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Harping About Harps with Musician Kate Ray

Bonnie North

The harp has been around for millennia. There is evidence that people were making and playing some form of the instrument throughout Africa, Europe and Asia from at least as early as 3500 BCE.

Credit Bonnie North

The instrument we generally think of as a modern harp, however, is a relatively new addition to the fold - it’s only been around since the late 17th century. The concert harp has a series of pedals that enable the performer to change the pitch of individual strings – allowing them to play all the notes in a western musical scale.

Harpist Kate Ray says she was first drawn to the instrument when she was eight years old. After starting to learn the piano at age five, her parents said she could pick out a new instrument to learn. Ray was leaning toward the trumpet. 

"Then we were on a family vacation in Vermont, and we were at a restaurant and there was a harpist. And I was just blown away by like, the enormity of the instrument and just how beautiful the sound was," she says. Ray decided to go for the harp, although she admits that the trumpet would have been much easier to carry. 

Ray, will present a solo harp recital October 5, at noon at the Steinway Piano Gallery of Milwaukee in Wauwatosa. It’s part of their Steinway & a Sandwich lunchtime concert series. 

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Bonnie North
Bonnie joined WUWM in March 2006 as the Arts Producer of the locally produced weekday magazine program Lake Effect.