The Heart of the Matter

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Deborah Henson-Conant

Deborah Henson-Conant (DHC) is a Grammy-nominated composer/performer and mentor to harpists around the world. Her signature harp, the DHC-Light, was designed and named for her by Camac Harps. She composes works for solo harp, ensembles, and concerto settings, and she coaches harpists in creativity and business in her online courses at hipharp.com. Share your questions and comments about this series with her at powerharp.com

Don’t let the music get in the way.

When I coach performers, I often find they discount their own skills and experience as they try to fit into a mold of what is and isn’t music. That’s also a big challenge in my own creative life, so I love working on it as a coach.

When U.K. harpist Shelley Fairplay came to me, she was in exactly this situation.

Shelley was part of my “Harness Your Muse” program. The goal of the program is to complete a creative project that provides the next big step in an artist’s career. Shelley was shifting from primarily playing background music and performing standard harp repertoire to developing her own solo show.

After working remotely for four months, Shelley came to my studio for intensive one-on-one sessions, with the goal of returning home with a whole (though imperfect) show that she’d start polishing for performance. Two sections of that show were particularly challenging: “Shelley Finds Her Storm (or Beethoven Creates a Conundrum)” and “Darth Vader Meets Doctor Who.”

For the first section, she wanted to recreate her own experience of a Beethoven symphony: a thunderous musical introduction that transformed into a simple shepherd’s prayer. The juxtaposition was essential. She wanted the audience to experience the clouds parting and the storms’s chaos resolving to the simple shepherd’s melody. She could play the shepherd part beautifully. The problem was creating the storm.

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About Author

Deborah Henson-Conant (DHC) is a Grammy-nominated composer/performer and mentor to harpists around the world. Her signature harp, the DHC-Light, was designed and named for her by Camac Harps. She composes works for solo harp, ensembles, and concerto settings, and she coaches harpists in creativity and business in her online courses.

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