Lorin Grean Music

Biography

Taking the Folk Harp Where It's Never Gone Before

by Russ Spencer
Excerpts reprinted with permission from the Folk Harp Journal

 

celtic harp

In her years on the folk harp, Grean has always been a pioneer. Although she came to the harp well versed in Irish music, she immediately eschewed that obvious choice in favor of her own inventive style.

In the four albums she has produced since, she has innovatively melded the nutty, soulful flavor of her harp with the angelic quality of her voice and a rich array of supporting instruments, including jazz bass, ethnic percussion, and such surprises as soaring flugel horn solos, Tibetan bowls, Native American flutes, and strings.

On her album, "Hand Woven," she even backed away from singing lyrics in favor of long melodic, wordless vocal passages.

celtic harp

As eclectic as it was, the album found an audience. It was picked up and distributed by Silver Wave records and featured on the playlists of numerous new age and adult contemporary radio stations.

On many of her albums, she has chosen to write most of her own material, but always included a few choice songs by other artists. To each song, she brings her own inimitable approach, changing the meter and point of view to uncover new meanings and fresh perspectives. In doing so, she also brings a fresh perspective to the folk harp, using it to paint unusual sonic colors like no one else on the national recording scene.

 

 

What first attracted you to the folk harp?

I had been playing Irish music for about ten years on the penny whistle, the recorder and the bodhran. Despite that, I never had a yen to play the harp. But we have this great music store in town, Folk Mote, that has a great array of ethnic instruments. It's a tactile store; you touch things a lot. For me, there was a calling one year to try something new, and the harp stood out. I was burning out on Irish Music, so I started arranging rock 'n' roll songs and writing my own. It was being in the right place at the right time, deciding that I had time in my life to start something new, and there was the harp right in front of me.

So what did you do?

Well, I rented at first because no one wants to plunk down many thousands of dollars on an instrument you may not play. I rented one and got it home with a beginning book and I opened it up and there was "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star." And it just sounded so beautiful. This stupid little song, which we all think of as very trite became this very majestic and inspirational song of the heavens simply because there was something in the harp strings that went to my heart.

 

Are you self-taught?

For the most part, yes. But I did take six or seven lessons on perfecting my hand positions. I wanted to be sure I learned correctly. So there was a little technique to work on at first. But because I played so many other instruments earlier, I picked it up quickly.

Maybe music is in your genes. Isn't your father, Charlie, an arranger?

Yes. I never took any theory classes or studied arranging. But I have it in me somehow, apparently through that gene pool. And the harp is the vehicle for it to come out of me right now. My father was a bassist, composer, and even worked as the music copyist with the Glenn Miller Band. He went on to be one of the heads of RCA Records in the late 40s and 50s. And he arranged a lot of music. One particular piece I'm very proud of is Nat King Cole's "Christmas Song." My dad was hired to write the string arrangement and record the session.

 

You recorded many of your albums in Washington state again, at the Sage Arts studio, is that right?

Yes. I chose to go up to work with Daniel Protheroe, who has been really influential in helping to create my sound. I can't think of working anywhere else with anyone else. It's hard for me to schlep all the way up there, but it's worth it because it's such a beautiful place, an 80-acre farm in the wilds of the North West.

Loring Grean hold Celtic harp