Courage is the reward we receive when we have worked through our fears.

Julie Swope

How I met the harp

     On New Year's Eve 1999, I attended First Night York, a local celebration, with my best friends, Joan, Patricia, and Aisha. I had some free time in my life and knew I wanted to take up a new musical instrument, but I didn't know which one. This was the perfect venue to sample musical instruments. I observed each entertainment group and visualized the instrument and myself, taking notes of the size and tone of the instrument and whether it "felt like me." I thought, The flute has an airy sound and could be me; the clarinet and oboe have a mellow earthy sound, but I am not "windy." The trumpet, French horn and saxophone - too brassy,unlike me. The violin is a possibility; the dulcimer perhaps, but I don't get hammered anymore.

     By eleven o'clock Patricia bid us all a happy New Year and went home to bed. Aisha and Joan left to attend services at the mosque, and I remained downtown to see the fireworks usher in the millennium. There was one more musical  performance to see. It was a harpist. I listened, and within the first minute, the harp called to me. So many times we say, "I want to do this, I want to do that," but time passes and we never do what pleases us. The harp called me, and I answered.

     I never realized that harps came in different sizes since I only knew of the concert pedal harp. Though mesmerized by the sound, I knew that, because of my size, I could never play it. The performer wasn't much bigger than I, and she had three different sizes of lever harps on stage. She invited the audience to try them. I took her up on the offer and gingerly approached the stage. While everyone else asked questions, I walked around the harps to check them out from each angle.

     Shawn, the performer, asked if I would like to try them out. They were so beautiful and delicate I was afraid I might break the strings. She told me that they were not that delicate, and the strings are made for plucking. She plucked "Country Gardens" and then glided her fingers up and down the strings to make the sounds of "harps in heaven." Although my plucks sounded like "plinks,"  I was sold. She introduced me to her husband, who had made the harps that were on stage. I took her card, phoned on on Monday, and had my first lesson the following Wednesday. The harp "soothes my savage soul," and provides excellent therapy for me after a day at the office.

     I continue to play the harp.  Over the years I have produced and professionally recorded three CD's; "Christmas Presence,"  "Celtic Presence." and "Presence of the Serason."  I produced, directed and performed in "Angels in the Abbey," a group of eight harpists performing Christmas music in 2006.  I created a new show - "Presence of the Season," which included a dozen harpists, three vocalists, a violinist, cellist, and Penny whistle. We performed on stage at the Capitol Theatre in York on December 8, 2007.

      In 2008-2010 I photographed and designed a collection of note cards - "Tale-Strings"  - depicting the harp in unusual settings.  Currently I play solo at weddings, garden parties, art openings, dinner engagements and any special occasion.