By Karen Blackledge
The Danville News
While the harp ranks as the world’s second oldest instrument, it can be used to play music from ancient times to rock ‘n’ roll as Louis Lynch demonstrated.
A rare jazz harpist, the composer and orchestra director presented a concert Saturday for Sisters of Christian Charity and visitors at Holy Family Convent.
“The harp is the world’s oldest multi-tonal instrument next to the drum. It is the instrument most often mentioned in the Bible and was the first stringed instrument dating 7,000 to 8,000 years,” said Lynch, director, founder and composer of the Harrisburg Harp Orchestra. He began the orchestra, of about 100 members ranging in age from 8 to 80, in 2004.
While this was his first visit to the convent, he performed about three years ago with other harpists and musicians for a special event in the St. Cyril Basilica.
The harp was the world’s most prevalent instrument until the 1700s and in every culture and continent, he told the audience of about 30.
He brought along a symphony-size pedal harp weighing 89 pounds.
The harpsichord evolved from the harp and it modernized to become the piano. “Inside every piano is a harp,” said Lynch, who lives in Camp Hill.
In 1800s America, during a huge surge of hymn writing, one of the leading contributors was Irish harp music, he said before playing and singing “An Ancient Irish Hymn.”
He also performed his gospel piece “Wings of Faith,” which won a singer/songwriter award at a major Nashville talent competition in 1996.
While Johann Sebastian Bach hated harps, Lynch said he gets back by playing a lot of his music.
He played and sang a Southern gospel tune and also “Stand by Me,” by Elvis Presley.
Lynch said harps come and go in popularity, but they are in vogue now, He gave the rock band “Florence and The Machine” as an example. “There was a harp on I Love Lucy because Desi’s band had a harpist,” he said.
Lynch started playing piano as a child and has been a harpist for 35 years. He has performed professionally for more than 30 years.
He has played harp and piano for symphonies, theater productions, concerts, church programs and private engagements, including at Lincoln Center and Ryman Auditorium. He has written music for solos, orchestras, ensembles and radio and television productions.
His books of compositions for harp solo and orchestra have gained international recognition.
Lynch’s appearance was arranged by his student, Judy Keefer, of Mechanicsburg, who played lap harps for sisters at Holy Family Convent in December.
She has been playing the harp for two and a half years.
“Louis teaches harp and piano. He’s just wonderful with everyone,” she said.
Keefer met Sister Paula Marie Beiter, of Holy Family Convent, while an outpatient at Holy Spirit Hospital.
One of Lynch’s biggest fans during Saturday’s concert was Bernie, the mostly yellow parakeet and sisters’ pet, who sang and chirped to every number.