By Elisabeth Swisher, Chicago, IL
In October 2018, I taught morning circle movement and music (lyres included) to the Module 2 students of the WECC (Waldorf Early Childhood China) training at a mountain resort near Xi’an, in the north of China. One day, in the second week, we all met in our luncheon room at the hotel, and Guoqi, our training coordinator, brought in two guests, both musicians, who came from the province of Zhuhai in the south of China, where they had just attended a music workshop with LANA president Sheila Johns, sponsored by local lyrist Vicky (Zhiying) Deng.
Both of the student musicians live in Xi’an, and for some reason, Vicky apparently knew that I was in Xi’an and asked them to bring one of her Angel Wing children’s lyres to me as a gift from her. So the man gave me this black case and said “it is a gift….” I had no idea what was in the case, and when I opened it and found a lovely letter from Vicky along with one of her beautiful Angel Wing lyres, I was overwhelmed by such an amazing surprise and generous gift from her. In my afternoon class, I showed and played my new lyre for the students right away, and they immediately wanted to know where they might purchase one. It took me awhile to find her phone number and email address to thank her and to ask where the students could order one of her lyres.
So why did she give me this lyre right out of the blue? The year before, I was in Zhuhai, mentoring kindergarten teachers (as well as doing graduation assessments) and giving some musical advice to grade school teachers, including the importance of practicing their lyres. Vicky was there to help. One day, she asked me if I could have a look at a new lyre that she had designed and built with other people whom I had not met. When I saw this lyre, I was astonished at how beautiful it was sculpted and finished and how wonderful it sounded - better than any model I had heard before! Even the Choroi kinderharp, which I had esteemed the highest quality among all the ones I had seen and heard, did not sound as beautiful as this to my ear. I shared these impressions with Vicky, emphasizing how happy it made me to see such a high quality lyre created in China, where I had seen so many cheap but poor copies of the well-known Swedish and German kinderharps. This lyre not only looks beautiful and sounds exceptionally good, but it is also easy to tune and keeps the tuning pretty well, too.
Vicky told me that the lyre was given to me as a response to the praise I gave to this new creation, which helped her to be confident about her work and research. It made me very happy and deeply grateful for this experience: the surprise as well as the instrument itself, which was created with such love and care.
Usually on my trips to China, I do not take my own lyre with me in order to save weight and volume in my luggage, but now, I have to, because there is not yet another such Angel Wing lyre available for my teaching, and I do not wish to play any other children’s lyre anymore. I wish Vicky and the group she is working with, musical and financial success with the creation of these new and beautiful instruments.