Originally Posted Online: March 15, 2013, 2:30 am
Last Updated: March 16, 2013, 12:12 am

Harpists delight crowds of angels, fans

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By Leon Lagerstam, llagerstam@qconline.com

More photos from this shoot
Photo: Todd Mizener
Rev. Stephanie Raphael-Nakos, Judy Thess, Jane Seligman, Nancy Keel and Lydia Olson form the quintet Harper's Delight. Members of the recently formed 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.
More photos from this shoot
Photo: Todd Mizener
Jane Seligman, Judy Thess, Nancy Keel, Rev. Stephanie Raphael-Nakos and Lydia Olson form the quintet Harper's Delight. Members of the recently formed 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.

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."