Monday, 23 January 2012

A happy harpist again :)

A day late, but here goes. Saturday night was brilliant, it wasn't without stressful bits but I really, really enjoyed it and felt I played well.

All my solo bits went down well and I had some lovely compliments. I had chosen 3 very different pieces, only one really sat with the kind of music we were playing together, but it felt good to be offering something a little off piste! The harp is still something of a curiosity so often you don't have to do a lot to create a stir - this can lead to its own dramas at times and sap your soul a bit but overall sometimes it's nice to know you can play something relatively simple and if executed well, it will make lots of people very happy.

Saturday morning when I wrote my last post, I was ready to sell all my harps and trade them in for a new Panigale, but after a good gig and 2 fab harp lessons with 2 of my wonderful pupils yesterday, I am back in the room and feeling good about the harp again. My local bike dealer has been placed under instruction not to let me put down any deposits (they just laughed!) and now that I have my beautiful dogs, I can't really be skipping off into the distance never to return!

Painting proved to be the perfect distraction - something requiring complete focus on the job in hand, and   giving a sense of practical satisfaction as another thing is ticked off the endless list. I will remember this for the next time I am crippled by nerves. My house always has something that needs doing so I will never be short of similarly absorbing to-dos....

So what's next? I am playing at a lunchtime concert on Wednesday (I'm part of the programme, not the main event) and having given my 3 pieces a good airing on Saturday, I am now looking forward to playing. I managed some good practice tonight, the pressure seems to have gone a bit and I have been able to enjoy some time with the harp. One of my dogs decided to help too, by nicking off with one of the straps from my harp trolley....maybe I can teach him to pack it all up for me (if only!)

After Wednesday's concert, it will be time to make a plan for the year, with some musical targets and ambitions. My 2 partners in crime from Saturday will be off to pastures new later this year, so I need to make the most of them while they are still local, and make an effort to find some new people to play with.

Back Wednesday with an update.... and hopefully some more pictures when I have found my camera lead!

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Getting Nervous - good or bad?

Tonight I am playing a gig at a local pub in town, with two friends, both very talented musicians indeed. I am so far out of my comfort zone I'm practically in another universe. They are a jazz/blues duo and have been working together for about 3 years I think. Gigs such as tonight's are bread and butter for them and I am so thrilled to be asked to join them.

We have worked hard together to make sure the harp is genuinely adding to the music rather than just punctuating and adding visual decoration (!). I love playing with them but the times I feel confident with them are few and far between. When these times come, it really is the most incredible feeling and worth all the worry and fretting that goes on the rest of the time.

There are lots of whirly feelings whizzing around my little head at the moment, but most of all, I don't want to let them down.

Normally when I get nervous before a concert or a performance or whatever, I feel that I have worked hard enough to prepare and so although the tummy flutters a little, deep down I can recognise what's going on for what it is - adrenaline and a little panic - and just accept it for what it is, knowing that it will be over soon. After all, performing classical music is what I have done since I was 5 years old.

Something about this is different. Somehow it matters more - the music matters more, the environment matters more, what I wear matters more and I have been having a completely irrational panic about what shoes to wear all week! Never mind not forgetting anything, the thing I am most worried about (other than not making mistakes!) is what to wear on my feet!!

I have some really fantastic shoes but no really special dedicated harp shoes - my normal ones are on their last legs and I associate them with having to look tame for weddings anyway. I can play in heels, in fact I really should as this is one of the rare activities when heels are beneficial. However, I hate changing shoes for driving and running around unloading the harp, so normally i stick to flats, and usually practice with bare feet as this is how I prefer to be at home.

Building up to this gig has been a fascinating experience - it is really helping me learn more about myself. I know that coming up to a performance, my ability to put in large amounts of practice disappears and this is often self-sabotaging. I don't know why I do this, I know I am not the only one which helps, but I do know from how I've felt this week that I really need to get to grips with it.

I have gone from being thrilled to be doing it and loving that I can do something so special and unique, to genuinely wanting to sell every stringed thing I own so I can get on with Project M instead.

Today I am going to get stuck into some painting - this will make a huge difference to how I use my space at home as I will be able to get all my furniture back in place, and so it will give me enough room to do the Pilates/yoga stuff that I need to do to unwind my ready-to-snap body. It should also focus my energy on something else other than worrying.

I need to do some last minute practice just to try and reassure myself a bit. This is always risky as sometimes it goes well and I feel better, and sometime it's disastrous and I end up feeling worse. But, if I don't do it, I beat myself up even more so it just has to be done.

Lastly I will be having a long soak in the bath and then making myself look as good as I can - part of the fakery that leads to makery in my experience.

I think it will go well tonight. I'm not one for all this positive visualisation business so I won't sit here telling myself 'IT WILL BE GREAT', instead I will try and do as much as I can to make sure it is.

