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. 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. She is 57.

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

Tacheny is a therapeutic harpist. She 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.

Tami Murphy, a zookeeper at Como, said Tacheny has played for all the animals. Some 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 audience of apes.

"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 (102)
  • pp2000alpha
    9/30/2014 - 12:58 p.m.

    What would happed if you played a song off from a music playlist that also sounded calm, like the song, Hear my Prayer: by Yuki Kaijura, that has multiple instruments playing?

    • Kaileyv-smi
      11/30/2017 - 12:32 p.m.

      This was a good question would they or would they not like different music?

  • km1999bieber
    9/30/2014 - 01:02 p.m.

    Terri Playing for apes and for hospital patients have a connection because she is playing for them for free, and so they will be relaxed. also because she feels that every zoo should have a harpist because the apes as well as patients enjoy it.

  • destineyp66
    9/30/2014 - 01:08 p.m.

    My favorite part is when she plays for the patients to help them deal with the pain. Also i love it when the it said that the apes like to listen to the calm music. Just the fact that the apes and the patients could be calm with the music. I think the harp would be good for all people and animals.

  • jadab66
    9/30/2014 - 01:08 p.m.

    Terri plays for hospital patients and apes.The connection is Terri helps the apes calm down by playing the harp.That's one connection Terri loves apes.Another connection is Terri also calms the patients in the hospital.That is the last connection with Terri plays for patients and for apes.

  • TR2001golden
    9/30/2014 - 01:08 p.m.

    I think it is a great thing Terri played music for the Gorillas so they can have more energy and move around. That inspired the zoo to play music for the gorillas, ape, and monkeys every once a month for a spectacular performance. Think she is a great performer.

  • A.R.S
    9/30/2014 - 02:00 p.m.

    That is really cool that it calms the apes and make them happier. It's cool that the apes enjoy it. It makes sense that the harp calms the apes because it also calms us humans.

  • MargaretZ-5
    9/30/2014 - 05:44 p.m.

    Terri Tacheny has found out that playing the harp for gorillas actually cheers them up. The soothing sounds help calm the apes and let them relax from the anxiety. She thinks of it as their 'happy sound'. I think it's cute that this helps apes calm their nerves by listening to a beautiful instrument.

  • rosiem-DeP
    9/30/2014 - 06:20 p.m.

    i w o n d e r i f a n y t h i n k e l s e m a k e s h i m h a p p y??
    i have to say that i love gorillas, i know that they can get angry maybe a little frustrated but you have to just treat them YEhow u want to be treated. thanks for reading
    B

  • Eric0221-YYCA
    9/30/2014 - 06:42 p.m.

    That gorilla must not be calm, so Terri made a wooden harp so she thought that the music will make it calm down,it did calm the gorilla down, she even played it to the patients in the hospital so that they will forget the pain or somewhere that it aches. Terri takes her harp to the hospital, and for the apes. Every time she plays the harp, the gorilla and the patients calms down whenever they hear a beautiful song it calms them down.
    Critical thinking challenge: Terri plays for hospital patients and for apes. Whats the connection?
    Terri's harp always calms them down whenever they hear the music she plays.

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