Archive for Thursday, May 28, 1998


May 28, 1998


It sounds a little otherworldly, Pamela Bruner said as she stood by her newest harp, resting her head on it. The harp, made of African bubinga wood, arrived a few days ago.

``I'm still breaking it in, but I think it'll become my favorite,'' she said. ``I can get a really booming bass out of it, and I really like that.''

Bruner, who will perform with Christopher Grundy Saturday night as part of the West Side Folk concert series, teaches, plays and records with the harp. Her newest album, ``Daydreams,'' is a collection of traditional and contemporary songs rooted in the Celtic tradition.

Drawn to the harp

In a downstairs room of her home, Bruner showed off her two 5-foot folk harps and two smaller rental harps for students. A piano, drums and a hammered dulcimer also found homes in the room.

Bruner said she was drawn to the harp eight years ago.

``I stumbled on the harp when I was looking for an instrument to accompany my voice,'' Bruner said. ``Everybody plays the guitar.''

At a Renaissance festival she saw musicians playing rental harps that were about 2 1/2 feet tall.

``I thought, `That's for me,''' she said.

Bruner taught herself how to play the harp, taking occasional lessons to help her master difficult techniques. She also had to learn to sing and play at the same time.

``It's a lot harder than you think,'' she said. ``It takes a lot of coordination just to play.''

Now she teaches others. Bruner has six or seven students, ranging in age from under 10 to over 50. She said she can't choose which she likes better, teaching or performing.

``Whichever one is up next is the one I like best,'' she said.

The harp and the music

Bruner plays the folk harp, not the larger concert or pedal harp, which can be more than 6 feet tall.

The folk harp is a diatonic instrument, she said, so ``you put yourself in a key and you stay there.'' The pedal harp is chromatic, giving it a greater range, but Bruner said she doesn't like the sound as well, or the size.

``I don't want to carry a harp that big around,'' she said.

Celtic music lends itself to the harp, unlike jazz or classical music.

``The Celtic harmonies are different from what you find in pop music,'' she said.

Bruner said most Celtic music falls into three categories -- dance, love and drinking songs.

``I don't do many of those,'' she said.

The love songs tend to have ``lost love'' themes.

``It's hard to find a Celtic love song where someone doesn't die,'' she said. ``If you want some kind of song with a little hidden meaning -- or uplifting -- you have to write your own.''

Which is exactly what Bruner does. Six songs on her album, ``Daydreams,'' are her own.

``Right now, I'm in a real writing phase,'' she said. ``And I am trying to put out a lot of songs that are meaningful to people. ... My messages are that the world around us is beautiful ... and it is OK to dream.''

Her songs range from fantastical to contemporary folk, and she wants people to be inspired by her music -- not just musicians, but all people.

``It's not too late to do anything you want to do,'' she said.

Bruner said she has been writing songs since she was a teen-ager, but it hasn't been easy.

``It'll always be a struggle,'' she said, ``but at least I'm getting more out of my struggle.''

On her album, Bruner was accompanied by several other musicians, including her husband Rick on percussion and Michael Bersin, a cellist.

``I thought the cello, the harp and the voices would be a nice mix,'' she said. ``And it was.''

Bruner says she wants to inspire others.

``Music is the best way I've found to do that,'' she said. ``This is what my life is about.''

Dynamic duo

In addition to Bruner, Saturday night's concert will include Grundy, a singer-guitarist who is releasing his fourth album, ``Here in Providence.'' His contemporary folk-pop music is described as a mix of humor, heartbreak, social commentary and search for spiritual meaning.

Grundy, Bruner said, ``writes really upbeat and fun and meaningful songs at the same time. ... I really admire that.''

Bruner will play a 50-minute set that will include music from ``Daydreams.''

``I'm also going to introduce to a few new pieces,'' she said.

-- Felicia Haynes' phone message number is 832-7173. Her e-mail address is

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