Home Forums Forum Archives Professional Harpists John Rutter’s FOR THE BEAUTY OF THE EARTH Re: John Rutter’s FOR THE BEAUTY OF THE EARTH

Susan Abken

Greetings, again!

For next time: at least half of the payment in advance, check to clear two weeks before the event. Work up for next Advent as many works as you think you might get a call for. If this forum posted after Christmas a list of who managed to perform what where, next year’s list would probably look similar.

Who seems to be least stressed and and least worried in this profession in this country:

1. Married harpists who do not have to be the sole provider via music;
2. Military band harpists, who have excellent benefits;
3. Teachers with positions at colleges and universities who gig on the side;
4. Those few people with positions with the few well-funded US orchestras who have excellent pay and benefits;
5. The rare freelancing harpist who is the only harpist in any direction for 250 miles;
6. Patient teacher-personality people with large teaching studios;
7. Public school teachers with harp programs, doing a world of good by letting kids from middle-class and impoverished homes on the instrument of kings, teaching discipline and instilling values along with the music;
8. Organists at churches who use the harp which they also play in their programs.
9. People with day jobs, who manage to gig on the side and still honor their musical craft.

For everybody else, it’s difficult. According to THE CHRISTIAN CENTURY, which I have found on-line, poverty is rising terribly quickly in the USA. It’s a difficult time to be a freelancer, especially on an instrument that is associated with the Gilded Age.

Your investment in yourself, of staying calm, honoring the Golden Rule, not stooping to the level of others around you in difficult situations, and thinking about what position you can land in where the pressures will be lessened…All food for thought for the new year.

The view of the artist in the Western world changed for the worse from the 18th century to the 19th. The artist in JS Bach’s time and before was a skilled craftsman to the Glory of God, ego left out of the picture. By the end of the 19th century art and music were all about art for art’s sake and egos. Be very careful how you view yourself, your role as an craftsman and your work, and how you appear to others, what they learn about you from your actions and words. We are now in the early 21st century, and our craft is competing with Lady Gaga, with characters who have given true art a bad name, a public that wants instant gratification in everything and therefore has tons of credit card debt, has lost its work ethic, is willing to purchase anything for next to nothing from an enslaved nation on the other side of the world with no thought of the long-term consequences, in a culture that has lost patience and “thinks” in sound bites, and little tweets, where the skilled crafts are for “sissies.” As long as we can keep the oil flowing, nothing else matters. Juxaposed with this world we have the Church, classically-trained musicians whose craft grew out of the traditions of the Church, and a variety of music. What kind of people are we, why did we go into this and what do we wish truly to become?

Emotionalism belongs in the performance, in the interpretation, in its warmth, not in the interactions between the performer and other people. Books by Julia Cameron, or Rory Noland’s THE HEART OF THE ARTIST might be good reading for 2012.

Hang in there.

If you find yourself dealing with anger, that emotion is usually a cover for intense losses, where grief has not yet been given expression.

ENJOY what you are doing!

Sincerely yours,
Susan Abken
Homemaker and Harpist in Charlotte, NC