Christmas Eve is nearly here and the music-making and merriment is in full swing. It’s likely you have been making plenty of music already this season and are looking forward to the final push to those Christmas eve church services.
If, however, you find that you aren’t looking forward to the playing but instead are only looking forward to having them over and done for another year, it’s time to banish “Bah, humbug” and discover some pointers that will bring the “comfort and joy” to these final days of holiday frenzy.
So to help you through these last days of Christmas performances, I offer you my top “Harp Happiness and Joy” tips to help you play your best and ease the stress.
If there is one piece of music on your program for this week that is giving you extra stress, re-think your plan. Can you change it out for an easier one? Cut out the “hard” verse and do the simpler one twice? Bring out an old favorite that you could play in your sleep? Having the wrong piece listed in the program is a small price to pay for your peace of mind.
Cross one thing, musical or not, off your holiday list without doing it. I don’t mean that you should back out on a playing commitment, but if you’re feeling harried, you can probably find one thing that you can eliminate from your schedule that really won’t make a difference. Your Christmas cards can go out after Christmas, for example. If it can safely be left undone, you probably shouldn’t do it.
My battery-operated music stand light is my best friend in a dimly lit church. Make sure you have one at the ready with extra batteries. Even better, take those batteries out of the package and put them in a little plastic bag where you can get to them quickly if you need to.
Okay, perhaps not a hike, but a nice walk is a wonderful stress reducer. It’s easy to let your exercise regimen slip when you get busy or when the weather gets bad, but this is not the time to neglect your health. Do your best to maintain your regular health habits. Or just take a walk and look at the neighborhood lights.
You probably feel the holiday pressure creeping into your practice. Be deliberate about practicing your music slowly, perhaps 2/3 tempo, so that you keep your fingers calm and your mind focused. Do some very slow and relaxed finger warm-ups. This is not the time for feats of technical prowess. Concentrate on your posture, your relaxation, your tone. Panicky practice leads to sloppy and unmusical playing.
Remember that I asked you to cross one thing off your list without doing it? This is the perfect thing to put in its place. Whether it’s a moment to yourself with a cup of tea or calling a distant relative or meeting a friend for coffee, take the time to savor something that is special to you this week.
The most effective way to ease yourself over a difficult stretch is to see beyond it. Give a thought or two to what you will do musically in the New Year. Is there music you want to learn? Order it now. Or schedule a lesson with a teacher now for after the holidays. Whatever is on your list for 2018, thinking about that now will take some of the pressure off you now.
Enjoy your music-making this week. Harp-y Holidays!