Local couple brings harp to mainstreamWritten by Patrick Timmis | | email@example.com
Michael Grupp-Verbon first saw his wife Denise at a New Year’s Eve arts festival in Downtown Toledo.
He was managing sound and lighting for the zone she was playing in and had thought, “Wow, she’s a pretty cool chick.”
When he came back at the end of the night to tear down his equipment, he saw a security guard trying to help Denise with her instruments. The guard dropped her harp and it crashed down on the stage.
“Denise absolutely came unglued,” Michael said. She began shouting at the mortified guard and Michael was hooked.
“I said, ‘I gotta meet this woman. She’s feisty.’”
He got home around 4 a.m. and looked up her website.
“[I] sent her an email, and so emails turned into coffee turned into lunch turned into dinner turned into her asking me to marry her.”
When he and Denise began dating, she wanted to be able to play music together and bought him a guitar.
Michael had been a percussionist since middle school, including a two-year stint as a drummer in the Army band. He had experimented on guitar, but never advanced farther than simple chord accompaniment.
She was a classically trained musician with a master’s degree from Northwestern University in harp performance. At first, he could do little more than complement her music. But he began studying guitar formally with distinguished folk and classical guitarist Al Petteway and learned to play in an alternate tuning.
“He has a really good ear,” Denise said. “And somebody can play him a melody and he’ll will a minute and he can figure it out real quick. Whereas I come from what they call paper-trained.”
Since their first album “Variations,” the duo’s style has evolved to emphasize Michael’s own growing artistry, local fan Lewis Derr said.
Tapestry, the duo’s name, plays primarily Celtic folk music. They also mix in some pop elements. One of Derr’s favorites in their repertoire is “Stairway to Heaven,” and when the audience is largely children, Tapestry will even break out Disney tunes.
“Variations,” released in 2005, was heavy on Michael and Denise’s own arrangements of their favorite tunes — basically a cover album.
With the second album “The Journey” in 2007, Tapestry moved toward more original pieces. “The Red Leaf,” released this year, is almost entirely original work. Production techniques and the complexity of the instrumentation have also grown, as “The Red Leaf” was recorded at The Olive Bar Studio in Nashville.
The couple is laying the groundwork for Tapestry’s next album. Michael said he wants to tap into roots for this album, adding vocals and thickening the sound with bass and a trap set.
“I’m a rocker at heart,” Michael said. “I’ve been keeping the leash on up to this point, but I’m feeling the need to throw in a little bit more aggressive style.”
Denise and Michael host an annual harp festival, The Harp Gathering, at Sauder Village. Their latest album “The Red Leaf” is available on iTunes. Follow Tapestry online at its website, www.tapestryduo.com.