13-year-old provides heavenly music for Laurens County churches

FOUNTAIN INN — This Easter season promises to be one that a petite young lady from the Upstate won’t likely forget for some time.

At age 13, Amy Harrington plays harp during Mass at Holy Spirit and St. Boniface churches in Laurens County.

During Holy Week, the home-schooled seventh-grader played at the Holy Thursday Mass at Holy Spirit in Laurens; Good Friday Mass at St. Boniface in Joanna; and Easter Sunday back at Holy Spirit.

Amy typically accompanies music director Lucille Andrews, who plays piano at Holy Spirit. She also plays solo, usually during veneration of the cross and holy communion.

“Everyone at Holy Spirit is delighted that she came along,” Andrews said. “Her repertoire is fairly limited right now, but there’s lots of potential.”

For Amy, it was one of those love-at-first-sight moments that brought her and the harp together.

Six years ago, Amy and her parents visited a now-closed music store in nearby Simpsonville. Amy said she went there thinking she would try either the guitar or piano, but a small lap harp caught her eye.

“I saw it and I just fell in love with it,” she said.

A family friend also played the harp and “that also inspired me,” she said.

Amy learned to play the harp first through lessons at the music store and then, last October, she connected with a Mauldin woman who teaches the instrument in her home.

Amy’s younger sister, Georgie, just started taking piano lessons from the same lady.

Amy began playing at Mass last Christmas at Holy Spirit.

“We were talking with Mrs. Andrews about music one Sunday after Mass and we mentioned that Amy played the harp,” said Amy’s mother, Anna Marie Harrington.

The Harringtons are relatively new parishioners at Holy Spirit, having moved there from St. Mary Magdalene in Simpsonville last fall. They made the move to Holy Spirit ahead of a planned relocation to Laurens later this year, Mrs. Harrington said.

The family moved to Fountain Inn from Marietta, Ga., when Amy was nine months old. Mrs. Harrington and her husband, Richard, are originally from the Lowcountry.

One of the biggest challenges for the Harringtons has been getting the large instrument from their living room, where Amy generally practices, to the two churches each week.

Though she doesn’t play a full-sized harp, yet, the current model is still a good five feet tall (it is several inches taller than Amy) and weighs-in at around 40 pounds.

“We have an SUV, but we have to fold down the seats in the back and lay it on its side,” Mrs. Harrington said.

The next size up, which is on order, has its own cart, she said. It’s a pedal harp and stands about 64 inches tall and weighs 60 pounds.

“We’ve had friends joke that we’re going to have to get a separate trailer to haul the next one around in,” Mrs. Harrington said.

Another issue is the weather, she said. Extreme temperature swings are typical in the Upstate in the late winter and early spring, and like other stringed instruments, harps need to be re-tuned when exposed to cool temperatures.

And their solid wood frames can crack if they’re subjected to drastic swings in temperature.

“This time of year, we have to make sure the car is good and warm before we put (the harp) in the car and go to Mass,” Mrs. Harrington said.

In fact, she said, on a recent chilly winter day, they were visiting friends following Mass at Holy Spirit and were forced to bring the harp inside their friends’ home to keep from exposing the instrument to the cold.

Despite the logistical challenges of playing such a large, yet delicate, instrument, Amy said she wants to continue playing on the harp at least into college.

She said she hasn’t given much thought to playing professionally after college, but there’s still plenty of time to consider it.

For now, Amy’s excited about the possibilities.

“I think that would be a lot of fun,” she said.