Backyard Music

Last March, I traveled to Backyard Music in Willimantic, Connecticut, to pick up my first handmade folk harp.

(Short audio at the end.)

Willimantic is famous for its frogs, which greet you as you travel across the town’s main bridge.
True to its name, the Backyard Music Shop is behind the owner’s colorful Victorian home.
Owner and musical instrument maker, Dave Magnuson, has been creating harps, banjos and dulcimers here for 35 years.
Dave has a wide variety of unique instruments in his shop, both old and new.

An hourglass shaped dulcimer hangs beside a plainer trapezoidal dulcimer. On the far left, a banjo is fashioned from a wooden box.
Dozens of harp necks stand ready to have strings added. Note the circular banjo soundboxes on the far left.
Here’s my new harp. The wooden neck is strung with 22 strings, and the soundboard is made of heavy duty cardboard. I’ve named it Maeve, which means “she who rules”. In Irish Mythology Maeve is a queen.
All harpers learn “Scarborough Fair”. Here’s my early recording of that famous folksong from the Middle Ages. Maeve and I were getting to know each other at that time.

22 thoughts on “Backyard Music

    1. Just jam-packed full of interesting stuff. I admire how Dave has made a living out of cardboard instruments. So cost effective, especially for kids who might not otherwise get a musical instrument.
      Thanks for visiting,

  1. Congratulations on your new harp, Julie! He does have a nice collection of instruments. Enjoy years with Maeve. 🙂 I might have to make a trip to Willimantic for those frogs.

    1. The frogs on the bridge are really cool, and if you are into architecture at all, the town has a nice section of big Victorian houses. Thanks for visiting!

    1. Thanks, Eliza. I buy pre-recorded song video lessons online. This song was the first one I learned. Is your niece folk or classical? They say it takes at least 4 years to be competent–I have 3 and a half to go!

      1. She’s been playing since she was a kid and went to Berklee College of Music in Boston. She plays gigs– both jazz, folk and classical, tutors students, and just published a book– she is quite accomplished at 31!

  2. You and Maeve make beautiful music together! I did not know that “Scarborough Fair” was a song from the middle ages. Simon and Garfunkel were who came to mind. 😉

    1. Thanks, Laurie. I’m sure I first heard it from Simon and Garfunkel as well. In my twenties I was a radio announcer for a weekly program of Medieval and Renaissance music at a local NPR station. I think that’s where the “learning harp thing” started with me. ‘-)

      1. I do play the piano, but this quite different. I bought recorded video lessons online and played them over and over. Then, you would zoom with harpers from all over the world for fun. Online learning certainly improved because of the pandemic!

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