The right musician can make a wedding, quinceañera or any celebration truly unforgettable. Accomplished harpist Sylvia Clark knows everything about the music, right down to the last detail, to be sure the celebration flows flawlessly.
Clark learned to play the harp at the University of Illinois. “I was walking through the music building and saw a harp case. I knew then that I would play the harp,” Clark said. “I went to the office, and they sent me to the harp teacher, who welcomed beginners. I was really a beginner because I could read only the treble clef and knew nothing about music.”
That was a long time ago. Now a member of the South Texas Lyric Opera and the McAllen Symphonic Band, Sylvia Clark has a degree in music history from the University of Illinois and a Master’s in music from UTPA.
“I’ve played for Valley weddings and other events since 1982,” Clark said. “Whenever I go out to play a job, I pray for a safe trip. I also pray that I will play well and that we can have a beautiful event. That is what the harp is all about.”
Clark uses written music when accompanying singers or other instruments, and when she plays for opera and band. However, with the exception of a few wedding pieces, Clark plays memorized repertoire.
“I practice every day,” Clark said, “exercises, repertoire for whatever event is coming up, opera and seasonal music, such as for Easter and Christmas.”
I accompanied Clark and got a firsthand glimpse of what her day is like when she plays for a wedding. Clark arrived an hour early for the wedding and found the church occupied and a quinceañera in progress. The parking lot was half-filled with cars, so she had to park a distance from the front door to unload her bulky instrument. I stood nearby and marveled at the system Clark has established for moving her 65-pound pedal harp. Onlookers gazed curiously, but they were unable to see the beautiful cargo that was inside the white cover.
“Moving a harp is very strenuous work,” Clark said. “I have to load everything at home, unload when I get to the performance site, re-load after the performance, and unload when I get home. I have a dolly so I can roll the harp, and I have a station wagon to transport it.”
The camera men entered the sanctuary and began setting up their equipment. I looked around and suddenly realized Clark was the only musician playing for this particular wedding. With the captivating sound of the harp, there is no need for a melody instrument because, like a pianist, the harpist can play both melody and accompaniment at the same time. It’s a total package instrument. There are seven foot pedals, one for each note in the scale, that are used for setting the key and playing sharps and flats. The pedals make it possible for the harpist to play in any key and have both hands free to play.
“I always use amplification, and I prefer to use the system at the site, if there is one available,” Clark said. “Otherwise, I use my own amp. The harp sounds great in an empty room, but as soon as people get there, amplification is necessary.”
I was in awe of how beautiful the music of a harp sounded. As the light filtered through the stained glass windows and illuminated her instrument, Clark knew exactly where to play during each segment of the wedding. And when the bride took her flowers to the statue of the Virgin Mary, the gorgeous “Ave Maria” left some listeners in tears.
Clark, an experienced wedding music consultation, can provide suggestions and play a variety of selections for couples to choose from during the free consultation. Clark’s experience and professionalism means that things are virtually guaranteed to go smoothly and easily, and the bride will have the wedding of her dreams.
“My harp’s name is Hyacynth,” Clark explained. “The first time I wrote her name, I put two Ys in it by accident and then kept it that way because she is a very special hyacinth. She was born at a time when I had hardly any income, and her name came from this poem:
“If of thy mortal goods thou art bereft,
And from thy slender store
two loaves alone to thee are left,
Sell one, and with the dole
Buy hyacinths to feed thy soul.”
To book an event or contact harpist Sylvia Clark with inquiries, call 956-381-1537, or email firstname.lastname@example.org