I have two goals in a performance.
First, I like to entertain by sharing the song, the tune, the story, the joke, the lesson, the instrument with another person, creating artistic intimacy and understanding between myself and Others. The size of my Irish harp invites intimacy. It is approachable, certainly more approachable that a six-foot tall gilded pedal harp. And I prefer to perform in intimate spaces, a small restaurant room, a classroom, a living room, a small church or chapel, a small corner of a garden, in the shady spaces under a large tree. It is easier to achieve an informal intimacy, the kind in which audience members will feel comfortable approaching a performer to ask questions or offer a comment.
This kind of intimacy leads to my second goal: to help an Other person look for, find, and recognize that her or his own voice is not only valid, but that it is part of what makes that person human. A story performance usually ends with children, and often grown ups, lining up to touch the harp with my assistance, often to a phrase of Twinkle Twinkle followed by a glissando. At a restaurant, or when I am busking, I encourage folks to approach, and to touch. I have encountered ex-pats from Ireland, fascinated but worn out cyclists who need a cool breather, and my neighbors, all of whom want to know what this instrument is, how it works, what does it do. When I let them touch the strings they are astounded. Most go back to what they were doing, but one or two remember, and come back with more questions, so I send them forward with ideas and places where they can learn more. Too many of us are divided from our musical and other artistic abilities as children, often by well meaning, if short-sighted teachers and parents, because our abilities do not produce real art -- as in trained, and/or commercially viable. If my storytelling or reading or singing, which always involves the audience, especially in helping to make funky, descriptive sounds, can connect a person of any age to their own abilities to do so, even for a moment, then I have done my job that day. If allowing a person, again of any age, the opportunity to touch my harp, thereby connecting that person physically and creatively with sound, and the mechanics that allow us to create that sound, then I have done my job for the day. If continued communication between myself and an Other and sound can exist, and that Other moves on in life with an understanding that sound is voice, and that their own voice is as valid as mine, or any one else's, then I have done my job that day.