Happy Harpers Head for the Hills
Who knew harpers needed an escape?
I mean, there they are, playing one of the most restful musical instruments on the planet (unless Harpo’s playing), and yet they need an escape? Why, your average Celtic harper could teach Perry Como to relax. (Yes, I know … given that the old crooner has been dead the past six years, it would be hard to be more relaxed.)
But I digress.
The point is, harpers from throughout the Delaware Valley (and probably beyond) are about to head to the Poconos for their 15th Annual Harpers Escape Weekend. It takes place Oct. 12-14 at The Country Place Retreat and Conference Center in White Haven.
It’s not actually an escape from anything other than the distractions of everyday life. It’s really more like a total-immersion retreat for people who love and play the Celtic harp, at all levels. In a series of small classes led by some of the world’s finest players and teachers, including Grainne Hambly, Bill Jackson, Kathy DeAngelo, Debbie Brewin-Wilson, and Sharon Knowles, harpers will get a chance to hone their skills—and just spend time with other people who are as passionate as they are about this lovely, ancient instrument.
DeAngelo and Brewin-Wilson hatched the idea.
“Debbie and I were sitting around playing harps one weekend in 1992 and trying to rehearse for a gig but we were constantly interrupted by various household events,” says Kathy. “We thought it would be a great idea to escape for a weekend where we’d only be playing harp. We figured if we could get a few other people to join us it would be a lot of fun. We initially convinced some of our students and some total strangers to trek down to Cape May.
“Little did I know that, when we did the first weekend in 1993 at a small B&B down in Cape May with nine other players, that it would turn into a regular tradition. The Harpers Escape was a pioneering event and the model for many other harp weekends.”
The Escape has had several venues over the years, including Spring Lake, N.J., and Ocean Grove, where until last year it was headquartered at the Manchester Inn. But the Escape keeps growing, so this year, the harpers head to the hills.
“We have more space this year and more teachers and hopefully we’ll get more people to come—but we’re still dedicated to having small classes,” says Kathy.
Almost 60 percent of the attendees are alumni, she adds. Pretty clearly, the experience resonates. “Our motto has been ‘harp till you drop,’ and we mean it,” Kathy says. “We try to get the ‘shy’ players to not feel so self-conscious about playing and just realize that they can have a good time playing. We have everybody from inexperienced players to really experienced players—all giving each other encouragement and taking joy in the instrument and the music. Everybody has something to contribute.”