October 2016 Newsletter Article – Eileen Bowen

“The story of a regional harpist”, by Eileen Bowen

I grew up in a country town and the music we had was the town brass band, and if you learned music, it was piano. I had piano lessons from an early age and was unacquainted with the harp, except as mentioned in the  Bible. About 20 years ago, about to retire, I read in the daily paper an article featuring Peter Kempster and his harp-making. That was my start. Armed with a book to teach myself, and not understanding about tuning a lever harp in the key of Eb, I didn’t get far! But enquires led me to an excellent teacher in Melbourne, who taught the Salzedo method. I was on my way, travelling to Melbourne every 4 to 6 weeks for lessons. I fell in love with a Salvi
Daphne harp I saw in a music house in London, and Peter Kempster imported one for me. More recently I bought a Lyon and Healy Ogden (from HCA), and this is more manageable for taking to the Nursing Home where I play for residents. It helps them settle late afternoon. Dementia sufferers also find it restful. I am an amateur, and a stop and start person.

I stopped when my husband died, and when I battled cancer. When going to Melbourne for lessons was no longer possible, I stopped for over 2 years, asking myself why I was playing the harp. Back into playing now, seriously and with fewer other commitments, I am enjoying it, and the answer is that people enjoy it, too. I have a friend who spends some months each year in Australia, and together we play music for 2 harps. We are asked to play for functions, and are well received. There is no orchestra here, and I am isolated, making motivation a problem at times.
But there is no doubt people love the music of the harp. It is – well- it has been described at the music of angels. I played at a
church concert recently and used music that enables people to sit back and picture for themselves what it might mean – and they really enjoyed it. Not thinking of stopping, it is worth while keeping on.

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