Sometimes you can end up down the strangest paths when looking on the internet, and during a late night browse, just by chance I came upon the harp maker Otto Zangerle and his harps.
Your eyes are not deceiving you it's a 6x6 chromatic Tyrolean harp. But he builds even more curious harps...
He is patenting a double neck harp design... details here
But the harp that makes my mind boggle the most is this one where you can have the option of all the pedals on one side (?) so that you can change the pedals when playing the harp standing up with one foot (?)
If anyone has seen any of these harps in real life, or has heard them being played I would LOVE to know more about them.
If you haven't had a good browse around the website then buckle up and have a good browse at these innovative Austrian harps.
It's always a pleasure to play with the Psappha Ensemble, and I had a blast playing in Steve Mackey's epic piece, 'Deal' with them.
I'm not usually happy sitting right behind a drum kit on stage, but it was an absolute pleasure sitting behind Mike Smith for this gig. Wonderful musicianship on display in this video by Mike Smith & Mike Walker on guitar with Psappha Ensemble whilst I spent most of my time furiously subdividing & counting bars!
In the continuing saga of the radical re-stringing I'm doing on my lever harp; having changed all the gut strings to carbon fibre & nylon the original wire strings didn't sound great and needed changing.
I was very wary of changing the wires and wanted to be super careful as I didn't want to do anything that would endanger the harp.
As luck would have it Billy 'The Harp Doctor" was in the area and giving my concert harp a service so I had a chance to pick his brain on the best type of wires to change to now that I had started on this project.
So, after a conversation with Billy looking at my harp and then a very helpful conversation with Salopian Strings over the phone, I ordered Multifilament wires for the first 3 wires 5th B, A & G <I had already changed the original 5th C, D & E wires to carbon fibre> and light gauge wire for the final 4 bass strings.
So, whats in a multifilament wire string then? Normally you have the metal solid core wrapped in silk and then with the wire (silver, copper etc) wrapped round.
As you can see above, there is no solid core!!! Which makes for a very funky & comical looking wire string as you put it on the harp. TBH I really thought that it wasn't going to make any sound at all, but WOW, what a great string. It perfectly bridges that sound gap from the carbon fibre strings above to the wire strings below. I took a gamble on needing 3 of these strings to bridge the gap before moving on to 'normal' wires at the bass end and I'm very glad I did as the sound blends really well.
So how bad were the original wires then?
Personally I hated the sound of them. The top ones were far too 'zingy' which is why I changed them as soon as possible to carbon fibre and the bottom ones had loads of variation of pitch as you played them.
video above the original wires that came with the harp.
video below the new hand made wires by Salopian Strings. This is the wire with the solid wire core (not the special multi filament wire). For my personal taste, it's a much more mellow sound with very little 'wow' variation in pitch as it's played. Bear in mind I've literally just put this string on to the harp, so it needs to settle in to pitch.
Next up on this project is some adjustment that needs to be made to the intonation with the levers. Some (not all) need adjusting now so that the pitch is true when you change the lever.
After that, I'll be posting videos!
Amy Turk does the most amazing videos and this one is no exception! Africa by Toto arranged and performed by Amy. The work that goes into the harp arrangements Amy does & the quality and production of her videos is incredibly impressive. You can support her patreon account here to help her create more videos for everyone to enjoy for free on the internet.
The re-stringing I've done so far as been fairly straight forward and now it's on to the experimental side.
The strings I've used on the upper part of the harp are all NYLON [shock horror] and sound amazing! I'm really pleased with how they feel and sound. They are all the nylons used on the CAMAC Bardic 27 string harp, which is my other lever harp. I have always loved the feel and sound of the Bardic, so when I decided to change the strings on this harp it suddenly occurred to me that I had a spare set of strings for the Bardic so why not put those on instead?
From 4th octave D upwards the nylon strings sound brilliant, but the 4th octave C, B & A sound a bit dead and 'thumpy'.
