Seating situation during symphony performance

Posted In: Performing

  • Spectator
    Trista Hill on #62730

    Every now and then, someone I don’t know at all emails me an out-of-the-blue harp question. Here is the latest: “I watched the harpists in the symphony last night. In between times they were playing, they would move back to a seat behind what I supposed to be their stool (I did not have a good view) even if it was for a short time and then move back each time they were about to play again. Why is this? Especially during short periods (a couple of minutes)?”

    I actually don’t know the answer, as I’m not an orchestra harpist. Those of you who are, what say you? Thanks so much for your help!

    Sid Humphreys on #62731

    Sometimes, if I have a long break (like a piece or two that don’t require harp), I will sit on an orchestra chair that has a back. It’s hard on the spine to sit for long periods with no back support. Of course, I would NEVER do this during a piece as it would cause a distraction! This wouldn’t be something I’d do during an evening symphony though. More like a matinee, not wearing black tie.

    Sylvia on #62732

    I wonder what orchestra it was. Did they say?
    I once saw an orchestra where the harpists sat on chairs with their harp covers bundled up under them!
    Around here, if the harpist doesn’t play in the next piece, she leaves the stage and then comes back for her next piece.
    Sitting up straight is just part of the job. The violinists don’t lean against their chairs, and they play most of the time thru all pieces.

    Alison on #62733

    Harp/piano stools are just a little too high to be very comfortable for extended periods so I often find a normal chair in a rehearsal but not a concert, unless it were in a church and there was seating to the side . Sometimes you just have to sit quietly through other pieces, especially to ‘get your eye in’ prior to playing or damp the strings and staying close to the harp helps, more so if the next piece starts promptly. Jumping in and out of position as you describe sounds a little strange….. maybe they were in the way of the percussion… or the horns were too loud.

    Tacye on #62734

    If the questioner did not have a good view could it all be a mistake? I can imagine someone mistaking the harp being put down and so moving forward for the harpist moving back.

    Elizabeth Volpé Bligh on #62735

    I bought myself an comfy adjustable chair with a back so that I would be able to sit through long symphonies, but if I only had a bench, then I would probably put a chair beside the harp for the long waits. Percussionists often sit down on chairs when they are not running back and forth from one instrument to another.

    rosalind-beck on #62736

    I think the key word here is “long,” as in entire movements, or during pieces where it might be impossible to leave the stage. Our orchestra recently did the Shostakovich Violin Concerto. The harp only plays in the first of four movements. It is really not appropriate to leave the stage after the first movement. So, it’s either be comfortable in a chair with a back on it, move from your bench to a chair behind or alongside it, or tough it out. I usually use a “chair,” actually a “drum throne” with a back on it.

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