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Stories from the Harp: Weaving Hands

May 27, 2016
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When we designed our first harp more than 30 years ago, our goal was to build an instrument that would sound great and be a joy to play. We knew music could be powerful, but we never dreamed that harp would come to be such an important force for good. Over the years we have heard countless stories relating the healing and soothing effects of music on people in stressful situations. We've laughed, we've cried, and we've come to firmly believe that music is one of the highest gifts that can be given. We are moved and amazed by the number of people who are sharing this gift with others, and in an effort to inspire the therapeutic music movement to grow, we are hoping to share an ongoing series of stories illustrating how important this type of work is. To kick things off, here is a story we recently heard from a harpist in California about one of her experiences playing in a hospital.

"The room is dark when I enter. I find the patient, a petite Asian grandmother, working with her physical therapist. Her daughter and grown granddaughter are also in the room, trying to translate the PT’s instructions into grandmother’s Chinese dialect. The therapist is clearly exasperated. She’s trying to have the patient make slow rotations of her wrists but Grandma just flaps her hands back and forth frantically. Before I can even offer, the therapist asks, “Can you PLEASE play something calming that might slow her down?!” I launch into Gartan Mother’s Lullaby which has a deep, steady beat. The room goes quiet. When I look up I see all four women moving their hands in unison. They make slow undulating motions with their wrists, starting high and bringing their hands down in a descending line, not unlike flamenco dancers. To see three generations of women doing this wrist dance together is profoundly beautiful. I’m certain that we all feel this. When it’s time for me to leave – several tunes later – no one wants to break the moment by talking. They simply smile, bow their heads and touch their hearts."

Barbary Grant playing her Dusty Strings FH36S on wheels

Barbary Grant is a harpist and pianist who works as a hospital musician at Stanford University and El Camino hospitals. She moves her Dusty FH36S around the hospital with wheels strapped to its feet and plays soothing music for everyone from patients to family to staff.

If you have a personal story, photo or video that speaks to the therapeutic power of music, we would love to share it as part of this series! You can contact us here.

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