By Varad Diwate
Playing a Western instrument such as a harp in India is quite different from playing a guitar or a set of drums. The audience is not only interested in hearing the music but also seeing the magnificent instrument. “People seem to be curious about the harp. They are enthralled on hearing the music and intrigued by its grandeur,” says US-based harpist Devon Haupt who performed at Phoenix Marketcity, Pune last week.
Pune marks the last leg of her India tour that started in October and has seen her playing in Punjab and Goa among others. She has prepared a dozen Bollywood tunes for her Indian tour that are mostly romantic and slow-paced. Haupt agrees with the perception that playing a harp can be expensive. “Beginners can use less expensive instruments. They can buy higher-end models if they want to play at a professional level,” says Haupt, who was introduced to the harp when she was around 15 at a summer camp. She continued learning the instrument and decided to perform professionally after completing her post-graduation in liberal studies from Valparaiso University in Indiana.
Haupt has played in Western classical orchestras such as the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra as a featured soloist, and the Illinois Symphony Orchestra but has gone solo now. “Orchestra performances are often long and the harp is played for a very short time. It can be a little frustrating. Solo performances give you a lot more creative freedom,” she says.
The harpist believes a live performance brings alive the magic of the harp that recordings cannot. “The visual element presented through the elegant design is especially important for an instrument like harp. You are also able to connect with the audience by adjusting your performance with their tastes and preferred tempo,” she says. This is unlike an instrument such as the keyboard in which the audience focuses on the sound rather than its appearance.