When I was a student in Philadelphia, I often had occasion to perform at the Church of the Holy Trinity,
just across Rittenhouse Square from the Curtis Institute of Music. The 1859 church building is beautiful, but I was always impressed by its associated history, and I’m always reminded of it at this time of year.
The rector of the church from 1862-1869 was Phillips Brooks, famous for his vocal opposition to slavery and for composing the poem, “O Little Town of Bethlehem.”
I also used to walk by a small bronze plaque on a storefront on Walnut Street that marks the site where Lewis Redner, real estate Phillips Brooks
agent and organist at Holy Trinity, penned the tune for the poem by Brooks.
The following excerpt is from a commentary by Louis F. Benson from Studies Of Familiar Hymns, First Series (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press. 1924). It tells of the trip to the...
It’s a little ironic that at the time of year when we most want our music to help set the holiday mood in the performances we play, we are also our most over-worked and are least likely to play our best.
Holiday performances are fun, but there are so many in so short a time, that it’s easy to feel underprepared and over-stressed.
With a few simple tactics, however, you can prevent the holiday struggle and bring out the sparkle!
As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving here in the US, I thought I would offer a quick “thank you” tribute to all our harp-cestors, those incredible teachers, performers and composers that gave so much to the instrument we love. And “thank you” too, to all of you who contribute to the world of the harp and to the musical universe today. Without the many-faceted accomplishments from so many, our world would be so much poorer.
Thank you for your generosity, your gifts and all your music.
(And a quick word of thanks to all the participants on Monday’s teleseminar. As always, you are why I do what I do. Thank you!)
Here is a wonderful performance by Xavier de Maistre of Henriette Renié’s fanciful Danse des Lutins (Dance of the Goblins).
Enjoy and Happy Thanksgiving!
Are you plagued by a persistent problem in your practicing or playing?
Often I have harpists come to me with a particular concern. There seems to be one issue, one real stumbling block that is in their path no matter what they do. These harpists are usually the “good student” type, even if they aren’t taking regular lessons. They practice diligently; they love music and the harp. But this difficulty has been so persistent that they have come to doubt their ability to play the harp at all, let alone overcome this one problem.
They have usually tried several different methods to resolve the problem and are frustrated by a lack of positive results. Sadly, by the time they come to me for help, they are near the quitting point.
Most often, much of this frustration could have been avoided with a proper diagnosis.
I’d like to share with you seven of the most common complaints that I help harpists with every day. Each of these problems could have one of several...
It happened again. I looked up and the calendar said “November” at the top. The calendar year is winding down, even as the performances gear up for the holidays, and it’s time to plan for next year.
For me this is the golden time to plan what next year will look like. What do I want to fix or change? What new project do I want to start? What should my theme be for the new year?
Before the holiday performances take over, and leave me no time to breathe, let alone think and plan, I am taking a half-hour long mini-retreat to get my thoughts for next year organized.
I encourage you to do the same thing. You will find this especially helpful if you feel like you would like to stretch yourself, learn new music, improve some aspect of your playing, or just make big strides next year. After all, if you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know if you get there? And I have a three-step “GPS” system to help you start the planning process.
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How is your sense of rhythm? Are you not sure if you have one? rhythm Before we can decide whether you do or don’t, we should get our terms straight.
Let’s look at the building blocks of rhythm:
The beat is the basic unit of time. It can be expressed by a particular note value, a quarter note for instance, but essentially it is a duration of time. We experience this time span as a beat when it is used in a series of identical time spans. Remember the “thump, thump, thump” of the stereo in the car stopped next to you at the traffic light? Almost everyone can “feel” the beat.
A tempo is established by a series of beats. Tempo is the speed at which the beats repeat. Tempo can be described by a metronome marking, which indicates the number of beats per minute, or by those familiar terms like Allegro or Andante.
Meter is a repeating pattern of beats where some of the beats are more accented than others; the first beat in the...
Does one of these stories sound like yours?
1. You’re busy living the hectic modern life – teaching, performing, practicing, family – and you’re just not getting the emotional lift from your music that you used to.
2. You know what you want. You want to play music, and you’re doing all the things you’re supposed to, but you’re still not getting results. Your frustration level is mounting, and you’re not sure if you should stick with it or find something else to do.
3. Everything was going fine, until…your family needed more of your time, you had an injury, you had to help care for a sick loved one. There were other important things that needed your time and attention, and now you’re finding it hard to get back into making music.
Sometimes it feels like the spark is gone. The joy that you could count on in your music just isn’t there.
Before you give up and try stamp collecting instead, read my story of when I...
It’s October, the time of year when upcoming college auditions are weighing heavily on the hearts of music students. It’s a stressful time with so many questions that seem impossible to answer and so much preparation to be done. I routinely give my students four points to remember to guide them through these rough waters with the least amount of turmoil possible. And even if you aren’t preparing for college auditions, keeping these four points in mind will help your everyday music making too.
1. Decide what you want. We could talk about goals or career decisions, but really it’s simpler than that, and easier too. What do you WANT? An education, to study with a famous teacher, an urban environment, a friendly campus? Whatever it is that you want, there are multiple possibilities for you to choose from. There is no one perfect place, that if you aren’t accepted there, your prospects are ruined. There will be several “great fit” schools that...
As the weeks rush toward the busy holiday season, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and stressed out. So many performances, so much music to learn, so little time to relax. At times like this it’s easy to feel…well, grumpy.
But feeling grumpy does not help you make beautiful music.
So before the grumpiness takes hold, take action. Follow these seven steps, and enjoy the busy times!
First, a couple of basic rules:
1. Eat right and get enough sleep. This same advice that our mothers always gave us is really the best way to avoid stress and burnout. When your schedule won’t accommodate a sit-down, home-cooked meal, try packing some power snacks like cheese, nuts, fruit or veggies so you can avoid the fast food trap. And there is no substitute for a good night’s sleep when it comes to restoring your energy, spirits and stamina.
2. Move it! If you can make time for exercise, that is ideal. A regular routine, whether it’s yoga at home or weight training...