Harp Informances


One of the oldest instruments known to mankind, the harp is a natural medium for stimulating a child’s imagination and curiosity.  While it is seldom seen or heard up close, all its fascinating secrets are all revealed in Carolyn’s 40-minute Informance.

Over the past nineteen years, Carolyn Mills has brought interactive Harp Informances to thousands of students in both New Zealand and the USA.  Her unique and captivating style continues to entrance children of all ages, and takes them on a fascinating musical journey through the history of the instrument, music from a variety of cultures, and an inside view of composing.

Formerly a rostered artist for USA’s Young Audiences, Carolyn has received several grants from Creative New Zealand to take her acclaimed Informance Programme to scores of rural schools across NZ.  Currently she can be booked for an Informance through the Music for Schools programme of the NZSO., or contact Carolyn directly at harpnz@gmail.com

This interactive performance lasts about 30-40 minutes, depending on the age and attention span of the audience.  It begins with lively folk songs and dances which introduce the sound and energy of the harp to the students; then a bit of the history and evolution of the harp, from its bow-and-arrow origins to the present day.  From here it moves on to feature all of the unexpeced things a harp can do, including percussive sounds, squeaking noises, ‘thunder’ effects, and creative use of the pedals and what they are for. 

To close the programme, volunteers from the classes hold up large placards, each displaying a colourful graphic notation, and the students decide which sound made on the harp ‘goes’ with which picture.  Then volunteers compose music by arranging the placards in different orders, all of which are performed on the spot.

Many students and even teachers have never before seen a harp up close or in person, and certainly have never learned about the many fascinating qualities of the instrument. The music is carefully chosen to be accessible to a young audience and to show off the harp’s wildest extremes.  

One of the most frequent responses is, ‘I never thought a harp could sound like that!’  Another common reaction is surprise at how exciting ‘classical’ music can be.   (‘Our children were buzzing over it for days!’)  

'Carolyn’s performance captivated the children.  Her gracious and easy manner with the children touched a spontaneity that not many performers achieve. . . Her finale of having children ‘compose’ and Carolyn then perform the children’s ‘World Premiere’ was a touch of genius -- a real touch of class.'  Peter Debney, Principal, Runanga School, Westland, New Zealand

'I felt the thunder when you played.'  Scott, student at Blackball School, West Coast, New Zealand                                                        

'Your playing was amazing. It was so great how you played all those tunes for us.  I really like the harp now I've heard it. I think it's real cool!' Hoody, student at Tapora School, Northland, New Zealand

‘The music was beautiful, the music flew through the air and the music went into my heart.’ Jack, student at Oruaiti School, Northland, New Zealand

'That love song filled my lungs with air and I liked that drum noise when you hit the wood.’
Jock, student at Matawai School, East Cape, New Zealand

‘To have such an interesting instrument so close is great.  We all found it fascinating. Also, the way you worked with the children, the way you kept your session flowing and the activities you did that linked into curriculum music, all joined together into a positive learning experience for all the children.’ Sandra Starr, Principal, Te Tii School, Kerikeri, New Zealand