I’m playing with Symphony Tacoma this Sun. Apr. 22 in a special Earth Day concert in Seattle-Tacoma and I just landed in the beautiful Northwest. But yesterday …
Yesterday it took only one minute for my Uber driver to get to my house — barely enough time for me to hug my bookkeeper goodbye and chuck the cats under the chin one last time.
I looked down at my two bags and realized it’s taken 25 years to get to this moment.
To walk out the door to play as a soloist with Symphony Tacoma meant developing the instrument AND all the music I play. 25 years ago neither of those things existed. So here’s a quick look at what it took!
Building the Instrument – Creating the Music
25 years ago when I first had a vision of playing my own music with symphony orchestra, none of it existed except in my mind – there was no instrument like the one I saw in my mind, and no music like I heard in my head. Watch the story of the decades-long journey to create the harp I play in my new TEDx talk (and when you do, please share it and leave comments).
The music I’ve composed and arranged to play as a soloist with symphony was an even longer journey that started with the vision of playing IN FRONT of a symphony orchestra (not in the back, where the harpists usually sits) and then I bought a book called “The Study of Orchestration” – You can also see a sneak peek at some of the music we’ll play.
So when I look down at my bags – my harp case and my suitcase – I’m looking at the END of 25-year journey AND …
This is why every performance feels to me like a BEGINNING – like I’ve been building and packing these suitcases for decades, and each time I open them, what’s inside has evolved. I feel that way every time I do a show, because every time I’m adding, tweaking, changing, discovering, expanding, challenging.
For this show I developed four new pieces and by ‘developed’ I mean that I adapted or edited them so that they could shine in a new way. And because this is a special Earth Day concert, I created a new program – a new set of pieces – choosing ones that illuminate our relationship to nature, both the sublime, like in the “Phoenix” and the ridiculous, like in “The Macho Dogs of Somerville”
The adaptations all had different challenges for me. Some meant hiring a copyist to change the music, some meant notating things I’d previously just improvised, some meant having to re-learn or ‘translate’ pieces that were originally for one kind of harp onto the new harp I play.
The pieces I adapted this time around were: Nightingale, Phoenix, Califypso and Baroque Flamenco. CLICK HERE to learn the details about these adaptations!
The Audience Conversation begins before the show
If you’ve ever been to one of my shows, you know I’m not a “Audience: be quiet and just sit there and watch me” kind of performer –and that starts before I even get on the stage – so I made two videos to speak directly to the Tacoma audiences, invite them to the show and give them a taste of what they’ll see.
Why is this so important to me? Ever since I was a kid, I felt uncomfortable in formal concerts, isolated from the music and the performers, like I had to just sit there, shut up and stay still. When I worked with my mentor, Tony Montanaro, he told me that, as a performer, I’m an advocate for the audience – an advocate for their belonging, for their opportunity to have a peak artistic experience — and I take that role seriously, as an advocate and ambassador into my world of music.
Most people have never even heard of electric harp, never seen an instrument like mine and don’t know what’s important to ME as a performer, about embodying the music, the stories, the experience. So speaking to them via video beforehand is a chance for us to connect before we even get to the concerthall.
The Players: Letting them into my head
I’ll be playing with 50+ musicians on stage — and we’re playing all my original music – so it’s not something many of them have played before. To give us all the best chance to connect, I create a special ‘Tricky Parts ‘ page where I give a list of the pieces we’ll play and the ‘tricky parts’ in each piece, so they can quickly identify where they need to prepare for the rehearsal.
And yes — there’s more — but I need to strap on my harp and get in some practice as I sit in Tacoma, looking at beautiful Mt. Shasta.
That’s what it takes …
So that’s what it took me to get out the door this time – and now that my bags are packed, I’m ready for more!
Where do YOU go to hear the symphony? Do you have season tickets to your local symphony? Are you on the board? Let me know the name of the symphony and anyone you personally know who … and let’s see if I can come play with them — so I can pack my bags and come see you!
If you play the harp ... Join DHC's Hip Harp Academy
Deborah Henson-Conant's "Hip Harp Academy" online learning community is open for self-paced learning yearlong. DHC personal guides each class in the Academy once a year. Access to each guided class is limited to students who register before the 2nd week of class. Registration for the Fall Guided course, "HIp Harp TOOLKIT" is currently closed.
"Play with Freedom"
Playalong Webinar for Harpist
NEW! This Summer
at “Hip Harp Academy”
“Summer Harp Jam” PLUS!
- See what's coming up here: EVENTS PAGE
- Watch my TEDx talk "Reinventing Freedom ... - a story told "from the Harp"
Hip Harp Academy for Harp Players
- Hip Harp Academy - Sign up for the Full Membership - LEARN MORE HERE
- Harness Your Muse - Yearlong Mentorship is open for Application - APPLY NOW
- Private Coaching - LEARN MORE HERE
Free Stuff for Harp Players
- Check out my Free Stuff page for MP3 downloads, Mini-Trainings for Harpists - and other things you can download for free DHC's FREE-Stuff Page