As the rain ‘pitter-pattered’ down, and the wind played with everybody’s hair and hats around me, I joined the undeterred harpists of the World, as I wrestled my harp, (Arabella), out of the boot of my car, on to the trolley and wheeled it into the huge church of St Peter Mancroft, in Norwich City Centre; this time to rehearse some Rimsky-Korsakov and Prokofiev. Just as I saw the door in sight, a huge gust of wind decided to have some extra fun, using Arabella in her covers as a sail to push! I let out a squeaky panicked sound before a kind percussionist and double bass player came to help.
This particular weather confrontation got me reminsing of all the weather incidents I have incurred with Arabella, my harp, over the years; it is never mentioned when studying the harp privately or at music college, how you also need to be robust and athletic, (which I am not, but I am deceptively strong because I have to be), to pursue a career with the instrument of ‘angels’, (who historically are graceful and elegant by the way!)
So, there was the one where my lovely parents had driven me in my teens, to a field in the middle of nowhere to play at a church with candlelight only, due to no electricity; only to then find the car stuck in mud after literally hiking across the field carrying my pedal harp at the time. Then, I distinctly remember driving back from playing at a party on a freezing, snowy winter’s night, and then getting stuck in the snow. I had to traipse back to the party in full evening dress, to get some help. Thank fully a few burly men came with shovels to dig my car out of the snow.
Of course, there have also been those concerts where, (generally churches), the venue is so freezing cold, I literally can’t feel my fingers to play and hear anything above my chattering teeth! Finally, I remember the opposite to this when I had to play outside at a wedding with no shade in the baking hot sun. The kind owner of the venue, could see that I was getting a little red, not to mention, worrying about my poor harp, and stood for quite some time with a parasol over me.
Let’s conclude that being a harpist is no whimsical angelic role for those musicians who just like glissandi* and wearing heels, but actually, you must have a secret ‘Shera’ kind of super power strength, whilst remaining calm and collected of course. Note to self; always carry a hair brush, wellies and hand warmers in the car!
*Glissandi = a continuous sliding scale on the harp. Consider yourself schooled!