A Gig to Remember


Alison Reese is editor of Harp Column. She is a freelance performer and teacher in West Michigan. Email her at areese@harpcolumn.com.

Memories of all makes and models are created on stage

Memorable performance moments—every harpist has them. When we asked professional harpists to tell us about the one performance they will never forget, their answers did not disappoint. You can read their fascinating stories in the article “Unforgettable” on pg. 16.

When I started talking to other harpists for the article, I expected to find a common thread or two that would run through their most memorable moments. Perhaps it would be the thrill of performing with a world-renowned musician or playing on a famous stage or experience a moment of musical transcendence that would make the top of everyone’s list. But the stories harpists told were all over the board. Of course there were stories of famous musicians, big stages, and moments of musical magic, but there were also bizarre gigs, stressful circumstances, and celebrity audiences. There are so many factors that can make a performance memorable that finding a common element seemed futile.

But there was one nugget tucked into each response that we heard over and over again, no matter how different the memorable experiences were. Every harpist said choosing only one moment among so many unforgettable performances was difficult, even impossible.

I think every harpist can nod in agreement with that sentiment. Whether you’ve been playing five years or 50, whether you’ve performed at Carnegie Hall or the biggest stage you’ve graced is your middle school auditorium, every time you make music with others and for others you make memories.

The nature of those memories might vary; not every musical recollection is a fond one. Some may get your adrenaline pumping just thinking about them, like the time I got stuck in traffic on the New Jersey Turnpike because of an overturned tomato truck and flew into the parking lot of the performance hall at 1:56 for a 2:00 p.m. concert. I have never played so well in my life. Some performances conjure memories you’d rather forget, like the time I crashed and burned after a major memory slip at a competition and had to walk off stage without even completing one of my pieces. Some memories remind you why you play the harp, like that time I played Claire de lune on a recital at a local library and a woman in the audience came up to me afterwards and told me, with tears in her eyes, that it was her mother’s favorite song and hearing it brought back wonderful memories for her.

How lucky are we to have the opportunity to create so many unforgettable moments? Even the worst parts of being a harpist consistently provide fodder for good stories. Who hasn’t schlepped their harp to some ridiculous location or played the wedding of an eccentric bride or two? When you sign on for a gig, there is always an element of the unknown—anything can happen. In fact, that wild-card factor of performing has lead to an entire article series dedicated to harpists’ odd gig experiences—our Strange but True stories, which are always a reader favorite. At its best, being a harpist is creating something new, collaborating with other musicians, connecting with the people sitting in front of you, and taking a risk every time you step out on stage.

So what are your unforgettable moments at the harp? We want to hear about the good, the bad, and the bizarre. Share them with us online at www.harpcolumn.com.

Alison Reese is editor of Harp Column. She is a freelance performer and teacher in West Michigan. Email her at areese@harpcolumn.com.


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Editor of Harp Column, freelance harpist, private teacher, hot yoga lover, and grammar geek.

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