Local harpist marks 7 years at Geneva's at Christmas Walk

  • Harpist Tina Barber has been playing at the Christmas Walk in Geneva for the past seven years and has become a fixture at the event.

    Harpist Tina Barber has been playing at the Christmas Walk in Geneva for the past seven years and has become a fixture at the event. Courtesy of East Side Harp

Submitted by Jennifer LaFleur
Posted12/4/2019 1:58 PM

For the seventh year in a row, Geneva resident Tina Barber will be performing with her harp at the annual Geneva Christmas Walk.

She will appear at the Geneva History Museum from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 6, playing a variety of Christmas carols and holiday music, while visitors to the museum visit the 18th century Crèche (nativity), vote on their favorite Christmas tree displays and enjoy light refreshments. There is no admission fee.


"Performing at the Geneva History Museum has become one of my favorite performances every year," says Barber. "When I'm playing and kids and adults are all singing along to their favorite holiday songs, it really brings out the spirit of Christmas for everyone."

Her favorite songs to play include "O Holy Night" and "I'll Be Home for Christmas," which are always crowd pleasers.

At the age of 9, Tina was attending a rehearsal of the South Dakota Symphony Orchestra when she first glimpsed the sight and sounds of Anna Vorhes, associate principal harpist, warming up.

"I fell in love immediately, and knew it was the instrument for me."

She began lessons within a few days and is still captivated by the sounds of the harp three decades later.

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"Harp music can be transcendent and powerful just as much as it can be soothing and fade into the background. It's versatile and offers a wider range of musical styles than many people realize," Barber says.

Beginning with her first public performance at age 12, Tina has always loved to play for an audience.

"When you see your music touching people, reaching them at their core, it's such a moving experience," she says.

Barber received a musical scholarship to the University of Illinois and majored in music performance, graduating in 2002. She then relocated to Chicago and began work as a freelance musician and private harp teacher. She married husband Chuck in 2004. Son Tommy was born in 2008 and daughter Molly followed in 2010.

In 2011, the new family relocated to Geneva. The name of her business, East Side Harp, is drawn from the family's home base on the east side of Geneva. The family has since grown to include another daughter, Lucy, and Barber continues to play harp while also being a full-time mother.


She performs at weddings, holiday parties and other special private events and with her church, Fox Valley Presbyterian in Geneva, where she leads one of the youth choirs as well, a new position she accepted earlier this year.

"The connection to the community in Geneva is so important to me and my family," Barber says. "I've had the opportunity to play in so many different venues and with so many diverse organizations, from orchestras to ensembles and my solo performances. It's been an incredible journey for me, and working with the Geneva History Museum has been a wonderful experience."

Hundreds attend the Christmas Walk each year, and Barber's performance at the Geneva History Museum, situated directly across from the tree-lighting and the arrival of Santa Lucia provides some of the best seats in the house for the event.

"We love having Tina perform each year, " says Terry Emma, executive director of the Geneva History Museum and recipient of the 2019 Wood Community Service Award.

"She adds so much to the ambience at our event, as an elegant backdrop in the room that displays our 18th century Crèche -- one of the most rare and special objects in the museum's collection that dates back to the 1930s when The Little Traveler creator, Kate Raftery, displayed it in the antique room every holiday season.

"We hear so often from visitors that listening to her perform is a part of their own family tradition."

For information on Tina Barber and East Side Harp, visit eastsideharp.com. Information on the Geneva History Museum can be found at genevahistorymuseum.org.

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