I think I first saw a harp when I was a kid in some MGR movie. Its a song sequence in which Jayalalitha dances around it and plucks a few strings.
I thought it was just one of those ancient instruments that didn’t exist in the modern day. When I googled for ‘Ayirathil Oruvan’ which is the movie from which I remember the instrument, this is what I found, apparently MGR also plays a smaller version of it. Saucy!
Strangely, that was my first thought when I saw the same beautiful instrument this weekend, albeit a humongous concert size harp. Gwyneth Wentink, a harpist from the Netherlands was at Landmark, Spencer plaza on Sunday. She already played at Landmark in Pune and Bangalore and this was her last stop at the store. I had heard a harpist live only once before and that was not in India. Also, it wasn’t a huge concert harp. It was a smaller celtic one. In all, I was really looking forward the recital.
The first thing that strikes you about Gwyneth is her height. She’s almost as tall as the majestic instrument that towers over you. I sure felt like a pygmy when I stood next to her. The giantness (if that’s a word and definitely not a rude one) notwithstanding, she had a very child-like approach to the entire thing and was beaming all through in spite of the horrible heat in the store due to a power cut. I can’t even attempt to write a review of the recital cos I definitely do not know enough about western classical music to review a concert. But to my untrained ears, it felt good and I didn’t once feel like leaving or getting up to go browse through some books. What was even better was that she took the time out to explain each piece before she started it. It didn’t leave the uninitiated totally clueless.
When she got on the stage, she almost seemed a little uncomfortable and awkward with the heat and the low-ceiling against which she bumped her head a few times. But when she started playing, her fingers just glided effortlessly over the strings, 47 of them at that! Never had I such seen such elegance and majesticity (if that’s a word) seem so right next to each other. She constantly kept turning the pages of her music but hardly saw her take more than a fleeting glance at it. My favorite was the last piece that she played which she called a ‘romantic harpy piece.’ It sure felt lilty and lovely and had everyone smiling and swaying.
Recognizing that the Harp is not one of those instruments the audience might be familiar with, she took some time out and explained the build and working of the instrument. There were quite a few enthusiastic questions from the audience about the instrument itself and playing techniques.
In spite of the heat and the noise and the disturbances at the store, I left feeling quite happy. An evening well spent.
This one person in the audience made a sketch of Gwyneth and got it autographed by her. Quite sweet I thought.
You can listen to her music here.
PS: All photos were clicked by me on my N82 except of course the MGR one!