Regina harpbuilding workshop promotes mental health environmental sustainability

Cecile Denis likes things that makes sense.And to her, it makes sense to look for any and every opportunity to respect the land.That’s why the life-long harp player has created a harp-making workshop with a focus on environmental sustainability.The maple wood used for the small, 22-string harps is locally sourced and prepped by local certified wood-worker Roland Lestage.The envelopes the strings come in are collected at the end of each workshop and reused for the next one.Story continues belowThis advertisement has not loaded yet,but your article continues below.And the string bits are made of recycled electric wire.Denis even encouraged the use of an environmentally friendly stain, as opposed to paint, to finish the harps.“Anything that represents that sustainability philosophy, I really like to promote,” said Denis from her fifth harp-making workshop on Sunday afternoon.She hosted the first one in the fall of 2018 and about 30 people total have taken part in the workshops since then.“I think it’s good,” said Barbara Patenaude of Denis’ environmental focus. “In all facets of our life, we’re taught to recycle and be environmentally thoughtful.”Patenaude wanted to take part in the workshop ever since she first heard about it last year.“That would be awesome,” she remembers thinking at the time. She resolved to sign up the next time a workshop came around.She doesn’t play the harp — yet — but equipped with an instrument built by her very own hands, Patenaude said she starts lessons this week.But harp-making isn’t just about environmentally sustainable practices, said Denis. It’s just as much about the healing qualities of the music they produce.“I have testimonies of people from previous workshops where the grandmother comes home with a harp and she starts playing and it has an immediate impact on the people around them,” said Denis. “It helps self-regulate.” An example of the sound box that students were attaching to the stringed portion of their harps at a harp-making workshop held at the University of Regina Conservatory of Performing Arts on College Avenue. BRANDON HARDER / Regina Leader-Post Mardell Blackwood-Wedel takes part in a harp-making workshop held at the University of Regina Conservatory of Performing Arts on College Avenue. Despite its calming affects, Patenaude admits the instrument is an uncommon choice of instrument.But Denis argues that the instrument always finds new ways to be relevant.“The harp has a history of reinventing itself every 50 years or so,” she said.“It came into the orchestra around the 1800s,” she said. “You had the big symphonies.”It reemerged in the 1920s in big band and jazz music.“In this century, we’re seeing more and more development of technology where the harp becomes fully electronic,” said Denis. “Each string on a harp now can have a pick up.”But for Denis, her love of harps goes beyond performing on stage. Always curious about building harps, she spent this past summer working as an apprentice under Lestage.Fascinated by the physics behind the instrument, she said she’s learned so much, including why harps are shaped the way they are, why certain strings are used, and more.Different from the typical pedal harps seen in orchestras, the harps made in the workshop are small enough to fit on one’s lap and travel easily to and from lessons or even to the cabin, said Denis.She hopes the size of the harp and the method of making it will help participants connect with the instrument on a new level.“I think it will become relevant to people on many different levels. Relevant because they care about the environment, they care about their mental health, they care about their children’s mental health,” she said. “I’ve seen some really amazing changes in people.”Hosted by the University of Regina’s Centre for Continuing Education and the Conservatory of Performing Arts, the workshop took place over two days (Saturday and Sunday) and cost $485 per [email protected] BRANDON HARDER / Regina Leader-Post

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