Well here's a website worth bookmarking - New York Philharmonic Leon Levy Digital Archives
Where you can view over 370 harp parts from the library of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.
How amazing and incredibly USEFUL is that! FANTASTIC.
It is for research only and not for printing and using on gigs. How many times do you get booked for a gig, and the librarian can't get you the part to look until just before the gig... and it would be really handy to look at the part before you get there.
Well now you can check out that harp part and know whether you need to panic or not!!!
That's worth a round of applause to the amazing archivists who have done this work.
Steve Swallow's Ladies in Mercedes.... great piece and a great find on YouTube of this live performance from 1989 with Emily Mitchell on harp.
Fabulous playing from the Hermanos Corbalan harp duo, and also solo harp ofSixto Corbalan.
It's got everything: passionate playing, great music and also both are brilliantly filmed videos.
They also have free PDFs of sheet music of a few of their solo harp pieces on their website, so no excuse to not have a go at playing their music.
They are coming over to the UK soon, it will be great to see them play live.
Just done this teaching resource for a student - now there is no excuse not to practice ALL those scales, arpeggios and dominant sevenths as required for the ABRSM Grade 5 exam.
Feel free to share with any harp students who could do with this free handy practice chart.
Double click on each image to open the image fully and then print off.
Tick the box as you complete each one you need to do at least 10 each day if you want to get through the cycle in a 2 week period. Select across different keys and types of scales/arpeggios rather than working down the list in numerical order.
Isabelle Perrin and Barbara Fackler have created a guide to harp notation as used by composer Bernard Andrés with the intention that this collection be shared freely among harpists at no cost.
A Guide to Harp Notation Used in the Compositions of Bernard Andrès
A lovely Christmas video - featuring Tine Thing Helseth on Trumpet, Birgitte Volan Håvik on harp and Elise Båtnes on violin.
I had the pleasure of playing this arrangement with Tine when she was special guest with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra for their series of Christmas concerts a couple of years ago. It's a really well arranged carol and she is a really fabulous player.
This is the first year for some while now (8 years I think?) that I'm not playing with the RLPO for their run of Christmas concerts. This year, instead of doing RLPO carol concerts, I'm working with a fantastic group of players presenting special one hour performances of the film "The Snowman" with live orchestral backing. Before the film, it's a seasonal introduction to the orchestra and excerpts from the Nutcracker Suite. We are currently on the final part of the tour and it's been pretty full on with 19 performances of the Snowman (and the Nutcracker cadenza) in 7 days!!!!
The Snowman is such a lovely film and the music is so wonderful and perfectly scored. Some tickets are still available for shows this coming week if you fancy a seasonal treat.
Paul Mitchell-Davidson's epic suite for mandolin and harp is now on soundcloud.
It's a real journey of a piece and I remember after one live performance a member of the audience came up to me and said, "I've never been to a classical music concert before... that last piece was like surfing a wave!"
Dance of Limewood, Smile of Ash is very still and etheral with astonishing harmonies.
A Joy of Wild Asses is my personal favourite, quirky and pretty manic.
Harvest of the Quiet Eye is a beautiful "folky" and evocative piece.
A Full Moon Rising Red is a real whirlygig epic, full of spirit & feverish dances and is the piece which inspired the "surfing" quote above.
Tapestry by Paul Mitchell-Davidson
Alison Stephens - mandolin
Lauren Scott - harp
A brilliant gliss-tastic arrangement of Silent Night by Graham Fitkin, beautifully played by Ruth Wall and available on her new CD, The Three Harps of Christmas available from this link.
Carols re-arranged by Graham for concert harp, bray harp and Gaelic wire strung harp.
I bet the harpists out there will be trying to figure out the pedal settings for all the gliss chords after listening to this!!!
I have a new harp!!! I finally finished paying off for my Salvi Iris, so I thought it was a good time to take the plunge and take out another loan whilst I still could and get this lovely harp... a Camac Little Big Blue.
It's an electro-accoustic harp and I'm really delighted with it. The acoustic sound is much better than I thought it would be, and it's perfectly usable as an instrument as it is without any amplification. I'm still getting used to the pedals as they feel very different from my Salvi, and of course the string spacing at the top is also different. But after a couple of weeks of playing I'm not finding it too difficult to go between playing this and my Salvi.
I particularly went for the smaller model - only 44 strings, as I wanted a smaller harp which was easy to move about. I really didn't want to take a blue coloured harp out on a gig, as I didn't want it to look any different from a normal acoustic harp, so I ordered a maple one. I've also bought a small battery powered Roland amp; more about the amp in another post.
I haven't had a chance to play around with loop pedals yet, but will do when work calms down a bit and I have some time to experiment.
However, I have used it already on a couple of weddings and it's been absolutely brilliant. It's so much lighter to move around, it really makes a huge difference. Using the amp has taken a little bit of getting used to, as I'm just not used to being able to simply turn a switch to turn the volume up. It still feels a little bit alien to play at a normal level and the extra sound coming out of the amp a distance away from the harp. But that's just a basic thing I need to get used to having only ever played acoustic instruments my entire playing career!
