I’ve been playing this set of tunes by Irish harper Turlough O’Carolan (1670-1738), named for three of his patrons, for a long time. Eleanor Plunkett was my very first O’Carolan tune, and it still holds a special place in my heart.
Recorded in April 2021 at St. John’s United Church, Chesterton IN, for the 2021 Gebhard Woods Dulcimer and Traditional Music Festival.
Can you believe it? 29 years ago, on September 7, 1992, I picked up my first double-strung harp at the Fox River Valley Folk Festival in Geneva IL. (That’s why I always celebrate September 7 as Double-Strung Harp Day.)
So… not only have I performed, recorded, arranged, composed, & taught double-strung harp for 29 years… today also begins YEAR 30! I’ve got big plans in store, and I’ll start by telling you about a couple of new additions to Harp Central.
New harp: Hi, I’m Dunstan
On May 19, my awesome new Double Morgan Meghan harp arrived from Rees Harps. It’s a 27×2 double-strung harp, which means it has 27 strings in each string row (that’s 54 strings, for those of you keeping score at home). It’s technically a lap harp, but has a big, warm voice. (Videos coming soon!)
The harp body’s made of cherry wood, and the soundboard is poplar with a maple veneer. The most eye-catching part is the custom soundboard, handpainted and handgilded (yes, it’s real gold leaf!) by Rees Harps’ own Garen Rees. Garen and I came up with the design from photos of medieval churches, and this Westminster Abbey holiday ornament (inspired by the Abbey’s triforium windows).
Why Dunstan? May 19, the day my harp arrived, is also the feast day of St. Dunstan of Canterbury (924-988). Among other things, St. Dunstan helped found St. Peter’s Abbey—the beginning of Westminster Abbey—and HE PLAYED THE HARP.
For real. And I’d never heard of this guy before.
So it all adds up: Harp delivery date on the feast day of a harp-playing saint? The Westminster Abbey connections? You know I had to name that harp Dunstan. You’ll see and hear Dunstan in upcoming videos!
The first harpist who made a big impression on me, years before my first harp lesson? And maybe the first modern inspiration for the double-strung harp? This woman.
Harpist Sheila Bromberg, who played on “She’s Leaving Home” on The Beatles’ 1967 Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album, has died at 92. Among her many achievements, she was the first female musician to appear on a Beatles record.
Recording engineers created the “doubling” effect for the iconic track’s introduction from Bromberg’s first take on the March 17, 1967 session. This video tells the great story of the Abbey Road recording session, and also features a talk show with Bromberg and Sir Ringo Starr—as they met for the first time.
Thanks to everyone at the Gebhard Woods Dulcimer & Traditional Music Festival for a great weekend! I enjoyed teaching two Zoom harp workshops (well done, harpers!) and the live chat during my prerecorded concert set.
As promised to my Fit for a Queen workshop, here are some of my favorite sources for English country dance tunes. Which sources – and which tunes – are *your* favorites? Let me know in the comments!
The Complete Country Dance Tunes from Playford’s Dancing Master (1651-ca. 1728), Jeremy Barlow. (Faber Music and Amazon)
Finally! Excited to return as the harp headliner at the 2021 Gebhard Woods Dulcimer & Traditional Music – yes, they have harp! This year’s virtual festival is free, with no registration needed.
My concert and both workshops are all on Sunday, June 13, 2021. The harp workshops are for *all* lever harps (key of G tuning); be sure to download handout PDFs before the workshops . I’ll feature the double-strung harp in my concert set.
My Sunday, June 13 GWDF concert and harp workshops (all times US Central):
The Festival Home Page is the hub for all GWDF activities, including my concert set and workshop links. You’ll need Zoom technology to participate in the Main Stage, Workshops, and Community Tent.
Zoom Workshops: access via the GWDF Festival Home Page. The Zoom link for each workshop will appear ca. 10 minutes before the hour, and you can join the workshop until 10 minutes after the hour. You’ll also need a camera and microphone on your device for workshops.Download harp workshop PDF handouts, and the workshop schedule, on the GWDF workshops page: http://www.gebharddulcimer.org/workshops-2021
Welcome to Double Talk, my new blog on double-strung harp! I can’t wait to share more about double harp – its repertoire, techniques, history, and more, with video, audio, and articles.
Today is a great day to launch the blog, because March 1 is St. David’s Day, the national day of Wales – and the Welsh triple harp is the direct ancestor of the modern double-strung harp. This Google Doodle from 2017 shows a Welsh triple harpist in traditional dress, in a field of daffodils:
And to celebrate today’s launch, here’s a video of my arrangement & performance of a traditional Welsh air, The Queen’s Dream (Breuddwyd Y Frenhines):