Harp Adventures: Day 2 in Chicago

Day 2 of my Chicago trip started off with a quick breakfast in the hotel with my dad’s wife and then catching a shuttle to the train. It was overcast and cold, with spots of rain here and there, but I didn’t mind the weather too much because we don’t get a lot of rain back home in southern California!

Since we had already been on the train the day before, I decided this time  around would be a good time to get some pictures!

Selfie while changing trains at the Roosevelt St. train station.

It was a really neat experience to take the train through Chicago, and to literally be right next to these massively tall buildings on either side of the train. Everything about Chicago was so different than anything I had ever experienced back home – from the actually useful public transportation to the height of the buildings. Sure we have some tall buildings back home, but nothing compared to what I saw out here. I guess you can blame that on all the earthquakes we get that Illinois doesn’t? Oh yeah, and it was awesome seeing water that wasn’t an ocean! If we see rivers back in southern California, they’re usually just dried up river beds because of our never-ending drought. It’s quite sad actually that I get so excited about seeings rivers, since they are all over and most people just take them for granted!

The train ride went pretty quickly and soon we were back in my favorite store in the whole country – quite possible the whole world – Lyon and Healy Harps.

Steve had taken the two Style 23 Natural harps that I had marked and put them in the Granjany room along with the Style 23 Bronze from the day before for me to test. This time the testing went much quicker! I played arpeggios all the way up both harps and snippets of Debussy’s First Arabesque to really get a feel for the harps, but there was just no comparison. Had I found the right harp already?

Before we went back to our hotel the day before, I had asked Steve if it would be possible to get a tour of the Lyon and Healy factory at some point during my visit. I had heard that if I ever found my way to Chicago to visit Lyon and Healy in person, I absolutely needed to get a tour before I left. He said it was no problem and that I’d get one on my second day there, so after deciding that neither of the Style 23 Natural harps were a good fit, it was tour time! I asked Steve if it would be possible to take pictures of the factory because I knew I was going to get to this post at some point and want to share pictures if I had them! But unfortunately Steve said that I could either leave the factory after happily seeing the tour with no pictures, or take pictures and never leave, and since I’m here we know which option I went with :P

With the no picture rule established, we headed down to the first floor to pick up our safety glasses and get started. But I figured if I was going to get any pictures at all proving that I went on this tour, a selfie of me in my totally amazing looking safety goggles would do the trick :P

Holy cow you guys… that tour though. My mind was BLOWN! The amount of detail and just… absolute perfection they put into each individual piece of each individual instrument is incredible. The factory has 5 floors, with the first 4 being for the factory and the top floor being the showroom/offices. My tour started in the room where they cut the bronze action plates with a machine for consistency from harp to harp, as well as put together the individual pieces of the action plates by hand. I saw where they dried the wood for the soundboards for each harp to ensure that there is absolutely no moisture left in them, where they choose the pieces of wood for the different parts of the harp and make sure that the wood used for either side of the harp matches for consistency. I saw where they glue the individual pieces of wood together and add the veneers, how they sand each piece by hand so everything fits together, where the master craftsman hand-carve the intricate column details for certain styles of harps (which is pretty much any harp other than the Style 100, Style 85, and a few others), and even where the gold leaf is added to their gold harps (also all by hand).

I’ve never seen so much hard work and love put into something, but the results speak for themselves. Lyon and Healy harps truly are some of the best harps in the world – and it’s clear why!

With the absolutely awe-inspiring tour over, it was back to the task at hand. I had to find me a harp! So back to the showroom I went and I had Steve snag a Style 30 and a Style 100 for me to try out next.

I first fell in love with the Style 100 back in high school after attending Dr. Carrol McLaughlin’s harp camp. I loved the simplicity of the style and the look of the natural finish, so when I spotted one in the showroom I knew I was going to have to give it a try! And how lucky that I spotted it too, because it hadn’t been in the showroom the day before when I was looking (believe me, I checked!). I didn’t really know what other harps to try out though, so I went around looking at price tags for ones I could afford and played a few before choosing the Style 30 to compare against the Style 23 Bronze.

