On November 16, 2022 George and I drove out to Hampton Beach, NH to meet Dan Speer of Argent Fox Harps and pick up my third wire-strung harp, a double strung with a full set of Truitt sharping levers. Dan packed her up and took her on the Amtrak train to NH, where he was doing some family research and we drove from VT, several hours away to meet him and his wife and father-in-law.
Dan’s Lady Marilyn double-strung wire harp is made of sweet cherry and and has an aircraft birch soundboard. Her strings are copper phosphor bronze. The Truitt levers glide smoothly and evenly. Initially I had the harp tuned to the key of C, but after a while I realized that if I tuned it to the key of Bb, I could engage the B and E levers to put the harp into C when needed (and any sharp keys) and leave them down to play in F or Bb.
Here is a group photo of my new harp with my other two, Triplett Luna and Stoney End Esabelle:
Esabelle was commissioned in honor of Isabelle kitty, who died in 2014 of complications from feline diabetes after two years of twice-daily insulin treatment. There is a little poem, photo and paw print impression inside this harp in her memory.
In 2017 another diabetic kitty I was taking care of (who belonged to my late parents), named Forest also passed away. I decided to put his paw print inside Lady Marilyn and call her Forest Harp. So now this harp has two names!
Both Esabelle and Forest Harp are made of environmentally sustainable wood: walnut and cherry respectively, with Luna harp’s soundboard made of Pennsylvania curly maple (not clear on the status of African bubinga).
The double wire harp is very easy and very natural to play… the strings are tuned parallel to one another and so it is like having one harp for each hand! Echo effects, turns and mordents on one row of strings while playing “straight” on the other, syncopation by alternating sides, and playing accidentals without having to flip levers are all possible on a double-strung harp!
Every Sunday I’ve been playing my new harp at St. Thomas & Grace Episcopal as part of the service prelude, postlude and for Communion. I’ll also be playing her for Christmas Eve services and for Christmas Morning Prayer. All of the harps have proved very popular at church and blend beautiful with the historic pipe organ. Their ability to provide chromaticism in different ways also increases their flexibility and they can access a much wider array of musical repertoire than would a strictly historical diatonic wire harp. We’ve also discovered parishioners are seeking out our church to hear them!
During Advent I have been playing traditional Polish Advent hymns and have been researching Scandinavian music to play in the upcoming weeks for our Swedish and Norwegian church and community members. I have also discovered a large treasure trove of Hebraic Psalms that were transcribed into modern sheet music from the cantillation marks of the Hebrew Scriptures, suggestive of what King David may have played on his harp (lyre, kinnor?)
As we like to say, The Episcopal Church Welcomes You!