Another tribute to Lucile Lawrence

Home Forums Teaching the Harp Another tribute to Lucile Lawrence

Viewing 2 posts - 1 through 2 (of 2 total)
  • Author
  • #89009

    As I think over the lessons I learned from Lucile Lawrence, I am

    dwelling on what was perhaps the most significant knowledge of all:

    she taught how to think, how to think about the harp, it’s music, it’s

    sound. It is a legacy from Salzedo, Varese and Stokowski, who were

    both great influences on her life and were great thinkers. An idea has

    to be clearly, fully formed, and it has to connect to another thought,

    and they have to build on each other, creating strength and force.

    When I was performing for her in her last master class, I felt this

    tremendous, palpable heat coming from her head. I think it was the

    heat produced as a by-product of her force of thought. She may not

    have been born to be intellectual, and I’m not sure I’d call her one,

    I don’t think she studied philosophy and abstract thought. She was

    practical, and didn’t have the time. But she certainly became a

    thinker, and was always calling people or dropping into their offices

    at schools where she taught to discuss some idea about music education

    and training young minds. Some people were wise enough to treasure

    that. It did mean having opinions, and too many people are

    unfortunately not tolerant of opinions and punish those who have them.

    (Nota bene: in as much as I may disagree with Carl Swanson, I respect

    him for having opinions.)

    It was tremendously frustrating for her when she felt she wasn’t

    having any effect, but I think it was more like an earthquake that is

    so deep into the earth that its vibrations will continue to be felt

    for centuries to come. Harpists do need to be thinkers. It is too easy

    to take the low road, to settle for surface prettiness, easy

    satisfaction, quick rewards. We all have to dig deeply, and work hard

    and long at what we do, to the fullest extent of our abilities to make

    this a worthwhile world. It’s the long haul that counts, and that’s

    what most of us are in it for, so let’s get to work, as she would say

    at the start of a lesson.

    I am remembering in this intense heat, as I practice Caplet’s

    Divertissement a la Francais, as I did that first summer at

    Tanglewood, how good it felt to work slowly and thoroughly through

    each little pattern, getting it into my fingers with good position. We

    practiced about three hours in the mornings, from 8:00 (!) am (because

    breakfast was from 7 to 8), had lunch on the Tanglewood grounds by

    12:00, went to a rehearsal, or had a swim, or looked around, and back

    to the harp by 4:00 for two more hours until dinner. That second

    practice session was wonderful, having warmed up so well in the

    morning; that’s when we worked on interpretation and reviewing

    repertoire, playing through the pieces we worked on piecemeal.

    One of the more trying aspects of that summer was living in a dorm

    with walls that were literally one sheet of plywood covered with shag

    carpeting, so you could hear every note played. No chance to sleep

    late, because someone was sure to start tuning at the stroke of eight.

    And at least five of us were practicing Flight at the same time! One

    of our master classes was everybody taking their turn playing it.

    Almost none of us could get the tempo past 104 to the quarter-note in

    just eight weeks, but we learned those notes! Having the full eight

    weeks there was almost like a full school year at home. After four

    weeks we were exhausted and ready to go home, but knowing we had just

    as much time left really helped us to know how much more we could do.

    At the end of the summer it was tears all around as we departed

    because it was such an intense experience for everyone.

    The other harpists that summer included Margaret Lo, Emily Halpern,

    Carolyn Mills, Cindy Sampler Horstman, Margaret (blank) and another

    student from Lillian Phillips in Muncie, Kim Willett and Mary Beth

    Braddock from Pat Pence in North Carolina, and commuters from Boston:

    Christa Grix, Richard Hunter, Karen Stern and many others. Visitors

    included Grace Wong and Elizabeth Richter, Don Henry, and Susan Miron.

    Miss Lawrence taught from 8:00 am to 6:00 p.m. six days a week, giving

    one-hour lessons and two master classes per week for eight weeks; and

    kept her eye on all of us and our comings and goings. She was only 73

    years old that year, 1980.


    Did Miss Lawrence talk often of her study with Salzedo? Or did she feel that she had built on his teachings to form her own distinctive playing? After all she outlived Salzedo by 43 years, she could have evolved a thousand times by her death. Were you ever kind of “aware” that what you were being taught was Salzedo technique or did it just seem that you were learning an individual technique from an individual teacher? In fact when di you becom aware that the stylke in which you played, was in some ways, differen to that of some colleagues. I mean when I had been playing for maybe a year, I was not aware of “schools”, it would be really interesting to know more about Lawrence, and Chalifoux and even Lucy Lewis (Jim/alumni of Oberlin? Are you out there?) all one can suppose is that they were groundbreaking musicians in the

Viewing 2 posts - 1 through 2 (of 2 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.