Harp Demonstration/Presentation

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    unknown-user on #151484

    I’m giving a series of harp presentations tomorrow at my daughter’s elementary school. I’d love your tried and true ideas of things that kids love to learn or hear. I’ve already got the usual ideas: show the parts of the harp, type of wood, general explaination of how their made, explain the types of strings, color of strings, high and low notes, sound effects (I’ll probably play the Song in the Night), examples of different styles of music the harp can play, glissandos (of course!). There may be some things I’m not thinking of right now. Mainly, I need some out of the box ideas that worked for you.


    carl-swanson on #151485

    Don’t get too technical about the explanation of the harp. Show how it works mechanically and let it go with that.

    I haven’t played a lot for children, but when I did, I found that, just like adults who have never seen or heard a harp before, I had to give them some reason to listen actively to the piece I was going to play. That means a short explanation of effects if that’s appropriate, or better, explaining the piece as a kind of story. Here’s an example. I frequently play three movements from the Mother Goose suite of Ravel. One of the movements, Little Tom Thumb(Petit Poucette) tells the story of a little boy who has gone into the woods to play. He leaves a trail of bread crumbs as he goes into the woods so he can find his way out again. But when he’s ready to go home he discovers that the birds have eaten all of the crumbs and he’s now lost in the woods. Ravel characterizes the little boy in two ways: first, the piece is written very high on the harp, like the high pitched voice of a small child. Second, he uses thirds that wander throughout the whole piece to characterize the little boy’s steps. I then demonstrate the opening measures of the piece to show that. Ravel also has bird calls(again demonstrate) and the sound of wind in the trees. Things that would scare a small child. But Ravel tells us how the story ends happily with the very last chord of the piece. With that explanation I’ve had 30 children, ages 7 to 12 or so, sit in rapt silence, and then talk to their parents about it afterwards.

    There’s a Bach Gigue I’ve used for recitals too, and when I use that I explain that this piece is a kind of magic trick. Because Bach makes you think that you are hearing a melody, a counter melody, and chordal accompaniment when in fact, from the first note of the piece to the last, you are never hearing more than one note at a time. That’s enough to make any audience of non-musicians sit up and listen actively.

    The most successful piece I have ever performed, and which is a HUGE hit with men in particular, is Tournier’s Lolita the Danser. I simply explain that French people go to Spain for vacation like we go to Florida. Tournier went to Spain and this piece is his tribute to Flamenco Guitar. The point here is to give your audience, children or adults, some little fact that makes them want to listen to the piece.

    Avoid at all cost phrases like: This is a gorgeous piece. This is one of my favorite pieces. Everyone loves this piece. That tells them nothing and gives them no particular reason to listen.

    tony-morosco on #151486

    I remember reading in one of Mary O’Hara’s books that the piece she uses to demonstrate the harp to children is The Frogs Wedding, because not only is it a children’s song but it allows for use of the harp for effects. The drone of the bag pipes, the flitting of the butterfly.

    Of course

    Misty Harrison on #151487

    I take a string and hand it around for the kids to touch it’s an old used string. I save them for that purpose.

    Elizabeth Volpé Bligh on #151488

    Turn the harp so they can see the pedals and show them how they work! Point out how the discs work like mechanical fingers pushing on the strings and explain how the shortened string makes a different pitch. Do a few pedal slides such as the ones in “La Desirade” or play a jazz piece that uses them. If you have an Irish jig in your repertoire, maybe have them clap or play spoons or tom-toms to accompany you.

    onita-sanders on #151489

    My approach to working with children

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