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    Madeline Davis

    Any other harpists out there that also play violin? How about other instruments? I’m curious how many play two(or more) at once.

    Sherri Matthew

    Hi Madeline,
    I play organ. Used to play pipe organ in church, now play digitally sampled organ in my recording studio. Played piano (classical) prior to that. Would be interested in violin if I had some extra time.


    I majored in clarinet and still play in the community band. I played violin in high school but sold my instrument a few years ago. My major was in music therapy so I’ve also dabbled in piano, guitar, and percussion.


    I play violin (well, Irish fiddle really). I play mostly Irish music on harp and a good portion of my repertoire on harp overlaps with my fiddle, but not all of it.


    A lifetime on the piano and a few hours with a flute (Puff the Magic Dragon – ;-)). Also a short time on guitar but nothing worth mentioning there either. So, piano and harp are the only ones that have produced anything worth talking about.


    I play both violin and harp professionally. I gave two classical violin recitals in Germany years ago., after degrees from Eastman School of Music in N.Y. Learning harp from 9 years of private lessons later, I’m not an orchestra player on harp; my upper-intermediate playing level allows background music, weddings, and church music. Diversity of instruments allows more employment opportunities, I have found.


    Guitar, harp, banjo in that order. Can play lute derivatively, because I played lute and vihuela music on guitar. On trips, sometimes take along a bowed psaltery because it’s so eminently portable.

    Double up on some things on harp and guitar but not so much on banjo, that being a cheeky, twangy, inherently disrespectful instrument.


    I have a B.Mus. in organ, an M. Mus. in voice and I play the piano (of course…..before organ) and flute. I taught music in public schools so in my methods courses I was exposed to some instruments from every family, but I actually pursued flute for a long time….the others not so much. In fact, the violin……I was trying to work on my class assignment and was practicing it while my husband worked on the car in the driveway. He is a splendid, accomplished keyboard artist. He came rushing in, and tried as nicely as he could say it, but said, “If you don’t stop I might have to kill you.” It was pretty grim. Violin is definitely NOT my instrument. But harp is my true love.


    Sherri Matthew

    Hi Briggsie,

    Nice that you earned a B. Mus in organ! I wanted to do that but my school didn’t offer it. I went back to college after many years and earned my B. A. in 2007 at the age of 37 (in music, on organ), but with a lot of other studies as well, so that’s how I came to the harp. My husband (many years my senior) is a retired public school music teacher, church organist since 13 and carillonneur at two area colleges in Vermont. His website:

    I don’t perform live at all anymore – if you read my post to Angela you know about that – but I was very interested in music theory and arranging, so I’ve just pursued that primarily now, and doing the recording work.

    Where are you playing organ now and what is your primary interest? My husband George really goes in for Bach. I always like the French Romantic, myself. Widor, Boellmann, that sort of thing. Ever do anything with handbells? He did that a lot at the church where he was playing a few years ago.

    Angela Biggs

    My primary instrument is voice. I’m trying to build up my repertoire of songs to sing and harp at the same time; I’ve noticed when I’m playing background music, those are the pieces that the entire room stops to pay attention to. However, I prefer to perform on voice and harp separately, both because I sing at a higher level than my intermediate harping, and because I get more satisfaction from performing when I can focus on just one instrument at a time. 🙂

    Sherri Matthew

    Hi Angela,
    Natural voice? (as opposed to operatic, etc.?) I prefer natural voice actually, when it’s well done, breath support, good intonation and all. I haven’t pursued singing per se, but I’m somewhere among alto/soprano, maybe mezzo soprano. Some of the higher notes I can’t comfortably hit, and if I can’t then I think it doesn’t sound good and probably isn’t good for the voice either. Any suggestions on how to work gradually up to higher notes without causing strain/damage? How long it would take?

