When we were kids and a harpist was shown on TV, my big sister would say, “I wanna play the harp when I grow up.” I would say “Me too.”
Years passed and Terri, who had taken piano lessons and studied her music theory with due diligence, went to college. She majored in music, performed in band and orchestra on various instruments, and discovered a forgotten old concert harp collecting dust in the basement of the music building. She brought it back into the orchestra and by the time she graduated, the university had added harp instruction to it’s offerings and a picture of the instrument appeared on advertisements for the university arts program.
She and my father built her first harp from a kit. She went on to buy a concert harp and to make a living as a performer, instructor, and recording artist. You can find her website at http://harpsinger.net/Terri_Langerak/Welcome.html
I am uber proud of my big sis. As she predicted she would so many years ago, Terri now plays the harp.
Uh, me too.
Yeah, that’s what I said and it was a pretty accurate prediction. Like her, I built my first harp from a kit. Like her, I’ve played in a few bands and in lots of fun venues. Like her, I have more than one harp, and can play well enough to earn tips and occasionally do a paid gig. There the resemblance ends. Terri is a pro. I’m mostly an amateur. Big difference. I do have fun playing though. At any given time, there is usually at least one harp under my desk ready for action. Sometimes, if my office is well organized, there are three.
The first is one I made from a kit.
I worked hard on this one and am quite proud of it. It actually sounds remarkably good considering that I’d never built a musical instrument before. I’m no master woodworker either. It’s a bit rickety and has undergone several repairs. The nice thing about making your own instrument is you learn enough in the process to make the inevitable adjustments. The runes decorating it were the result of my participation in the Society of Creative Anachronisms (SCA) a historical interest group. I decided to emanate the northern people’s tendency to put graffiti on various objects and got a bit carried away. 🙂
Some months after completion of the above project, I was at an SCA event and found this on a merchant’s table.
It was playable, reasonably priced, and looked like a miniature version of the one I already had. I couldn’t resist buying it and have never regretted the decision.
I call it my “wee little bairnie.” It is the darling of my collection, has nine metal strings and I have often brought it to outdoor camping events. It is very sturdy and well built. Due to it’s small size and reduced tensions, it is less prone to what I refer to as “exploding harp syndrome” the tendency for a musical instrument to pull itself apart in warm weather.
Some years later, a friend suggested I join a local Irish music session. By then, my first harp was going on two decades and I was reluctant to subject it to the variety of risks carting it all over town would entail, so I began looking for a sturdier instrument, one with more strings than the Bairnie and well built by someone who knew what they were doing. I ended up buying a secondhand Blevins Mezzo 23.
It’s smaller that my rune harp and larger than my wee bairnie. It also has sharping levers, which allows for a variety of tunes. I play it often due to this versatility, but sometimes a piece of music is better suited for my rune harp, which has more strings. Five more strings can make a huge difference.
Lots more strings would be awesome. I would love to have a really big floor harp or concert harp, but they are new-car expensive. That’s why all of mine are little folk instruments.
Part of the fun of visiting Terri is I get to play with her big concert harps. The one in my story has a bit in common with Terri’s first concert harp, a paragon of gilded embellishment that was starting to feel it’s age. Concert harps are elaborately crafted instruments, but complicated. A lot can go wrong with them and they are expensive to repair. They can sometimes be found in old estates, a lovely piece of decor that was once a working instrument before it fell into neglect. They are beautiful and kind of sad. In my story, Jazz finds a harp she once played moldering away in the basement. If that happened to me, I’d probably have a good cry.
Fortunately, my own instruments are much easier to keep up. I don’t imagine they’ll be decorating anyone’s estate in the future, but I like the way they look in my office. Better still, I like the way they sound. Learning an instrument is a challenge, but it can be a very rewarding one. Music is awesome and so is the harp. My big sis learned this a long time ago.
- Spend an hour a day formatting Hunt Club for print. Argh! Now I’m five days behind.
- Average ½ hour a day working on new novel. I put in another two hours of writing since Sunday. Progress is happening here anyway.
- Average ½ hour a day on promotion and blogs. Up to date and then some. I fear this is becoming a time sink. Blah Blah Blog…
- Finish reading a book and write a review. I still need to do this. You could say I’m a terrible procrastinator but that wouldn’t be entirely accurate. In truth, I’m really quite good at it.