Q and A with Nancy O’Brien


Editor’s note: The prestigious triennial International Harp Contest in Israel takes place October 15–25, 2018, in Akko, Israel. Our reporter Sunita Staneslow is on site to provide updates throughout the competition. She spoke with Nancy O’Brien, one of Lyon & Healy’s representatives at the International Harp Contest in Israel who oversees the shipping of their harps from Chicago to Israel.

Lyon & Healy shipped 10 harps to Israel for the Contest. Can you describe this process?

“I have worked for Lyon & Healy for the past 14 years. This is my third International Harp Contest in Israel. One of the more unusual parts of my job, which involves the International Harp Contest in Israel, is to assist in shipping the harps to Israel. Ten harps were sent on a container  ship by ocean and take about a month to arrive. As they are moving across the world I find it fun to track them on GPS. On a vessel tracking site I follow the container and can observe other watercraft, so while the harps are on the Atlantic I can see the tankers and other cargo ships keeping them company. I can also see as they head into port that they are among yachts, cruise ships, and fishing boats. The harps arrive into Haifa (I can see the day they arrive), and are delivered by a trucking company to the Contest. They are unpacked by Contest staff as well as a Lyon & Healy/Salvi Technician Guild member, who then sets to work making sure they are tuned and ready in every way.”

How do you decide which harps to send and which models?

“We send a mix of professional Lyon & Healy and Salvi harps for the contestants with a good representation of styles.”

How do the harpists select which harp they will use for the Contest?

“At the Contest there is a room where the contestants have a period of time to select their first and second choices. This is as much as I know about this because once the harps arrive they are managed by the Contest staff.”

Describe what it means to be a representative of Lyon & Healy and Salvi at the Contest?

“Obviously, the opportunity to listen to our harps at such a high level is always a thrill to me (I am also a harpist). We try to be out and about as much as possible so we have the chance to get to know the contestants. It is always good for them to have a name and a face of someone they can reach out to during such an intense competition, and even after. I am fortunate to get to know many of them and it is a pleasure to me that they keep in touch over time. Many have let me know what projects they are involved in, and I have received diverse inquiries regarding service, maintenance, or even music itself. Being in Israel I also very much enjoy connecting with teachers I have gotten to know over the years, as well as getting the chance to watch my customers move from childhood to mature harpists. It is always wonderful to get to this side of the globe and reconnect!”


About Author

Sunita Staneslow is a versatile harpist best known for her books of arrangements. Originally from Minnesota, she moved to Israel 15 years ago and is a frequent presenter at harp festivals around the world. You can read more about Staneslow in our interview with her in the July/August 2015 issue of Harp Column.

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