FROM THE FOLK HARP UNIVERSE
by Kirby Lindsay
Dusty Strings Acoustic Music Shop (located downstairs at 3406 Fremont Avenue North) will host the 8th Annual Seattle Folk Harp Symposium November 6 - 8. Hopefully, word of the symposium already reached ‘harpers’ (technically, a ‘harpist’ plays classical harp while a ‘harper’ plays folk harp), and they’ve pre-registered. Certainly the ‘Harp Monkeys’ (a nickname for harp valets – the strapping men who haul the participants’ harps in and out of cars and up and down steps) will be ready and willing to help at Dusty Strings.
Anything I pretend to know about the culture of folk harp comes from a visit with Molly Bauckham, organizer of the symposium. “I’m such a harp geek,” she professed. A more accurate description might be ‘passionate’ and ‘knowledgeable’, and not just about harps. She also indulged me with a show-and-tell on the other instruments at Dusty Strings - dulcimers, banjos, mandolins, guitars, flutes, penny whistles, harmonicas, ukuleles and autoharps.
Welcome To Another Universe
Dusty Strings began in 1979 when Ray Mooers, and his wife, Susan, began selling the gorgeous instruments he crafted. They opened the Fremont shop – manufacturing and selling – in 1982. Today they craft the Dusty Strings hammered dulcimers and harps in Interbay. The Fremont store remains the mecca of acoustic instruments and accessories, with the manufacturing space converted into a den of workshop, classroom and sound booth spaces perfect for music conferences like this one.
“For a super beginner, the symposium would be over-ambitious,” Bauckham acknowledged, but, “if someone wants to experience the instruments, come to the concerts.” On Friday, November 6 and Saturday, November 7, symposium instructors will give public performances in the store where Bauckham promised “completely different experiences in the same concert.”
For harps vary quite a bit - wire string harp, pedal harp, cross-string harp, lever harp, plus harps used in Chinese and Latin American traditions – as do playing techniques and traditions harpers (and harpists) observe. Nicolas Carter, an expert in Paraguayan harp will instruct on rhythmic techniques, and perform the music of Paraguay. Laurie Rasmussen will teach a class called ‘Flipping on the Fly’ about getting ‘accidental’ notes from a piece of music using timing, arrangement and choreography, then she will perform some of her arrangements Saturday night. Instructor Patrick Ball, “a storytelling harpist” according to Bauckham, will perform Friday from the history of the harp.
Come Hear Music, and Math?
For parents, the concerts could provide an opportunity. “Music is basically math and poetry mixed together,” Bauckham explained. “I play almost entirely by ear,” she admitted, but to improve her skills, she had to learn the mathematical basis of music. For children who struggle with math, or language, music can provide an entry – especially on a linear instrument such as the harp.
The concerts, at 7:30pm on November 6 and 7 at Dusty Strings, cost $18 (or half price for those under 12 years old) and tickets can be purchase by phone (866/634-1662 or 206/634-1662) or in the store. Come listen to the music, experience a new universe of beauty and music, and consider making this more than a one-time visit. All year ‘round Dusty Strings offers a full-schedule of classes, workshops and private lessons for anyone interested in trying a harp – or a penny whistle.
©2010 Kirby Lindsay. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.