Originally Published: June 9, 2009 8:37 a.m.
Lynn Drye, a self-taught glass armonica musician, will accompany six vocalists at the upcoming New Music Arizona concert at 3 p.m. on Sunday, June 14.
Drye first learned of the glass armonica, invented in the United States by Benjamin Franklin, as she was finishing her Master's degree in music as a percussionist.
Drye is the business manager for the Mayer Unified School District, and performs on her glass bowls, but does not teach. She said most performers study on their own.
She also performs on percussion instruments, such as the tympanis and marimbas, with the Prescott Pops Symphony. She and Maria Flurry, co-founder of the Chaparral Music Fest, now in its third year, performed a marimba duet at this past year's festival.
The Chaparral Music Fest showcases Arizona composers and musicians, many from the quad-communities, and offers free concerts and two children's string and percussion academies.
The first selection of Sunday's concert has the Prescott Women's Chamber Choir singing "Greensleeves," accompanied by Drye on the glass armonica, with Tracey Mason, a Shakespearean actress, providing the dialogue. Drye is taking a piano part and arranging it for her instrument.
She began with 20 glass bowls that make up two octaves, and has added on at both ends to increase her instrument to three-and-a-half octaves with a total of 42 bowls.
"I have it insured for almost $20,000. It costs about as much as a harp or piano," she said.
A manufacturer in Walden, Mass., is one of only two companies in the world making these instruments.
Evidence of early glass armonicas, or harmonicas, include Southern India in 700 A.D., where players struck a series of earthenware cups filled with different amounts of water with two felt- or cork-tipped bamboo sticks. Similar instruments are documented in China in the 1300s, and Middle East countries by the 14th century.
In Europe, glass armonica concerts were quite popular, where performers rubbed wet fingers around the rim of the water-filled glasses to produce their music. One performance in Scotland in 1823 used 120 glasses that varied in size from a three-gallon container to one the size of a thimble, providing a range of six octaves.
Franklin wrote in 1762, "The advantages of this instrument are that its tones are incomparably sweet beyond those of any other ..."
Drye has a Website for those interested in more history on the glass armonica: www.glassvirtuoso.us.
For those interested in the Chaparral Music Fest, which includes two academies for children - one for strings begins today and one for percussion beginning June 15 - and several other free and ticketed concerts, visit: www.chaparralmusicfest.org.