Harp music for the labyrinth

Lucile and her Celtic Harp

Was she playing on the strings of my heart? That’s how it felt when Lucile Hildesheim played her celtic harp for our “Labyrinth as Sanctuary” monthly program at Christ Church Cathedral, Ottawa. The sound of the harp can feel very direct and visceral. Perhaps it is the quality of sound and how it impacts or penetrates the body. In the amazing acoustical setting in which our labyrinth is located the sound is very clear and the resonance is quite beautiful. Lucile Brais Helidesheim is one of Ottawa’s most gifted and dedicated classically trained harpists. She also knows how to use her skills to listen within, allowing her own sense of music, her internalized sense of music, to flow out through her fingers. Not every musician is able to trust themselves enough to show up for a hour and half gig without prearranged music.

My labyrinth partner Vanessa Compton and I, while not musicians, find ourselves in the position of coaching our guest musicians to trust what they know and then we give them the opportunity to just let it flow. It’s a scary thing to do, but once a musician begins, they find their way and settle into what can become a meditation of it’s own. Lucile seemed a natural and as this was the first time she had played for the labyrinth I think she surprised herself.
We are making digital sound recordings of our events. This gives me a second opportunity to listen as I edit the recordings. I get to experience the music all over again from a different perspective. Music to accompany the labyrinth is best if it is not overly distracting and does not draw attention away from the experience but rather, supports and provides a presence of continuity.
I have long wanted to have a harpist play for the labyrinth and Lucile was such a natural. Harp music is very smooth and flowing and with that notion I thought the use of scarves would help to amplify the sense of flow. Who couldn’t use more gentle flow in their lives? We brought a basket of scarves and placed them at the entrance to the labyrinth. I picked up a couple of scarves as I began to walk the labyrinth and I used then as extensions of my arms. Any small movement was magnified through the movement of the fabric. I found they were somewhat distracting, taking my attention and turning it outward. I noticed a couple of others had taken scarves and draped them over their heads, so I tried it myself. Fascinating experience! These thin see-through scarves changed my experience and allowed for an increased sense of privacy. My vision was somewhat blurred and less focused but I was still able to find my way. I was impressed that such simple means produced a significant change. By the end of the evening the notion of peace on earth was believable.

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