Valerie Blessley's Millenium Harp Quest

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The Millenium Harp Quest Voyages 6-10 on "Andante"

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Quest Location 6 - Cook's Marina in the Columbia River, OR - April 27, 2002

It's my birthday, and I decided to play "Sprout" on the dock at our marina. Mark and I set up some chairs at the end of the dock overlooking the channel of the North Portland Harbor. The sun was intense, so Mark did some sunbathing while I played.

People across the harbor stopped what they were doing to see and hear the harp. One couple came out of their floating home to catch the show! They applauded, and asked me to show them what I was playing. The husband was amazed to see a lap harp, as he had only heard of concert harps. Another man, who was working on his house farther back in the marina opposite ours, came out on the dock to listen. He didn't say anything, but lingered there while I played. When I was done, he disappeared around the corner, and we could hear the sounds of his tools again coming across the water.

Quest Location 7 - Multnomah Falls, OR - April 27, 2002

Tonight Mark brought me to my favorite birthday dinner location. We took "Sprout" (my 23 string Hummingbird harp) because of the long walk from the parking lot. As we sat at dinner, discussing "the Quest," the couple next to us asked about our boat and the quest. The four of us had a great visit, which led to a discussion of boat names. When we told them the story of how we named Andante,and several of the alternate names, they latched onto "Breathe Deep." Now we'll look at passing boats on the river to see if their Carver motor yacht gets the name.

After dinner, we hiked up to where we could see the waterfall. The water plunges down 620 feet from Larch Mountain. I love this place. I sat in the near darkness with Mark and Sprout. Soon, I began to hear a tune - and Multnomah Falls gave me its song... a D Mixolydian piece. Days later, when I played it at another Quest location, one of the listeners told me that it had been her favorite piece of the entire evening. And when I played it for Jennifer, my music partner in Celtic Muse, she asked, "What water music is it?" I hadn't even told her the name of the new piece yet. When I replied, "Multnomah Falls," she nodded and agreed that it fit the picture of the falls.

The photograph was taken by Diana Karabut and is borrowed with permission from the Friends of Multnomah Falls web site.

This Indian folk tale is told at the Multnomah Falls visitors center. "Many years ago, a terrible sickness came over the village of the Multnomah people and many died. An old medicine man of the tribe told the chief of the Multnomahs that a pure and innocent maiden must go to a high cliff above the Big River and throw herself on the rocks below and the sickness would leave at once. The chief did not want to ask any maiden to make the sacrifice. But when the chief's daughter saw the sickness on the face of her lover, she went to the high cliff and threw herself on the rocks below and the sickness went away. As a token of the maiden's welcome by the Great Spirit, a stream of water, silvery white, streamed over the cliff and broke into a floating mist along the face of the cliff. Even today, as you carefully watch, the maiden's face can be seen in the upper waterfall as the breeze gently rustles the watery strands of her silken hair."

Quest Location 8 - West Dock, Government Island Landing, OR - April 30, 2002

It was a beautiful day, so we took a boat trip. There were lots of boats on the river, which made the water a little rough. I became very nervous and was glad to dock for lunch. When I began this quest, I thought the harp would bless others, and hadn't really thought about her blessing me with a more peaceful heart. Pikku Lintu did just that today as I played her on the dock.

After lunch, both the water and I calmed down, so we motored up to the Port of Camas - Washougal. It was our first visit by boat to the marina where our daughter Jeanette and her husband, Tom, keep their boat. After leaving a written greeting on their boat, we set out again. We made it home in an hour and 5 minutes, which was much faster than we had thought it would take. Fortunately for me, the water had smoothed out considerably by that time.

Quest Location 9 - North Portland Harbor, OR - May 11, 2002

Mark and I were registered to attend a compass calibration class with the Ft. Vancouver US Power Squadron today. The day held lots of anticipation, because we were going for our first ride on our friends Jack and Judy Cory's new boat, Morning Mist. She's a 34 foot Bayliner, which is ultra posh. Our instructor for the day was Buzz St. Claire, (Navigator), a fully certified USPS teacher. Buzz had taught much of our Boat Smart class when we first got Andante, so we knew it was going to be a wonderful session. A few weeks before, Buzz had taught a new class called "Skipper Savers," which had been well attended and much talked about.

I waffled about whether or not I should bring a harp. After all, we didn't expect much free time, the boat would have about 11 people aboard, and people might think it was a bit much. But the harps won out, and I toted Sprout along; she's my smallest harp, a 23 string Hummingbird lap harp.

