A while back, a blind friend of mine asked me to help her with restringing her harp as she had quite a few broken strings. She is a beginner harpist and was struggling a little bit with navigating her way around the harp. I said to her that I would investigate to see if there was a solution, so I got in contact with harp maker Mark Norris.
I was making a visit up to Mark's harp studio in Peebles, Scotland so I had a chat to him about it and was delighted that he was up for exploring the possibilities of what could be done. He has been brilliant in finding a solution for her and in the end he developed a special textured varnish to apply to the strings.
He sent me the varnish kit through the post and I made a short video explaining the whole process here of adapting the harp.
After the harp was finished the big test was getting the harp back to my friend and what she thought about it all. She said that the textured strings were effective and helpful in finding her way round the harp!
It was interesting to see how she played her harp and in her case, it seemed that as well as applying the textured varnish lower down on the strings, it would also have been useful to apply it high up as well. It seemed more natural for her to slide her fingers up the string, rather than down the string to feel the textured guides.
To sum up - a thin band of two coats of textured varnish applied in an inch wide band low down on the string were fine on the middle C string and lower. This didn't affect the sound quality of the string. All the strings higher than middle C were better with only 1 coat of varnish.
Many thank to Mark Norris for being a total star with his time and effort in developing a solution for my friend.
Mark Norris Harps. and order strings online at HarpStrings.Biz
On my trip to Scotland to visit Mark Norris's studio he showed me how to tie the perfect harp knot HERE
Lauren has recently created a mega Beatles Medley in 4 parts which has been carefully crafted to be a multi-level harp ensemble piece full of easy extended techniques which is fun to play for players of all levels.
If you run a harp quartet or ensemble please contact Lauren HERE if you are interested in using this arrangement.
I was recently asked by my friends at the Macclesfield Music Centre to provide a short video introduction to the harp suitable for school age children. So here is my offering which is by way of a bit of Nutcracker, Dr Who, Havana and my best BBC posh speaking voice.
I recorded it in one take, and I was very conscious at the time to speak clearly and slowly. The resulting posh teaching / announcing voice I use throughout it is hilarious and not how I normally speak. It's less than 5 minutes long and I demonstrate on pedal harp as well as lever harp.
Delighted to be kick starting this years Online Advent Calendar for Scala Radio playing Silent Night arranged by Marcel Grandjany
I recently did a short live session and interview with Dave Graham who runs the Piano Cafe in Oakham. Its a very short interview where I briefly explain how I got into composing (in lieu of a mid-life crises) and how teaching now is so much better than it was in the 1980's!!
I've just finished editing a new piece for solo harp by my husband, Andy Scott.
It's his version of the traditional tune, The Wayfaring Stranger and its quite an epic version!
Andy Scott arranged The Wayfaring Stranger for the 'Ever Open Door' CD collaboration with John Helliwell (Supertramp) which is being released October 2020 (Challenge Records). Originally scored for clarinet, string quartet and hammond organ, it takes a harmonic journey with twists and turns through many keys; fairly chromatic at times, simple and open at other times.
I absolutely loved his version for John Helliwell, so I asked Andy if I could have a go at adapting it for solo harp; and here it is!
Because of the chromaticism, it is for the advanced standard player and I have fully marked the part with pedalling and damping. It's a great solo harp companion piece to with Andy's other pieces for harp, like his flute and harp sonata and other solo piece, Crossing Waves.
It's published and available as a PDF download and hard copy from Astute Music HERE
Posting about Kety Fusco got me thinking about trance like music and how emotive it can be. I played in a performance of Gavin Bryar's incredibly moving minimalistic piece a few years back with the large version of Psappha Ensemble at Royal Northern College of Music. Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet is a hypnotic piece which seems to connect with people in an extraordinary way. It certainly never fails to give me goosebumps when I listen to it.
I found it quite challenging to play, as it was incredibly difficult to keep the concentration going and for my mind not to start wandering whilst playing this music. As a player and a listener, it sends you into a meditative state and you start to literally hear and feel all sorts of things that make it difficult to play. Quite an incredible piece of music that gets 'under your skin'.
