Harps coming to museum and area businesses

Mar 01, 2013

The Museum of Making Music is taking part of its next exhibit, “The Harp: A Global Story of Man, Music and Medicine”on the road and the Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce will be one of several business stops along the way.

The exhibit, which runs from March 23 through Sept. 30, explores the history of the harp. While it will give visitors a sense of all of the different types of harps, the exhibit is more than just an “encyclopedic look at different types of harps,” according to a museum media release.

“Rather, the exhibit serves as a passport through man’s migration across time and continents, revealing not only the harp’s place in human history, but acting as a door into myriad cultural stories. The harp’s narrative illustrates the cycle of making music – that alchemical, unplanned collaboration among political, economic, and sociological factors, as well as among instrument maker, musician, composer, and audience – that tells the dynamic story of how and why instruments and music-making evolve,” the release states.

“I have never researched an instrument that has surprised me so completely as the harp,” Museum Director Carolyn Grant states.

In conjunction with the in-house exhibit, the museum will host a six-concert series that will feature classical, South American, African, Celtic and jazz harp performances.

The exhibit features artifacts, sound samples of harps used in a variety of musical styles, and hands-on harps for visitors to experience. It illustrates the harp’s place in treating pain, autism, and dementia, and offers insight into how the harp traveled with ancient civilizations across every continent on the planet.

Part of the exhibit includes a community outreach component, “Harps in the City,” that will send portable harps hand-painted by local artists to locations throughout Carlsbad.

One of the first businesses to get a harp is Yoga Bound. Summer Fah, and Yoga Bound teacher who is also an artist, decorated one of the traveling harps for the exhibit.

“It think this is a very creative way for businesses and the museum to join forces and highlight each other,” said Alana Bray, Yoga Bound’s owner. “Yoga studios are very community-oriented spaces, and I think having this art in my studio is nice so that people can ask questions ... Like yoga, creativity and art are great life enhancement tools.

The Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce will get its own harp in June, and Pharmaca Integrative Pharmacy will get one in August.

Children from the Carlsbad Boys & Girls Clubs (Carlsbad Village and Bressi Ranch branches) will also have a chance to learn and create music with beginner-friendly harps during special sessions with harp teachers throughout the months of March and April. The lessons will culminate in performances for seniors at local retirement communities.

The “Harps In the City” program is funded in part by a grant made possible by The Carlsbad Charitable Foundation, an affiliate of The San Diego Foundation.

Admission and ticket prices for “The Harp: A Global Story of Man, Music, and Medicine,” as well as the harp concert series, and more information on the “Harps In The City” program, visit the museum’s website at www.museumofmakingmusic.org or call 760-438-5996.

Did you Know?

The harp is one of the earliest instruments in the history of humankind. The first harp was likely a hunter’s bow.

For centuries, the Alur people of Uganda played traditional instruments like the adungu, or bow harp. Music was the medium for dealing with violations of village taboos and addressing social ills, such as telling the fishmonger his catch was stinking up the village.

King Henry VIII adopted the harp symbol on Irish coins. To the consternation of the Irish, however, it was set under a crown, a symbol of English rule.

The harp has been interpreted as a heavenly motif for centuries. Harps, and angels plucking harps are evoked in paintings, manuscripts, and stained-glass windows from Medieval Europe.

Marie Antoinette was a harpist. So was the Bible’s King David. So were Benjamin Franklin and Harpo Marx.

When the Spanish conquistadores came to South America in the 16th and 17th centuries, they brought along their harps. Today it is the national instrument of Paraguay and beloved in all of Latin America.

Ancient mystics in Mesopotamia in 2700 BC played the harp at births, funerals, lunar eclipses and sacrificial rituals.

While many harps are elaborate, formidably heavy instruments, a recent influx of new learners has dictated the demand for a more practical model. Harps weighing no more than four pounds and in bright primary colors are manufactured to target a new crop of harpists -- eager school children, aging baby boomers, and harp therapists.

The harp is featured in the works of Lord Byron, Jane Austen, Thomas Moore, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Rubens, and Rembrandt.