Practicing with my Neighbors



Originally published October 9, 2014 on
leigh string fellow's harp studio view

I don’t have any doubt that my neighbors can hear me practicing. The space where I practice faces the backyard of a group home for adults with autism. During the day everyone appears to stay busy indoors and the house is quiet. In the evening, one or maybe two residents will sit on the back porch on a nice day and sing or occasionally shout jubilantly. His songs don’t have any lyrics and he always sings on the syllable “ah.” A short musical phrase will inspire him and he will repeat it several times before moving on to the next musical phrase. He loves trills. Often, I can’t help but think of Tarzan’s call.

A couple of days ago, I began learning a new baroque piece, “Prelude & Toccatta by Handel arr. By Grandjany. The weather was gorgeous, so I left the patio doors opposite of the harp wide open. After working out the right hand of a short section, I started the left hand. I was practicing a four-measure sequence. It was a 2 beat pattern moving stepwise up the scale with a rest between each pattern—a very typical baroque gesture. I played it a few times slowly and several times quickly, at tempo. After this, I paused to look at the chord structure. What happened next will always stay with me.

As per usual in the evenings, this same gentleman was outside singing, but when I stopped playing, I heard an exact echo of what I had been playing on the harp! The doors were open, so of course he could hear, but I had no idea he was listening so intently. He sang the pattern moving up the scale, with a rest in between. His rhythm was impeccable and his intonation wasn’t bad. I have to commend, him because I think he made more repetitions of that passage than I did. He’s an excellent student!