by Holly Richardson, Carbondale, CO
The work of the lyre is growing in the valley of the Roaring Fork River at the Waldorf School on the Roaring Fork in Carbondale, Colorado. Thanks to Hartmut Schiffer, retired Waldorf teacher and lyre enthusiast, there are now three of us with lyres playing together on a regular basis. We are all teachers, or have been teachers, at the school over the years: Lorraine Curry plays the alto lyre and has been a teacher of the cello and all of the stringed instruments at the school for many years. She also plays in the local "Valley Symphony." Baruch Simon plays a soprano lyre and is a kindergarten teacher as well as a classical pianist. I am a preschool and parent/child teacher and love to play many instruments. Hartmut Schiffer is the benefactor who helped to purchase all of these instruments.
Three of us took turns playing our lyres at the beginning of Advent. In a darkened room lit by candle light, we played the lyre (tuned pentatonically for this occasion) as the school community walked through a spiral of fragrant evergreen boughs. Much appreciation was expressed by community members for the lyre music that accompanied the event.
We play in the music room of our school (as seen in the photograph) every other Friday, as much as possible. We do some warm-up work including streaming and various finger exercises. We play simple songs together by ear. We are working out of a beginning lyre book. Sometimes we read a bit out of one of the lyre journals about the background of the music. We also like to sing together. Hartmut adds his reflections and thoughts throughout.
In addition to this music we play together, I play the lyre on other special occasions in the classroom. One of these occasions happened recently in preschool. We celebrated a child's 4 1/2-year birthday. The family was invited to come to a special birthday story with the child and his classmates. For birthdays, I wear a special white silk tunic with golden sparkles on the front. When everyone is settled in the story garden, I begin by streaming the lyre softly, first ascending from low to high to symbolize the child still in the spiritual world, then high to low, to symbolize the child incarnating down to earth. After that, I play the melody of the following song very softly. Then I sing the lyrics, below, as I put a rainbow silk and a golden crown on the birthday child:
From heaven shines a golden star / An angel brought you from a far / From heaven high unto the earth / And brought you to your land of birth. / Welcome, welcome you lovely light, / With flowers gay and sunshine bright. / With painted wings that sing your song / That make you good and kind and strong.
In addition to playing at school, I take my lyre to Hartmut's apartment when time allows and we sing songs together while I play. Hartmut seems to especially enjoy singing together, whether it be "do, re, me" as I practice my scales and fingering or a simple melody such as a lullaby and the sound of me tuning my lyre. Lately we have been singing, "Lo, how a rose e'er blooming."
Currently, among the lyre players in this group, only I have had the privilege to go to a lyre conference to receive some instruction on how to play the lyre "properly." I attended my first conference and "accidentally" met the lyre in Portland, OR, a few years back. Then, this past summer, Hartmut and I attended the conference together in Hadley, MA. This conference made a big impression on both of us.
We hope that more of us can attend future lyre conferences and perhaps even host one at our little school some day. In addition, it seems that more people in our community are wanting to play the lyre, so we are looking to purchase another one, gently and lovingly used, as soon as possible. Please contact Holly if you know of a lyre that is collecting dust in a closet but so wants to be played.