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#133: The Christmas Snowball: How to Handle Last-Minute Requests

Be prepared, the famous Boy Scout motto. I’m thinking that Boy Scouts have nothing on harpists when it comes to being prepared. We harpists have preparation down, whether it is preparing our music, or stocking spare strings or packing our harp bag. However, there are times when even the best preparation doesn’t help, and you might be about to experience one of those times. Let’s call it the “Christmas Snowball.”

The Christmas Snowball shows up when the church music director decides that since you are playing the harp for the service and you’re there anyway, it would be a shame not to use the harp for every musical moment possible. So what started as a simple request - would you come and play the harp for one anthem with the choir on Christmas Eve? - snowballs into an additional anthem, various choral responses during the service, three carols with the congregation, a prelude selection or two, and of course, playing Silent Night during the candlelighting. If you’ve played for a Christmas Eve service before, this snowball scenario is causing flashbacks. If this year is your first time playing for a Christmas Eve service, I want you to be prepared. 

The real danger in the snowball is that it’s tempting to roll right along with it, until you realize that you're snowed under. It would be fun to play for the carols and you think the other parts don’t look too hard, so it’s easy to say yes. And you’d feel a little like the grinch if you said no. But once you agree to all the snowball extras, it feels more like an avalanche of music and the panic sets in.

In the words of the season, be not afraid. For behold I bring you pretty good ideas for how to learn this extra music fast, and I mean in a couple of days, not a couple of weeks. I’ll tell you how to make smart decisions about what to play and what not to play and I will demonstrate some of these choices at the harp so you can hear exactly what I mean. One more thing: we’ll talk about the very hardest skill of all, how to just say no. I know it’s hard to tell someone no, but I’ll help you learn to do it so you don’t feel like Scrooge. No “bah, humbugs” here.

Links to things I think you might be interested in that were mentioned in the podcast episode: 

Get involved in the show! Send your questions and suggestions for future podcast episodes to me at [email protected] 


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