I'm lucky enough to own three fantastic harps. You can read a bit more about them all here.
The big one - my beautiful 47 string Salvi Minerva (named Scathach)
This harp is a 47 string concert grand, also known as a pedal harp, or simply as a big harp (as opposed to a small harp/clarsach/lever/folk harp).
My harp was made in Italy and it’s about 30 years old.
The body of most harps is made from maple and the soundboard is made from spruce. My particular harp has a veneer of rosewood and is finished with gold leaf. It also has decorations on the soundboard which are hand-painted.
This harp is named Scathach, after a Celtic warrior goddess who lived on the Isle of Skye and instructed young clan warriors in the art of battle. The legend of Scathach is one of my favourite Celtic myths, and I found out about her after a wedding photographer posted a photo of Dunscaith Castle on Skye - the home of Scathach. This was soon after I’d bought this harp and I decided I’d like some warrior goddess influence in my life.
It works – I feel totally fierce like Beyonce when I’m playing this harp!
I’m asked how I transport it all the time – there’s a little video here.
The electric one - my stunning 36 string Camac DHC Electro
(named John McGuinness)
This harp is a very early version of the Camac DHC – in its current version this is a lightweight carbon fibre harp which can be worn in a harness on the body.
My version is solid wood and is a little too heavy to wear, although it has been done (not by me).
This is an electric version of a small/clarsach/lever harp, like a solid-bodied electric guitar. It has a pickup on every string and can be amplified just as a guitar can. At the moment I’m experimenting with guitar effects and loop pedals which is a huge amount of fun.
This harp is named John McGuinness after road racer..umm..John McGuinness.
I bought this harp in Edinburgh and it’s black and gold, so someone said it reminded them of the Guinness harp. So it became McGuinness, and then John McGuinness.
The teeny one - my 25 string Aoyama Saul lap harp (named Milky)
This harp is a smaller version of a small/clarsach/lever harp.
Some people use them when they’re travelling and can’t access their big harp, some people just like them as they are.
This one was a total impulse purchase – some people buy handbags or shoes or trainers, but on this particular day I bought a harp (side note, my biggest impulse purchase was a motorbike but that’s another story!).
For such a little harp it has a surprisingly big sound. It has its own character and voice, and I often use it when I’m working out songs or harmonies. It also came in handy for when my old dog (Ronnie, on the right in the photo) was feeling clingy and wanted company on the sofa.
He is named Milky after the road racer Milky McQuayle, who has blond hair.
The perfect number of harps?
People ask me this all the time…
As a cyclist/motorcyclist, the perfect number of Things is a matter of regular discussion, and there is a formula which I believe applies equally well to harps.
Some say the perfect number is n+1, where n is the number you already have. Meaning, you always want more.
Some say the perfect number is n-1 where n is the number at which point your partner will leave if you buy any more.
My limits are financial rather than anything else, but my perfect number would be 6, as follows:
- Posh pedal harp (my Scathach)
- Workhorse pedal harp
- Electric pedal harp
- Electric lever harp (I love my current one but I’d like one of the carbon fibre ones really)
- Acoustic lever harp (I’d love a Starfish harp as they are made in the Scottish mountains!)
- Lap/tiny/very portable harp (Milky)