I’ve been playing gigs for awhile, but they’ve always been inside buildings. I’ve recently moved somewhere where outside gigs could possibly be an option. So I need to revise my contract to include outside weather conditions and temperatures. I know the harp doesn’t do well in too cold or too hot, but I don’t know a basic temperature range to include. Does anyone have some idea of what’s too cold and too hot?
Anne, Other responders may give temperatures that are perfectly reasonable. In my contract, however, because of the delicate nature and high value of wooden instruments such as a violin or a harp (I offer both, professionally) I state no playing outdoors, where a musician and equipment would endure possible raindrops, or bees, or strong winds. Also, possible noises of fire or police vehicles, planes, horns of ferry boats or train and so on, have ruined many a video where the vows taken by bride and groom are covered up.
I don’t know what the optimal temperature for a harp is, but I’m writing from Australia where it is very common to have outdoor weddings at all times of the year. If we said no to playing outdoors we’d never get any work! I have on numerous occasions played outdoors on days that were between 35-45 degrees celcius, which I know is not ideal for the instrument, but I’ve never had any issues and my harp is over 20 years old. (My newest harp which I bought a little over a year ago turned up to my front door in a box that said “don’t store over 35 degrees”… it was 39 that day!) The main thing I state in my contracts is that full shade in the form of a large outdoor umbrella or marquee must be provided. If they don’t want to provide it I charge them extra to hire one and bring it myself. I also stipulate that we never ever play outside if it is raining or if there is a chance of rain (even with the aforementioned shade). I have had several couples get very stroppy with me when I refuse to take my instrument out of the car because it is clear the rain will start any second…. only to have it bucket down right in the middle of the vows! I always suggest they have a wet weather plan just in case, particularly if it is that time of year. The main issue I find is the wind! All it takes is a slight breeze for your music to start blowing everywhere, anything stronger and it can take your music stand out too! And there’s only so much pegs can do 🙂
I’ll give you a slightly different take on this. Depending on your situation, having a 2nd harp that you can use when conditions are less than ideal might be the answer.
I did a bridal show a few months ago. Another harpist was also a vendor. I booked two weddings while I was at the show because I didn’t have a temperature clause and the other harpist did.
Think of it from the bride’s perspective. She wants the wedding to be perfect. She’s hiring a harpist months in advance, so she’ll have no worries. Yet the harpist says that if the weather conditions aren’t right, she can’t play. If I was that bride, I wouldn’t agree to that.
So in my case, buying a second harp was the answer. I chose a CF model, so the weather truly isn’t an issue. It’s worked for me.
I agree with the suggestion of comfortable for you = comfortable for the harp. I live in Arizona, where it can get above 115 in the summer. Last summer I played for a dinner at 6pm on a covered patio that was facing away from the sun… and it was still well over 100, making my hands sweat so much it was hard to keep from slipping off the strings. I do have a temperature clause, but I keep it fairly vague. I require the client to provide protection from the weather (shade, alternate location, etc.) and if it is not possible to play safely and no alternate safe location is provided, I will not be able to play. Most clients have been able to provide an alternate location when it is background music (moving the harp inside even though most party guests are outside), but it is often harder for weddings. I once had to get up in the middle of a ceremony, get my dolly, and move my harp into the reception building. It was awkward, but I was glad I did, as the rain started right before they were ready to walk down the aisle! The bride was very understanding, and everyone moved into the reception hall pretty quickly.
Bottom line: do what you are comfortable with.
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