I’m back from my first harp ensemble class of the semester. It’s that time of the year when I voluntarily torment myself with eight weeks of sight-reading impossible music, learning entirely new, way-too-advanced repertoire, and performing in a concert, complete with solo, at the last class.
This semester’s music will require an investment in a new roll of “white-out”tape so that I can remove from my scores all those notes I won’t be playing – they will be rushing by me much too fast to be anything but a blur. Downbeats are my new goal – if I can catch the downbeat at least every other measure I’ll call it successful.
One of the new people asked me why I keep doing this, why I keep signing up for a class that is so far out of my comfort zone, I need a separate zip code to be reached there. I gave her a lot of reasons: Being in the harp ensemble is like getting an extra 90 minute lesson each week. There’s more time to discuss theory and to practice techniques. There’s the opportunity for making myself practice sight-reading. There’s new repertoire to learn. There’s the camaraderie with the other harpers who’ve been a part of the ensemble all these years.
But as I rattled off these reasons for coming back every fall, I knew that none of them were why I keep returning. The truth is that even if I’ve whited out 7/8ths of the notes in the score, even if I’m playing only one note per measure, contained in each autumn’s harp ensemble is the bountiful joy of making music with others. And that makes it all worthwhile.
Joy and downbeats. More than enough to keep me coming back.