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  • Writer's pictureNathaniel Keen

Like a guitar mixed with a piano...

Musician: Nat Keen (guitar and auto-harp)

Tuning an autoharp is a tricky operation and this one was particularly pokey sounding. The harp which friend of the Spitz Zeeta had kindly donated sounded like it had been sat in the corner of a dusty loft for 50 years and desperately needed some love and attention. It just so happened that I had a spare 30 minutes to burn. Whilst completing my lateral flow test, I twanged each string and found its relating tuning peg, letting my guitar ring out as a reference note. Then, after 30 minutes, there I was, positively negative of Covid with a sonorous new instrument that I was keen to show to the residents.

First in line was JG who was sat in the dining area with her new carer. With Leyla gone, I was glad to see JG smiling whilst being shown old videos of Charlie Chaplin. Her new carer mentioned that she was trying to discover things that interested JG, it seems that I'd arrived right on cue. I introduced JG to the new instrument which understandably intrigued her greatly. Placing the harp next to her cup of tea on the table, I invited her to press the buttons and strum the strings. Amongst the clattering of tea cups and yelps around us we heard a magical, cascading sound come from the harp. I helped JG with the 3 chords needed to play 'Ah Robin' and off we went, instantly JG sang the familiar melody which, with the accompaniment of the harp created a dreamy, otherworldly atmosphere. The carer was able to take a few minutes to relax and admire JG in her element. 'What's that tune'? she asked 'it's lovely!'. She then went to find the song on Spotify and I felt happy to act as some form of musical bridge between Leyla and her, continuity is important and everybody knows it's essential that JG receives regular doses of medieval song! As I made my way off down the corridor, I could hear JG continue to sing the melody to her new friend.

I presented the auto harp to JR, I doubt he'd have seen this on a military barracks, however, as soon as I started to strum the thing, he was enamoured, fascinated by its design, function and by the curious sound it made....'WOW, LOOK AT THAT, LOVELY!" When JR approves, you know about it. The commotion caught the investigative attention of inspector GH sat over on the sofa. I took the instrument to him and quickly trawled through my memory for a Beatles song that could be accompanied with just one chord....Get back. G7 all the way. I Introduced the concept of playing the harp and he seemed to enjoy strumming the G7 and belting out 'GET BACK!', GET BACK', GET BACK TO WHERE YOU ONCE BELONGED'. In the moments after this he started to slap and rub his belly in time to the music and his gaze drifted, bypassing me and the harp entirely to something approaching over my shoulder, and then it became clear to me, it was tea and biscuit time. My arch nemesis had arrived and there was only ever one winner in a straight shootout between sugary digestives and music, knowing my place, I respectfully backed away.

VC was sat by the window, she explained that she loved to sit there and watch the young people walk along by the river. I sat alongside her and tried to provide a soundtrack for this image. Long, meandering, gentle guitar soundscapes filled the air as the sun poured into the room.

Upstairs I found JC, we had a nice catch up and he was also very impressed by the new instrument 'It's kinda like a guitar mixed with a piano'. He took to it instantly, squinting his eyes and grinning in that familiar expression we see when he gives himself over to music. We performed a contemporary experimental set of guitar and autoharp for a captivated/confused audience of Zeeta, CN, DW and occasionally JG who seemed to be trying to side hustle some business for her design company. JC who recently seems to relish his new role as a master of ceremonies would grab his imaginary microphone and address the audience with the assurance of a seasoned pro. It made for quite a unique show!

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