"If you don't mind me asking..."
Perhaps it is the unusual combination of our instruments or the fact that most of our audience has yet to see a harp from such a close distance - we very often get a variety of questions after our performances.
Some of them are more common than the others, some are very original and some are very direct.
We collected 5 questions which we have heard and considered to be worth sharing with you.
You are welcome to surprise us with a new question as well!
By: Jerusalem Duo
MARCH 28, 2019
PHOTO: STEPHAN HAEGER
Photo: Stephan Haeger
Question # 1: You probably have a huge car to transport the harp, don't you? How do you take it on an airplane?
Answer: Transporting a harp is not the easiest thing to do, but it is not as complicated as one may think.
Having said that, harps fly very rarely. The costs of transporting a harp by airplane are huge and the risk of it being damaged is too big. As a creative solution, harpists formed an unofficial worldwide network where they either give or rent harps to one another.
If it is walking distance, all is needed is a good specially designed cart which will allow you to strap the harp securely and move it around including going up and down occasional staircases.
Going to places which require a vehicle makes things a bit more interesting. However, the car doesn't have to be really huge in order to fit a harp. A normal station wagon should do the job. Since placing a harp requires a flat surface, it is essential that the backseats of the car can be folded forward. We then lift the harp and put it so it lies straight in the back of the car. Usually, we still have space left for 2 saxophones, 2 small suitcases, concert clothes, personal bags, and two passengers (!).
We also sometimes use the Metro and the tram-trains if the concerts are inside the city and the weather is good.
Passenger's reactions, when they see a harp entering the Metro, is totally priceless:)
Question # 2: The instrument you played wasn't a saxophone, was it?
Answer: Either due to its similarity in tone or the unusual straight form, people tend to mistake the soprano saxophone for a clarinet or an oboe. There are 4 main instruments in the "saxophone family" and they are named after the human voice range: soprano, alto, tenor, and baritone. Most known are the alto and tenor saxophones with their curved letter "Z" kind of looking shape. Since the soprano saxophone has the highest range of the four, it is being built from a shorter "tube" which makes its straight shape possible. However, there are curved sopranos as well, looking much like a small alto. There is some debate over the effect of the straight and curved instrument, with some players believing that one allows the player to reach a warmer, less nasal tone than the other.
Question # 3: May I touch/ hold/ play your instrument?
Answer: Let's imagine that you are a proud owner of a nice and luxurious Mercedes-Benz.
It is a beautiful day outside and you decide to drive it to your favorite restaurant. Lucky as you are, you find a parking space directly in front of the restaurant, so that everybody can look at you "baby". You had your good meal and you are now sipping that fine espresso you love so much. While enjoying the view of your beautiful and expensive car which you worked so hard to buy, somebody approaches you and asks you if he could have the keys and "just" behind the wheel for a bit - How would you react?
This is more or less the dilemma we always dealing with when are asked this question.
The decision has to be taken in a matter of seconds upon the first impression only. We don't want to come out as snobs and we understand that having an opportunity to touch an instrument doesn't come so often, but so many things can go wrong. So our diplomatical answer is: "I would prefer if you didn't".
Doesn't always help :(
Question # 4: Harp and saxophone is not a common duo, how did you start playing together?
Answer: Just like corn flakes, fireworks, and American ice cream - we also started playing together "by accident".
It was back in 2008 when Hila was asked to play together with a flute player at friends wedding.
Unfortunately, two days before the wedding, the flute player got terribly sick and it was clear that he would not be able to play.
Since we already knew each other for quite some time and in order not to lose the gig, we decided that we will play together - "The guests don't really care if it is flute or saxophone, they just want to enjoy the music" - said the mother of the bride when we suggested her our idea.
We had such a good harmony together that nobody even noticed that something was not exactly as planned. We got a lot of positive feedbacks and decided that we will continue doing that.
And here we are, 10 years later we are still playing and performing together, reaching new heights and making harp and saxophone a legit combination of instruments.
Question #5: Is music your main job?
Answer: We know what you may think - "Did somebody actually ask that?" - well, yes, and more than once.
Being asked that question for the first time was very uncomfortable and confusing, since it may sound like people are actually saying: "I can not believe somebody will earn enough from this kind of playing", and the surprised reaction: "really?" when we confirm, makes this assumption even stronger.
But while this question might sound very rude and direct, after being asked this a few times we think we know why would people ask it.
You see, a lot of people we meet in our concerts had some kind of musical education sometime during their life. They might have even tried to make it themselves but somewhere along the way, they chose another profession. They know how much devotion and effort are needed to make it in the world of musical performance. And so, they do not ask it out of disdain or skepticism but out of respect and appreciation.
Although, sometimes we are tempted to answer: "Actually, Hila is a heart surgeon and Andre is a commercial pilot, music is just a hobby we do in our free time. ..." :)