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Millennium Harp Quest (part 1)

Harping for Harmony sponsors Millennium Quests for harpers. The concept is to declare a quest for a one-year period that will stretch your comfort zone as a musician and provide a community service to your locality.

Jo declared her own Millennium Quest on March 13, 2003.

5. Allergist's Office, Owings Mills, MD

On April 9th, I needed to get my allergy shots and brought my small harp along with me to the allergist's office. I always have to wait 20 minutes following the injections before leaving, so I knew I would have some time just sitting around. I thought it would be different to play a little harp music instead of my usual reading a book.

I was very nervous about playing in this place - the staff there are people I know and like, and I was afraid of causing disruption or discomfort, or that they would ask me to stop playing. The office was almost empty when I arrived, with only about 3 patients waiting for appointments or injections. After I received my injections, I went to the back corner, where the children normally play. There were no children there at the time. I started playing a simple warm-up tune, very softly. No one seemed to be minding, so I gradually got a little louder and a little louder. After I'd been playing for about 5 minutes, a mother and her son (probably around 6 years old) arrived and headed back to the play area. They looked at toys for a few minutes, and I could overhear the boy asking his mother about the harp. She gave good explanations. It was obvious she knew something about the instrument. (She later told me she had a friend who had a pedal harp.) The boy was very curious, and finally got up the courage to come ask me about it. I let him try out a few notes. He asked a very intelligent question about what the levers do, and seemed to understand when I showed how they changed the note.

Several of the staff noticed and commented on my playing as well, including the allergist himself, who came out and joked with me about being on union scale. (He then complained when I packed up!) I packed up when my wait time was over, and as soon as the harp was away, the little boy asked me to read him a book, so I ended up leaving a little later than planned...

4. Omega Drive, Rockville, MD

On April 1st, I was carpooling with my husband because we both had business in the Rockville area. I brought my lap harp along because I thought I might have some time on my hands after my appointment. This proved to be true, so I set up in a pleasant park-like area outside his office building and started playing. I didn't have any audience until my husband arrived, but shortly thereafter another office worker came out on a break, and listened to me play for a few tunes. He particularly liked The Rights of Man, and asked about the type of instrument and my playing. It was a beautiful afternoon to be sitting outside playing, which was a pleasant surprise since it had been snowing when we departed for Rockville that morning. This was my smallest audience for this so far, but it was also a very enjoyable event.

Jo playing in Rockville, MD

3. St. Paul's Blood Drive, Westminster, MD

My husband was giving blood at the local blood drive in Westminster, MD on Saturday, March 29th, so I offered to drive him and brought my harp along. We arrived when there was only an hour left in the campaign. I asked if they would like me to play my harp during blood donation, since I couldn't give blood. (This was a major accomplishment for me -- I find it extremely difficult to ask if I can play somewhere I haven't been invited to.) They seemed very pleased to have me do so, and I settled in to play for the blood donation staff and volunteers, plus the donors. I played for about an hour, until the drive was closed. This was really well received by the staff, especially, who asked a lot of questions about the harp and my harping. I regret that I was unable to come earlier in the day's drive, because only two donors came during that final hour, so I wasn't able to provide relaxing music for as many blood donors as I would have liked, but at least I was able to soothe the workers. One of the most notable things that happened during this performance was that right after I started, one of the workers behind a privacy screen stood up, looked around, and said "There's someone out there playing a harp!" in a very excited tone of voice.

2. McDaniel College, Westminster, MD

On the evening of March 25th, I attended a Candlelight Peace Vigil at the McDaniel College Campus (about 8 miles from my home) with my small harp in tow. It was a small gathering, what with the idea going around that believing in peace means that you are anti-American and not wishing our troops well, which is of course not the case! At the vigil, people were invited to share their thoughts, poems, songs, etc. I shared a lament that I had written years before, preceding it with the simple statement "This war has left me speechless, but I've been told that my instrument, the harp, is very peaceful, so I am going to play you something on the harp in the hopes of promoting peace. "

I said nothing else, but let the music speak. I actually played a piece of "Lament for Ravenscraig," which I wrote several years ago. To me, the tune represents sadness and mourning for something that is not in the state it should be, while still maintaining hope that things will be improved. This seemed to fit this situation perfectly, so I chose that tune to play.

I think the harping fit in well with the poems, songs, thoughts, and ten minutes of silence that shared the time with me, for it allowed people to reflect on their fear and sadness for the world today.

A few days after the event, I was called by a student from the college inviting me to attend another of their peace events.

1. Boardwalk Gazebo, Havre de Grace, MD

Jo playing in Havre de Grace I completed my first performance on March 16th at Havre de Grace, Maryland. I was in town to play for St. Patrick's Church for their Masses, and following the services I went to the boardwalk/park area on the waterfront and played at the gazebo overlooking the water. It was a beautiful day out after a long, severe winter, so there were quite a few people around. I settled down in the gazebo, which had just two people nearby at the time. Before long, a fairly large crowd (perhaps 50?) had gathered to listen to me play. I played mostly Irish music, in honor of St. Patrick's day, and then shared my harp with several children by allowing them to play glissandos on the harp before packing up and heading home. It was a very successful first performance on the quest.

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Revised 9/14/03.
Jo's Millennium Quest
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