Holding its breath, a daring leaf bounds from the precarious heights of a majestic alder tree into the gracious hands of Nature and dances with delight as it gently glides to the ground. Inspired by its show of gallant artistry, others follow suit and break free of their hold in the lofty branches with reckless abandon. Into the wind, a symphony of leaves offer a fluttering accompaniment to the fairy winds that play the idle harps in the grove on Magic Hill. In that brief moment, a shower of leaves rained down around me and the chill of the breeze reminded me that Mother Earth was still waiting for us to resume the music we had been playing for her all weekend.
There’s a reason this particular piece of land is called Magic Hill and offering a gift of music to this beautiful place felt appropriate. For the last three years, I’ve had the privilege of attending the Magical Strings harp camp in Olalla, WA. This year, the intermediate group of harpers met in a small grove for the morning session on the final day. I’m not sure why no one had thought to play there before. It was, for lack of a better word, magical. The trees captured the sound and held it there above us, amplifying the quality before sending it into the earth and out to the winds above. We were encircled by mystical sounds: the notes from the harp strings, the rustling of the leaves, a faint swirling of the air around us, the complementing birdsong, and the distant music from the dulcimer players and beginning harpers who were practicing on other parts of the property. Time stopped and for a moment I had been transported to another dimension where I was bathed in a sense of oneness in connecting with the earth. Magic.
Philip and Pam Boulding, the extremely talented couple who are Magical Strings, opened their hearts and shared a wealth of experience and knowledge with eager students during this annual event, which is part of the Magical Strings School of Music. It’s hard to say what I enjoyed most about the weekend. There were some familiar faces among the new ones and it was good to reacquaint myself with them. As always, new friends were made as we bonded over a love of music and a desire to play these Celtic harps and hammered dulcimers, fine instruments handcrafted by Philip himself. The fabulous meals were just as artistically prepared by family and served buffet style. Many jokingly admitted that it was the delicious food that enticed them to return, but there is no doubt that it played an important role in completing the entire experience.
One of the best features of harp camp is the Saturday night fire circle, where Philip and Pam entertain everyone with music and stories. Philip shares tales in a true bardic fashion and Irish step dancing usually occurs at some point. Unfortunately, I missed this year’s fire circle, but fully intend to be there next year. As the bonfire blazes, one can’t help but embrace a true sense of what Celtic gatherings must have been like in days long ago.
Another highlight of this weekend event is when all the groups gather under the apple trees next to the studio/workshop and everyone plays together the songs that they’ve learned. This year we learned Si Beag, Si More and Pachelbel’s Canon in D. Although half of the musicians were beginners, the performance was powerful. During this final session, Philip also treated us to a performance of one of his latest compositions, The Fairy Wind, which was inspired by the sounds the strings made as the wind passed through his harp when he was in Ireland. I was happy to learn that this tune was included on their latest CD, Celtic Yuletide: Celebrating 31 Years Live, which was recorded during the Yuletide concert in Tacoma that I had attended.
After the group photo, campsites were packed up, cars were loaded, chairs were stacked, and refreshments were put away. We said our farewells and exchanged contact information, hoping to meet again next year at harp camp. I left feeling enriched and inspired. Overall, it was a memorable weekend; however, my favorite moment was by far the very instant that first leaf unwittingly orchestrated a whirlwind of timelessness that embraced my soul with a profound connection to Source energy – a truly divine gift.
Thank you Philip and Pam!