Founder of the International Harp Museum hosts a special exhibit in Winter Park.

Meko, founder of the International Harp Museum, performs the electric harp at Orlando City Hall. (Photo by Michael Freeman).

ORLANDO – The harp, a multi-stringed instrument, has a very long history worldwide, noted Meko.
“Every civilization has had some sort of harp,” said Meko, who not only plays the instrument with a neck, resonator and strings, but also runs the International Harp Museum in Orlando.
It’s been estimated that harps were likely independently invented in different parts of the world, and that their origins might be linked to the sound of a plucked hunter’s bow-string.
“The harp started out from the hunter’s bow,” Meko said. “They liked the sound of the strings.”
What’s less certain, he noted, is why the harp continues to be such a popular instrument today when performed before audiences. The sound it makes, he said, can be positively ethereal.
“It still has a mystique to it as well,” he said. “It’s relaxing to people, and it makes them feel good – and they love the look of it.”
As Meko pointed out, it’s been said that Irish harpers were required to be able to evoke three different emotions in their audience with their music: laughter, tears and sleep.
Meko hopes to conjure up a similar rush of emotions in his audience, starting on Tuesday, Jan. 17, when the Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens will host “Artful Strings: Four Centuries of Harp Making,” an exhibit built around Meko’s private collection that makes up the International Harp Museum. The exhibit runs for several months, and there will be a special reception at the museum on Saturday, Feb. 12 from 5-7 p.m. to celebrate this exhibit.
“We’re at the Polasek Museum through April 15,” Meko said. “It’s a collection of harps and harp memorabilia. I have a massive collection of harps that go back to the 1750s.”
It’s not even all that difficult to find historic harps, he said, which is how Meko – who has been playing the instrument since he was a young boy – came to open the International Harp Museum in this city.
“I’ve been playing since I was a child,” the native of Delaware said. “My aunt played the harp, and I came from a musical family.”
He’s now so proficient in the harp that “I travel and perform worldwide,” Meko said. Those performances included one this morning in the Rotunda of Orlando City Hall. At the invitation of Orlando City Commissioner Patty Sheehan, Meko brought one of his harps to City Hall to perform as part of the celebration in honor of the first day of Orlando’s new domestic partners registry. As scores of gay and lesbian couples lined up to be the first ones to register as domestic partners in the city of Orlando, Meko provided the musical accompaniment.
“I know Patty, and she asked me to perform,” he said. As he plucked the strings of his harp before the crowd, he noted “This is a contemporary concert brand. This is the crème de la creme.”
In addition to collecting historic harps from around the world, Meko noted that at his museum, “We do a lot of restoration work, too. We’re the only museum devoted to harps in the United States. There’s only one other in the world, and it’s in Italy – in a place so rural that you can’t even get to it.”
His web site, www.Mekomusic.com, includes compact discs of his performances and music, CDs that include “Meko,” “Ice,” “Christmas at the Castle,” and “The Journey.” He also sells mini Irish harps and harp carrying cases.
“I perform on the electric harp,” he said. “It appeals to everybody on a wide range.”
And the harp is still popular enough that the Polasek Museum – located at 633 Osceola Ave. in Winter Park – decided to host the special exhibit from Meko’s private collection.
The exhibit will be, Meko said, both soothing – and educational.
“We’re going to have examples of how a harp is made,” he said. “We really like to present it to people, especially kids.”
To RSVP for “Artful Strings” on Feb. 12, call 407-647-6294 or email info@polasek.org.
To learn more about the International Harp Museum, call 407-970-1508.

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