The land based part of the class was really interesting, and made a lot of sense, as Buzz and Jack demonstrated the process of calibrating the compass. I hadn't realized that compasses needed any calibrating... but there are methods for adjusting for longitudinal distance from true north... or was that magnetic north? I'll have to check the notes. It's a good thing Mark understands all of this much better than I.

Following the land lesson, we took the compass and the "Official Fort Vancouver Power Squadron Geo-Magnetic Navigational Device Calibration and Certification Widget," which is a perfectly square compass holder that Mark constructed for the Power Squadron. It all was installed on the dash of Morning Mist, and we shoved off. Jack drove the boat from the flying bridge above, while Buzz coached him on direction from the cabin. At one point, Buzz needed to go up on the flying bridge to check on something. When he came down, he came down in a very unexpected way. Buzz missed a step, grasped for a railing that wasn't there, and came crashing down on the deck of the cockpit at the stern of the boat. He hit his head on the transom in the process. I was standing at the door of the cabin and in my teacher voice, said "Buzz don't move!" Mark quickly came down from the flying bridge, and Kathy Kolstad (a recent Skipper Saver graduate), ran to Buzz's side. They assessed Buzz's condition and cared for him while I called 911 on the cell phone.

Soon I was telling Jack what to do -- imagine that! -- relaying directions to where the paramedics wanted him to dock Morning Mist. He did a remarkable job of piloting in light of the situation. When we reached the docks, the paramedics boarded the boat, put Buzz in a cervical collar and took him away in an ambulance lying on a back board. Kathy went to the hospital with him. Fortunately Buzz was not badly hurt. He had had the breath knocked out of him, and had a number of bumps and bruises, but it could have been much worse.

After the paramedics left with Buzz and Kathy, everyone aboard was understandably shaken. I played soothing music... much of it slow improvisation... in the cabin, and then went to the flying bridge. Jack was visibly worried, and upset. I played the harp for him while he slowly motored through the harbor. No one said much. After a time, Jack relaxed, as did the rest of us.

Much brighter now, and having had a cell phone report that Buzz appeared to be ok, Jack offered to take us on a real ride on Morning Mist. We had a great cruise through the harbor and out onto the Columbia River, stopping in at Hayden Bay to greet George, a former USPS Commander, and his wife Linda. The end of the event was topped off with coffee and struedel at Jack and Judy's. No one has let Buzz live it down yet. A poetic ode in his honor streaked across cyberspace to all of us USPS members, and he was awarded the "Cowbell Award" at the next meeting for his stunt work.



Quest Location 10 - Fort Vancouver US Power Squadron Meeting - May 15, 2002

When I was first asked if I would bring my harps to a meeting, I didn't realize that we'd be the featured speakers for the evening. Now I'm glad that Kathy Kolstad, the Administrative Officer of Ft. Vancouver USPS, asked us to end the season with our harps and a presentation about my Millenium Harp Quest. It has introduced over 40 people to the harp and kantele, and it seems to have lead to a number of Quest fans, and a bit of unexpected notoriety. (Now, to our delight, my picture (with harps) is popping up on USPS web sites.) Since more people know what I am doing with the quest, I won't feel quite so conspicuous when I haul out a harp or kantele at each docking point. You have to admit, most people never expect these instruments to be riding in a boat!

When we went to the meeting, I brought Kirsi, my 36 string Songbird, Pikku Lintu, my 30 string Rhapsody, and Sisu, my Finnish kantele, to the meeting. It took me as long to set up and tune the instruments as it did for the group to set up a room full of tables, chairs, and a pot luck dinner. 102 strings takes a lot of tuning!

I was particularly impressed by the high interest among the Squadron members, the warmth of their welcome, and the level of their respect for us and the instruments. Many times when I play in public, people tend to want to touch and play the harps, and sometimes I worry for their safety. But tonight, people approached and stood a modest distance away until they had asked permission to come closer. A few took a "test drive" on the harps, and no one touched without my urging or assistance. Wow.

The presentation was fun. We got to talk about Blessley Instruments, Harpers for Harmony, ISFHC, and my Millenium Harp Quest in detail. The questions we were asked were thoughtful and sometimes thought provoking. I played a few pieces on each of the instruments in order to compare and contrast the tone of large and smaller nylon strung harps with the tone of the wire strung kantele. The fact that I got my first standing ovation for a solo performance didn't hurt a bit either!

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