February 10, 2016

Like the swan

You will remember from last week that all this month I'll be sharing some excellent thoughts put together by the incredible Sue Richards!  She is a consummate professional and you will never see her perform when she doesn’t resemble a swan – serene, gliding from note to note.  She is clearly enjoying herself.  It is highly likely that only we other harpers have any concept of just how hard she is working.  Like the swan, that serenity belies the “paddling below the water” - working hard but giving no outward sign of it.  She tells how that can be:


"I recently debuted a couple reels that I have been working on for several years. That is, I played them in public.  I have been working on them for about seven years, off and on. No I didn't play them every day, but I did practice them for a few weeks at a time, then took a break. And what I was really doing was tweaking the choreography- fingering.  I knew they were ready when they had "flow". That doesn't mean I can play them perfectly every time, but that they had the right feeling and I mostly didn't make mistakes. And I know that as I perform them this year, they will become solid.

"While it may seem that famous Celtic harpers are fluidly swimming when they play jigs and reels, it is probably an illusion. Those notes are probably pretty carefully choreographed, and their brains are trained to look ahead to where they will be going. The fluidity comes from smart practice, concentrated relaxation, and brain focus."

SEVEN YEARS!?!  Yes, you read that right.  She works long and hard to bring the tune out.  So the next time you leave a workshop or lesson feeling like a failure because the tune you learned is not ready for prime time – remember what Sue has said – and be prepared to work on it a good long time to get it ready to see the light…so you too can glide along (like that swan).