Months of lockdowns and cancellations have left musicians with unexpected time to accomplish things they didn’t have time for pre-pandemic. We’ll take a win where we can get one!
(Do you have any great lockdown victories to share? Tell us in the comments!)
It’s been a crazy year, but here’s what I’ve been up to: I released a home-recorded and produced album and shipped CDs all over the world; published a whole stack of arrangements of video game, movie, and pop music; created six music videos for YouTube; had new publicity photos taken; and learned how to use video conferencing to organize virtual harp circles for my students and other harpists in the community.
I have started a YouTube video tutorial series called Coffee Break Harp. Previously to Coffee Break Harp, I was doing weekly livestreams, but with more time, I decided to go for edited videos to be able to share knowledge in a more accessible way. While I am hoping that videos will help to promote me as a teacher, I also always felt that it is important to share with others, especially now that the online world makes it so easy to connect with others and learn. Being very lucky to have received free music lessons in my youth, I now want to give back and share with others who may not have had this opportunity.
Zuzanna Olbryś, Edinburgh, Scotland
I recently did some harp duet arrangements (they are available on Harp Column Music), which include recordings of each part so harpists can play along with the recordings at home! I was really excited about this project because it lets harpists play music with another person while we are all having to spend much more time alone. There are currently five arrangements, but I hope to release more soon.
In April I created an online-series called MUSEaic where I invited other creatives to fuse various branches of the arts with music, with the intention to inspire each other through creative challenges. (You can watch the videos at elisabethplank.com/videos.) I started MUSEaic because I felt I needed regular dates to create some regularity for myself. I also invited two harpists for MUSEaic, Elizabeth Wenzel and Veronika Lemishenko, as they were the two harpists that inspired me a lot during the lockdown in Vienna. Veronika’s harp marathon once more reminded me of the power of music and sense of community music can create and Elizabeth’s “quarantini” videos always cheered me up, and she supported me a lot with knowledge of video editing. During the weeks of lockdown, I also shared a weekly update of the books I’ve read, as well as what I did or didn’t do that past week and started an “appletree update” (from bud to apple, March to September) as inspiration for others and as a diary for myself.
I released my first album! I recorded it pre-COVID, (that was the easy part!) but did all the licensing, jacket and album cover edits, making cds, and releasing it through all streaming services during the lockdown. Since it was my first solo album, there was definitely a learning curve. Finally, I had the time to sit down and get it done.
I learned new songs, kept taking virtual harp lessons, attended a Historical Harp Society event and Somerset Folk Harp Festival virtually, and even figured out the technical set up to play a couple of virtual concerts. It was more difficult than I anticipated, but I managed!
I learned Debussy’s “First Arabesque,” which I never had time to learn before, and I created an improvisation with electronics using the themes of the “Arabesque.” It was an exciting project for me, and I learned a lot. I installed a little home studio in my practice room; learned to record, edit, and mix the sound with Reaper; learned to use Final Cut Pro to edit the video; and uploaded it on YouTube. I also managed to finish my arrangement of “Hedwig’s Theme” from Harry Potter. It was an unfinished project and finally the pandemic gave me time to finish it. I also learned five new Bach Inventions, recorded a ton of videos for my students, and wrote many new arrangements for them (and for me) that I also uploaded on YouTube.
I started a new podcast called Soundweavers.
My husband Marc and I launched our new Americana band, Harp & Plow. Our debut single, Pastures of Plenty, was featured in American Root and Bluegrass Situation magazines, along with some big Spotify playlist adds. We were also recently featured on the Southern Gothic and Off The Podium podcasts.
I made some recordings for Facebook and Instagram, learned new pieces that I hadn’t previously made time for, cleaned up and organized my iPad ForScore setlists, scanned hard copies of old sheet music, purchased new music for Christmas, and made arrangements for my harp to be refinished at Lyon & Healy.
I launched some new resources on harp writing for non-harpist composers. I started a YouTube channel called ComposeHarp to discuss harp composition tips and review the standard excerpts that composers would be most likely to run across in their orchestration studies. I also started a Facebook group called Harp Notation for harpists to chat about notation preferences. My ultimate goal is to make the harp more accessible to composers and to facilitate more harpist-composer collaborations.
What haven’t I been working on? During the lockdown, it began with me stepping out on my balcony and performing for my neighbors while live-streaming consecutively every day, at least two songs for 70 days. This led to intensive research into how to virtually broadcast to YouTube and Facebook with professional broadcasting audio. I have written songs and scored the music for a short news documentary on COVID-19, I’ve entered music for a competition with LG Global and H.E.R., and I’ve recently turned my attention towards my forthcoming streams. Lockdown has fueled my creativity and fostered discipline. I’ve fallen in and out of love with my harp several times during the pandemic and began learning Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2. I’ve had my highs and lows just like everyone else, and I’ve missed my family; I still do. It’s most definitely been a time for reflection for many of us and a reassessment of our lives.
I redesigned my website, learned a solo program, and made heaps of music videos!
Here in South Korea, as a military spouse, we have been told to mostly stay home off and on since February. I have been trying to write more hymn arrangements but mostly have been trail skating to save my sanity.
Jessica Slade, South Korea