an interesting debate regarding harp in orchestra has risen over a couple of other threads these past few days, which i feel it would be interesting to open a new discussion on the matter….
1. should one know the harp part from memory or not? i personally feel like there is no need to memorise it all, altough practice would do that naturally, but yet i feel its important to know at least the first two or three bars of each entrance by heart…. that is as to be able to just look at the mro and make sure you get it right in place. however then there are works for which i believe one should be performing from memory… such as cadenzas and works which are performed really fast… at times tempos are just too fast to have time to look at the music…. i remember those hell of three poems by fiona mcleod, composed by Griffis (its not Griffits)… the harp is shifting so fast and pedal changes are so abrupt that there is no way that you’ll be looking at the music at any second… then in solo cadenzas, i feel that looking at the strings rather than music, will allow me to feel more certain that i’m plucking it right… when you’re looking at sheet music, there is always that doubt in your mind… “Are my fingers on the right strings or not?”
2. Entrances — ok we all know, at times you would have to count never ending number of bars… it pops to mind Bartok’s concerto for orchestra and Planets by Holst…. yep, what we all end up doing is writing a key point where to start counting some couple of bars before, and given that one is not too drunk, it always work….at times rather than writing a key point… like let’s say…anight on the bare mountain mussorsky… you can think… buildup… then abrupt stop… then long pause.. then i’m in…. i feel like its more helpful personally to follow a particular musical line of just one instruments… preferibely choosing one that is near to you at the orchestra… as not to have problems with picking it up… i remember in Ravel’s Don Quichotte a Dulcinee (spelling???) i probably am more familiar with the first horn part rather than the harp itself… and in Copland’s The Golden Willow Tree… the harp perform these intervals (acciaccatura and note every crothchet or so) in exact accordance with the flute, howver playing it inverse to the flute… apart from counting in my entrance… i would also make it double sure by looking out at the flutist, and following when he puts up the flute to start playing…leaning the harp at the same moment when the flutist is taking up his flute, apart from being visually pleasant to the public, it will also assure the maestro that the orchestra is well coordinated and everyone knows what he’s doing… just pray that you will get a great looking Italian first flutist as to enjoy it even more : )
3. Knowledge of the score… ok now this is the most important factor which determines whether you’re a great orchestra member or not in my opinion (and it applies to all instrument, but i will stick to the harp here…) unfortunately, at times, we get the parts, we study them to perfection, however we go to rehearsals (and usually the harpists are only asked to attend the final one or two… at least it was always like that with me) without knowing what our role is in the orchestra…. that is whether we are just filling in, melody solo, or melody together with another group of instrument, performing an accompaniament or so….personally what i do is this…. whenever i’m contacted by an orchestra to permorm with i always make sure i get do one of the following two.