I did what was now becoming the usual for me to compare harps to the Style 23 Bronze, I played arpeggios and snippets of First Arabesque, but all too quickly both the Style 100 and Style 30 were out of the running. So I went back to Steve to see what else he had. My dad had suggested that I see what used harps they had available, just because. So Steve showed me where they were and I played arpeggios on them until I had found two I wanted to try – another Style 30 and a Style 23 Bronze, but with a natural finish! The only thing about the other bronze harp was that it was a wide-spaced harp. I couldn’t really tell the difference at first, but I figured since I was all the way out here I might as well try it.

After more arpeggios and Debussy, neither used harp could stand against the new Style 23 Bronze. This harp had been giving my dad’s wife goosebumps each time I played it, and although I kept thinking about the money I could end up saving for my move to New York with Mr. Envoy if I went with a different harp, I knew I had found the harp I was going to end up getting.

I discussed things with my dad’s wife for a bit and then finally called Steve into the Grandjany room to tell him my decision. He was very pleased with the harp I had picked, and had apparently been rooting for that harp the whole time :P

With the decision made, I took a photo of my new baby’s serial number and went off to Steve’s office to sign some paperwork and write the biggest check I have ever written in all 24 years of my life (and probably the biggest check I will write for a very long time)!

Since I was all the way out here, I decided to use Steve’s expertise on one last issue I had before we left – helping me compare their lever harp strings to what I had for Maria (my Hidden Valley lever harp) since she has had broken strings for the past goodness knows how many months. I had been unable to track down the original harp maker (I think they went out of business, sadly) and no one else sold strings that fit her! So while we sorted all that out, I noticed it was raining and grabbed a quick shot of downtown Chicago trying to hide among all the clouds and raindrops.

With the paperwork and new string purchases finalized, my dad’s wife and I went back into the Grandjany room to see my new harp one last time before we left the factory. That was the last time I was going to see her until Mr. Envoy made our move to NY. We planned on stopping for a night in Chicago to drop off Elizabeth and pick up my new baby to take with us to our new home, but that wasn’t going to be for a while!

So I unhappily said goodbye to my beautiful harp, and my dad’s wife and I headed across the street to a wonderful little Italian restaurant to celebrate my new purchase. A nice glass of red wine, a huge plate of chicken fettuccine, and a slice of Tiramisu sure hit the spot though, and was a wonderful way to celebrate :)

Now with the main goal of the trip out of the way, it was time to attempt to do some sightseeing before heading back to the hotel and flying back home to California the next day.

We hopped back on the train and headed into downtown Chicago so I could see the heart of the city. Even though it was raining pretty steadily, we had brought our umbrellas and I was wearing my boots so we trudged along to see what we could see!

It was a wet evening filled with lots of walking, and my right ankle and knee that were injured in my car accident were toast by the end of it all, but it was worth it! We walked from the train station loop all the way to the Navy Pier on Lake Michigan and took a break to have a hot cup of coffee and warm up before venturing back into it all to get back to the train station and head for the hotel.

By the time we got back to the Midway station, picked up our hotel shuttle, and got back in our hotel room, we were both soaked and shivering. We had walked nearly 6 miles that day according to an app on my cellphone, and the rain had done a number to my hair as well as our shoes and clothes, but we were happy. It had been a successful trip to Chicago, but we were so anxious to get back home.

Thanks for the good times Chicago, even with all the rain you shared with us. Even as I stood in the airport waiting to board my flight back to San Diego, I couldn’t wait to get back here and pick up my new harp, even if that meant leaving everyone and everything I knew and loved for the next 3 years…

<3 and harp strings,

P.S. Stay tuned for my posts about my big move to New York with Mr. Envoy! :D

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