Reprint of Star Tribune article about the Reverie Harp.
The following is a reprint of an article written by Jeff Strickler for the Star Tribune published December 7, 2008.
Wherever "Chaplain Ann" Bergstrom strolls, heads pop up and smiles break out.
Nice as she is, the warm welcome is aimed mostly at the small, rounded stringed instrument she's plucking. The reverie harp, developed in Stillwater, is making a difference in places such as Walker Elder Suites in Edina.
The chaplain sets it down opposite Donna Steele and they play a "duet" together. "This is fun," Steele says.
She strums it for Charlotte Scarlett, who can't speak but shows her appreciation with a huge grin.
She puts it on the lap of Mayme Larson, who initially balks, "I don't have any talent at all." Eventually though, she plays and then she beams and says: "It's soothing. It's heavenly."
Designed for caregivers who lack musical experience and patients who don't always have full use of their fingers, the reverie harp is goof-proof. Its 22 strings are tuned in such a way–the technical term is "open modal chord"–that no matter how they are played, they produce a gentle tone.
"Each string complements the sound of another string," said Bergstrom. "There are no wrong notes. People who have physical limits can play this and feel successful, they can feel good about themselves, which is very important around here."
Don't mistake this for music therapy, she warned. "I'm not a musical therapist. They are highly skilled, highly trained professionals. I'm just a pastor who walks around noodling on a Reverie Harp. An ordained Lutheran minister who calls herself Chaplain Ann because she provides nondenominational services, she uses the harp as a conversation starter.
This is an entry point for me," Bergstrom said. "If I walk in carrying a big, black, gold-edged Bible, it sends a message that I have an agenda. This is nonthreatening. This gets them to start telling stories, it lets them control the meat of the conversation. That way I find out what's on their minds."
When she approached Harriet Edstrom, they quickly veered off into a conversation about a trip Edstrom had taken.
"Sometimes the music gets us to places that words can't," she said. "My role as a chaplain is to help them find something they can connect to that gives them meaning and hope. For some people that's faith, but for others it's nature or family or a sense of purpose. I try to match where they are. It's sort of a little dance I do."
Grace Smith's eyes lit up when Bergstrom strolled into an activity room at Walker Elder Suites and set the harp in front of her. Smith ran her fingers across the strings.
"You've got the touch," Bergstrom said.
Smith cracked a wry smile and replied, "You've got the harp."
Considering purchasing a Reverie Harp? The Reverie Harp is a music therapy instrument designed to be played by everyone regardless of musical skill and produces soothing music, healing vibrations, and lightweight portability.