August 30, 2005
I hereby declare my intent to become the Millennium Harper in the wild places and calm interiors of East Iceland for the year beginning August 2005 and continuing until August 2006. In that time I will promote the small harp as an instrument for all to enjoy, whether listening to it or playing it, through planned and impromptu performances indoors and out, weather permitting, in my musical presence at local hospitals, and as a music teacher in two towns.
In August, I have performed at an outdoor christening at the hikers´hostel on Kverkfjoll, a mountain that is mostly covered by the great Vatnajokull glacier; at a very tiny church on the highest farm in Iceland, c. 1300 ft. above sea level; at our local hospital during afternoon coffee for the elderly resident patients and the Alzheimer´s unit; at the Hrafnagil handcrafts show in Eyjafjord in the north, where I am the "wandering harper in residence" as of six years ago; at a small church far south in Fljotsdalur, where I was joined in a couple of oldtime waltzes by an American tourist who had brought his fiddle along - perhaps the first time the congregation heard waltz music as the postlude, but instead of walking out they all just sat back down and listened till we were finished; sitting on the grass near the end of the fjord while watching minke whales feeding in the fjord (not sure if they were listening); and in our local church for a group of American tourists who wanted to hear some Icelandic folk music.
I own five harps, from a 36-string Triplett Signature down to a 20-string Westover lap harp. The large one is at home for my daily use and for concerts, the 30-string Triplett Axline is in the music school where my one local student (so far) practices on it, the blue Harpsicle 26-string travels home with my local student for her daily practice, the Westover is used for demonstrations, for potential students to try out, and for the hospital work, and an aged Brian Boru 23-string lookalike has been loaned to a friend and fellow music teacher, who accompanies young recorder players with it.
As well, I have caused several young folks to fall in love with the instrument, which has resulted in a lovely harp being built of Icelandic birch and larch according to measurements made of the Westover, but enlarged to allow 23 strings. I am currently hounding the harpmaker (who also makes many other things of iron, fabric, wood, et al) into building a 30-string model, for which we are working out a design. My adult student in the next town owns his own 34-string Camac clarsach, bought in Germany.
Via this work here, and networking with the classical harpists in Reykjavik, of whom there are four, two of whom have students, and one of whom also owns a Triplett 34-string clarsach, I am working to raise the awareness of the harp as a good instrument for children and adults, particularly since it rates earlier mention in Iceland´s history than the usually-mentioned national instruments, the langspil - very like an Appalachian dulcimer but played with a bow, mainly; and the fidla, which looks like a large cigarbox fiddle with no fingerboard. More like an Inuit fiddle than what we think of as a fiddle or violin.
Via working for my Millennium Quest title, I will continue this work and promotion of the small harp.