Although the holidays are just around the corner, there is still time to add something new if it’s not too difficult. Such is the case with an arrangement by Joyce Weaver of “Lovely is the Dark Blue Sky,” a traditional Danish Christmas carol. This is a duet for harp and flute (or other C instrument), and it is published by Afghan Press. The lyrics for three verses are also included. 

There is a separate part for flute, and the flute part is printed on the harp score as well. Presented in D major, it has no accidentals, making it suitable for pedal or lever harp. 

After a four-measure intro, the flute plays the melody for the first verse. The harp takes the melody on the second verse, and the flute harmonizes above the melody. The flute resumes the melody on the third verse, but an octave higher. The harp plays the melody an octave higher on the fourth verse to end the tune. The harp accompaniment features nicely voiced chords, quarter notes, and eighth notes—nothing fast or tricky. It is sight-readable for the intermediate player. The typesetting is easy to read and printed on a light ecru paper. There is one manageable page turn in the harp part. Although it is an unfamiliar melody, it would make a charming addition to your holiday repertoire. 

Since the holidays may add another layer of stress to our already pandemic-weary lives, let’s consider some other music that is readily accessible to intermediate- or higher-level players and gratifying to play.

If you like Baroque music, you may enjoy a recent publication from Meredith M. Mancini. She has arranged Three Pieces for Pedal Harp by François Couperin. The first two are excerpts from concert suites and just two pages in length. All three selections have barely any ornamentation, but of course more could be added at the player’s discretion. Pedal markings are included below the staff, and some fingering is suggested. 

“Allemande” from Concerts Royaux, Premier Concert is probably the most challenging but still very playable for the intermediate-level player. “Sarabande” from Concerts Royaux, Quatrième Concert is lovely with a regal air and sight-readable. “Le Petit Rien” is a delightful and fairly simple little miniature with one page turn. The typesetting is easy to read except for measure 40 in this last piece where things got a little crowded, but it’s still readable. 

These pieces would make wonderful solos for a student recital or could be useful as prelude music at a formal church wedding where secular music may be discouraged. 

Mitch Landy has arranged and published the traditional Welsh lullaby “Suo Gan” for “harp without pedals” (Mitch Landy Publications). It is five pages in length, but some pages only have three systems per page, probably to facilitate page turns. It is in C major. There is an error in measure 18 where the notes in the treble and bass clef don’t line up, but if you just look at the rhythm, it is obvious how it should be played. 

Two measures of rolled chords introduce the first of five verses. Landy offers variety in each verse primarily with the left hand accompaniment. In the first two verses, he uses mostly quarter notes in chords, octaves, or single notes. In the third verse he uses more eighth notes. In the fourth verse the eighth notes in the left hand are in a more complex pattern, and it is here that he suggests some fingering. In the final verse he moves the melody up an octave. He adds a short four-measure tag to complete the piece.

Overall, the chord voicings are open and resonant. A pet peeve of mine is the use of the interval of thirds in the fifth octave or below, whether in a chord or in an arpeggio, because it sounds muddy and elementary. More space between the notes in the bass is preferable. Therefore, those measures with thirds in the lower register were less desirable. Try dropping out the third and perhaps putting it on top (making a tenth) and see if you don’t like it better. 

Last in this assortment of pretty and readily playable tunes is a sweet tribute Frank Voltz has written in memory of the multi-instrumentalist Brook Boddie, who died in 2020. “Stepping into Paradise” is entirely diatonic, suiting both pedal and lever harp. Published by Chiera Music, it is four pages in length, in the key of G major, and sight-readable. 

There is a four-measure intro and then a motif played in sixths is introduced over an eighth-note left hand accompaniment. There are some arpeggios, a few large left hand chords spanning a tenth, and some scale glisses. Fingering is suggested where it is most helpful. 

The typesetting is easy to read, but there is one area where a small change would be a big improvement. The page layout requires two page turns and the second one is cumbersome. If the music were laid out so the first page was on the left, only one page turn would be required. The right hand could play the latter part of the last measure on page two, freeing up the left hand for the turn. There would be no need to copy the music to make the layout more user-friendly, and it seems best to discourage copying whenever possible. Other than this layout issue, this is an introspective and likeable melody.

Best wishes for a less stressful season!