FARMINGTON —  Soft, delicate and soothing Christmas music wafted through the Olsen Student Center on Saturday morning at the University of Maine at Farmington.

It mingled with the raised voices of many shoppers talking all at once as they viewed and handled hundreds of skillfully made wares being sold by dozens of vendors at the annual Arts and Crafts Fair.

The music also accentuated the sweet smells of Chesterville vendor Marjorie Cormier’s homemade, butter-crust rhubarb and berry pies and pleasing odors from a variety of scented candles sold by others.

The source of the angelic music was a nearly 6-foot-tall Salvi orchestra pedal harp from Italy. Several of its 47 nylon, gut and wire strings were being lovingly plucked by harpist Mellori Worthen of East Mercer.

Worthen, who performs with the Augusta Symphony Orchestra and the Androscoggin Valley Community Orchestra in Auburn, was selling compact discs of her “Uniquely Music!” harp music.

The self-taught freelance and professional harpist and vocalist was also playing to attract customers to the table of her 12-year-old son, Andrew Worthen, who was selling his acrylic paintings and crafts done this summer, although the youth was doing quite well on his own.

Many people of all ages were enticed to the table by his gray boards cut and painted to look like cats and kittens. They were prominently placed in a large metallic bin draped with a “Free Kittens” sign. A cat or kitten board was free with any purchase or sold separately for a dollar.

“He’s done well,” Mellori Worthen said, taking a break.”He sold quite a lot of paintings. It’s a very good crowd today.”

Many people stopped by to ask what kind of harp Worthen was playing.

“You know this song?” she asked of a woman with two children watching her play. “‘Carol of the Bells.'”

“Oh yes,” the woman said.

“I’m trying to do some Christmas music, because a lot of the neighboring places have Christmas stuff out,” Worthen said, still performing the song. “It doesn’t feel like Christmas, but it is almost.”

“How did you learn to do that, play all those different strings?” the woman asked.

“You know, it’s like a piano,” Worthen said. “There’s 88 keys on a piano. There’s only 47 on here, so it’s not that scary, right?”

The red-colored strings are C and the black-colored strings F, whereas the pedals make the black notes one can play on a piano, she said.

“The technique is different than a piano, but it’s similar,” she said.

She finished the song and the family applauded.

“You don’t start out with this,” Worthen said of the nearly 100-pound harp. “You start out with a Celtic harp, because you can play more music and you can play more styles and more intricate music.”

She makes and sells Celtic harps of different sizes at her home on Route 2. Her largest Celtic harp is a 36-string.

“People can make an appointment and come and look at them,” Worthen said. “It’s not a drop-in thing, because I teach during the day.”

She teaches how to play many kinds of musical instruments — strings, brass, guitars, piano — and plays a dozen or so instruments.

All orchestra harps are made of maple in either Chicago or Italy, she said.

“It’s the only thing strong enough for the tons of pounds of pressure from the strings,” she said.

The Salvi harp has an extended soundboard. She plucked a string and the sound flowed from four rectangular-rounded holes in the wooden body. The pedals change the pitch of the strings.

“It is unique. That’s why I own Uniquely Music!” she said of the orchestra harp and her studio business in her house at the family dairy farm.

And like most musicians hawking their CDs in public, she gets many requests.

“Constantly,” Worthen said. “I just sit here and play. It is different, but it’s an art and it’s a craft. I play country, Celtic, classical, rock, ‘Stairway to Heaven,’ you name it. I mean, I personally don’t play a lot of rap or rock music, but you can play a lot of church music.”

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