Performers have had it ingrained in them from a very young age that their obligation to the audience is their greatest priority and that at all costs they must avoid dispelling the myth and magic of the evening by letting their audience down. For a dancer that might mean dancing on bleeding toes, for a musician it might mean struggling through horrendous flu in order to get up on stage and perform, all the while, a big smile plastered on their face masking their inner misery. As evidenced by the recent death of emminent conductor Sir Colin Davis, who was still seen on the podium aged 85, there is no retirement age for a musician. Plácido Domingo is still accepting operatic roles in his seventies and the great harpist Marisa Robles is still adjudicating and giving masterclasses at nearly 80!
Looking back over the years at 4 Girls 4 Harps' concert appearances, we have certainly applied this to our work ethic: both Harriet and Eleanor were performing with the group shortly after the birth of their children. In fact, Eleanor was so dedicated to fulfilling her concert engagements that she was playing in concert with us just over two weeks after the birth of her daughter (by cesarean section!). Before her son was 8 weeks old, Harriet had written and arranged several pieces for the group to perform that season and she had only finished writting her most recent composition - Elemental - a week before her son's due date!
For two years, Keziah commuted from New York to the UK in order to perform with the quartet - her plane fares cost more than the concert fees! We have battled through blizzards and gale force winds to perform - the audience of the five people who had managed to get to the concert were very appreciative of the special effort we had made on their behalf. Elizabeth has worked on every birthday for as long as she can remember and she is not letting her imminent wedding get in the way of performing with the group.
We do, of course, all have personal lives and friends and family who we very much enjoy spending time with, but our commitment to performing with the quartet, and also all our other harp related work, is a huge part of our lives, and we want to do the best we can to give our audiences the concerts they deserve. At the end of the day, playing the harp (or indeed any other instrument) is not just for Christmas (although we certainly look forward to the abundence of seasonal work....), it is a lifestyle commitment, and one we hope to still be doing when we are in our twilight years.