Going towards the bass end the bardic uses carbon fibre but at a different gauge to normal (here comes the interesting bit). Instead of it being lever harp gauge, it's concert harp gauge but used 3 strings higher on the lever higher. As you can see by this photo, the 4th octave G on the bardic is actually a [concert harp] 4th octave B
So I tried to source the correct gauge string from a harp shop, which was impossible! So I ended up going to a German luthier string supplier that sold all types of strings for different instruments from the Alliance range. They had a harp section online but instead of the strings being listed by octave they are only listed by string gauge. Luckily they do lots of REDs and BLACKs in various gauges so you can experiment with the gauges. Taking an educated guess, I reckoned that the HPK136R was going to be the one I needed.
The important thing for me was to have no jump in sound from the nylon string on the 4th octave D above to the carbon fibre 4th octave C. Which I'm delighted to say that now it's starting to settle in there isn't!!!
I decided that I didn't like some of the wire strings as they sounded too 'zingy' after the carbon fibre strings so I started to replace a few. I carefully removed the wires without cutting them, so I could always replace them if necessary.
I decided to be a bit more methodical with the stringing this time, so I just wound the string on without catching the tail underneath the loops to lock on the pin. I kept tuning it every couple of hours for 24 hours.
After 24 hours I carefully unwound it [see last post] and re-strung it so that I lost the excess (stretched) string. I checked it every day when tuning regularly, and after 5 days it looked like this.
As you can see from photo above, it's a pretty much a healthy 3 coils round the peg. It still needed tuning constantly over the 5 days; but once that initial stretch is pulled through that seems to be pretty much it.
I'm just going to carefully unwind the string now allowing for it to be turned at the point it's reached now and will tie the tail under so it winds over itself.
Next thing is repeating this process with the next wire down which also sounds incredibly 'zingy'. I'm hoping that I can stop there as the B below has a different heavier sound which I think will blend better soundwise.
I've been doing some experimental re-stringing on my lever harp and wanted to use carbon fibre strings. My goodness, those strings are slippery & stretchy and handle completely differently from gut strings. So this morning I finally worked out a way of handling them better and here are the pictures.
[Never mind the time I spent trying to fix a knot into the carbon fibre string in the first place as it kept slipping apart. I'll post pictures of how I ended up doing the knots later. For now, this post & the pictures are all about the major issue (I think) with carbon fibre strings which is just how incredibly stretchy they are!]
When I wound the string onto the peg, there was so much stretch in the string, it took loads of turns to get it to pitch. Then when you left it to settle, it took more turns to get it back up to pitch. It took far longer to get to pitch than a regular gut (or nylon) string.
Which meant more coils round the peg.
The G string above was not too bad an example in that is was only 4 turns round, but it was still going flat and need another twist round to sharpen to pitch.
So I unwound the string making sure to keep the tension by hand as much as possible with the lower part of the string to create as little movement on the knot as possible. Then I pulled the string back up to take out the slack.
Then I re-engaged the string to the pin from this new point. Don't leave any slack in the string - trust me it will stretch. I had over 4 cm of extra string when I pulled it through; that is how much stretch and slack had accumulated over a period of 5 days from first putting the string on the harp.
After one full revolution to then push the string towards the harp, so that now when it wound on it would lock and wind over itself.
The important thing being to then trim the excess, so that eventually you would 'lose' the 'tail' under the coils as it winds on.
You might think this all seems blindingly obvious, but trust me, using carbon fibre strings feels SO different to gut & nylon. I think you need to double or triple the time you would normally spend stringing, tuning and settling in the string. HOWEVER... once it's settled and in tune, I think carbon fibre are brilliant strings.
***I am using these on my lever harp but certainly would not think about using these on my pedal harps***
I'll answer that in my next blog post.
#Allianz #savarez #carbon #fibre #carbonfibre #strings #KF string #corde KF
Yesterday I had a white knuckle gig. Nothing to do with playing the harp, but the DRIVING involved in getting to the gig. It was in a remote venue and the drive was slightly more 'interesting' than usual as for the first time ever my SatNav decided it was not even going to pretend I was on a road anymore.
So I ended up with that nightmare of driving conditions that you don't need on the way to a gig.
