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Harp Information 

History of the Harp

The harp is one of the oldest instruments known to humankind, dating back to at least 3000 B.C. The ancient Egyptians had elaborate golden harps that were used in harp ensembles and temple worship. During the middle ages, itinerant European harpers earned their living by moving from town to town, using small harps for self-accompanied singing, storytelling, and as part of instrumental consorts. The harp had such mystical significance that many kings or chieftans had harpers in their employ, believing the instrument to possess magical powers. It was not unusual for a harper to remain unharmed during battles, being respected by the enemy and considered immune from attack. The modern orchestral harp was not invented until the early 1800s.

Below is some information about the types of harps that this performer owns and uses for performances.

The Lever or Folk Harp
This smaller, less imposing harp, is ideally suited for use in museums, boutiques, floral gardens, small weddings, and a variety of historical settings. It employs a system of hand-operated levers on the strings to change individual pitches; therefore, it is best suited for performing mostly diatonic music. Persons who play this harp are called "harpers" rather than "harpists." The range of a lever harp varies from 25-36 strings, depending on the model and size. (There are also very small harps in use of 24 strings or fewer, known as "lap harps.")

The photo to the right shows a Rick Rubarth "Merlin" model 35-string lever harp in brown mahogany finis
h that was manufactured in the USA.

Note: For most engagements, this harper uses the smaller lever harp pictured above or the chamber harp shown below, due to their superior portability, ability to squeeze into limited spaces, and less imposing size.

The Chamber Harp
This is a smaller-size pedal harp that has a system of seven foot-operated pedals which allow the harp to change keys or pitches rapidly. It is used for situations in which more chromatic capability is needed than can be provided by the lever harp. This harp is perfect for small weddings, garden parties, afternoon teas, and church services.

The photo to the right shows a Camac "Clio" model 44-string chamber harp in red mahogany finish that was manufactured in France.

Camac Clio

The Concert Harp
This is the large harp seen playing with orchestras, in formal recitals and in big bands. It has a system of seven foot-operated pedals which allow the harp to change keys or pitches rapidly. It is very impressive in both size and appearance and is capable of more volume than most stringed instruments. It is very expensive to own, cumbersome to move, and difficult to play well. Today's concert pedal harps have 46 to 47 strings and encompass over six octaves.

The photo to the right shows a Venus Harps "Protégé" model 46-string concert harp in natural maple finish that was manufactured in Chicago, USA.


Note: This harpist only uses the large concert harp for orchestral engagements or grand, formal events such as a cathedral wedding where the sound of the harp must fill the hall.