The major benefit was that I found it was so much easier when playing for long periods of time, and I definitely felt physically less tired.
Viva la revolution!
Camac - Little Big Blue (in maple finish!)
A pick up on every string
Where you plug in the lead
It's been a busy old week and a very enjoyable one! In between some freelance work in Birmingham, I managed to fit in a trip to London to see Sioned Williams performing at the Purcell Room. It was a fantastic concert, brilliantly conceived and performed and it was very well received by the near capacity audience.
The concert was put on by the Park Lane Group and was also part of the UKHA 50th birthday celebrations. And what a fantastic turn out by harpists from across the country who came to the concert. Playing the harp can be a solitary affair and it's not often we get the chance to all meet up, so it was lovely to meet up with so many harpists. I met some harp friends that I hadn't seen for nearly 20 years!!
It's been 18 months now since I became Chair of the UKHA and I was really pleased to meet so many young harpists at the concert. There is a real sense of a new generation of younger harpists coming through and being active in the UKHA, which bodes well for any organisation going into it's 50th year. For any organisation to have 80% of the committee being made up of people in their 20s and 30s is quite remarkable.
We have a new bursary scheme which is being launched in January, and we hope to be present at more harp events across the UK in the coming year.
Belonging to the UKHA is a fantastic way for harpists in the UK to connect with other players, whether they are a student, amateur, professional or harp maker. If you love the harp, join the UKHA and network with other harpists across the UK.
Setting up the UKHA table in the foyer of the Purcell Room before the audience arrived ;-)
I've just been practicing two lots of recital music I have coming up with flautist Clare Southworth and my trio Caliente, when I had a niggly feeling I really should be looking at some music for orchestral work I have in a couple of weeks with the CBSO.
I'm very glad I've dug it out! I do think this has to be one of the hardest second harp parts out there.
There aren't that many notes to play, but every passage has it's scary moments when you play it in the orchestra.
Especially the ones that look like they should be easy on paper.
Last time I played this was with the RLPO and the conductor took off like a rocket for the last section. I nearly had a heart attack!
I've finally got round to sorting out finishing off some demo recordings with my fantastic singing partner, Anna-Clare Monk.
What a voice!
We are working on some new recital programmes at the moment which is great, you can't beat a really lovely song. It's so good to be working with a singer, especially one as fabulous as Anna-Clare.
Next up on the to-do list, getting some more gigs... I really need a P.A
If you are in London next month, Tuesday October 14th, do go and see this concert at the Southbank Centre featuring Sioned Williams playing 6 new pieces by English composers.
A concert put on by the Park Lane Group, it also celebrates the 50th anniversary of the United Kingdom Harp Association of whom Sioned is president.
You can book tickets here and it will be great opportunity to meet up with harp friends old and new!
A harp you can pack in your suitcase?
What a great idea for keeping your fingers in shape whilst away on holiday!
I love the way it fits in the suitcase, although that does look like a pretty big suitcase.
Pretty nifty travel harp made by Don Peddle of randomsound music in Canada and it sounds ok as well.
This looks extremely cool - a new electric harp which has a bridge and more bass end - so a cross between bass guitar and harp? These are really going to take off.
Unfortunately not much in the way of videos on the internet at the moment which showcase the possibilities of what you can do with it, with slides and bending notes, but no doubt there will be soon. I really like the way you can wear it like a guitar as well as a harp.
Very cool photos of Remy van Kesteren playing one on the Delta Harps Facebook page
A fantastic video from Erin Hill, with some pretty awesome production!
Erin and her psychedelic harp, (otherwise known as a black Big Blue Camac harp) has made this video as result of crowd funding through Kickstarter and has a new funding scheme to make more videos through a tax-deductible scheme in the US.
I hope she gets to do more videos from her album as they are great songs and she also has the funkiest of CD cover designs, which is available to purchase here
Come on British Government, why don't we have tax-deductible schemes for sponsoring the arts here in the UK?
What a great idea! A clever clip on tuner embedded onto a tuning key by Dusty Strings - very nifty!
The concert version fits Lyon & Healy, Camac, Salvi harps etc. The universal has an adapter to fit all types of harps, not sure how strong and effective that would be though.
What I like the most is that the tuner can be tilted with your thumb to get better viewing angle whilst you are tuning, as well as the usual things like calibration and standard LED display you can see in the dark.
At $85 for the concert harp version that's not a bad price, and it's available fromSylvia Woods Centre. Birthday present anyone??
I love this video by Maria Christina - great use of loop pedals and a fantastic vibe to "A Greek in Spain"
Her Music is a mixture of Greek traditional music, jazz, blues with experimental sounds.
Nicely done - more please!
Some nice little videos from the Hong Kong Harp Centre of a tour round the Bow Brand Factory.
When you get a string out of the packet, it's easy to not realise the process it's taken to get to you.
I had the pleasure of a good long tour round the Bow Brand factory some years ago which was amazing. If you ever get the chance, do go and visit them. It's brilliant to see how skillful all the wonderful people who make our strings are... the smell is quite something though! The chemicals not the workers!!!
