by Jan Vanderhorst
Jacquelyn Brown believes we all possess an inner vibration. The troubadour harpist from London, Ontario came to this conclusion not through scientific research or musical exploration, but through a near-death experience.
"When I started playing on the big harp, there were actually tones on there that reminded me of being out of my body. It was the strangest thing. There's a particular A frequency which brings me back to that (experience) in a moment," she says, snapping her fingers.
Her journey to the doorway of what's been called "sleep's dark and silent gate" profoundly affected her.
"I'm just discovering what that's all about. I've been very intrigued about death and dying issues, and I know personally there's nothing to fear at death." Jacquelyn recounts that near-death experience in her song "Into Darkness," that closes her second recording "Earth, Air, Fire, Water":
Be still...my soul...
for we shall be set free
from pain and death.
I give my anguished body unto you
in life and breath.
Carry me through death
on your feathers soft and white.
Through the darkness deep
I see glimmerings of the light
of tomorrow...of tomorrow...
All of this has led her to become a Harp Therapy Practitioner. After a year of study at the International Harp Therapy Program in Vermont, Jacquelyn is one of only a handful of individuals trained to comfort dying patients in hospitals and hospices through harp music.
"There have been so many wonderful families that have opened their hearts and their lives to me, totally trusting someone they don't know. But the harp has that angelic quality, it brings people to peace very quickly. Harp music goes way back to healing circles from ancient times."
"In some of my studies in sound therapy it talks about the high, low and medium frequency, where you hope to balance the human energy field. As harpists, we ourselves know it brings us to a calm and a peace that you can't get anywhere else."
That calming influence has come in handy for Jacquelyn recently as she played her instrument for a couple of women giving birth. "That was a wild experience! The first one I did two years ago was on my son's 18th birthday, my very first born son, so it was very neat."
"We were in the mother's room (with some) incense and candlelight and a couple of Old Order Mennonites and myself. There was no conversation between us, it had been arranged (that way) previously and she was so intense in her breathing. But at the moment of birth she said 'Do you know Greensleeves?' That was all she said during the whole birthing!"
"So here is this baby, this beautiful new fresh boy, and I was at the end of the bed (so) I could see everything. It was a gift to me as well."
When asked how does harp therapy assist birth, as well as death, Brown became reflective. "You're working with the breathing element," says Jacquelyn, "I work a lot with improvisation. If the (birthing mother) is bearing down, I change the music. When she's wanting to relax and gain her strength, then you change the music (again)."
"Sometimes if you're working with palliative patients (who) are comatose, you're there for the family and it's a totally different interaction. The training last year (at the Harp Therapy Program) really helped me. It opened up a whole new improvisation I'd never really experienced before, having been a trained classical musician."
For Jacquelyn Brown the harp is a very special instrument with almost magical qualities.
"It's an instrument of the heart...just look at the shape of it. It's an extension of who you are as you're playing. You're wrapped around your own heart-strings."
For more information on Jacquelyn Brown and her recordings, her web address is: www.jacquelynbrown.com
For more information on the International Harp Therapy Program, their web address is: www.harprealm.com
Jan Vanderhorst can be reached at email@example.com