Playing Concerts With A Broken Leg - The Show Must Go On!

 Archived Post Retrieved From Previous Website April 20, 2012

On the morning of March 7, I fell and broke my leg in two places. (You can read the blow by blow description of how that day turned out here.)

If you play harp, you know what a crisis this is. I often tell my students that, to play pedal harp, you can get an infected earlobe, break a rib, or have oral surgery. Every other part of your body, you need.

For those of you who don't play harp, an explanation: A pedal harp has 7 foot pedals - 3 on the left for D, C, and B, and 4 on the right for E, F, G, and A. This is how you make all your sharps and flats. Without them, you are left with nothing but what would be the white keys on the piano.

My first reaction after I fell was to mentally calculate all the playing engagements I had coming up:

"The Light in the Piazza" two weeks, every night - starting 3 days after the accident
Concerto in B flat for Harp by Handel - 1 remaining performance, 6 days after the accident (I was getting excused from the show for this).
Church service for a client's 95th birthday
Holocaust Memorial Service
Danses Sacre and Profane by Debussy
Sheherezade with the Kenosha Symphony
Jazz set at Caroline's Jazz Cllub

These are just a few of the things I was committed to in the weeks following the accident. I knew the show "Piazza" would be flat out impossible, even if I had only sprained my ankle, so I contacted the director immediately so that she could get someone else.

And, when I say immediately, I mean immediately. I had not even gone to the ER yet.

The next day - a diagnosis of a fibula broken in two places in hand, I started divvying up the gigs into 3 categories: Full Pedals, Right Footed Pedals, and No Pedals

Full Pedal performances that would fall within 8 weeks of the accident were right out. Those folks would have to be called and arrangements made.

Right Footed Pedal and Non Pedal gigs I would be able to keep on my roster but I would need to be sure I had a harp moving crew and that the venue would be prepared for me and my crutches.

I have to say, the trickiest one was turning the Handel Concerto into a Right Footed Pedal piece. Fortunately, the two fast movements, 1 and 3 were not a problem - all the pedals are in the right foot anyway - but movement 2 would be trickier. I wound up able cross my right foot over to the left for all the pedals except one. That one I had to leave out, which meant changing the harmony of a trill slightly but in a way that still fell within the range of the music.

I am very lucky - though my leg is broken, it is a clean break and I don't need surgery. That would have put me out of action for at least 5 months.

The two best pieces of advice I can give to other harpists are to have an injury or accident clause in your contracts so that a substitute harpist is acceptable and  to have a good relationship with the other harpists in your area so that they will be able and willing to help you in the mad scramble to cover your bases if something debilitating happens to you.

My sincere and profound thanks to Janelle Jensen Lake who went above and beyond to help me find a replacement for "The Light In The Piazza". Thanks Janelle, I owe you more than I can repay!