Child prodigies ~ harpyness

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Child prodigies

The Debussy Dances as a harp duo performed by Alexander Andrushchenko (13 years old) and Alisa Sadikova (9 years old) - May 2012, Düsseldorf, Germany

Regular YouTube harp viewers will have seen videos of Alexander performing since a very young age. A quick internet search shows that Alisa is a cousin of Alexander. 

Alisa has extensions on the pedals of her harp as she is too small to reach the pedals. Most of the early videos of Alexander show him playing a concert harp with the same pedal extensions. 

I can't imagine how hard it must be to play the pedals using those extensions, she does an excellent job considering how chromatic this piece is.

It is truly extraordinary to watch, a difficult and demanding piece for any professional to play.

But then my feelings as a mother kick in and I've got be honest, I don't know want to think.

My golden rule with teaching children has always been that they should start with a small lever harp and only move up to a concert harp when their feet can comfortably reach the pedals.

I remember when my son was very young he wanted to copy me and when I was out of the room he sat on my harp stool and pulled my concert harp back towards him to play. Luckily the harp (knee block) hit the window ledge which stopped it falling completely on top of him. He landed in a mess on the floor, but at least he wasn't squashed and injured by the harp falling on top of him. A full size concert harp is a damn heavy piece of kit.

But I digress.

The playing by the duo is truly amazing.

But I also find it difficult when I know the sheer physicality needed to play such a large instrument. If you need pedal extensions to play should you be playing a full size harp? A lot of comments on their YouTube site seem to find their size in relation to their harps as cute, but I then come back to how physically tired I can sometimes get when I play for long periods, and my harp is in proportion for my size.

But if a child has a passion to play, then .......


  1. As a performer, teacher and mother I couldn't agree more with your comments. Mmmm, tricky one...
    Thanks for your blog!

  2. One of my students uses pedal extensions (on a Daphne 40 she still couldn't reach the pedals but had already got to Grade 4) Thank goodness she barely needs them now, as they're pathetic and unstable and I believe they're very bad for children's backs, as is playing a harp too big for you. It IS a tricky one, especially as we can't have a different harp for every inch we grow! It's impressive that these kids can do that, and from memory, but it's way too soon to be playing music of that complexity and impressionistic music played without the technique and experience just sounds so heavy. But then they probably desperately wanted to do it, so what they hey?!? Every student is so different and some just want to go straight to concerti and it's hard to dampen their enthusiasm!

  3. Wonderful kids. I couldn't imagine how will I react if my daughter will be as wonderful as these kids. Playing a harp is not that easy for sure but with these kids, it seems that they are just playing. Bravo kiddos!
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  4. They're such talented kids. I couldn't imagine how my mother would react if I played like them! Again, they're so good and you can see the musicalness (is that a real world?) aura around them.

  5. What amazing talent for such a young age. It makes me wish I had learned to play the harp. I know it takes lots of practice, dedication, natural talent and to be musically inclined to even attempt to play such a beautiful instrument as the harp. I was always fascinated with the harp for as long as I can remember. My parents didn't have any musical background or talent, although I loved to sing, dance and had a desire to play piano or harp. Sadly, my parents felt my desires were just a faze I was going through and I wouldn't stick with it. Perhaps they were right. I'm so happy to have discovered these immensely talented harpists. I can't help but to listen to them over and over again.