Let’s hear from the harp players.

Let’s hear from the harp players.

It looks like it’s been years since anyone started a harp related discussion, and I’m sure a lot of things have changed since then as more harpers have joined (such as myself). So I think it’s time for a new thread.

Here are the key questions I’d like to ask. What make of harp (or harps) do you play and how many strings does it have? Do you play in sessions, and if you do, do you play the tune or accompaniment? Do you play an occasional solo at your session? What does your repertoire consist of?

As for myself. I own four harps: my first harp, a 24 string lap harp made by Magical Strings, a David Kortier student Downhill model 30 string wire strung harp, a Camac Aziliz made in 1998 (34 strings), and an Aoyama 120 made in the early 1970s (also 34 strings). The Aoyama is my pet project, I rescued it from a seller on Ebay who got it at an estate sale. I glued up all the cracks and replaced the old levers and restrung it with carbon fiber strings. It’s probably my favorite harp, but only has five years or so left before the soundboard goes. When I go to sessions I either take the Aoyama or the Aziliz as the mood strikes me.

I co-host the local session every week, and I generally play the tune. Since I host I generally know most of the tunes. If someone plays a tune I don’t know I might play chords if there isn’t a chord player, if there is I’ll probably sit out. I don’t generally do solos at my own session. If I’m at a session in another town where I don’t know the tunes I will either chord along or try and quietly catch snatches of the melody until I can get enough to play along. At such sessions I usually get asked to play a solo, which I will happily do.

I play mostly dance tunes, since that’s what I mostly get called to do. I’m on a mission to learn more ancient harp airs as well as O’Carolan tunes, but I get lazy about practicing those since I mostly play in groups and hence never get to play them anyway.

But enough about me. Let’s hear from some of the other harpers on the site.

Re: Let’s hear from the harp players.

I’m not a real harp player although I own two harps. Both Ravenna Harps by Dusty Strings. I started off with a 26 string and then progressed to a 34.

The 26 string harp is much more portable and better for sessions and festivals. It’s also possible to "adapt" your arrangements if necessary.

I’ve seldom taken it into sessions although I’ve played with the local Clarsach Society and at Edinburgh Harp Festival(Informally, of course). I’ve also brought it to the occasional festival and had tunes "outside the van". It had to be a quiet session and I wouldn’t feel confident enough to "lead" tunes.

Unfortunately, I’ve not played as much lately as I had a couple of major operations a couple of years ago. It was too heavy to lift and transport for some time and I got out of the habit.
However, I still play at home as I do with the piano accordion(Same issues after the surgery). Not as much as I should though but that’s probably due to the fact that I’m less motivated and don’t have quite the same goals or impetus as before when I was playing these instruments with others.

Re: Let’s hear from the harp players.

Unfortunately, I don’t have much to say about harping but I do have a derwent plywood job that does the trick. I bought it for my very young son but I now use it at a day centre supporting people with autism.
I can pluck out a tunes but adding decent accompaniment besides drones eludes me.
I would like to buy an Ardival wire harp if I could afford it.
Always interested to hear about wire harp in particular I love the sound.

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Re: Let’s hear from the harp players.

Hello from Vermont - I’d love to hear from anyone who knows someone who could rebuild one of my harps. I have a 36-string Woldsong built by Paul Culotta who passed away several years ago. It’s in dire shape; the soundboard is toast and the string rib is so warped I can’t replace a broken string as the new one won’t go through the grommet. It could also use new levers. I have searched extensively online and cannot find anyone who will do the work.

The harp was built in 2000 and I believe some design flaws have caused the current problems. However, it is a beautiful instrument with fabulous sound and I’d love to get it repaired. Willing to ship anywhere. I do have a second harp, a 28-string built by Dan McCrimmon (Highland Harps) so I can still play.

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Re: Let’s hear from the harp players.

I’m a wire harper - I have two Tripletts, 25 string brass and 30 string bronze. I also have a 29 string nylon harp but I rarely play nylon anymore. My interest is early Gaelic - Ap Huw, pibroch, airs…

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Re: Let’s hear from the harp players.

Sligo, you might try Rick Kemper of Sligo Harps, he’s in New England and might be able to help you. I’m not sure whether he does repairs but it’s worth a shot. On the other hand, it may be cheaper just to buy a new harp.

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Thanks very much for the suggestions. I did buy a new harp (the 28-string) but would still like to get the big guy repaired. There’s so much of it that’s still good and it bugs me to have it gathering dust in the corner.

Re: Let’s hear from the harp players.

I’d also like to contribute a suggestion for music; I have a good collection of Irish, Scottish, and English trad but recently found Samuel Milligan’s "Nine Sephardic Songs" for voice and harp. These are gorgeous and very playable. I performed 3 of them with a colleague at a concert last June. Something a little different but a nice addition to the traditional music repertoire.

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I play a 36 string lever and a double strung 26 x 2 lever harps. To keep up with a jam session, I developed a playing method I named the double handed pluck and published a book of arrangements: The Harp Jig Gig Book. (xinamusic.com). I just acquired a 33 string lever Jolie hybrid harp and find it so much easier to haul around to jam sessions and jigs.

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Re: Let’s hear from the harp players.

Hello from Manitoba, Canada! I have a Blevins Espre 36 string, which I very much enjoy. I also have my first harp which I made from a Musicmaker kit. Their kits are a great way to get a more economical but better quality harp than a harpsicle (and at the time, harps were not readily available in my area). As a bonus, I am also pretty confident about repairs, adjusting levers, etc. I enjoy playing all kinds of music with the harp, playing with other instruments, and at the occasional harp circle (no session playing though). An interesting repertoire suggestion is anything by Sunita Staneslow - she specializes in arrangements for Jewish music for harp and has a book "Solo Harp - Celtic and Jewish Music" which has some lovely tunes (but cue the outrage from the ITM purists). I also enjoy each issue of the Harp Journal from the International Society of Folk Harpers. Some interesting articles and music arrangements in each issue. We are fortunate in Manitoba to be the home of Larry Fisher (Fisherharps.com) who is an expert harpmaker and repairer (but he has long wait lists and very expensive, I understand).

Re: Let’s hear from the harp players.

If you are interested in the construction of harps, Larry Fisher has posted some photos of one of his recently built harps, as it was being built at https://photos.app.goo.gl/2SsQmkqr5FvW7bSEA . His harps are gorgeous to look at and have a beautiful sound.

Re: Let’s hear from the harp players.

Hello from NH, and might I comment even though the closest I get to playing a harp is my being a harpsichordist?
I’m glad to hear from the harp players…
I’ve gotten to play with quite a few harpists (I play on a five-octave double-bass hammer dulcimer and do a lot of backup at ITM sessions), and it has been a lot of fun interacting - either playing accompaniment or leading, depending on who the harpist is and what THEY are doing in the music.
Just sayin’ …

Re: Let’s hear from the harp players.

I’m surprised how few session going harpers have posted. I’ve always found the harp to be a good session instrument, so long as you stay out of the guitar player’s way chord-wise (or they stay out of yours).

I’ve never had problems with a full size harp in a session either. By full size, I mean 34 strings, which seems to be the standard in Ireland and Scotland. It’s large enough to have a good range, but small enough not to be in the way. 36 string harps are often much bigger than 34 string harps.

I’ve developed the ability to play very loudly as a consequence of my habit of playing in noisy pubs, to the point where when I’m busking outdoors I’ve been told that I can be heard over a block away. I am by far not the best harp player in the world, but I may very well be the loudest.