The Bare Necessities of Winter Gigging

It’s that time of year again…snow season!!! Which means it’s time for me to sludge my 90 pound instrument through ice and snow. And with the blizzard that just came through last week, what better time to go over my list of WINTER GIG ESSENTIALS.

Moving a harp isn’t easy, and it’s especially not easy when there is snow and ice (to all the harpists in warm weather climates – I truly envy you). Not only do harpists in cold climates have to worry about slipping and falling with our harps, we have to worry about a whole host of other winter-related gigging problems, like keeping our concert clothes and gowns dry and leaving extra time for shoveling and driving conditions. So, without further adieu, if you are a new harpist, or a harpist new to winter weather, or even just a curious reader, read on to see how this harpist handles snow.

  1. Ditch the cute coat. It’s important to look professional when you show up at a gig, but it is also important to be warm enough that you can move your arms to play. Make sure you get something big and warm because you will inevitably be spending a longer than anticipated amount of time outside in the elements while you maneuver that harp of yours. It is definitely possible to still look professional and also be warm. As someone who is cold as soon as it drops below 70 degrees Fahrenheit, investing in a good winter coat for my gigging wardrobe is one of the best decisions I made.
  2. Save the harp shoes for the gig. This one is so so so important. When it is icy or snowing, you NEED to have good boots that give you traction. This could save both you and your harp! If you slip while moving your harp, chances are high your harp might fall or slip, too. The last thing you want to worry about when you’re pushing your harp on the sidewalk is if you’re going to slip in your harp heels. So, stick ‘em in your gig bag and invest in a good pair of warm, winter boots that will keep you dry and cozy and give you good traction. I personally like knee high boots as well, to ensure that if I’m walking through any amount of snow, my legs and feet stay dry. Not to mention, I’m usually wearing some sort of dress or skirt, which means the extra leg coverage keeps me even warmer. IMG_5953
  3. Keep a snow shovel, snow brush, and poncho in your car!! This is important. You never know when you might get to a gig only to find they didn’t shovel the only accessible entrance. And yes, that has actually happened to me. While it should be the responsibility of the property owners to make sure their building is accessible, you should always be prepared for a worst case scenario. Regarding the snow brush – even if your weather app says there will be no snow, make sure you have it! I have finished a gig before and come out to a car covered in snow even though my app said there wouldn’t be any (trust me, it’s not fun to wipe your car off with your arm). Really, you should have a snow brush in your car the whole winter no matter who you are, harpist or not. And same with the poncho. While most people can get away with an umbrella, harpists can’t. We need both our hands to load, unload, and push our harp, so we can’t hold umbrellas if it’s raining or snowing. The solution: those ugly bright red ponchos. They may not look the most fashionable, but they will for sure keep you dry while you battle the elements and move your harp.
  4. Buy lots of hand and toe warmers and keep them in your pockets and shoes!! This will also help warm your fingers up once you’re inside so that you can play – because we all know what it’s like to play with cold fingers…yeah, not happening.
  5. ALWAYS strap your harp onto the dolly, even if you’re not going up or down any stairs and its only five feet away. You never know when you might hit a patch of black ice and lose your footing. It’s bad enough trying to stay upright when you’re not balancing a 90 pound instrument. Not to mention the stand, bench, and gig bag. So take the extra five seconds and strap your beloved instrument in.IMG_5947
  6. Leave way more time than you think you need. This is arguably THE MOST important one. If you’ve ever moved a harp before, you know it takes time even in ideal circumstances. Snow doubles the time it takes, at least. You have to leave more time to shovel and salt your sidewalk (unless you have an attached garage, in which case you are blessed), brush off and defrost your car, walk slowly to avoid slipping, drive slowly to avoid crashing, change out of your snow boots into your harp shoes, etc. You can help yourself by looking at the weather and planning ahead. For instance, if you know it’s going to snow the whole day before your gig, make sure you plan an extra hour for shoveling. When you are planning out how much time to leave yourself, double whatever you usually leave. So, if you would normally give yourself fifteen minutes to load and thirty minutes to drive, give yourself thirty to load and an hour to drive. One time it took me over an hour to get somewhere that usually only takes twenty five minutes. It might seem like a little much to give yourself so much time, but better to get there safely and not be stressed. And you may get there way earlier than you need to, but on the other hand, there will always be at least one thing that comes up that you didn’t plan for that will take up more time than you thought. So better to have extra time and bring a book.
  7. This last one is more of a bonus one. Make friends with your city plow man so they will try to keep your street plowed whenever possible. This is so important if you don’t load your harp directly from the garage! Even if you shovel your steps and front walk, the sidewalk and street still need to be clear. One time I had to play at a wedding in the evening and a huge blizzard came through the whole day, so by the time I needed to load my harp, there was at least two feet of snow blocking the sidewalk and curb of my street. Thankfully, my plow guy was super helpful, and as soon as I mentioned I had to move a harp, he said very cheerfully that he would make sure to go over my street twice to get all the snow moved so I could load up on time! Obviously you can’t demand the city plowmen to plow your street first, but it is definitely helpful to have a good plowman. (Hint: They will love it if you bring them some warm coco!!)

There you have it – the bare necessities that all harpists should have when braving the winter with their harp. And, I know all this sounds like an astronomical effort to put in just to play an instrument, but trust me, the wonderful views you will have at Christmas gigs, with all the lights and snow, are well worth it.IMG_8296

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