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On a trip to Ireland last summer I did some worth-while research
in the Irish Traditional Music Archives, and came home with more
tunes to learn on my harps.
But the main harp event of this trip was the delivery of a harp
to my young friend Aimee who has Down's Syndrome and is Anne Gabriel's
age. We met in 1992 during my first trip to Ireland, and fell
in love with one another right away. She fell in love with my
harps on my subsequent visits to Ireland and when she and her
Mom visited Seattle in 1994. Seeing how much Aimee "resonated"
with the harp reminded me of how much I longed to learn to play
the harp, a dream which finally came true after almost 10 years
of yearning. I didn't want Aimee to have to wait as long as I
did, so I decided to do something about it. After shopping for
small harps in Seattle, I realized that even a small, simple harp
was not something I could afford to buy for her. So I placed
an ad in a regional harper's newsletter hoping to find a second-hand
one. A local harpmaker called me up and after asking me some
questions to get more information about the situation, volunteered
to make a harp for Aimee and give it to me to take to Ireland
as a gift for her. He said he wanted to place the gift of making
music in the hands of someone who longed to make music but would
otherwise be unable to have a harp.
So I took the harp on the plane with me, in its bright green case
made by another harp friend in Seattle. On the day that I met
with Aimee she was staying with her Dad while on holiday in the
wilds of West Cork (my favorite corner of Ireland!). I arrived
at the house with the harp case slung over my shoulder, and Aimee
didn't bat an eye because she is so used to seeing me travelling
with a harp. So we sat down in the backyard overlooking rolling
meadows and pastures going down to the sea to have a cup of tea.
"Yesterday was Dad's birthday", Aimee told me. I took
that opportunity to say "Oh Pete, I didn't know about your
birthday, so I didn't bring you a present, but I DID bring Aimee
a present! Shall I bring it out now?" So I went in the
house and brought out the bright green harp case with bows and
a card on it and placed it on the ground beside Aimee's chair
and said "I believe this has your name on it". Aimee
knelt beside the case for several silent moments as she undid
the ribbons and read the card. Still not speaking, she opened
up the harp case, and then lifted out the beautiful mahogany and
spruce harp and placed it on her lap as she sat in her chair.
And then she finally spoke these words.. "Oh, my dream come
true!!! My own little harp!"
We sat and talked while she explored the strings and before long
she picked out the melody of "Ode to Joy". She has
such amazing capacities for the harp! We then took it down to
the rocks by the sea where we sat and took turns playing beside
the clear Atlantic water in a cove where the bottom was clearly
visible, with golden seaweed waving back and forth in the gentle
But wait, the story doesn't end there! Aimee and her two older
sisters (who are adults in their early 30's) brought her to Seattle
a month later. I called the harp maker (who prefers to remain
anonymous), and told him that Aimee's family had sent a thank
you present, and asked if I could bring it over with her oldest
sister who had driven up from Portland, Oregon. Well, we assembled
on his front porch, and as the door was halfway open I knocked
on it and he called from inside for us to come on in. We entered
in single file and after I hugged him I introduced the others..
"This is Julie, Aimee's sister from Portland, and this is
Rachel, Aimee's other sister". George looked puzzled and
said, "But don't you live in Dublin, are you here visiting?"
"Yes" answered Rachel, and then I introduced the handsome
fellows that followed her in "This is Bill, Julie's partner,
and Christopher, my partner". In that moment Aimee stepped
out from behind Christopher and I said "And here's someone
who would like to say THANK YOU!" George was dumbfounded
with surprise as Aimee stepped forward and presented him with
a painting she had done of herself with her new harp.
The harp maker later said that there was no better way to thank
him. Up until then Aimee had been "a figment of his imagination",
a young girl in a far away land to whom he had given a gift.
But having her and her sisters in his home, and seeing her play
his wife's harps (which he also made) brought Aimee into living
reality for him. It was an afternoon that I am sure none of us
Having played the harp for almost 9 years now myself, and becoming
familiar with the deep magic of it, it is my belief that the spirit
of the Celtic Harp was longing for Aimee to have a harp as much
as she was longing to have one, and that this spirit found a way
for Aimee to have a harp. The harp maker and I were simply servants
of an intelligence and beneficence beyond ourselves, and were
priviledged to be a part of the process that finally brought Aimee
and her beloved harp together.
Peter Berry is a sculptor, Celtic hartpist and storyteller living
in Seattle. His homepage is at: http://psweb.com/berry.
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