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Sunday, January 2, 2011

Harps and Heroines

If you've read my books, you may have noticed that I have a thing for harps. A harp can be found in all of my books. In The Stranger She Married, I mention a harp standing in the corner of the music room. In The Guise of a Gentleman, a harpist plays during the wedding breakfast. In Queen in Exile, my heroine is a harpist. If I ever get Courting the Countess published, you'll see that the heroine is a harpist with performance anxiety.

So why the obsession with harps?

It began when I was about 12. I had just started a new school, and my 6th grade teacher announced that a harp teacher had offered to teach harp lessons to any student at the school who was already in the school band.

Something came alive inside me that day. Every cell in my body woke up. I knew then that I had to play the harp. Somehow.

After class, I went to the teacher and said, "I don't play in the band, but I really, really want to learn to play the harp." Which was incredibly bold of me. I didn't usually try to bend the rules back then, and I didn't usually talk much--to say I was shy was an understatement.

She said, "Go talk to the band teacher. Maybe you can work something out with him."

So I did. I told him the situation. He listened patiently, then asked me, "Do you know how to play any instrument?"

I shook my head, sickened that I might miss out on this opportunity. "The piano, but only a little."

"How long have you played the piano?" he asked.

"Less than a year."

He thought, and said, "Okay, you can play the keyboard in the band."

I think I must have yelped out loud, or as much as a painfully shy new kid could. This was my chance. I was now in the band. Which meant I was eligible to take harp lessons.

The harp teacher taught me harp lessons once a week that school year, and even let me borrow her Lyon and Healy harp a few weekends a month to use for practice. I loved it! I threw myself into it and even managed to perform in my first ever recital. Then I found out we were going to move out of state at the end of the year. I was heartbroken when I found out I'd be leaving my harp teacher. But she assured me Northern California was a mecca for harpists and that I'd find a new teacher easily. When we arrived, I pestered my parents into letting me continue to take harp lessons until they finally found a teacher and a harp to rent. I took lessons for years on and off, despite moves, family changes, and financial problems.

This picture is a Lyon and Healy Troubadour harp, much like the one I first learned to play.

Years later, I no longer play for weddings or in church. Writing and mothering has eaten into my practice time so I don't have 2 to 3 hours a day to play. However, I teach and I still love playing for my own enjoyment in the evenings. It relaxes me and quiets the noise in my head.

Here is a picture of the harp that I play, a Lyon and Healy 85 Petite. It's a little smaller and a lot lighter than a full-sized concert grand, but it has a lovely sound and fills my soul with peace.

Not coincidentally, when I write, I listen to one of three things: my cats purring, instrumental new age piano music, or harp music. There's nothing like it. It's almost magical.

Does music play a role in your life?

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