The Harp Experience
For many years musicians, harpists and students have suggested I write down the amazing and varied experiences I have had as a performing harpist. Many stories are humorous, as is the case I suspect with most musicians, especially harpists!
I have often been asked why I picked the harp as my instrument and I am quick to reply that is was not initially my choice, but my mothers'. She was a cellist in the Seattle Symphony and during the war years played in a trio with a harpist who was seriously challenged, including not having the ability to tune her harp.
The result of this is that early in my parent's marriage she made the decision that if one of their future children showed some musical promise they would play the harp. So, at two and a half I began playing my brother's piano works by ear, switching into various keys......and I was selected. It was perfect timing as the late great harpist Lynne Wainwright Palmer had moved to Seattle a few years earlier with her family, giving up her position with the Philadelphia Orchestra under Leopold Stokowski.
At six I climbed up on a step ladder to sit at her Salzedo model harp and was accepted as a student provided I knew how to read my notes. No, I did not, but having played by ear for her at her piano she assumed I did and it became a marathon sprint to learn them in a week before my first lesson. My normally calm mother was in a panic as I wasn't the quickest to catch on, but I knew enough that this wonderful new teacher never realized the scramble to get them learned.
Going downtown to meet my little Lyon and Healy Style 14 was a bit of a comedy act. When I sat down at the harp and went to pull it back I yanked far too hard tipping over the instrument and ending up on the floor. Fortunately, the harp was just fine as everyone dove to grab it rather than me. What grabbed me was a stern lecture! Interestingly, my first reaction when I did pull the harp to me was "Here I go again". Click here
That same night as Lynne and I stood on a dark, rainy, hilly street in downtown Seattle she gave me the key to playing the harp. She took her hands, palms up, and slowly folded in each finger flatly into her palm, placing the thumb over the top in an even rhythm and said "Do this". This was the beginning of what, all these years later, I realized was the cornerstone and the very heart of my approach technically, musically and visually to playing the instrument.
I am off to Australia, for the second time in a few months, to work with the students of my wonderful friend and colleague Alice Giles at her summer harp camp in Kioloa. Alice's camp is on a 400 acre reserve a few hours south of Sydney. It sits by the ocean and I hear many a kangaroo roam the land freely. Students and teachers alike live in small cabins, which all sounds very ideal! Aside from masterclasses and private teaching, Alice and I are going to do some work together to introduce online later this year.
I wish everyone a 2015 overflowing with delightful, musical experiences of your own!