My local chapter of the American Harp Society presented a concert this past Sunday, St. Patrick’s Day. We had forty-three harpists of all ages and forty-three harps of all sizes playing a very eclectic program of pieces, including Londonderry Air, better known as the melody of Danny Boy. I doubt that you could have heard that anywhere else in the country.
I’ve not played with the harp chapter for a few years, and I’d not remembered the more challenging aspects of playing in so large an ensemble when I decided to play in this concert. My celtic harp is in the center back of the photo, lost in a sea of pedal harps. Seeing the conductor when sitting behind so many taller harps requires contortions of harp and harpist. Staying on the beat when there is so much sound echoing from the walls and ceiling requires trusting my eyes that are glued to the conductor’s baton, and not my ears. And just walking through the harp forest without crashing someone’s music stand into their $20,000 instrument requires more grace and coordination than I usually have at my disposal.
But despite the challenges, that many harps playing together sounds wonderful. And with forty-two other harps, I could relax, play, and enjoy the process, knowing there was no way that any of my missing notes would be noticed.
The most delightful aspect of the performance for me was seeing my friends in the audience and afterwards hearing how much they enjoyed the music. Just their coming to support me and hear me play made me feel very special. But after the concert, Darci said that her mother always gave her flowers after her ‘cello recitals, and she gave me this beautiful bouquet of roses. And Susie gave me a ‘feather for my cap” which now adorns the glass vase she brought me from Bermuda that sits on the small altar in my practice room, both reminders of her caring.
Playing in this concert reminded me that the more I focus on performance as an opportunity to share a gift of music, the less I am plagued with performance anxiety. And my friends’ delight in the concert reminded me that the more I experience an audience’s enjoyment, the easier it is for me to truly believe that sharing music really is offering a gift, and the easier it is for me to be grateful for, instead of frightened by the opportunity to perform.