This is a post that is mostly aimed at professional harpists that play for an audience, but everyone can participate!
The question here is : do you let other people touch your harp, and play with it? Why, or why not?
When I say “other people”, it can be anyone : friends coming to your home, the audience at your concert, and, most especially… kids.
Do you feel that your instrument, maybe being your livelihood, or simply being something that you invested in and are attached to, should be protected from the hands of others?
Or do you feel that people should try out the harp?
Do you let your feelings guide you, saying “no” if you’re not feeling it?
Do you have another method? (Like offering another instrument for them to try?)
For me, kids are the biggest issue : most are fascinated with the instrument, which is fantastic to see. However, depending on the age and their education, they can be unpredictable and it’s not always easy to know if they are going to play respectfully or bang away on the instrument.
On the other hand, most small harp concert I go to end with the harpist offering the audience (max. 40 people) to try out their harp, and I really like this initiative.
I also remember being 6 or 7 years old at the Radio France Orchestra? The concert hall was almost empty save for the instruments : and I made a beeline to the harps while my mother was chatting. Isabelle Perrin was the harpist then, and she was ever so kind with me, getting me to pluck a few strings on her gigantic, shiny harp. Now, I was overcome with shyness then and soon ran off, but I vividly remember this moment with great fondness. I would love to recreate this moment with someone else.
Personally, I don’t have a hard and fast rule yet. Since I play a double-strung harp that is unknown here in France, I love it when other harpists play with it and discover a new type of playing. When I know the children (family and friends), I always let them play if they ask.
On the other hand, I’m not encouraging them either. (I don’t bring out the harp at a gathering with a lot of people, for example, which I could do).
As for adults, they never ask to play and I don’t offer it either, so the harp stays untouched.
I would like to take out my harp in public a bit more, in order to challenge myself : but I would first like to have a firmer position on this matter. I only have the one harp, after saving for a long time, so I would be angry if it gets damaged by carelessness. And yet, I want to give back some of the magic of discovering the harp to other people.
So how do you do it? What are your stories? (charming stories or horror stories, I want them all!)