Back tomorrow with a update on how it all went.....

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Finding time to reeeelaaaxxx...

It seems crazy to me that I have to make time to relax. Something so...well...relaxing, shouldn't that be spontaneous? Rather than planned and scheduled and organised? One of my harp teachers used to actually shout at me to tell me to relax- well you can imagine the reaction.

I have picked up another injury, this time in my right forearm. Once again, the week before a gig. It is completely self-inflicted, and not the harp's fault at all.

The harp is an extremely physical instrument - every part of your body (hmmm maybe not your nose) is required to play it. It makes mincemeat of necks, shoulders, backs and arms. To add insult to injury, my day job involves sitting at a desk working on a computer and my commute time is about 2 1/2 hours per day in the car.

Lately I have been feeling a lot more relaxed emotionally - after a really tough couple of years, things at last seem to be falling into place and I feel more in control of my own destiny and able to make decisions about what I want and how I am going to achieve it all.

However, the physical side of things is most definitely not relaxed. I was reassured to read the cyclist David Millar's book just before Christmas, and he finds it almost impossible too.

Last time I remember feeling really relaxed was in Italy on last year's harp course - in July ffs!, having spent a wonderful practice session with a very dear friend and a very gifted couple of teachers. Finally I knew what it 'should' feel like and what I was aiming for.

Late last year, in an attempt to get my body to stretch out, I was doing Pilates, a bit of yoga, lots of Davina DVDs and enjoying the odd Zumba class. Then things got busy and it all went to pot :-(

So.... time to put relaxing back up the priority list. No excuses. Pilates tomorrow morning once I have taken the dogs out!

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Happy New Year!

Well. I know I said my new year would start on 22nd December. In truth, it was a tricky few days as the culture shock of being "mum" to 2 new rescue greyhounds hit me. We had a few puddles (my fault really) and a few fights (them, not me) and at times I wondered if I had really done the right thing.

They are settling in a treat now though, and after a very relaxing few days, I am feeling well and truly in the New Year spirit. I didn't do the gig on NYE in the end - very glad about that. So I watched Jools with my hounds, drank some quality gin and enjoyed wearing my new pyjamas. Yes, I know how to live!

I am a lover of lists - the making of, rather than the ticking of. I love dreaming and planning, but am rubbish at finishing things off. This has changed a little over the closing months of 2011, but fundamentally I probably won't change.

Today I went to the church where I did my recital in September. I felt my harp calling me - the first time in a while. He has been packed up pretty much since the start of December, to avoid any damage during all the work on my house. He was unwrapped for a rehearsal on the 27th, and will come out again in the morning for an individual practice (need to figure out some pedal changes for Dream A Little Dream!) and then we have our rehearsal tomorrow evening. I am getting really excited about the gig on 21st January.

I have enjoyed my musical journey in 2011. I discovered some wonderful music in many different ways.

I had heard of Beethoven's Emperor Concerto before of course, but wouldn't have recognised it if I heard it. This year that changed, as I played the slow movement on the harp for my Granny's funeral. Trills are fiendish on the harp, and I'm afraid I had to duck out of adding them in this section as the pedals were horrendous so I was concentrating on other things.

I had many requests from brides for their wedding ceremonies. Some were wonderful - I Just Can't Stop Loving You is one of my favourite Michael Jackson songs, and I was thrilled to be asked to arrange this for a wedding in March. Fireflies was another favourite, although this caused some worry the night before as a crucial string had broken, so I had replaced it. New strings take some time to settle, and I was so worried that it would sound horrific. Fortunately all was fine.

Some were bizarre- Party Rock by LMFAO and Paparazzi by Lady Gaga seemed unlikely on the face of things, but worked well and were very enjoyable to play. The Star Wars theme was again a strange request, but sounds fantastic on the harp, especially on my harp with its resonant bass!

One particular song was just plain unsuitable. I won't share the details, but I did resist and ask if the bride was really sure. I would never refuse if someone was adamant, but this choice just didn't sit right with me at all. I felt uncomfortable playing it - the words were just not right for a wedding ceremony, although it is a beautiful song.

On my car stereo I have listened (on repeat!) to the new Florence and the Machine album, plus a lot of Nina Simone (an awful lot!), Alice Gold, Herbie Hancock, Miles Davis, Grandmaster Flash, All Saints, Kylie,  and many others. I found the wonderful Aloe Blacc too.

I look forward to discovering even more wonderful music in 2012, and most of all I look forward to creating music with my friends.

I hate how music is seen as a 'hobby' career - as though it can't be a 'proper' job - and I am grateful to all those who take great risks with their financial security and emotional health/sanity (!) and keep going and bring us brilliant, uplifting, life changing, thought provoking experiences.

Happy New Year x