Harpists delight crowds of angels, fans

Originally Posted Online: March 15, 2013, 2:30 am
Last Updated: March 16, 2013, 12:12 am
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By Leon Lagerstam, llagerstam@qconline.com

BETTENDORF -- It's easy to believe harp music can delight the angels, said a fan of Harper's Delight.

"The music is so soothing, and takes you to a quiet, calm place," said Pam Swim, president of the Christ Child Society of the Quad-Cities. "I had had a difficult week, and was stressed out, but hearing the Harper's Delight group gave me a sigh of relief and calming."

And if one harp wasn't calming enough, Ms. Swim and other audience members at the recent society-sponsored Warm Our Wagon event at Christ the King Catholic Church in Moline, were treated to five harpists.

Members of the recently formed Harper's Delight group range in age from 14 to 70. It's named after a song of the same name written by local harp teacher Mona Terry.

"We consider ourselves novice harp players," said the Rev. Stephanie Raphael-Nakos, 66, of Davenport. "We rejoice in each of our strengths and are lovingly patient with each of our feelings of inadequacy at playing the harp."

She's the veteran player of the group, having played the harp for about four years. The group's youngest member, Lydia Olson, 14, of Moline, is not too far behind. She's played the harp about three years.

Other members of the group, Nancy Keel, 70, and Jane Seligman, 61, both of Muscatine, and Judy Thess, 55, of Orion, all have about two years of harp playing under their belts.

Each took lessons from Ms. Terry.

"I was sad when I heard that our teacher was moving, and I really wanted a way for us to stay together, Mrs. Thess said.

"Mona would have us get together from time to time to play in a harp circle, and we loved hanging out together," Mrs. Seligman said.

"We have a common denominator of a deep faith background, a desire to share music, and we like each other's company," Ms. Keel said. "We are cemented in place by our love for the harp, and our spirituality."

"And it was neat watching Lydia play, and blend so well, and interact with women so much older than her," Ms. Swim said.

It's all about the music, not age, said Miss Olson, adding that she loves playing with the group and hopes for a music career.

Her group makes joke that she also has become their "agent," after securing concerts at Christ the King in Moline and St. Pius X Catholic Church in Rock Island, as a fundraiser.

Harper's Delight has played only four concerts, so far, starting at Asbury United Methodist Church in Bettendorf, which allows the ladies to practice there; and at Zion Lutheran Church in Muscatine, as well as the two gigs Miss Olson helped book.

"They might just be getting started, but I've got to say, if they would make a record, I would go out and buy one right away," Ms. Swim said. "It was a terrific, wonderful performance; and they spent time answering questions and explaining the harp.

"Each of them had different harps," she said. "They took turns explaining where the sound comes from, and describing the strings and methods."

"Learning the harp was more difficult than we first anticipated," Mrs. Thess said. "It's all about technique."

"I learned the piano first," Miss Olson said. "Your fingers obviously perform differently than they do on a keyboard."

"Some of your fingers push, while others pull, and sometimes your brain doesn't always want to cooperate," Ms. Keel said.

"You may have a finger on a string, but have to tell it to 'wait a second, not yet,'" Rev. Raphael-Nakos said."But we learn so much from each other. It's all about helping each other, hoping for each others' success, listening to each other play and loving being together. There's nothing competitive about it. All we want to do is make something beautiful."

It also makes it worth the time and effort of hauling around the instruments, they said.

Each uses a Celtic harp that weighs 20 to 25 pounds, Ms. Keel said.

It's easier to transport than the larger, pedal harps, Ms. Seligman said, adding that the Celtic harp also costs less, while the pedal harp could run $20,000 to $30,000.

Miss Olson spent $4,000 on her Celtic harp, "and paid for it herself," her mother, Mindy Olson, said.

The group practices a couple of hours each Thursday at Asbury Methodist, "and we welcome any harpers to join us," Rev. Raphael-Nakos said. "We're loosely organized right now."

For information about joining the group or for performance requests, email greatandini@sbcglobal.net or call 563-263-3571.

If Harper's Delight proves nothing else, it shows anyone, "no matter your age, that you're never too old to stat playing a musical instrument," Mrs. Seligman said. "Music's a gift from God, and you're never too old to learn how to use and enjoy that gift if you have the desire."


Local events heading

  Today is Monday, Sept. 22, the 265th day of 2014. There are 100 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: The board of education has granted Thursday as a holiday for the children, with the expectation that parents who desire to have their children attend the Scott County Fair will do so on that day and save irregularity the rest of the week.
1889 -- 125 years ago: The guard fence around the new cement walk at the Harper House has been removed. The blocks are diamond shape, alternating in black and white.
1914 -- 100 years ago: The Rev. R.B. Williams, former pastor of the First Methodist Church, Rock Island, was named superintendent of the Rock Island District.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Abnormally high temperatures and lack of rainfall in Illinois during the past week have speeded maturing of corn and soybean crops.
1964 -- 50 years ago: Installation of a new television system in St. Anthony's Hospital, which includes a closed circuit channel as well as the three regular Quad-Cities channels, has been completed and now is in operation.
1989 -- 25 years ago: When the new Moline High School was built in 1958, along with it were plans to construct a football field in the bowl near 34th Street on the campus. Wednesday afternoon, more than 30 years later, the Moline Board of Education Athletic Board sent the ball rolling toward the possible construction of that field by asking superintendent Richard Hennigan to take to the board of education a proposal to hire a consultant.

(More History)