Minnesota winters are nothing new to me. Over the years I’ve become increasingly adept at gunning the car engine in order to build up the necessary momentum to get up my steep 100-foot long ice-coated driveway. I don’t view zero-degree weather as a reason not to bike to work either – I just know to wear an extra pair of pants and maybe don another sweatshirt over my sweaters and coat.
But when it comes to practicing harp in the winter (indoors, I will clarify), I’m a wimp. I sit down to practice and fifteen minutes later my fingers are colder than when I started and a chill has begun to creep through my stationary body.
I live in a farm house that was built in 1902 by a carpenter named Moses. He used recycled lumber and my father has his doubts about how good of a carpenter Moses really was. Someone once remarked to us, “Everyone has to learn somewhere,” and this provoked in me the horrifying conviction that our house was the first project that Moses ever worked on – the one where he learned what not to do.
So the rooms get a little drafty in the winter regardless of how high the thermostat is set, and for the most part I love it. But I have been forced to develope a four-part strategy to deal with the chill. First of all, I purchased gloves – the ubiquitous one-size-fits-all kind – and cut off the fingers. I practice while wearing them, and though it makes me feel a little bit like a hobo, they keep my hands warm.
Legwarmers, wool stockings, and a thick sweater make up an additional layer which I assume before I sit down at the harp. Since I consider legwarmers a horrible throw-back style from the 80’s, I wear them under my jeans. No one knows the difference.
I also covered all my windows with clear plastic. Drapes (thick medieval ones, maybe lined with fur?) are in my future.
A year an a half ago I bought a Nalgene water bottle for a backpacking trip I was taking to the Superior Hiking Trail. Since then, I have discovered its many qualities and this Nalgene forms the final stroke of my brilliant plan (for world domination). Since the plastic doesn’t melt even when filled with boiling water, I put hot tea (or hot cocoa) in mine and keep it nearby during a practice session. I wrap my hands around it if they ever need a quick warming, and it gives me an excuse for a mini tea or hot chocolate break when I need one!
You too can practice during the winter simply by emulating these four easy steps to winter-harp-practicing bliss!
Stephanie Claussen teaches harp lessons out of her home in St. Paul, Minnesota. She strives to ingrain in each student not only correct hand position, rhythm and a sense of musicality, but also a love for making music.