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A hospital harp ministry


WORLD Radio - A hospital harp ministry

Angi Bemiss has played her harp for patients and staff at an Atlanta hospital for 20 years

Angi Bemiss playing her harp Photo by Kim Henderson

KIM HENDERSON, SENIOR WRITER: It’s Thursday morning in a tree-lined Atlanta neighborhood. Kevin and Angi Bemiss pull out of their driveway and head toward Northside Hospital’s main campus.

KEVIN: Have you decided where you're going to play today? (ANGI: I think I'm going to play in the Women's Center. I may even start in the atrium where the people are waiting for the babies that are being born.) KEVIN: That’ll be fun. (ANGI: Yeah.)

Kevin drops Angi off at Northside Hospital

Kevin drops Angi off at Northside Hospital Photo by Kim Henderson

Angi is a harpist. Well, she’s more than that. She’s a Certified Therapeutic Harp Practitioner. And the hospital music ministry she has going? Well, she says she couldn’t do it without Kevin.

ANGI: Come pick me up the 960 building. I'll come through, just walk through, so I can stay warm. (KEVIN: All right. Sounds like a good idea.) ANGI: Love you.

It’s a team effort in a lot of ways, and not just the driving and dropping off. After Kevin waves goodbye, he heads home. To pray.

KEVIN: That she will serve the Lord, and the Lord will set up a chance for somebody to enjoy the music and also feel it in their heart.

The Bemisses are retired now, but Kevin used to be an ER nurse right here at Northside. Now it’s Angi who walks these halls, offering a different kind of patient care.


Angi owns several harps, and one stays at the hospital. It’s a lever harp. Five octaves. And she rolls it around on a special cart.

ANGI: Kevin built this cart for me. So he studied how carts work and how the wheels need to work . . .

Angi and her harp cart

Angi and her harp cart Photo by Kim Henderson

The cart holds her harp, a small stool, and an iPad full of music scores. The wheels allow Angi to move seamlessly from room to room. They also mean she can get her harp out of the way quickly in an emergency.

She’s noticed something happens when she’s using the cart.

ANGI: Men will start circling the harp cart, and I'll be playing while they're doing that. And I'll look up, and I say, “It is the plumbing aisle at Home Depot.” And they always laugh . . . obviously, this is pipe, plumbing pipe...

Angi has played for Northside’s patients and staff for more than 20 years. At least twice a week, the soothing sound of her harp floats through the ICU, oncology floors, the Women’s Center.

ANGI: So I'll start just by playing some arpeggios to make sure it sounds okay. (PLAYING HARP)

Angi was a longtime church pianist, starting in junior high. But she didn’t learn to play the harp until she was 35. Kevin was instrumental in that. One day he overheard Angi talking to her mother.

KEVIN: And she said, “Well, I'm wanting to do two things. I've always wanted to learn Latin, and I want to learn to play the harp.” I went, “Aha!”

He bought Angi a harp and lessons for their 10th anniversary. She took to it with gusto, but the harp is a tough instrument to learn.

ANGI: I often joke that unbeknownst to me, Latin would have been easier… Kevin called it my weekly lesson in humility.

Today Angi and her harp cart are set up in the atrium of Northside’s Women’s Center. It’s obvious her lessons paid off.

Angi playing in women's center

Angi playing in women's center Photo by Kim Henderson

Angi’s proficiency is due in part to experience she’s gained playing in other places. Kevin provides the muscle to get her different harps to churches, gallery openings, weddings, funerals.

KEVIN: . . . need to make sure that the harp does not get damaged in any way. They weigh from 15 pounds up to about 75 pounds, and each one is different. And they have to fit in the vehicle you're driving in… you have to get to wherever you're going at least 30 minutes ahead of time, so the harp can sit and adjust, and then be tuned.

Angi visits the chaplain office

Angi visits the chaplain office Photo by Kim Henderson

At Northside, Angi often collaborates with the chaplains. Director Amani Legagneur knows and appreciates both of the Bemisses.

AMANI: They together have had, Angie and Kevin, an incredible legacy and life of service in this hospital in particular.

Angi is the only certified therapeutic musician at Northside. Sometimes she talks about that unique role at harp conferences. And guess who she mentions?

ANGI: I call it the double blessing, because what we know as therapeutic musicians is that our listeners are blessed, but also as the musicians, we are blessed. And then in my case, I add a third blessing. And that is that Kevin, as a former nurse, gets the blessing of knowing what this is like and what has happened.

Kevin says it brings him joy to know that Angi is using her gifts. It brings him joy to hear her play.

KEVIN: I've always been a music lover, and music is my way of worshiping. And I always hear the harp and it's goosebumps.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Kim Henderson in Atlanta, Georgia.

REICHARD: To see photos and read the print story on Angi’s harp ministry, look for the February 11th issue of WORLD Magazine. And we’ll post a link to the story in today’s transcript.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.


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