A hushed calm comes over the room as Peter begins to strum. An enchanting, ethereal sound emerges, unscripted and free-flowing.
Among the captivated faces is that of the late Betty Amsden OAM, whose generous donation to Mercy Health Foundation has enabled the purchase of 18 reverie harps for Mercy Health aged care homes.
“Music is a necessity in aged care,” Betty says. “It is just so wonderful that something like this can help someone at a time when they need it most.”
Four Mercy Health aged care homes already had reverie harps; the additional 18 were delivered in January 2017 and are already being used to support emotional and spiritual care for residents, families and staff.
Hitting the right note with music therapy
Peter came up with the idea for a reverie harp at the bedside of a man with motor neurone disease who was in a psychiatric hospital. He had an awkward homemade instrument that was terribly out of tune.
“I wanted to give him something beautiful,” Peter says.
Peter designed the reverie harps to be smooth, delightful, and easy to hold and caress. He lovingly crafts each mahogany harp at his home workshop with help from his wife, Jeanette, and a cabinet maker.
“What’s special about the harp is you don’t need lessons; anyone can play,” Peter says. “The sound it produces is very calming. You can hold and play it even in bed.”
The use of reverie harps draws on the field of music thanatology: the practice of playing music at the bedside of critically ill and dying patients to address their physical, spiritual and emotional needs.