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Practicing Harp Happiness

#011: Clair de lune [A Harpist's Guide]

music and meaning Aug 02, 2021

Some composers change music forever, Claude Debussy was one of those. 

Debussy is generally credited with the rise of the Impressionist movement in music. The Impressionists focused on the mood and atmosphere of music, conveying it through tone color and flow, rather than sharp musical detail. 

The paradox of this music is that, although it often seems outside of time even without a tempo or pulse, the very formlessness of it is written into the music. Following Debussy’s printed directions is often the easiest way to get the expression you want. You can and should approach this music in the same way you would begin a Bach or Mozart piece - but you need a little more information first.

On today’s show we will explore three features of Debussy’s Clair de lune. You will discover:

  • How Debussy uses them to create the moonlight mood of the piece. 
  • How they reveal Debussy’s intention for the piece.
  • The best practice techniques to employ so that you...
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#007: Music of Revolution [The Liberty Song]

music and meaning Jul 05, 2021

Music has the power to inspire, to encourage and to unite. No song reveals this more clearly than the one written by a Philadelphia lawyer in 1768.

“United we stand,” are words familiar to every American, but few of us know that they first appeared as lyrics of what was perhaps the first song of resistance in the colonists’ uprising against British taxation. 

This podcast episode is dedicated to the story behind this song of the American Revolution, once iconic and now much less familiar than its jeering British contemporary tune, “Yankee Doodle.”  With words by John Dickinson to a tune borrowed from an English opera, this song became a key player (pun intended) in the American quest for liberty.

No, it wasn’t a harp tune, but I will play it for you anyway and you can download my harp arrangement of it too!

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

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#003: Canon Law: A Harpist’s Guide to the Pachelbel Canon

music and meaning Jun 07, 2021

 What’s the one piece any harpist could name after just the first two chords? It’s the Pachelbel Canon of course.

Whether you’ve played it a thousand times or have yet to learn it, the Canon in D by Johann Pachelbel has become standard repertoire for harpists. The piece has embedded itself in our musical culture so deeply that it is on every gigging harpist’s most requested list and a favorite with any audience. 

But it isn’t all that easy to play, unless you know the shortcuts.

In this episode I explain some of the musical elements of the Canon with the idea that the more you understand about this piece, or any piece, the easier it is to learn it quickly and to play it well.

Plus, I share some of my favorite Pachelbel practice techniques with you, ones that can save you a lot of practice time and frustration, even if you’ve played the piece before. You’ll discover:

  • Why your harp version isn’t really a “canon.”
  • ...
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