Words from the composer about his piece...
In 1971, when I lived in London, I was working with a friend, Alan Power, on a film about people living rough in the area around Elephant and Castle and Waterloo Station. In the course of being filmed, some people broke into drunken song - sometimes bits of opera, sometimes sentimental ballads - and one, who in fact did not drink, sang a religious song "Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet". This was not ultimately used in the film and I was given all the unused sections of tape, including this one. When I played it at home, I found that his singing was in tune with my piano, and I improvised a simple accompaniment. I noticed, too, that the first section of the song - 13 bars in length - formed an effective loop which repeated in a slightly unpredictable way. I took the tape loop to Leicester, where I was working in the Fine Art Department, and copied the loop onto a continuous reel of tape, thinking about perhaps adding an orchestrated accompaniment to this. The door of the recording room opened on to one of the large painting studios and I left the tape copying, with the door open, while I went to have a cup of coffee. When I came back I found the normally lively room unnaturally subdued. People were moving about much more slowly than usual and a few were sitting alone, quietly weeping. I was puzzled until I realised that the tape was still playing and that they had been overcome by the old man's singing. This convinced me of the emotional power of the music and of the possibilities offered by adding a simple, though gradually evolving, orchestral accompaniment that respected the tramp's nobility and simple faith. Although he died before he could hear what I had done with his singing, the piece remains as an eloquent, but understated testimony to his spirit and optimism. The piece was originally recorded on Brian Eno's Obscure label in 1975 and a substantially revised and extended version for Point Records in 1993. The version that is played by my ensemble was specially created in 1993 to coincide with this last recording. © Gavin Bryars
About the composer: Gavin Bryars has continually shunned convention, choosing to create his own distinctive and unique path: He studied philosophy at Sheffield University and became a professional jazz bassist and a pioneer of free improvisation working especially with Derek Bailey and Tony Oxley. In the late 1960s he worked with John Cage and this influenced his early works. He has formed fruitful collaborations with international artists from across the spectrum, from Merce Cunningham and William Forsyth to Juan Munoz and Robert Wilson. The Gavin Bryars Ensemble and GB Records continue to document his work. Serene, graceful and achingly beautiful, his music is characterized by a sense of contemplation that is revealed through harmony of underlying depth.
I love this live performance by Arnaud Roy on harp with Live Painting by Marie Bouchet
Arnaud Roy is a composer and sound designer as well as a harpist. His website is HERE
He writes music for video games - MORE HERE
I first came across his music on midi harp about 10 years ago - really fascinating to watch and listen to his use of midi harp.
So pleased to hear that the Hermes Experiment, contemporary ensemble with harpist Anne Denholm, has won the mixed ensemble category of the Royal OverSeas League.
It's a prestigious competition and great that they have won it.
Anne Denholm is a lovely person and a great harpist! As well as one quarter of the Hermes Experiment she is of course the Official Harpist to the Prince of Wales - more about Anne here
The world would be a such a dull place without Björk - and the incomparable Tara Minton on harp...
I was just re-visiting a lovely video of the great jazz standard, 'My One & Only Love' by the bass guitar & harp duo 2tone, when I came across this jazz harp duo version of Ravel's Introduction & Allegro by Cindy Hortsman. I wasn't quite sure at first what to expect when I saw it was a harp duo jazz arrangement of such a well known and well loved seminal piece in the harp repertoire. But, I really quite like it!
The sheet music is available from Cindy's website here
I think I may have posted this following video of 2tone playing My One and Only Love on this blog before. But it's well worth posting again as it's a really beautiful rendition, with an equally beautifully filmed video of Cindy Hortsman on harp & Michael Medina on bass guitar.
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!
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.
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.
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
Lauren Scott is a harpist & composer and has been blogging on Harpyness for over 10 years.
If you enjoy reading Harpyness and you'd like to buy me a virtual coffee that would be very welcome. Cheers!