What a hectic week! I'm just now getting to sit down to my computer to report that last Monday I officially finished my Millennium HarpQuest, playing at my 25th park in Somerville.
It was pretty chilly on Monday (mid-50s), but it was dry and sunny, and given the vagaries of New England weather, I didn't want to chance whether I might be available on any of the decent days we might still get this year. So fiance and I got in the car and drove out to Powder House Park. This was actually the first park in Somerville that I was aware of, a little over a year ago when we moved to the area. There is an old mill there (built 1704 or so), that got converted to a powder house - according to the city's website, the famous powder house that British troops raided in 1774, leading to the Revolutionary War. Apparantly it's on the National Register of Historic Places, too.
There's a bus stop there, where some people were waiting, but the bus came just as I was setting up. More people were arriving for the next bus before I left, though. I couldn't sit really close to the bus stop, because it was in the shade, and given the chill I wanted to sit in the sun, but it was close enough to hear. A little girl was in the park with her daddy, and they listened for a few minutes before moving along. In addition to the usual walkers, there was also an old man with a bucket, a shovel, and a stool, gathering and sorting acorns. He didn't say anything to me, but he sat there with his bucket the whole time I was playing. When I was finished I asked him to sign my witness book.
I was actually sorry to finish, and despite the chill, I stretched my repertoire as long as I could.
I haven't managed to get any of this up on my website yet, but I will hopefully before the end of the year. And I'll send you some hard copies of a few of the pictures and witness pages, John.
The other aspect of my Quest was to learn at least two pieces that the general listener would have a good chance of recognizing, and I didn't meet this goal until the downward slope of the Quest (but I did it). I had hoped to learn Greensleeves and one other song. Well, I decided that Wayfaring Stranger, as an American folk tune, counted as one that people would have a fair chance of being familiar with; but every time I sat down to practice Greensleeves, I just didn't like my arrangement of it, so I never managed to learn it. It wasn't until I went out harping with my friend, and she played a nice little arrangement of Scarborough Fair, that I realized that's a very common piece that I like. She said she got it out of Sylvia Woods' Teach Yourself book, so I bought myself a copy and learned it up quick. How's that for being enriched by musical collaboration?
I am very glad I did this Quest. I feel a lot more connected to my community now. Even though I am just a beginner, I realized harp music is something very special to be able to share with people. I also really made progress on calming stage fright - I am a lot more comfortable playing in front of people now. And now I'm actually looking for more opportunities to play :) Last December I took my harp in to work, and played some Christmas & Channukah tunes at lunch. But I really didn't play very solidly then, and I only knew about 4 or 5 tunes, and worse than all that, I was very very nervous. So this year I am kind of looking forward to doing it again. Though I do office work, more than half of our 40 or so employees work on the production side, and I get the feeling live music is a little beyond their regular experience, for many of them.
I won't be doing a Millennium HarpQuest next year, because I am getting married in June, and hope to start grad school in September, but maybe the following year I'll do it again. Thanks, John, for organizing this!
-Angela, Millennium Harper of Somerville, Mass.
(below is the declaration I made in early 2002:)
I, Angela Kovatch, do hereby declare my intention to claim for myself, in this year of 2002, the title ofMillennium Harper of Somerville, Massachusetts, by sharing my music with the people of my community. To this end I will play my harp in 25 parks and public spaces in the city of Somerville during this calendar year, with the general guideline of playing for approximately 30 minutes at each location. I further pledge to learn at least two widely recognized songs (e.g. "Greensleeves" and "The Irish Washerwoman") for the added enjoyment of listeners. To document my progress I will collect signatures and pictures along my quest, and post reports on my website at www.ivyharp.com.