Lyell Cresswell: The Harp Sang

Text: Fiona Farrell

The harp sang.
The harp sang.
The harp sang as the city falls.
The harp kept its head to the wall.

Listen to my broken song, sang the harp.
Listen to the beauty, the beauty of broken things.

I am wood and gut.
Trees made me
Trees and the bodies of wild cats.

Said the harp as the floor jumped.
Hey! Hey! A jig!
The cups and plates are tapping their feet.
Once round and mind the dresser.

Harps make fine companions in disaster.
You can float on a harp as the ship goes down.
Harps make fine companions in disaster.
You can hold on to a single string,
Find your way through a broken city.
Harps make fine companions in disaster.

Lyell: “When Helen asked me to write a piece, my immediate thought was to write for harp and voice - working with Fiona Farrell. I have only ever written for the harp in the orchestra before so it was great to have the opportunity to write for solo harp. The words have told me what notes to write.”
Fiona: “When Lyell asked if I would like to write some lyrics for a harp piece for Helen Webby, I took less than a second to say yes, please! Once a week for several years I have gone into Christchurch to play with a harp ensemble under Helen’s tutelage.  After the quake, she told us that the safest way to store a harp was ‘upright with its head to the wall.’  These poems are about the consolations of music when things are a mess, and about the history of the harp: about David and his harp and the way orthodox Jews pray, rocking back and forth, heads to the wall in Jerusalem, about the way impoverished Irish danced in those cramped tenant kitchens; about the musicians who played on as the ship went down. Harps are good companions in disaster.”
 Fiona Farrell is a novelist and poet who lives at Otanerito on Banks Peninsula.
About himself Lyell Cresswell says: “I am a full-time New Zealand composer living in Edinburgh.”

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