I am sorry I don't know how to post an MP3 recording to accompany this essay from my friend Nancy. You will have to use your imagination, but it won't be that hard . . . . (Many thanks to our anonymous donor who makes it possible for us to offer this musical experience to our patients, families, and staff.)
Harp Musings by Nancy Kleiman, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, harpist
What is this phenomenon I have been experiencing all year as I bring the mysterious and magical sound of the harp to the corridors of this city of healing? How do its strings, like the fisherman’s net, capture and hold its catch for a brief moment of repose, then release to the ocean of hurried activity its weary yet refreshed traveler? Why are its invisible vibrations able to penetrate so precisely the hearts of those who resonate with its sound and create for them a space to center and smile, to breathe and awaken?
It matters little whether I’m playing in a lobby to a sea of passers-by, bedside for a dying patient, or within listening range of a family anxiously hovering while a dear one receives life-sustaining chemo. The harp has captivated children mesmerized by its ethereal sound as they create a glissando of their own with sheer delight. It has distracted elderly patients waiting for rides home after seemingly endless appointments and has raised stretcher-bound patients who give a thumbs-up to acknowledge a beautiful and familiar contrast to an otherwise stressful ordeal.
The harp’s muses have been nurses stepping out of the OR for a quick respite, doctors taking the time to comment on the soothing effects of the music, staff members seeking out its tranquil space to enjoy a meal, or even deliverymen who smile with surprise to see how its simple melodies can change the sterile atmosphere they are used to stepping into as they go about their busy day. “My blood pressure goes down just walking by the harp” is a familiar refrain.
Artists have stopped to sketch; musicians, to join in. Chaplains and therapists, family and friends request the harp to travel to rooms and floors where patients would benefit from its song. Even entering the elevator, the harp inspires those who respond to its presence. People have left countless gifts of gratitude and always, waves and waves of “thank yous” to bathe the harp in heartfelt appreciation.
What this phenomenon points to is the ability of live music - and especially music from this simple, artful instrument that vibrates richly, easily and effortlessly - to support an intention to serve a community with the highest standard of compassion and care. Through the overwhelmingly positive response the harp has elicited, it has earned its place as an important and vital partner in this hospital’s mission.