Had I known it was such a remote venue I would have been mentally prepared for it. Unfortunately playing harp at weddings in the UK does mean that you get to play in some remote places, but this was a new one for me. It was that (unfortunately familiar) sinking feeling as you drive from Motorway to A road, to B road, to what is essentially little more than a track. Meanwhile you heartbeat starts to race as you go from...
"oh this is getting a bit narrow" to
"hmm, this isn't really a road anymore" to
"I'm not enjoying this" to
"actually I'm a bit scared now and my vertigo is kicking in as I go up this steep bendy hill on a narrow path with a sheer drop to the side".
The actual gig was lovely with a beautiful venue and nice people.
But I have to admit I spent most of the time thinking about the drive back home and being thankful that I would be doing the return car journey during daylight and that it wasn't raining.
Being an outdoor gig meant as well that I was fighting the wind blowing through my strings and being picked up on my amp. I took a couple of short videos on my phone and unknowingly picked up the craziest effect of my strings vibrating.
Seems an especially poignant day to be playing harp at a Citizenship Ceremony with all the political turmoil going on, but it was good to be part of something which shows respects and welcomes new citizens to the UK.
I played at the very first citizenship ceremony for my local council when they started way back in 2004.
Since then I have played at lots of these events, and I may be biased, but I do think my local council does a lovely ceremony which is really welcoming to the new citizens.
Today's ceremony consisted of people from 12 different countries. Very often you will get several members from the same family (some being young children) all taking part in the process at the same time.
When they arrive prior to the ceremony, the harp is set up in the room where they have refreshments and I will play some music whilst they have some tea and coffee.
The Mayor and a representative of either the Police or Fire Brigade, as well as the Queens Representive (either the Lord Lieutenant or one of the Deputy Lieutenants) will usually then mingle and chat to the new citizens prior to the ceremony. They then each give a short speech during the ceremony about the responsibilities of citizenship and being part of the community.
Being the Queen's representative normally requires a bit of 'pomp' and over the years I've seen some great outfits worn by the Lieutenants. Everything from spurs, to velvet buckled shoes, to wearing a sword, to lots of lace and very big hats. It's great to have a bit of drama and personally; I love it!
After the refreshments, it's a quick pack up of the harp and dash to the room where the ceremony is being held to play the dignitaries into the room. Then it's into the ceremony itself with the oath taking and the pledging of the allegiance to the Queen and the UK.
I'm always very moved by these ceremonies. Often these new citizens have had a very long and hard journey to get to this stage, and this is always recognised within the ceremony.
After playing more music whilst each new citizen goes up in turn to receive their certificate, sign the book and get their photo taken, the main event for the musician at these ceremonies is playing the National Anthem. It's a simple piece to play, but I'm always aware that this is very special moment for the new citizens as they all stand to listen to it. This is the end of the ceremony and the start of their journey as a British citizen.
I always come away from these ceremonies humbled, and glad to be part of a country which shows respect, tolerance and welcomes new citizens.
2016 ended with a bang (literally), when one of my big gut strings decided to unexpectedly snap during a really quiet piece in a New Year eve's concert at the Bridgewater Hall. Luckily it was near the end of the concert, but I've never had such a big string go during a concert before and it was all a bit shocking, for everyone including me! What a noise!!
December 2016 has been an intense month of work with lovely people. It's such a joy to play good music, in good company. The majority of the month has been all about SNOWMAN with the wonderful talented people who run Carrot Productions.
I'm not sure who looks more scary here... me or the Snowman!!!
As well as the Snowman and seasonal favourites, this year's tour included The Nutcracker as well as a new production of Cinderalla with music brilliantly composed by Dan Whibley.
The whole ethos of the Snowman show is so brilliantly devised and produced by Rachel & Dan and involves performing to so many young children and families, many of whom will not have heard a live orchestra before. It's not often you get such job satisfaction!
We played 30 performances of the Snowman across Derbyshire, York, Hull, Sheffield as well as in Coventry and Chester Cathedrals, and finally ending at Blackpool Tower Ballroom. For me the highlight was a special performance at the Royal Manchester Children's Hospital.
Prior to the Snowman tour, flutist Nichola Hunter and myself had done some outreach work for Carrot Productions at the Childrens hospital as well as in a Dementia unit in Manchester.