    Angela Biggs

    Hi Sherri,

    I’m not sure what you mean by natural voice? I am classically trained, but I’m not good enough to sing opera (which is increasingly known as “elite” singing). My voice is best suited for church music; people tend to tell me I sound like an angel, then they learn my name, then they learn that I play the harp and their heads go kablooey. 🙂

    If what you mean by “natural voice” is the kind of singing women do when they say they have very low voices, or that they’re altos (most women really are not), or they offer to sing tenor, or what you hear on the radio, then that’s actually unnatural; it’s shouting on pitch, or sometimes speaking in rhythm, but it’s not singing. What’s happening in these cases is that the woman is pulling her heavy mechanism, or “chest” voice, up into her higher range, and YES! that is very bad for the voice! It can cause problems that require surgery to fix! It also *severely* limits range. What is on the radio and TV right now is the musical equivalent of super-model thin: these people are setting an unhealthy example, and they’re making a lot of money doing it.

    The only way for a women to sing higher notes without strain or damage to her vocal folds is to unify her registers by carrying her light mechanism, or “head” voice, down into her lower range. This does require a teacher, especially in the beginning. Most women won’t do it without a *lot* of encouragement, because it results in a temporary loss in power and feels very different, but the long-term benefits to the technique are incalculable in terms of vocal health, flexibility, range, agility, expression, etc. It is also part of the core of classical technique. Don’t let that scare you though; it’s completely possible to sing with a solid underpinning of classical technique but without a heavy vibrato, or vowels so round they are distorted, or whatever it is that turns you off from opera.

    I wish you lived closer; I would gladly teach you how to do this. and help you free up those higher notes 🙂 Your best bet, though (time and funds permitting), is to find a classical teacher, tell her what you want to accomplish, and let her help you. Incidentally, it’s best to go to a teacher of the same gender, since males and females need to handle their voices differently.

    Good luck to you! 🙂

    (I’m sorry for hijacking the thread, Madeline; it was a complex question and one that is near and dear to my heart. 🙂 )

    Sherri Matthew

    Hi Angela,
    When I was learning to multitrack record, I studied Enya’s albums a lot and modeling my layering techniques after hers – only it’s organ layered many times, not voice. (That took me a few years to master, because in the beginning it just sounded like mud, but now it’s gotten a lot easier to do and everything comes out very lush but clear.) But I guess I meant singing like that, or some of the Gregorian chant I heard sung by nuns when I visited a convent in Ireland. Very light, not operatic or heavy or belting type singing, but yet trained at the same time.

    I can get some head resonance going, so the check bones buzz. And my throat doesn’t hurt either so I guess I’m doing something right there. But I don’t want it to be particularly loud (would overwhelm microphones) and I’ve never been terribly fond of the shouting on pitch thing, as you describe. Just something appropriate to chant, if I could get that going.

    Would be great if you could teach me, but yes, it’s a bit of a drive getting over the mountains. You’ve given me some food for thought though…. have to see what I am doing with my voice next time!

    (and thanks Madeline, for putting up with my likewise thread hijacking, but I think I’ve learned something here! 🙂

    Getting back to your original thread, I do in fact have a violin, a student one and I think it would be fun to carve a few hours out of the day to learn folk tunes on it. Classical is fabulous, but a serious time and energy commitment. I had always wanted to play violin, since a child, but there was no string program in my grade school and it just never came about. I think now as an adult maybe I would like some of the French-Canadian and Cape Breton folk tunes I’ve heard, and some of the Nova Scotia styles of playing. And here I am, talking about voice lessons too! 🙂 Always music I want to learn!

    Angela Biggs

    The best part of music, Sherri — so much to learn! You can never get bored, or run out of things to do! 🙂


    Sherri, I play at a large Presbyterian church nearby, and yes I am the handbell director. I have composed for handbells, (and children’s choir) but so far haven’t gotten it together to send anything to a publisher. My plans for that include writing several short pieces for handbells usable on various Sundays in the church year which are possible for 3 octaves and not so horribly long as many are which can be done for offering or a shorter prelude. I love both French romantic and Bach/Buxtehude/Bach-Vivaldi and other Baroque pieces…..but I am so over the organ thing. I keep my skills up, but I’m not driven to dig into any huge pieces right now. I just want to concentrate on the harp and on singing. BTW, I also got my B.Mus. degree when I was in my late 30’s. My parents couldn’t afford to send us to college, so I had to do it on my own and that’s the way things worked out. I was a serious student though, and I think I got my money’s worth so much more than I would have had I gone as a young 20’s student. JMO…..

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