The whole process is on this video produced by Bow Brand in 2010, which for some bizarre reason, sounds like it is narrated by a time traveling man from the 1940s.
I struggle a little bit with the concept of a piece which you can't quite hear as too many years of sitting in front of the percussion section in orchestras has had it's toll on my eardrums. Personally, I like my music to be of a volume that I can actually hear it.
But it's always good to push the boundaries and open a debate about music.
Martino Panizza (harp) and Alice Purton (cello)
Charlie Sdraulig, hush (2011-12)
Score available here: http://www.charliesdraulig.com/hush.pdf
More about the notation: http://johnsonsrambler.wordpress.com/2012/04/16/the-contemporary-notation-project/
Engineer: Erik Nyström
N.B. This work is extremely soft. Where possible, try to listen to this piece in a quiet environment on a good set of speakers or with headphones.
Studio recording: http://soundcloud.com/charlie-sdraulig/hush
Always good to see a well written article about the harp online - a nicely written article by Alexander Rider with good examples of harp music on the Sinfini Music website here
Very interesting post I've just seen on the Vanderbilt website.... I thought it was just me having problems with gut strings continually breaking in the 1st & 2nd octaves.
Turns out that new EU regulations have meant that gut from younger cows has recently been allowed to be used in the manufacturing process. Gut from younger cows is not as strong as gut from older cows.
According to Vanderbilt, Bow Brand have made an agreement with their suppliers to go back to only getting gut from older cows, so string quality should be back to normal soon.
I was beginning to wonder whether I needed to change over to nylon strings on my top octaves as I've been getting so many breakages.... PHEW!!! Just need to wait it out then.
Happy 150th birthday Lyon and Healy and what an AMAZING cake!
and check out the Salzedo Song of the Night sheet music!
Hat's off to the cake makers - Jewell Events Catering in Chicago - who have made the most amazing harp cake EVER! Apparently it took only 2 weeks.
What were the strings made of?
Listen up (I'm on my soap-box here) harpists have being doing pretty amazing things with the instrument for a very, very, very long time. Alice Coltrane (1937-2007) anyone? You just have to watch Harpo Marx (1888-1964) in action on YouTube to know that he was pretty awesome in his day, and is still awesome now!!
The harp does not need "re-inventing", nor is it a "girlie" instrument. There are plenty of guys out there playing harp.
It's a pretty damn cool instrument that can do rhythm, melody and bass and just about anything else you can think to do with it too. It's no longer unusual to see a harp in a band, and being played in just about every genre of music.
We don't need to re-invent the harp, we need to discover what is already out there.
(I'm off the soap-box now!)
I was blown away when I saw these videos of Zeena Parkins online. She is anawesome musician, doing some incredible things musically - it just happens to be on a harp. :-)
and here she is with the brilliant Björk
and here she is talking about contemporary music using graphic scores
and excerpt of piece with percussion
So here's the thing... back in December 1999 I had an accident which left me with whiplash injuries in my left arm pit, across my chest and up the back of my neck. I was bed bound for over a month, and couldn't play my harp for several months and only started to vaguely get back into light gigging about 6 months later.
I never went public with my injuries as I was (probably quite rightly) worried that if anyone knew, I wouldn't get booked for gigs anymore. It was just about ok to not be available for gigs for 6 months and yet not get completely forgotten about on the freelance scene.
I suffered from weakness in my left shoulder for nearly 10 years and an occasional 'ticking' which was intermittent nerve pain across my chest and also up the back of my neck, usually not at the same time. The weakness was separate from the nerve damage, and I am thankful that my nerve pain was intermittent and not continuous.
I eventually learned how to deal with it (ibufrofen and a complete relaxation both physical and mental), and became assiduous in having correct posture and technique in my harp playing, because the only way I could play was to have no stress on my neck, shoulders and arms. I had weakness in my left shoulder, but it didn't affect my playing in my left hand. It was a bit weak for the first couple of years but I managed to hide that with the types of gigs I took on.
I did absolutely no exercise of any form until about 4 years when I took up running. Haven't managed more than 10k yet, but still for me that is pretty epic.
Then last summer I joined a gym. I can now proudly do an hour in the gym and use all the weight machines. They might be on the lowest setting, but for someone who has for the past decade never carried a heavy bag or put any strain on my left arm/shoulder it is a revelation. I feel I have finally got control over my body again after all these years! I am no longer supporting an injury. I can take those weights on my left arm and shoulders.
Q. So how have I managed to continue earning a living playing the harp all these years?
A. Alexander technique. Drummed into me whilst I was a teenager learning the harp.
Lower back in, shoulders down, chin down, lift the head. Posture, posture, posture.... and ibuprofen for when the nerve pain occasionally kicks in.
Well, I'm a bit of a harp nerd, and it's the quirky more unusual side of harping that usually catches my eye and ear!
Now in it's 6th year, this blog has recently moved from it's original home
on blogspot and the archive is currently being transferred to here.