Harp checkpoint

Recently A few months ago I was inspired to start writing again, so I finished some draft posts and scheduled them to appear on the blog. I didn’t even know that I missed blogging until I started again. I’ve accumulated a lot of stories and experiences, it felt so good to get it ‘out of my head’. It actually feels a bit like I’m making space for the new experiences in my new job (clinical research).  I am fortunate in that I still have loads of patient encounters, and the fact that I’m not their doctor enables me to take a step back, to observe, to reflect. The hard thing is to keep it all in until I’ve gathered enough to create a story that takes elements from experiences with several patients.

So the next few blogposts will be mostly about playing the harp! A lot has happened, it’s been about 1,5 year since I last posted about harp-related stuff. And even more happened during the time I took to finish this post (I think I started writing this in March or so).

First of all, aside from finishing the last internships and graduating, I also moved to the other side of the country. That meant finding a new harp teacher. Distance-wise it’s somewhat closer to where my first harp teacher lived, but it would still be quite a journey to get there, and after an entire day in the hospital and commuting, I wasn’t really looking forward to another long commute to harp lessons. Another advantage of looking for a new teacher would be a fresh look on my playing and technique, I’ve known the other teacher for 15 years or so, so we probably had some blind spots.

Through the folk harp workshops I met my new teacher. She was also classically trained, but she is into modern folk harp as well. So that means that my lessons are now a very pleasant mix of classical music AND folk harp things that I’ve always wanted to learn.

I’ve started working on ostinato-like accompaniments in the left hand. For me, it’s quite easy to improvise over an ostinato, but playing a ‘song’ while doing it is an entirely different story. Here is a jig with the ostinato-thing, and of course, I couldn’t resist trying a set with another jig. But you can hear that I’m obviously not there yet due to the change in tempo… 🙂 You can also hear that I sometimes tend to rush. I’m really working on it to ‘keep calm’, to keep my enthusiasm in check, but that isn’t really easy.

https://soundcloud.com/chordaetendinae/sets/harp-checkpoint/s-XV0zv (the jigs refused to be added as a seperate song).

To add to this, she gave me an etude by Maeve Gilchrist which is a very good brain twister. The ostinato and the melody stay the same but it moves by one count every round. I can now sort of play through it without getting completely stuck, but I’m trying to be able to count out loud and play everything exactly on the right moment, sometimes I’m a little late/early. I really love these kinds of etudes.

On the classical spectrum of things, I’m now learning a part of the sonatina in G major by Dussek. I’ve always found this kind of music very hard to play. On paper, it’s not too difficult (no new techniques), but it’s so hard to make these endless sequences of ‘on the beat’ notes become a musical story instead of a flat barrage of sound. To start, is very important to be spot on with every note, so you can focus on the dynamics part instead of the fingers. And then a seemingly rather simple pieces turns out to be more difficult than expected, I definitely couldn’t play it on speed, my fingers would stumble over several passages. So I tried to fix that to bring some more ‘life’ in it, and I think it’s getting there, though a long way from perfect.

Maybe you heard a difference in the harp? I’ve rented a Lyon and Healy Troubadour from my first harp teacher and I’ve completely fallen in love with it. This harp is a lot more ergonomic than my own harp, now I can finally sit straight and try to be in my core while playing.

I’ve also started learning Clair de Lune by Debussy. I don’t have a recording of that yet, becase I’m still in the training-my-fingers to do what I want stage. There are a lot of big chords and after a year of only playing melodies with one voice I need to reacquaint myself with translating these chords to what to do with my fingers. So now I am able to sort of survive the first two pages + 6 measures. But it’s so nice to really ‘struggle’ with a piece, to need to take it very slowly and after some practice, these mysterious notes finally begin to sound a little like music… And I really love Debussy, I didn’t know that he used such nice harmonies in his music – and that it’s possible on a lever harp. It’s completely different from other music I’ve played on the lever harp. The disadvantage of learning this piece is that it takes some time to get ‘into the zone’ of really working on something intensely. I don’t always have the energy for that, so then I only play the easier pieces – and of course, that delays the learning process of Clair de Lune…

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2 Comments on “Harp checkpoint”

  1. I am very impressed with your Sonatina – it is flowing beautifully, and is auditory interesting – definitely not a flat barrage of sound. I agree that Maeve Gilchrist’s stuff is a brain twister! Have you seen her play? She taught a couple of times at the harp conference I go to every year, so I’ve seen her in concert. Amazing how she can flip levers. Congrats on getting a “harp that fits.” Makes everything so much easier!


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