Alexa Yeo has turned her harp composition into a thank-you video. Handout photo

Young harpist provides light in darkness

By  Quinton Amundson, Catholic Register Special
  • May 2, 2020

Perhaps one of the most enduring images of angels is the sight of these messengers of God singing celestial hymns of praise while twanging heavenly harps. 

It is also written in the Bible that angels play music to inspire faithfulness during times of adversity. Ten-year-old harpist Alexa Yeo utilized her musical talents to achieve a similar purpose during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The Grade 4 student from St. Joseph’s Elementary School in Clinton, Ont., produced a split-screen video featuring a performance of her harp composition, “Light in the Darkness,” sprinkled with “thank you” messages from over 50 Ontario school children to COVID-19 frontline workers.

Doctors, nurses, grocery store workers, truck drivers, volunteers at homeless shelters, parents and teachers are some of the heroes feted in the video created by Alexa — known as “The Hometown Harpist” — and her mother, Crystal Brennan-Yeo. 

“I hoped that by making this video, everyone who is helping in the world to fight COVID-19, and who are helping us kids, know that we are thankful,” said Yeo, who also plays violin, ukulele and the piano. “I want them to know that even though we are kids, a lot of us still understand how scary it is to be out in the world right now and that it is very risky and dangerous.”

The musical arrangement was originally intended to be her entry into the composition class competition of the Kiwanis Festival of the Performing Arts in Stratford, Ont. — an event called off due to the pandemic. Festivals hold a special place in Alexa’s heart as witnessing a harp performance at the Goderich Celtic Roots Festival inspired the then four-year-old to try the instrument.

Witnessing footage of doctors and nurses combatting the virus in Italy and China inspired Alexa to change her intentions for her musical creation. 

“My mom told me (the coronavirus) is also here in Canada and in the U.S. where my cousin lives (Ava from Georgia submitted a thank-you video), and it is why we had to stay away from everyone, including our grandmas and grandpas and friends to stop the virus from spreading,” said Alexa. “She also talked to me about all the important people helping out like the hospital staff, grocery store clerks, truck drivers and other essential workers.”

Brenna-Yeo, a religion and dramatic arts instructor at St. Anne’s Catholic Secondary School in Clinton, put out the call via Facebook to ask parents to film their kids saying thank you to COVID-19 fighters. She and Alexa composed a long list of the types of heroes working on the frontlines that these children could appreciate, but they also welcomed other ideas. 

The video has been viewed over 13,000 times and shared by over 400 users since it first debuted on Alexa’s professional Facebook page, “The Hometown Harpist,” on March 23. Notoriety for the video catapulted after it was played in full on CTV National News just a few days later. 

“The response has been wonderful as we have had a lot of people reach out to say that the video has brought them to tears,” said Brennan-Yeo. “It is such sad, difficult times right now. We’re glad if this video can bring a smile, joy and a feeling of appreciation right now. I am very proud of (Alexa) for putting it together.”

There may be another inspiring instrumental piece on the horizon. Due to the overwhelming number of clips submitted by kids, Alexa was not able to fit all of the messages into the video, so she’s endeavouring to figure out a way to make use of those videos.

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