Edith, my grandmother, was a purely functional musician. She could beat out the rhythm and the chords for a hymn or a folk song, and she did it, loud and strong at Eastern Star meetings and Cancer Dressing events.
“People have to sing,” she said, “And somebody has to keep them together. That’s me. That’s why I play the piano.”
And that was that. She had no artistic ambitions. She didn’t dream of the stage.
Knowing Edith – who was sly, in salt-of-the-earth way – she may have also been casting a few aspersions on my mother’s family – the artists, the ‘singers,’ the dreamers – or she may have been trying to remind herself of the value of her own simple musicianship in the face of artistic snobbery.People have to sing. And somebody has to keep them together. Click To Tweet
Or maybe she was trying to give me a sense of balance, to show me that while music is an art – and was clearly the artform I was most drawn to – it can also be a service. And that service can be a joy. And that joy can bring people together in song. And people have to sing.
I’ve lived my life balancing between a fascination with the depths and heights of artist self-expression – and the pure joy of playing for people to sing. If you’ve been to any of my shows you’ve seen that all in action – because it’s simply who I am.
I also teach other harp players how to find their own way with music: to those depths and heights of artistry – and to the simple joy of playing just to keep people together.
That’s why I created my mini “Harpy Birthday” training – because every harp player will have the chance – at least once – and maybe thousands of times – to play this one song — at a party, in a restaurant, at a bedside, in a hospice. Knowing how to make it simple, to alter it to suit the situation and to make it your own – is part of the deep joy of being a functional musician – the joy of playing to bring people together.
If you play the harp (or if you don’t and you’re good at translating ideas from one medium to another) – register for my FREE “HaRpy Birthday” mini-training and learn to make this tune your own – and how to bring people together with it.
This is an archive post ~ originally published in 2017 and updated in 2019.