How do you cheer up an unhappy ape? With a harp! Terri Tacheny plays her harp as one of the gorillas stood nearby outside the Primate House at Como Zoo in in St. Paul (AP photos)
How do you cheer up an unhappy ape? With a harp!
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Terri Tacheny long enjoyed taking her young daughters to Como Zoo in St. Paul, except for the Primate House, where she thought the gorillas, orangutans and monkeys often seemed to lack energy.

Her solution was a little music, and now Tacheny, a volunteer, plays once a month for an appreciative audience that ambles down to the barrier as soon as Tacheny begins setting up her beautifully carved wooden harp. She's been doing it for nearly 10 years.

"I don't speak gorilla, but there's a gorilla purr that occurs when I begin to play. And that's their happy sound," said Tacheny, who is 57.

As the shimmering sounds of Tacheny's harp drift through the leafy zoo, a male gorilla stares through the fence at the musician, then chews contentedly on vegetation while families stop to snap pictures.

A therapeutic harpist, Tacheny plays for hospital patients to help them deal with pain and anxiety. She thought if the soothing sounds helped calm humans, it would work for the primates too.

"I would love to see every zoo have a harpist. I think it benefits the animals," said Tacheny, a quick-to-smile woman.

Tami Murphy, a zookeeper at Como, said Tacheny has played for all the animals at the zoo. Some animals aren't interested, Murphy said, but the harp music "seems to be a really calming thing for the apes to listen to."

Tacheny says she's never gotten a negative review from her ape audience.

"I've never had anything thrown at me," she said.

Critical thinking challenge: Terri plays for hospital patients and for apes. Whats the connection?

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COMMENTS (15)
  • MikaylaStazewski-Ste
    9/30/2014 - 12:44 p.m.

    I think it's very generous of the lady to play her harp at the zoo. However, I'm sure many people would be confused by the situation, and perhaps think the lady is strange.

  • TaylorHartman-Ste
    9/30/2014 - 01:10 p.m.

    It doesn't surprise me to read that animals enjoy listening to music as well. I believe that all animals are just like humans and if we listen to music to calm ourselves down and make things better, than why wouldn't animals?

  • colleenl-Ste
    9/30/2014 - 01:28 p.m.

    I think that it is really sweet that this lady takes time to play harp for animals in zoos. I never knew that harps could help sooth and entertain animals when they are upset. I agree with her that every zoo should have a harpist.

  • SeanK-3
    9/30/2014 - 09:34 p.m.

    Terri Tacheny loved going to the zoo just she wish that the apes lacked energy. The way she fixed this, she volunteers to play once a month for a big audience who were the apes that would amble down to the barrier as soon as Tacheny begins setting up to play her wooden harp. She loved playing for the apes, she has been playing for them for the past 10 years. The apes have been with her since she was 47, she is now 57. Terri is a therapist who uses sounds to help animals and humans. She works part-time at the hospital for people with pain and anxiety. All she wants is for everyone and everything to be happy and I think that is a fantastic way to live.

  • BeckettN-2
    9/30/2014 - 11:59 p.m.

    This article is about apes at a zoo getting a performance from an unlikely person, a harpest. Terri Tacheny is a musician that plays her harp for the ape and other animals at Como Zoo. She says the apes love the music, because of how they all amble to her when she starts to play. I think its a great idea to give animals some entertainment once in a while.

  • BeckettN-2
    10/01/2014 - 12:00 a.m.

    This article is about apes at a zoo getting a performance from an unlikely person, a harpest. Terri Tacheny is a musician that plays her harp for the ape and other animals at Como Zoo. She says the apes love the music, because of how they all amble to her when she starts to play. I think its a great idea to give animals some entertainment once in a while.

  • GriffinO-5
    10/01/2014 - 12:12 a.m.

    In the Como zoo in St. Paul, Terri Tacheny has been bringing her kids to the zoo and enjoyed every bit of it except for the apes. She always thought that they lacked energy. Terri is a therapeutic harpist who plays for hospital patients who are in pain or have anxiety. One day she decided to play her harp for the apes and it was a success. Ten years have passed and each day she plays the gorillas and orangutans come to see her and have never given her performances a bad review, in other words they've never thrown anything at her.
    I personally think that this is a cool idea and that Terri should keep doing this. Maybe she will even inspire other people to do it for other animals, at other zoos, with different instruments.

  • tevinb3
    10/01/2014 - 10:21 a.m.

    terri plays for hospital patients and for ape.Whats the connection?My connection is that i try to make my friends happy when they are sad or mad by making them laugh.She make people and animals by playing music to them. that how we got connections

  • NashMcComsey-Ste
    10/01/2014 - 11:13 a.m.

    More and more i'm seeing that animals respond to things that we think only humans truly understand. I do think that we have much to learn about animals, and how we can communicate with them the same way we would another person.

  • justinsproles06
    10/01/2014 - 01:46 p.m.

    it is funny how you can calm a ape with a harp... i should try it . It just might be alot of fun to do

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