Immediately after the Snowman finished Nichola and I did 4 performances of "a flute and harpy Christmas" which included one public performance and 3 private performances at eldery care homes in Cheshire; two of which were specialised dementia homes. Nichola is so wonderful and an absolute joy to work with and everywhere we played everyone loved her, especially when she brought out all her hand percussion for people to join in with us!
These were very special performances and although it came right at the end of a busy work schedule just before Christmas, I'm so glad we made time to do them as it was an appropriate way to "give back" to our community. It's doing these kind of performances away from the concert hall and in the community that really brings it home how important music is for the mind, body and soul.
A timely reminder that music is just magic!
I can't believe it's been three years since I first blogged about using an iPad on gigs! My set up has changed a bit since my last post so I thought it was time to review what I'm currently using when I play at weddings and private functions.
So the main change is that I invested in a new harp a few years back - my amazing electro-accoustic harp, a maple Camac Little Big Blue.
What a beauty my Little Big Blue is, as well as being a complete joy to play!
It has completely revolutionised my experience of playing at weddings and has made my life so much simpler in so many ways. Being a 44 stringed harp, it is physically so much easier to move around than my big Salvi, plus being amplified it is much easier playing for long periods of time. Playing outdoors is no longer a problem as I can usually find somewhere good (preferably indoors or in shade/covered) and just move the amp to where it's needed. I'm still paying off the loan for the harp, but it was definitely worth every penny.
My amplifier is a Roland AC-33 battery powered guitar amp. It's small, powerful and best of all - battery powered. Before I got my Camac I experimented with amps and pick-ups on my Salvi and as well as not being satisfied with the amplified sound, just carting round all the gear was (literally) a pain. Being able to plug just ONE lead from the harp into a battery powered amp and switching the amp on and beautiful natural amplified sound coming out is brilliant.
Earlier this year I had to finally accept reality that my eyesight is not getting any better and reading the music on my old iPad wasn't really working too well.
Which brings me to...
...the iPad Pro. I'm not an Apple fan, but you have to hand it to them for finally making what musicians needed; a decent sized screen for reading music.
My eyes are grateful.
Plus there is the extra bonus of not needing a music stand light or pegs to hold down sheet music when playing outdoors.
I'm still using ForScore software to view my music on the iPad, so that is still the same as my original blog post, along with using Dropbox to get it onto the iPad. The only change is that I'm now using a bluetooth foot pedal to change the pages of the music as I'm now reading the music '1 up portrait' rather than '2 up landscape'. It's taking some time to get used to an extra pedal to operate with my left foot, but it is well worth it.
What's in my bag?
And that's it - all easy, light and quick to carry. Light years away from all the gear I used to carry round with me on gigs.
In all the years I've been using an iPad, I have never had a problem with my iPad or the ForScore software.
However that hasn't stopped the little nagging worries that somehow 'something may happen' and all the technology might suddenly stop working whilst I'm on a gig. For that reason alone I always carry a very small folder of one hours worth of printed sheet music that lives in the handy zip pocket of my harp cover.
I have never had a need to use it.
For size comparison - my iPad Pro on my music stand next to an old copy of Ceremony of Carols which is a standard 'oversized' piece of music. Most newly bought sheet music these days are the smaller A4 size which is around the same size as the iPad Pro.
I use the standard model large iPad Pro which is - WiFi only, 32GB 12.9 inch screen which is more then enough space for a massive library of music.
Having always tied my harp strings the same way for YEARS, I have very recently started doing them differently!
I'm now using wooden dowels instead of a bit of thick harp gut to secure the knot, which meant learning a new way to tie the knot.
Like Pavlov's dog, it's going to take me a while to unlearn a lifetime of tying a knot a different way!
But this new way is a simpler way (I think) of doing it, and for someone like myself who is a little bit dyslexic at times this is quick and works first time without being too 'fiddly' to remember.
Loop under - tail over the bottom end of the loop - tail now wraps into the loop - wooden dowel at bottom end of the loop - grab hold of dowel and the tail - pull
Who would have thought that when we first started the Sandbach Concert Series in 2010, that it would be going from strength to strength and that we would be celebrating 50 concerts being put on in Sandbach.
