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Special strings on the strand

By JARED LEONE
Published April 21, 2007


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DUNEDIN - Beach music. It ranges from Jimmy Buffett to surf guitar to - this weekend only - a harp, right out there on the sand.

To close the Earth Day celebration at 5 p.m. today, harpist Maria Valentine will serenade the setting sun, plucking a harp at Honeymoon Island State Park.

Valentine recently moved here from Maui, Hawaii, where she played a variety of instruments for 25 years as a music therapy, recording, teaching, and performance artist.

But it's the harp that has "sort of taken over my musical life," she says. "It's that kind of instrument. It's the kind of thing that everybody loves the sound of. It's just beautiful."

Still, a harp on the beach. We had to know more.

How big is the harp?

"The harp I am going to use stands about 5 feet tall. It is about three-quarter size as compared to the symphony harp. The small harps do everything the bigger harps do but weigh a lot less and are a lot easier to carry around."

How do you decide on an arrangement to accompany a sunset?

"In this event I am doing mostly pieces that relate to nature themes and a variety of music from classical to movie themes. I interact with the audience and sometimes I change my program depending on what the audience wants to hear."

Will it be hard to hear a harp on Honeymoon Island?

"This harp has a pickup, just like an electric guitar. I will be plugged into an amplifier so it won't be hard to hear at all. Without amplification there would not be anyone able to hear it more than 20 to 30 feet away."

Ever played on a beach before? Are you worried about getting sand in the strings?

"I have one that is broken into the beach. It already has some rust. I am always fighting rust on the one I take to the beach. I have played many weddings on the beach. It's more the salt. Sand you can brush off. I do attack the rust with steel wool and rust-proofing liquids periodically."

How do you get the harp to the place where you'll play?

"The harp is 41 pounds exactly. I have a cart and I can take this harp anywhere. Most of the time it is a matter of just wheeling it. ... When I go out on beaches I take a smaller harp, one that I can pick up and carry for a short time."

Will this be the most unusual place or event where you have ever played the harp? If not, what was?

"I think the most unusual place I have played my harp was in front a huge glass window into a shark tank (that included 20 black tip sharks) at the Maui, Hawaii, Ocean Center. There was a setup tables for a corporate dinner in front of this shark tank and I was the entertainer, other than the sharks. It was delightful actually."

How did you get this gig?

"Through the Friends of Honeymoon Island, they asked me if I would do this. I am also very interested in environmental and nature preservation causes, so I was delighted to participate in an event that celebrates our Earth."

If you go

Mellow music on the beach

What: "Celebrate Earth Day 2007 with Friends"

Where: Honeymoon Island State Park, 1 Causeway Blvd., Dunedin.

When: 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. today (Harp playing at 5 p.m.)

Cost: $5 per car load

Call: (727) 738-2903.

[Last modified April 20, 2007, 21:29:39]


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