Being a musician lends itself to racking up memorable moments. Anything can happen in a live performance—some things you expect and others surprise you—and simply showing up to the day’s gig can lead to moments you’ll never forget. We wanted to know what makes one performance stick out in an endless cycle of load in, tune, perform, load out. We asked some professional harpists to share their most memorable moment with us, and the variety of stories they tell is indicative of the diversity of the performance experience. Some moments are humorous, some are poignant. Some performances made an impression because of who was listening, others because of an obstacle that had to be overcome. The only thing that can be said by all of the harpists we talked to is that it was difficult to choose among so many memorable moments with the harp.
Los Angeles jazz harpist Carol Robbins has done it all—toured Europe with Billy Childs’ group, played with Stevie Wonder at the Hollywood Bowl, and recorded with Brian Wilson. But the gig she will always remember is the one where everybody knew her name.
“It was difficult to choose one performance, as there have been many thrilling experiences playing my harp. I chose the only TV show on which I had an actual, albeit small, role with lines. The show was ‘Cheers,’ a big hit for NBC back in the ’80s and ’90s. I was called to audition and told that the song would be ‘You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling.’ I learned it the night before the audition. I played the song in my own way, which they loved. One producer wanted me to make it more ‘classical,’ but fortunately, she was overruled. They asked me to sing a little at the end of the song, and that was a fun addition to the arrangement.