What started off as an idea and involved hours of filling in lots of grant application forms whilst on breaks working with the RLPO, has developed into an amazing concert series which has the community at it's heart. With eight concerts each year, helping to organise the concerts has been a huge part of my life for the past six years.
At the start it involved friends and family all mucking in to help pull the first concert together, and very quickly volunteers from across the community came forward to help. We now have an incredible team of dedicated volunteers, without whom the concerts just wouldn't happen. I cannot stress enough how amazing it is to have so many incredible people involved in the organisation.
The set up of the concert involves a 30 minute 'spotlight concert' which involves young musicians from around the area, followed by a one hour concert by professional musicians. Incredibly we have had over 500 young musicians playing at our spotlight concerts, ranging from some who have only just started learning an instrument to those who are going on to music college. We are a welcoming and encouraging audience and all local young musicians are welcome to perform at our concerts. As you can imagine the spotlight concerts take a huge amount of organisation and rely on the support of the many dedicated music teachers in our area as well as being superbly co-ordinated and directed by music teacher and organist, Kevin Birch.
We have always had an art exhibition on display during our concerts and we now have an amazing relationship with the Sandbach Art Club where one of their artists will put on an exhibition at our concerts.
Community was always the central idea for the concerts which is why we have a 30 minute interval after the spotlight concert. Not only is it time to have a good look at the art exhibition and have a drink and catch up with friends, but we always have a local charity or good cause that we raise money for at each concert, and very often representatives will be at the concert. As well as the big household named charities, more often we support local grass roots organisations. We have raised an impressive amount for these good causes over the years with our raffles and it's always humbling to see how many good people there are, just getting on and regularly doing good things for others.
Thanks to my husband Andy Scott, and his great Artistic Director skills we have been spoilt with a fantastic range of musicians performing at the Sandbach Concert Series. From classical to jazz to folk, we have enjoyed a wide range of music brilliantly performed by amazing musicians.
From an initial idea about how to do a successful community concert series, it has grown enormously. We now have charity status, have partnerships with our local music hub, The Love Music Trust so that we can also help deliver 3 educational workshops to young musicians each year. We also recently set up the SCS 'Young Musician of the Year' competition which takes place during the Sandbach Transport Festival each year. We are very grateful for the financial support we get from many local organisations, businesses and generous individuals. I can't mention them all here, but they are listed on the SCS website.
Which brings me back to the next concert and the reason for this blog post!
As I was the first artist in the first concert (yes not only did I set up the hall I also played in it!!!), I will be returning and playing with my new trio for the 50th celebration concert on September 28th. Details here about the concert, where with Conrad Marshall on flute and Raymond Lester on viola, we'll be playing trios by Bax, Richard Rodney-Bennett and Debussy
This time I'll be able to leave the set up of the hall for someone else to do for the September concert, but I'll be back to my usual role of chair shifting and hall setting up for the October concert when we have the Martinu Trio from Czechoslovakia performing.
Thanks to all the musicians who have performed in Sandbach, all the artists who have presented their art work, all the volunteers who help to make it all happen, to all those individuals, organisations and businesses who support the Sandbach Concert Series and to our amazing audience.
The latest issue of HARP magazine (for UKHA members only) should have landed on your doormats by now....if you are a member of the UKHA.
Included in this issue is an article I did about cars (!!!) which includes the results of a survey of 100 UK harpists. What cars they drive, which harps they transport, and which cars have split seats for fitting harps plus passengers in the back. Oh yes! If you're a harpist and drive a car it's a must read!!! ;-)
HARP magazine comes out twice a year and is exclusively for members of the United Kingdom Harp Association.
If you love the harp and live in the UK, you NEED to be a member of the UKHA. As well as producing a great magazine of news, reviews and articles, the UKHA put on events around the country, and gives out a bursary twice a year to members.
It's easy to join online, and if you do that NOW from this link here, Rita, our lovely membership secretary, will send you a copy of our latest magazine.
