the harp and other musical adventures


Before we left Toronto, when we were imagining what we might miss most about the big city when we moved to the Maritimes, I decided to take harp lessons.

Now I’ve always loved the harp. I remember sitting entranced at a performance of the Jeunesse Musicales as the musicians introduced their instruments, and the harpist played the solo from Tchaikovsky’s Waltz of the Flowers. But instead of harp lessons, I had piano lessons from the age of 6. I suppose a harp was out of the question — those concert harps cost more than a car.

Fast forward to 2006. There has been an explosion of interest in the harp, precipitated in part by the new popularity of the folk, or celtic harp. This is a much smaller instrument that uses levers instead of pedals to sharpen the strings for playing in different keys. They are much cheaper than cars, and a lot more portable than full-sized concert harps. I took lessons for a school year, 20 lessons in all, then I stopped. The harp rental and lessons were expensive, and at the time my passion for photography was eclipsing everything else.

But when we finally made the move to Saint John three years later, I bought a harp to bring with me. My partner bought a recorder. I’m not consistent at practicing, but the harp is beginning to sound pretty good, and the two of us are beginning to look for other people to play with, and maybe the occasional gig. We sat down and played with a violinist and another recorder player on Sunday. It was fun!

I would like to take more lessons, but it’s hard finding a harp teacher in this part of the country. So for now, I’ll focus on polishing what I know, and enjoying my beautiful harp.

Photo taken on October 23, 2009


10 thoughts on “the harp and other musical adventures

  1. Oh, what a wonderful talent to have! My mother wouldn’t let us take any music lessons. She said we’d just hate practising and want to quit and it would all be a big waste of her money! My sister took piano lessons as an adult, but I settled for the vicarious pleasure of watching Fiddlegirl master the violin.

    I’m surprised there’s not a teacher available, with the interest in Celtic heritage out there. Still, so nice that you can find a violinist and recorder player to make beautiful music with!

    • Well, I think your mother was half-right, barefootheart — my two brothers also took piano lessons, but I was the only one to continue. Still, since my mother plays the piano, I suppose it was as much to please her (and because she was so strict in making us practice) that I managed to gain some proficiency.

      Celtic music is enjoying a resurgence in Nova Scotia, especially Cape Breton, but Saint John is a Loyalist town, and New Brunswick as a whole is mostly English/French in its heritage. There are some harpers and a harpist in NB, but not in Saint John (as far as I know).

  2. The harp is a beautiful instrument and it sounds as lovely as it looks! I wish I had the talent to play an instrument .. I have two left hands though .. I think I’ll stick to knitting and photography 🙂 And singing with the ladies in Harmony Inc.

  3. It’s a lovely instrument. I’ve always admired harp players, it looks so elegant when they play.

    I played the piano, took lessons for a few years.

    When you say ‘recorder’ … I’m not familiar with that word, is it like a tape recorder-type of thing?

    • I’m not sure whether I look elegant, Rebekah, but I hope I sound elegant when I play! Did you enjoy playing the piano?

      LB has answered your question about the recorder below, much better than I could.

  4. Hi Kattsby,

    The French name for recorder is flute à bec, and the German term is blockfloete. I don’t know what it is in other languages. It’s played vertically, like a clarinet. My current one is made of boxwood, and its tone has mellowed and sweetened over the years.

    Gillian, I bought this recorder in 2005, before we started planning to move down here. My final indulgent fling with Toronto consisted of those art classes at George Brown College. Music, art — both are in the category of Arts With A Capital A, eh? 😉

    • The recorder is a beautifully sweet instrument, LB, I love the “woody” sound of its voice. Sorry I got the date of your purchase wrong… art and music, it’s all connected, isn’t it!

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