Being ready for the unexpected is part of the gig.
One Wednesday evening several months ago I was cooking dinner when my cell phone rang. It was the personnel manager of a nearby orchestra. Their harpist was having a medical emergency and he needed a sub for Capriccio Espagnol on a concert at 8 p.m. I looked at my watch. It was 5:45—as in two hours and 15 minutes until the downbeat. The personnel manager’s voice was growing more desperate by the second, and with no plans for the evening I was available, so I agreed to play the gig.
I immediately went into survival mode. I found my part, located the recording in my iTunes library, and sat down to listen to it. Thankfully there’s no harp in the first two movements. I got the cadenza back in my fingers and quickly went through the rest of the part, only focusing on the most exposed parts. The rest would have to be fine. I was playing the concert on the orchestra’s harp, so I threw on the only orchestra black in my closet that was clean was out the door by 6:30. I arrived at the hall by 7 p.m. so I could get used to the harp. I was able to talk through tempos with the conductor at 7:30. At 8 p.m. I was performing Capriccio Espagnol. Not exactly where I thought my evening would take me when I was cooking a bolognese sauce only a few hours earlier, but I survived to tell the tale.
If you’ve played the harp for any length of time, you’ve been there—whether it’s a broken string in the middle of a performance or a duo partner that is late to the gig, we’ve all been faced with that potentially paralyzing harp emergency. These are the kind of scenarios that would keep you up at night if only you had an entire night’s forewarning. That’s the thing about emergencies—they are immediate. You don’t have the luxury of time to mull them over and stew about them. You can only react and survive. Nadia Pessoa shares some great insights and strategies for preparing for the unpredictable in “Survival Guide for Harp Emergencies.”
Devon Haupt knows a thing or two about the unpredictable. Haupt is in the middle of an eight-month performing contract that takes her all over India playing one crazy gig after another. In her article “From Indiana to India,” Haupt recounts some of her adventures and shows us what happens when you have to expect the unexpected. I suppose there’s a reason the performing arts coined the phrase, “the show must go on.”
Also in the this issue, Harp Column readers are in for a treat—a rare look at one of the great harp teachers in the world today, Germaine Lorenzini (see “The French Teacher”). She comes out of the storied French school, having studied with Lily Laskine and Jacqueline Borot at the Paris Conservatory. Tales of Lorenzini’s teaching precede her, and her former students are some of the best harpists performing today, including Isabelle Moretti and Sivan Magen. So when we had the opportunity to interview this living legend, we jumped at it. Because of the language barrier, we used a translator for the interview with Lorenzini. But if your French is trés bon, you’ll want to check out the original French transcript of the interview that appears online. It’s a wonderfully authentic picture of this uniquely French teacher.
And finally, we’re excited to welcome back harp technician Mike Lewis for a regular feature we’re calling “Tech Talk.” Each issue Mike will break down a harp maintenance issue in language we harpists can understand. I think we can all count on learning a lot and having a laugh or two with Mike’s humorous style. Hey, if you can’t have fun fixing a broken pedal rod, when can you have fun? •
Alison Reese is editor of Harp Column. She is a freelance performer and teacher in West Michigan. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.