Our AGM is happening in Cardiff on Sunday April 17th this year, and we're delighted to be hosting a concert for the winners of the 2015 British Harp Chamber Music competition. They are a fabulous trio, and it should be a great event in Cardiff.
I have a recurring nightmare where I look down at my harp and the strings look like this!!! However, this is no bad dream - instead it's an amazing video of a Chopin Mazurka played on a 6x6 cross strung chromatic harp by Dutch harpist, Mirjam Rietberg.
To quote from Mirjam's website;
'The 6x6 cross-strung chromatic harp is named this way because it has two rows of strings that cross each other.
One row is tuned in whole notes (6 notes in an octave) from C (c, d, e, f#, g#, a#)
and the other row is also tuned in whole notes but from C# (c#, d#, f, g, a, b) '
Mirjam has a lovely website here which includes info about the chromatic harp, and also more about the FRIENDS OF THE CHROMATIC HARP here
I love the idea of the chromatic harp being used for contemporary music and that she plays jazz on it, rather than exclusively being used to play baroque music.
Playing in a bubble has been around a little while now, but it seems to be getting more common place.
picture above of harpist Shelley Frost performing in a bubble. Looks lovely doesn't it?
and here's a video of her getting into the bubble
and another, Canadian harpist Elena playing in Dubai,
and an agency in the UK is now offering it too
more job and work opportunities for musicians?
I'm all for there being more work for musicians, really doesn't matter where or what as long as it's work, and good luck to the lovely ladies playing harp in the bubbles.
I don't have an issue with playing an electric lever harp in a bubble, because at least then you have full control of the harp and levers standing up. Likewise playing a violin or saxophone is fine, because their playing is not restricted by standing up.
But I do find it very odd to play an instrument fundamentally designed to only be played sitting down - in a standing up position - when you can't change the PEDALS standing up!!!!
What a great promo video for a concert...
and what a creative harpist Uno is.
A Norwegian harpist and composer, Uno Vesje has his Carnegie Hall debut coming up in March, and and is definitely a harpist to watch out for!
He has such a lovely sound, (and a stunning harp), a really brilliant website and I'm going to download his album now...
First performance of his harp concerto - watch out for the paper in harp strings half way through
This amazing looking harp caught my eye a while back...
Tyrolean folk harps are single action (with a rather loose tension) Austrian folk harps, with a traditional curved back. The playing on them seems to involve an extraordinary amount of damping whilst playing.
The lovely silver and black model is made by Extravagant harps and although I can't find a website for the harps themselves there is a rather stunning online catalogue which can be viewed here.
From what I can make out the harps are made by the Tyrolien harp maker Peter Mürnseer, but they don't seem to be listed on his website. However these models are promoted online by Barbara Plattner.... It's proving difficult to track down what the deal is with these harps, so I would welcome any feedback from anyone who knows!
However, they do seem to be for sale online here
I must confess to having not listened to Austrian folk music before, and what I treat I have missed out on!
***WARNING - this video contains offensive language. Don't listen if you are likely to be offended. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED***
One of my favourite harpists, Lavinia Meijer playing "Cities change the songs of birds" composed by Jacob ter Veldhuis.
Otherwise known as JacobTV he has been described as the 'Andy Warhol of music' and this piece was written for Lavinia and caused a bit of an uproar when it was performed at the 2008 World Harp Congress!
To quote from JacobTV's website...
And at the World Harp Congress 2008 in Amsterdam the world premiere of Cities Change the Songs of Birds by Lavinia Meijer caused a scandal: the combination of beautiful harp sounds and heartrending monologues of female drug addicts in the streets of New York was too much for some of the audience. Kathy Elarte wrote: "The harp, as we all know, is an instrument of beauty, of worship... To see it in the center of this atrocity just goes towards promoting more hate toward American society and is, in my opinion, just another form of Musical Terrorism!"
Now I'm going to warn you again, if you are easily offended don't watch.
You might want to have a quick look here to see the lyrics that will be spoken throughout the piece first.
Lavinia is a brilliant harpist, and I think she performs this piece, brilliantly.
