(Being by no means a complete list of existing harpist problems)
1. The malfunctioning handicap entrance button
It lures one into a false sense of security, promising not only to open the door, but to keep it open for a comfortable length of time. If once proved untrustworthy, prematurely slamming shut into one’s desperately-extended ankle, one can never quite trust that button again.
One is condemned to wonder vaguely every time one uses such a button whether this is the door that will add a 12-inch gash to the harp’s smooth mahogany finish.
2. The mic stand
Beware the mic stand, my harpist! It might look innocuous. But one never knows when a passerby will stumble upon its limbs, giving the insensitive mic a chance to plummet toward the harp’s inoffensive and unprotected soundboard. While stands with long legs get tripped upon, stands without legs merely fall over onto the harp. Some stands do not even wait for such incentives. Sometimes, mid-verse, the plastic fastener will simply crack in two, precipitating a wholly gut-wrenching moment and birthing an anxiety that might never go away.
3. The unattended child
Whether he’s pestering one with questions, running and sliding on the slick floors directly toward one’s harp, whether siblings are sword fighting with various available objects or leaning in close to see what one’s hands are doing, whether the column of the harp seems like playground equipment, or all the baby really wants is a fistful of strings, harpists are universally thankful for observant parents and invariably irritated by those who are not.
4. The overeager helper
Graciously accepting assistance is part of the harpist’s job, whether or not said help is actually needed. A flight of stairs however encapsulates harpists’ fears perfectly, because assistance is practically essential but assistants wield an uncomfortable level of power. A kind black-suited man, with one earnest pull, can completely lift the top-heavy $20,000 harp from the wheels, risking toppling, ruin and injury to onlookers.
A waiter, guest, church member or random passer-by might rush to open a door, swinging it directly into the harp column before one can reverse one’s momentum and back up. Such moments always occur in slow motion from the harpist’s perspective.
The helpful father of the bride might start wheeling the harp off down the sidewalk toward one’s vehicle, blissfully unaware that the harp is not yet strapped to the cart and that the parking lot is no place to leave one’s instrument and that the wind might blow it over, smashing it to smithereens if he doesn’t stay with it.
A sweet security guard might move one’s harp a few feet closer to the entrance – just being considerate – but leave 5-inch trailing scratches in the back of the harp base because he didn’t tilt the harp up far enough before trying to slide the cart under it.
Every so often a passerby helpfully rushes to the two doors and attempts to open them both while standing directly between them, arms definitively barring any passage to the other side. Here the danger is that one desperately wants to laugh, but must certainly not.
Stephanie Claussen is a professional harpist from Minneapolis, Minnesota. She performs on her harp throughout Minnesota in various concerts, recitals, and collaborations with other musicians. Consider signing up for her e-mail newsletter to be notified directly of upcoming performances and important announcements.