Playing in a hospital

Posted In: Amateur Harpists

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    unknown-user on #163430

    I would like to play my harp in a hospital, but I’m still a beginner
    harpist. How do I begin looking for easy pieces to learn? All the songs
    I know are very short. I make Greensleeves longer by playing the melody
    first, then again with the bass notes. I play it fast and slow, up an
    octave or down an octave. This style of play doesn’t work with most of
    my songs, however. Is there a book anyone can recommend? I’m slow to
    read music, but I memorize quickly once I have the fingering down.


    unknown-user on #163431

    Hi Candace

    I played in a hospital for a lady and I guess it went off well. Whenever I played there was a group of nurses and other patients outside the room asking me to keep going. The lady said she enjoyed it too. Now she was in palliative care and I found the best thing for her, was simple hymns, folk songs (Ash Grove, Carrick Fergus, Greensleeves as you mention, and such songs). As a general rule, people on serious amounts of pain killers, and older patients

    unknown-user on #163432

    Please excuse the redundancy in the phrase ” older patients

    unknown-user on #163433

    Hi Candace.

    I would strongly recommend taking a course in musicianship at the bedside, as there is much more to playing in a hospital than you may realize.

    unknown-user on #163434

    I have played in a hospital, in a NICU ward and a cancer ward.

    Fairy Reel on #163435

    I play piano for some church serivices in nursing homes, so I’m largely drawing on that experience here. The group loves old favorites–I recomend learning “Amazing Grace” and “Jesus Loves Me”. Try asking your church for a hymnal. They’ll probably give you an old one, but that’s not a problem. I have quite a collection of hymnals myself, and draw on them often. “I want to walk as a child of the Light” is another nice hymn.

    Classic Celtic is good, too. “Cockles and Mussels”, “Tis the Last Rose of Summer”, and, even though I can’t stand the song myself, “Danny Boy” is a great favorite of many. Though the death connetation may limit it’s hospital usibility.

    Also, you could do medleys (I’m still thinking hymns, here). Pick two or three short songs in the same key and play them together. Also some books offer alternate harmonies or descants with the melody, and sometimes I’ll play those as a verse.

    Do chordwork. Nothing like a smoothly rolling arpeggio to make someone smile.

    Congratulations on starting hospital work. I wish you well.

    Another way you can ‘shake up’ the songs are by changing the key on the last verse (if it’s practical).

    barbara-brundage on #163436

    Bear in mind that to be in a hospital is to be ill, not necessarily old (more often than not, not old).

    Personally, it would have given me the pip if someone came in and started playing hymns at me when I was in the hospital–I would have wondered if there were something they weren’t telling me! 🙂

    Leigh Griffith on #163437

    Not only that, but NOT everyone is Christian! I would never play a hymn
    unless asked specifically to do so. Anything else is presumptive and
    rude as well as ignorant.

    Fairy Reel on #163438

    As I repeat, I was drawing on MY experiences, offering advice from MY perspective. I wouldn’t play anything without first checking with the patient. I would also never presume to ‘play at’ someone, either. A therapy harpist is not there for themselves, but for others, no matter what venue.

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