More than two dozen harpists will gather at Villa Maria Catholic Homes (VMCH) in Melbourne next month for an international conference on the healing qualities of the harp, especially for people with dementia or in palliative care.
Studies have shownthat the harp – its sounds and vibrations – help to lower blood pressure, reduce heart rates, anxiety and pain levels, and bring a sense of calm, inner peace and emotional balance to listeners.
It is often used for people in palliative care when they are at the end of their lives, calming them and helping with the release of emotions and grieving of their loved ones.
The harpists, from all over Australia, will spend six days learning or undertaking a refresher course on harp therapy techniques from renowned American harp therapist Christina Tourin, second generation harpist and director of the International Harp Therapy Program.
Christina says the harpists are all studying level 2 of the Program and will learn how to individualise music based on a person’s mood, breathing tempo, music tastes, resonant tone and elements of music that can help to balance energies.
They also learn how to conduct group sessions, with activities that get a person’s arms moving rhythmically to help with balance.
The conference is being hosted by VMCH’s aged care residence in Wantirna, which has an innovative wellness program for people with dementia. Australian harp practitioner Carla Whiteley has run a Harp Therapy program at the residence for more than three years and says it has had a clear impact on residents.
Carla performs the harp to help calm the residents, does interactive group sessions and plays in the private rooms of those who have been identified as being particularly distressed.
She says harp therapy has been considered a healing instrument since ancient times and is especially supportive for people with dementia, with familiar tunes helping to connect them with their past.
“Therapeutic harp music is based in the science of sound. It is live, acoustic music played for people who may be patients in hospitals or living in aged care facilities to help create a calming environment conducive to the healing process. It also supports their families, visitors and staff,” she said.
The conference is on from April 10-15 at VMCH Wantirna, 355 Stud Road, Wantirna South.