There are two important things that will be in my harp bag when I go to my Christmas Eve performances this year. I am counting on them to keep me from worrying about those last minute crises that tend to arise at the worst possible moments. Both of these were gifts from thoughtful (and savvy) friends. I hope that these will help you be prepared as well.
The first item is my emergency stand light. This light saved my life, or at least my performance, two years ago. I was playing at a lovely candlelight service. As I set up and prepared for the service, I noticed the low light level, and I checked to make sure I could read my music and see the strings. All was well until just before the service when someone decided to dim the lights. Knowing that I had my emergency stand lights in my bag next to me, I reached down, pulled out the lights, turned them on and set my pedals for the first hymn. Having those lights with me saved me from eye strain, wrong notes and a lot of worry.
We had a wonderful week at Harp in the Mountains Summer Festival this year. We practiced, performed and as you can see on the video, we had a lot of fun.
I created this video with some of our favorite photos from the week, accompanied by my recording of “Greensleeves,” from my Christmas CD Break Forth.
This year’s Harp in the Mountains Festival will be held July 14-20, 2013. Plan to join us! There is more information on the ARS Musica site or you can email me.
I wanted to share some good news. My friend and colleague Chuck Holdeman has just released our recording of his composition for bassoon and harp, Lyric Seasons.
The recording is available for download on CD Baby, where you can preview all four of the movements.
Lyric Seasons was written in 2000, and Chuck and I premiered it the same year. The four movements are not seasons in the sense of time of the year, but rather represent four very contrasting takes on lyricism, which might be defined as poetic melody.
The first “misty” movement is in part a swirl of questioning or mysterious sounds from which more specific themes emerge. The second movement is based on obstinate ostinati, or simple repeated patterns played on each instrument in turn, while the other instrument plays with complete melodic abandon. Chuck realized in hindsight that this movement might not have existed without his having heard the last number in Bill Duckworth’s Time Curve...
This time of year we all do too much playing. We play every holiday party and concert we can, to put away some money for the leaner months. This makes for a nice fat bank account and some seriously over-worked fingers, not to mention backs, shoulders and brains.
But what if you still need to practice for some of those concerts? Or if your technique is suffering from playing at too many loud parties? Is it possible or even safe to practice when you’re already playing too much?
It is not only possible; it’s a good idea to practice. But only if you approach it the right way.
Here are ten tips, based on how I practice when I’m feeling all played out.
1. Consider your total playing time. You know your limits. Decide on a reasonable amount of time to play each day. Add up all the hours you will be performing or rehearsing. Subtract that from your total time. Whatever time remains is the amount of time you should practice....
Holiday parties are fun if you’re a guest. But when you’re the band, they can be tiring, monotonous, and if you’re not careful, a minefield of career-sabotaging traps. But by remembering a few simple things, you can ensure that you will survive all your gigs and still have work next year. Even better, you might enjoy playing them!
I remember well the hardest year I had playing holiday parties. My son was very young and suffering from an ear infection. He wasn’t sleeping at night, and neither was I. I was playing a holiday party in someone’s home, and thought I was doing well just staying awake. But later I got a call from the contractor who had hired me. He had heard from the client who thought I was rude. I hadn’t meant to be rude; I was merely exhausted. After some explanations and apologies, all was well. But this led to my deciding on some “rules” for myself, some of which are incorporated in the tips below.
1. Bring your best...
Just a quick note to let you know about my specially priced CD bundles. You can mix and match Break Forth, my Christmas CD, and Romantische, romantic music for harp, and get quantity discounts perfect for holiday giving! This makes it easy to have some thoughtful gifts on hand for hostess gifts (Romantische and a bottle of wine, perhaps?) or a gift for that lady with the hectic life (Break Forth and some scented candles!).
Single CDs are $15, but you can save $5 with a 2 CD mini-bundle for $25. Save even more on a 5 CD bundle for $50 – that’s just $10 per CD. Or even better, a 10 CD bundle for $75 is just $7.50 per CD. That’s half price! You can find all the deals here at arsmusica.us. You can read more about the CDs here.
What is better than relaxing harp music for the holidays? Buy some to give, plus one to keep for yourself!
Thank you, and Happy and Harp-y Holidays! – Anne
© Irina Ukrainets – Fotolia.com
Tired of exercises and etudes? In a holiday mood? Try these pieces to lift your spirits and your technique at the same time!All the music is available on the usual harp music sites, with the exception of my arrangement of “Still, Still, Still,” which you will find here. All the easy and intermediate music is playable on lever or pedal harp, except for the Renie “Angelus,” which is pedal harp only.
English Traditional/Milligan: Greensleeves. In the “Medieval to Modern Collection, vol. 2,” this standard piece is presented in a pleasing arrangement with just enough chords and arpeggios to make it worth your while.
Marzuki: The Christmas Harpist. These arrangements are not all easy, but they are interesting to learn and play. Plus, they include quite a number of lever changes, making this book a fun way to improve your lever technique.
Hands separately! Those words are in every one of my lesson assignment books starting when I was four years old. It was the way my teachers showed me how to practice carefully and attentively. As I got older, my teachers assumed that I had a complete repertoire of practice techniques, including hands separate practice. I regret to say I didn’t always use the techniques I knew.
Part of my job as a teacher is to help my students develop their practice techniques as well. But sometimes I hear a “traffic jam” of notes in their lessons, a place where things aren’t going smoothly. That’s when I know they need reminding of one of the most powerful tools at their disposal: hands separately practice.
Hands separately practice is indeed one of the most valuable tools we have. Used regularly, it can prevent those tangled traffic jams from happening. And it can help sort out the tangles if they do happen.
In case you need reminding, here are nine ways hands...
Here is this week’s holiday video. The photos were taken on our visit to Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, Florida. This amazing carillon tower and 50-acre garden was given to the American people by Edward Bok. Edward Bok (1863-1930)was an author and editor, most notably of The Ladies Home Journal which was published by Philadelphia publisher Cyrus Curtis.
And therein lies the music connection. Edward Bok married the boss’s daughter, Mary Louise Curtis, who founded The Curtis Institute of Music in 1924. In 1927, the Boks began construction on Bok Tower Gardens near their Florida winter home. The Tower Gardens were dedicated February 1, 1928 by President Calvin Coolidge.
The music accompanying the video is Bell Carol from “Break Forth.”
I leave you with a quote from Edward Bok, on the occasion of the Tower’s dedication:
Make you the world a bit better or more beautiful because you have lived in it.