMAZING instrument! Learning to play the violin is a long rewarding journey, and mine, has been full of joy, creativity, tears, hard work, and the thrill of performing on stage. Everyone’s journey is different, and I wish you luck on yours!
To be clear, I don’t teach beginners online, I believe that many beginners require lessons face to face for physical adjustments as they start violin lessons. I do offer lessons online, but that is usually for more advanced students. I’m happy to help out and give advice where I can, but if you’re just starting out, you need to find a good teacher that can see you in person. I get asked all the time about violin lessons and what is needed when starting out. So for my beginner students that are studying with me and for anyone else interested in violin that wants to get an idea of that might entail, I hope this post helps! So, let’s started with what you need to get started:
Violin- you don’t need something super expensive to start with. Start by checking out a local music store with a good reputation. You should be able to buy or possibly rent a reasonable violin you can start out with. Don’t buy a super cheap violin online, it could end up costing you more and making your experience less positive than you would hope. Here’s a great blog about issues with buying super cheap violins- click here. It covers a lot of what I would tell you.
If you’re based in Calgary Alberta and are going to take lessons with me, chances are, I’ve recommended you to check out VA Hill Violins. I like VA Hill because I know they take the time to properly size you up, and choose a good chin rest, and they do it well. Bow- when you’re a beginner, chances are that your violin came with a bow whether rented or bought. Make sure if you buy one that the hair isn’t yellow and that there aren’t already hairs missing. Rosin- you need a good rosin preferably in a hard little case. I find students easily drop and shatter their rosin. There are great rosins that come in hard cases, I like these: D’Addario Kaplan Premium Rosin with Case. If you take good care of your rosin you’ll have it for a long time. Shoulder rest- this needs to be a personal choice and fit. I believe it’s important to play with a shoulder rest, unless you’re a professional baroque player. For those with anything other than a short neck, you will have better control over a modern violin when you use a shoulder rest. Get fitted by a professional who can show you all the options and discuss it with your teacher. Case- make sure it’s substantial enough to protect your violin and has enough space for all your gear. You can find cases that have pouches for your music too. That’s a personal choice. If you want to know more about choosing a case I thoroughly recommend reading The Ultimate Guide to Buying a Violin Case by GreatViolinCases.com They have a lot of great advice and all the information you need to know when choosing a violin case that’s right for you.
2. Extra items:
Mute/practice mute- a mute will change the tone and volume of your instrument, often use in orchestral playing to achieve a certain quality of sound. A practice mute will allow you to play quietly so that you can practice at night when others are sleeping or so that you don’t bother the neighbours! They’re not super expensive at all. Metronome- this is a great tool for practice. Not for constant use as you need to be able to learn to have your own rhythm, but it does help you to learn how to play in time with a beat which will help when you begin playing with other instruments, and it does help you realize whether you’re playing in time or now. Electric Violin- You want to learn electric violin right off the bat? I get it! Who wouldn’t want to play amplified with some amazing music you’ve been inspired by. That’s great! It’s going to be a bit of work before you get there- you can get there! However, to start with, In my opinion, you will be a better player, whether electric or acoustic, if you start on. Acoustic violin so you can learn full control over your tone quality and all the subtleties of sound you can create with an acoustic. Electric violin really smooths over a lot of that and is a different technique. You will do it so much better with a full range technique. Talk to your teacher about when you can start incorporating electric violin into your practice.
Also, you need a notebook with lined pages and page with staff. From there we can move onto other books and repertoire depending on your learning style and preferences. These ones listed above are a great start. Your teacher will have their own preferences, so make sure you ask them!
4. Setting goals
What made you choose violin? Dreaming of gracing concert stages around the globe? Playing with a metal band? Playing with a DJ? Whatever your goals are, make sure you chat with your teacher about how you’re going to get there, and how much practice and work is required. Don’t forget your goals, as when you’re practicing daily and you meet some struggles, you can forget. So keep your eye on why you started in the first place! Don’t expect to sound amazing at first! The violin takes longer to sound great than some instruments as we don’t have frets and our tone takes skill with a bow to achieve.
One other thing- talk to others also learning the violin! Try joining a violin community! It’s really helpful to chat with other students and violinists, to find inspirational and educational videos about learning violin, and great performances you can watch, and ideas in general, and share your experiences.
I hope this helps! If you have any questions, feel free to contact me and ask!
Hey friends, the last few weeks have been crazy busy! I have recorded a new album, almost done recording a new single and we’ve done a bunch of videos that are coming out one by one coming up… The crazy thing about pregnancy is that I have so many ideas, and things I want to do but I’m so much slower getting around LOL! So… I will be sharing with you what I’ve been working on over the next few months, and I’m so excited for that.
The single I’ve been working on is something really special to me, straight from my heart, the core of me- an original piece co-written and produced by Rob Wells, as I mentioned to you guys, it’s going back into my ancestry and discovering the sounds of Scotland and Ireland! Crazy journey. Can’t wait to share it with you. I also recorded another album with a beautiful harpist out east in Toronto, which will come out next year as well. I’m so excited to get out there and share it with you guys!
Strings: some of you have emailed me asking about what strings I use in recording. Most of the time, I use Pirastro Evah Pirazzi Gold but not all the time- I find they wear out more quickly than other strings that might not sound as rich and beautiful, but not far off and they last longer. It really depends on the situation and where I’m recording (the weather does make a difference too!). If you want to know more, ask me! Send me a DM on Facebook 🙂
I’m so excited to share a new video with you! So you know I don’t usually do covers, but recently, I did a couple of videos of covers, exclusive to my youtube channel, (one voted by you guys too!) and here is one more, filmed in the Rocky Mountains of Alberta! I think this will be the last one before baby arrives, as it’s getting harder to move around now!