A Calgary harpist has returned from driving 70,000 kilometers in a van she turned into a self-contained home and concert hall.
“People are so surprised to see a harp. They’re trying to wrap their heads around it,” said Gianetta Baril on New Year’s Eve.
Her journey started back in 2020 as way to share music when the pandemic put the brakes on live performances but when the Calgary harpist traded in concert halls for a van she never imagined it would have been a three year journey.
“When people would try playing it and enjoyed it, I thought I’m so privileged. I get to do this all the time. It’s hard work. My hands, are cracked in Calgary all the time. They’re glued right now,” she said with a laugh.
“We all have gifts. It’s a gift. It’s not something I keep for myself,” Baril said.
She toured all over North America in the Harp to Heart Tour and is grateful for financial support from donations and for the Ford Transit High-roof van from Cam Clark Ford.
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Baril figures she’s played for over 10,000 people and spoke with half of them personally.
“There were so many joyful moments and deep connections. The stories people shared were amazing,” Baril said.
Living in the van, Baril was removed from the distraction of owning too many possessions – instead focusing on being present.
“I can’t use too much water in the van. Now I’m back in the condo, I could leave the faucet running but I’m much more careful about how I use those resources,” Baril said.
She played concerts outside seniors’ residences, front lawns, parks and parking lots.
“It didn’t matter if I was parked on the side of the road or at the Superstore parking lot or teaching for the day. Someone would come over and we’d have a conversation and they would share things and we were both moved by that and we carry that into the world,” Baril said.
Baril has learned that travelling with a concert harp opens doors to interactions a person wouldn’t normally have.
The trip was extended partly because of her love for Canada’s east coast. Baril recorded a new CD when she was there.
She applied for a work visa and went through the United States before driving back to Canada.
After ending her three-year road trip in September she returned to Brazil in October as part of charity efforts to donate harps there that she started in 2014.
“They have lots of instruments but they have no harps because they are expensive,” Baril said.
On New Year’s Day she’ll be performing back at home with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra at the Salute to Vienna performance, serving as the principal harpist for the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra during the 2023-24 season.
She hinted that 2024 could bring more road trips.
“I never know what to expect in life. I kind of live life without an agenda now,” she laughed.