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How Holiday Music Can Make You a Better Harpist

The most wonderful time of the year is here. The decorations, the lights, the parties, the food, the gifts, the music all create an almost magical atmosphere. Surely part of that magic is due to the break from the usual, the temporary release from our everyday routine.

But perhaps you experience a little impatience with it too. I certainly do. I’m always anxious to get back in the groove with my practice and my teaching. 

Everything seems to go on hold during the holidays. While I realize that’s the point, sometimes I have to remind myself to slow down and enjoy the break. One of the things I have found helpful in relieving the itch to get back on track is remembering the ways in which the holidays actually help my harp playing. 

If you’re feeling the pressure of too much gingerbread and not enough progress, maybe my perspective will help you discover how all that holiday harping might truly be moving you closer to the growth you want.

Benefit #1: Change of Repertoire 

It is refreshing to the fingers, mind and spirit to work through new music. Even if your Christmas repertoire is the same old music you’ve been playing for the last number of years, it’s still a change from what you play during the other 11 months. Just the process of resurrecting music that has been shelved for so long is a powerful exercise. After the holidays you will come back to the music you’ve been studying with renewed energy and fresh fingers.

Benefit #2: Deadline Pressure

There is nothing like the motivating power of a deadline. There’s no postponing Christmas Eve; your music is ready, or it isn’t. 

Often, we allow ourselves to work without a deadline, or at least with a vague time frame to prepare a piece to the finish. That can cause us to lose focus and momentum in our practice and can even create poor learning habits. 

Learning to prepare music to a deadline helps you learn to set and achieve goals. It requires developing and implementing good practice strategies. And it helps you learn to play your music, even if it doesn’t feel finished. 

Benefit #3: Stretching Your Limits

Think over the playing you’ve done in the last couple of weeks, or perhaps will do in the next few days. How many places have you played that, if it weren’t the holidays, you wouldn’t have played? What music have you played that you might have thought was too hard for you? How have you stretched yourself – musically or personally – in your holiday playing? Congratulations; you deserve an extra holiday treat!

Benefit #4: Performing Practice

Even if you’re normally a reluctant performer, chances are good that you performed somewhere this holiday season. Performing is a skill separate from the harp skills we normally practice, and the more you do it, the better you get at it. Every time you perform this holiday season, you are developing this important part of your musicianship.

Benefit #5: The Gift of Giving

The best part of playing for someone is always the feeling that comes from sharing special music. Remember not to focus on the missed notes or the fumbled fingering. Music transcends those little details. It truly is a gift, the gift of music that you give to the world and, more particularly, to anyone who hears you. Even better, it is a gift that comes back to you, multiplied many times.

In the words of John Rutter’s carol, “What Sweeter Music:”

What sweeter music can we bring
Than a carol for to sing
The birth of this our heavenly King?
Awake the voice! Awake the string!

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