Musical Comfort Food


What music do you crave when you need something warm and nourishing?

The cold, blustery days of winter are upon us. While the snow is falling and the wind is howling outside, inside you throw on a warm sweater and sit down at the harp. You know you should work on some Bochsa etudes or maybe learn that orchestra part you have to play next week. But days like these leave you craving something warm and nourishing—comfort food at the harp. So what do you pull out and sink your teeth into when you want to play some satisfying comfort music?

We put this question to harpists across the country and received some interesting answers. Some harpists say that harp music isn’t really their comfort food—playing represents other things to them, namely work or service to others. But many hold deep emotional ties to certain pieces, genres, or composers, and connecting to that music is as satisfying as a piping hot bowl of chicken noodle soup.

"I love to improvise and printed music would get in the way." —Louise Trotter

“I love to improvise and printed music would get in the way.” —Louise Trotter

It was my habit to practice every night after supper when growing up as a child from age 6 to 18. I still have a natural yearning to go sit at the harp after my dinner every night and play. Sometimes it is in preparation for an event, and other times it is just to restore my soul. I may choose a little snippet of actual compositions, but more likely I will improvise on a familiar tune or original thoughts. I will play random notes with lots of glisses and harmonics, searching for varieties of sound. Sometimes a waltz will come into my head, which may develop into a little duet arrangement (“Ballet of the Butterflies” for example). I may play a hymn like “Amazing Grace” or “What a Friend we Have in Jesus” if I am depressed or homesick for family members long gone. Sometimes I choose Stephen Foster’s “I Dream of Jeanie” or “Beautiful Dreamer.” If I feel peppy I might do some Christmas pop like “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas,” all without music. I love to improvise and printed music would get in the way of my meditation and ruin any spontaneity.

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About Author

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

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