Harp a tune ity knocks
Monday March 11th 2013, 10:28 pm
Filed under: Family,Life,My Garden

The August Pride peach blooms on, the Babcock joins in.

Back when our older children were babies and toddlers, Richard wanted an autoharp. I had my piano, but he wanted to have something he could play too.

He and I had both had a county music teacher who traveled to our elementary schools and taught us songs to sing while she played one, the happiest part of the schoolweek. Probably the same teacher. Fond memories for both of us.

Autoharps were not found in great abundance in southern New Hampshire in the early 80’s.

And yet somehow we found one. It had been a public-school music teacher’s–perfect!–offered up now at a music store an hour west in a small picturesque old New England town near the Vermont border.

The place was magical. Stepping stones for our oldest to jump along on cleared the way through the last bits of snow scattered about the melting winter’s earth, taking us up to the door of an old building at the top of the hill amongst the trees; inside it was warm with old wood shelves and walls and age and stories to tell.

The shopkeeper hefted and opened the slightly battered case with affection, telling us of this autoharp’s history, glad to see it go to a young family that would appreciate it.

Our kids have grown. The instrument has been quiet awhile now.

I got an email today and forwarded it to Richard at work: a young mom was looking to borrow an autoharp for a week while doing some volunteering in the schools, and if she could buy one, all the better; did anyone know where to find one?

I struggled to remember the name of that shop in that small old town in the mountains in a land far, far away. I wondered if it had continued to remain through the years.

We would not sell. But we could share.

She thinks she has a lead on one to buy, now, but we are her backup plan in case it falls through.

Richard came home from work, and, after dinner, having had it pull at him ever since her query, pulled that battered case out, improved with further age only in our own eyes. He found the tuner. He worked at it awhile then strummed quietly, remembering the chords, the fingering, the sequences.

He came into the kitchen behind me at one point and the music was infectious by now, the only possible response to dance for the joy of making music together again, for all the memories, for making new ones right here right now.

But our outer cases are getting a bit older, too, (Mom and Dad: I can hear you guffawing) and at some point I sat down over here, he sat down in there, and as he continues to play and I continue to listen I write this down for Parker and his little brother and all the other grandchildren to come.

Parker’s parents say with a cheerful smile that they have forgiven us for giving him a Christmas present that was a roll-out plastic pad like the old Twister game, only the picture was not rows of colored dots but of a piano keyboard. Which does indeed play the notes little boys might have fun stomping on to create their own tunes. Make a joyful noise unto the Lord all ye lands!

Start’em young and watch them blossom.

9 Comments so far
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Neat. Music is a tie that binds, isn’t it?

Comment by Channon 03.12.13 @ 6:40 am

We too have an auto harp, I am not sure where it’s from, but I think my hubby got it off the internet, It get’s used time to time. I realize that here it is March , soon our community band will be starting up again an parade season will be upon us. We have a lovely band wagon with a canvas top, so us old foggies don’t get too much sun.

Comment by kris 03.12.13 @ 6:48 am

Music is a wonderful gift you give to yourself. How nice that you still have that old Autoharp.

Comment by Jody 03.12.13 @ 6:55 am

Let me take this harp a tune itty to say that it took me a moment to get that one. And then I burst out laughing! Good one. Yes, music is a wonderful gift.

Comment by Don Meyer 03.12.13 @ 9:06 am

Be kind to those of us who only have enough talent to stomp on the dots. Thanks for the story.

Comment by sherry in idaho 03.12.13 @ 9:27 am

yes! and yes again!!

my daughter grew up with music all around her — I have no formal training, just have always loved it — and in the end she can play almost anything brass and has a 4 1/2 octave soprano voice (oh wow!)

for Christmas Mr Cute got a small (but great sounding) xylophone from gamma and papa (us) and I hear that my daughter has now pulled out the trumpet again — which he enjoyed (the dogs not so much)

make a joyful noise indeed!

Comment by bev 03.12.13 @ 10:15 am

I remember the classroom autoharp! Thanks for the smile!

Comment by LynnM 03.12.13 @ 11:45 am

We bought one for Roseanne in similar circumstance so long ago, and now we hope we can find it for her as we clear out the house. Our elementary school had its own music teacher, shared with only one other school, when our younger kids were there, and Carole didn’t even know what we were talking about when we asked if she knew where the autoharp ended up…I assume it will turn up somewhere in the attic. Fun.

Comment by Marian 03.12.13 @ 9:38 pm

I always thought of the autoharp as a nice enough little instrument…and then I heard Harvey Reid play. We’re not talking push a button and strum- he plays with five fingerpicks and weaves harmonies that are positively miraculous. You can hear some of his work here: http://www.woodpecker.com/audio/mp3.html

A highly underestimated instrument, the autoharp.

Comment by RobinH 03.19.13 @ 12:15 pm

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