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.
For musicians. the holidays can be extra stressful. Not only is there the pressure of the social aspects of the holidays, but this is when we work. Our holiday gig income tides us over what can be a very lean January. I learned the hard way what can happen if you aren’t careful.
The only time I ever had a back spasm was on a Christmas Eve. I was still in college, but I had been practicing and performing non-stop for the entire time between Thanksgiving and Christmas. After my fourth service on Christmas Eve, I came home and couldn’t do anything but lie on the floor until it went away. That was the only time I ever experienced a back spasm, but the cause was clear: I was working too hard and not being smart about it. After that I promised myself to find a better way to work as much as I could, preserve my health and sanity, and keep the fun in the holidays.
First two tips for the personal side of the holidays:
1. Schedule one small social time each week. I put this...
Today, I am especially thankful…
For my students who inspire and motivate me.
For my teachers who believed in me, nurtured me and taught by example as much as they did in lessons.
My first harp gig. I was 12.
For harp strings that are more durable than they used to be.
For the Ravel “Introduction and Allegro”.
For talented colleagues who are also caring people.
For audiences to share music with.
For hands, eyes, ears and mind that are still holding up after all these years. Mostly.
For amazing friends whose love persists over time and distance.
For my parents who bought me instruments, found the best teachers, drove me to rehearsals and performances, and never complained.
For my brother and sister who also never complained.
For my son with whom I can share the joy of making music.
For my husband for his never-failing support, his always-on-the-mark comments and the wonderful life we live together.
Each year at this time I am surprised by the sudden arrival of the holidays. No matter that the calendar progresses smoothly from day to week to month. I still experience the arrival of Thanksgiving as unexpected and a little unsettling. Nevertheless, this remains my favorite time of year, and I have some musical traditions that I use to help mark the season.
One is my annual Christmas carol arrangement that I write for my students. This year I will be making it available (for free!) here on the blog as well. Watch for the link later this week.
A new tradition that I am starting this year is making slideshows of photos taken in the past year and setting them to music. This year I will be using music from my solo Christmas CD, “Break Forth, Music for Christmas and the Season of Light.” You can find out more about the CD at ArsMusica.
The photos in this first slideshow are autumn and winter scenes from around our home in central Pennsylvania. We are fortunate...
Sightreading, a word that can cause the palms of even experienced musicians to sweat. Perhaps that’s because it is the one performance situation that we really can’t practice. It feels more like a free fall; take a deep breath, step off the edge and count the broken bones at the bottom.
But if we could practice sightreading, we could take away the fear factor. We could find more freedom and pleasure in any musical situation. If only we could figure out HOW to practice it.
I believe the key lies in understanding this: sightreading is a snapshot of your musical development. All your musical skills – technical, aural and expressive – come into play when you sightread. If your skills are above the difficulty level of the piece,you will sightread well. Think of a piece you played when you first started taking lessons, perhaps one you played at your first student recital. It took hard work and many months to prepare it. And now, years later, you can pull it out and...
Being competitive is a good thing. Competitiveness helps us try harder and bring our best effort to a performance. Competition is how we test ourselves and find our place in our particular arena.
But competitiveness has a dark side. Remember Tonya Harding? That’s an extreme example, certainly, but it shows how the desire to win can completely cloud a person’s perspective. Even on a smaller scale, competitiveness can cause unnecessary and unhelpful negative feelings that overwhelm us and prevent us from enjoying our achievements.
Picture backstage at the student recital. There are numerous students waiting their turns to perform. But among the group, two or three students seem different. They are advanced high school students, and they are the “special” ones. All the younger ones know that these students are the best, the ones they want to be when they are older. Perhaps those two or three are good friends who wish the best for each other. But sometimes...