Whether you agree with the use of so much profanity within a piece of music will be to your own personal taste, it is certainly shocking... but that is what it is supposed to do.
I remember seeing the fallout of Claude Delange in concert playing a piece by JacobTV on saxophone and a distressed father walking out of the audience with his young teenage daughter appalled to have gone to a contemporary classical saxophone recital to then be confronted with the repeated use of 'motherf***er'.
As a mother of similiar aged children I did have sympathy with the father at the time. However, I am disappointed I missed the premier of this harp piece, I would have loved to have seen the reaction! Having listened to it now a few times it is certainly growing on me.
A harp.... made of buttons!
This astonishing piece of artwork is by Augusto Esquivel, and his sculptures are absolutely amazing!
I've been busy past few weeks doing new harp arrangements for my lovely students and have just finishing filming a few for my online students. Here's David Bowie's Life on Mars arranged for harp. It's quite chromatic so pedal changes throughout (but nothing too tricky pedal wise!) and it gradually gets more challenging through the piece.
Live on Radio 3 tomorrow night (and available for a week on the iPlayer), I'll be playing this baby with Psappha ensemble. Quest by George Crumb which is an amazing piece full of evocative sounds, and it's the physically largest score I've ever had to play from!!!
(Quest is on in the first half of the concert and not after the interval despite what it says on the BBC website)
A real privilege to have been playing in the band for this one!
The London Philharmonic Orchestra's principal harpist, Rachel Masters with her fabulous singing dog :-)
It's been a pretty stressful couple of years, if you have been one of the unlucky harpists playing Russian Roulette with your spare harp strings. That sinking feeling of knowing you have a full spare set in your bag when you are on a gig, but if you happen to have a string that breaks and you go to put the replacement string on.... will it work or will it break as soon as you put it on?
I first blogged about the harp string saga nearly a year and half ago, although I've been experiencing it for much longer.
I think the thing that annoys me the most is when I see posts on facebook now from harpists who think they are just unlucky to have strings which keep breaking and that it is just them, and not a manufacturing fault.
I've always used the same make of string and when my 1st and 2nd octaves started breaking, I too thought it was just me and would be completely stressed out when I needed to replace a string before a gig and the replacement string just kept breaking as soon as I put it on. To the point where I no longer had any spare of the broken string left and had to use the nearest string I had spare - 1st octave G string on a 1st octave A etc.
I must have spent loads of money over the past few years on strings which were completely useless until I realised it wasn't me.
Then I started sending them back to the shop I had bought them from, who would send me a replacement free of charge. Then when the replacement came, the same thing would happen, it would constantly break and I'd send that string back. Over and over.
The lack of a simple stock control sticker on the individual string packet so any "dodgy batches" can be identified by whoever is re-selling the string seems to me quite astonishing.
Whilst I completely sympathise with the problems of the manufacturers, and would always normally use their strings, the fact that it is the harpists who have bought the strings that have to then play Russian roulette is really unfair. If you are a professional gigging musician and you don't have the spare strings for your instrument, it makes your life kind of tricky to say the least.
So after resorting to putting nylon strings on I had a light bulb moment, WHY NOT TRY A DIFFERENT MAKE OF STRING!
With Pirastro gut being out of my price league, I started using Camac gut and have been using them for over 6 months now and... it's been absolutely fine. There isn't a difference in thickness and they have been no problems having a mix of strings on my harps. No intonation problems at all. No difference in sound between the strings. The Camac do 'feel' a bit different, but nothing that is off putting.
The only downside to the Camac strings is that they are a bit more expensive and that they take a bit longer to get to settle and stay in tune, but once they are settled in they are fine - and they don't break as soon as you put them on.
Which to my mind is what you want when you put on a string from a new packet that you have paid for.
Regular HARPYNESS readers might have noticed that I haven't been blogging that much since January 2017. That's because my elderly father was diagnosed with dementia then. His care is shared between my sister and myself. This has meant my available blogging time on this website has been significantly reduced. As and when I can write a new harp blog, I will do!
Please follow me on instagram to see my (fairly) regular updates with lots of fun harp photos & cute photos of my puppy! Harpy hugs x