I can't believe I haven't done a blog post about this brilliant short film before now on 'Une Chatelaine en sa Tour' by Faure.
Here, Alexander Rider plays this seminal work for harp on an original Erard harp from 1902. Alex also introduces a little of the work's history and that of its creator, the harpist Micheline Kahn (1889-1987).
As well as being a wonderful musician, Alex seems to have an encyclopaedic knowledge on harp history and is also one of the nicest people I know!
When Alex isn't busy performing or researching, he generously shares his knowledge with other harpists as Editor of the UKHA HARP magazine.
For the past few six months I have been involved in the 'Composing for Harp' scheme being run by the contemporary music group based in Manchester, Psappha.
Six young composers were selected to write a new 5 minute piece for solo harp and so far I have had three workshops with each of them as they have developed ideas for their compositions.
Each of the works have been very different in style and I was delighted that two of the composers chose to write a piece for lever harp - all the other pieces have been written for pedal harp.
Both pieces for lever harp utilise pedals as my Starfish lever harp has a built in pick-up. One of the pieces uses these pedals, and the other piece uses electronics and a volume pedal.
One of the compositions for the pedal harp utilises a lot of preparation. This is a photo from the first workshop when we were trying out sounds. That piece has now developed into using coils, paperclips, a pencil with rubber grip, lots of card and picks.
One of the compositions is a tricky one to count with interesting sub-divisions and uses clever de-tuning of some strategic notes. The other two pieces for concert harp are (surprisingly) tonal.
They are all very different in compositional style and I have really enjoyed working on them so far.
Having gone through a few drafts, the final versions of the pieces are imminent and due in in a few weeks time. I'll then be recording all of them in a daylong session in May where they will be filmed. The resulting final videos will be uploaded to Psappha's impressive library of compositions that they have supported since they started doing this scheme.
It's been an interesting project working with 6 composers at one time and I'm very much looking forward to recording all of these pieces.
photo credit - Chris Payne and Psappha
A new harp to add to my wish list... a 32 string travel harp built by Alexander Tremer in Germany. Technically it's not a harp because the strings feed to the side, but it's strung and played as one. It only weighs 3.3 kg and it can be carried in a specially designed back pack. I suspect it will also fit into a large suitcase. For a small harp the sound is HUGE as you can hear on this video played by harpist, Amélie Guiboux playing a cover of Get Lucky by Daft Punk on her Luna harp.
You can get a good idea about the size comparison with a normal 34 string harp with this picture from the Luna harp website.
I've had a quick play on one and despite it looking a little odd (and it not technically being a harp) I'm really impressed. It's well worth having a good look on their website which has lots of info about this harp.
Bertie bonus - it's now comes with Camac levers as standard!