Saturday, November 26, 2011

Memories: Beating Harps

Sileas: Beating Harps


Beating Harps, the song and the album, came out in 1987. That was a very important year for me. For the last six months of the year, I was on temporary lay-off from my job. Knowing that I would be called back, I decided to live on the unemployment, while seeing if I could make an opening for myself in the music business. To do this, I decided to identify some non-profit organizations in New York City that were involved in music, and offer my services as a volunteer. So I stuffed envelopes while the Waverly Consort rehearsed in the next room. I went into schools all over the city with a group that brought interesting music to children. And I helped get mailings out for the World Music Institute. At this last one, there was a bonus; in exchange for helping out at the merchandise table, I got to attend concerts of my choice.

Also in 1987, I met a woman at a Western Square Dance club, and we began dating. I hadn’t been seeing anyone for three years, so this was a big deal for me. As I got to know her, I found that we shared a love of Celtic folk music. So, when an evening of Scottish music came up, presented by the World Music Institute, I arranged an unusual date, where we both worked the show. On the bill were Andy Stewart and Manus Lunny, and Sileas. I had never heard of them, but I knew that WMI put on quality shows. It turned out beautifully. We both loved the show, and we bought up for ourselves all of the artists’ albums that were available on the merch table.

Sileas were the duo of Patsy Seddon, playing a gut-stringed Celtic harp, and Mary MacMaster, on steel-string harp. So they play the same instrument, but each sounds completely different from the other. They complement each other beautifully, each filling the spaces left by the other. Their singing works the same way, with one taking lead, and the other supporting her with wonderful harmonies. Ideally, a relationship should be like that. The woman I took to that concert has been my wife for twenty years now. The music our lives make has sour notes sometimes, but so far, we have always found that sound again. Four years after that concert, we walked down the aisle to the sound of a Celtic harper. Janice, this post is for you. I love you.

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