I am an UK-based amateur harpist new to this forum, and I need some advice re buying my first pedal harp!
A short background about myself: I started learning harp at school around 10 years ago but stopped about 5 years ago as I frequently relocate for study/work. I have recently settled down (at least for the next few years) so am now in a position to start playing again! I have always been learning with pedal, but have never owned one as I used to have good access to practice rooms.
I am working with a budget of £15k, but can push it to no more than 20k for a L&H concert grand. I should add that I am a petite harpist and the harp probably will be played exclusively in my tiny living room. But ideally I would still like to have a harp with 46/47 strings and extended soundboard.
With these considerations above in mind, I am currently looking at the following models:
L&H – Chicago Concertino/ CG Extended or Style 85E
Pilgrim – The Malvern or The Aldeburgh
Aoyama – Orpheus 47 or Vega 46 or Amphion 47
Sound wise, I am most fond of L&H (as my teacher had an amazing sounding Style 30), but the unfavourable exchange rate means that I have very limited choices within my budget. I have also read mixed reviews about the Chicago line: I read that their bodies are constructed with a 3-rail instead of 4-rail solid body procedure, which makes their tone not as full and resonant (?). While Salvi is more readily available in the UK (esp second hand ones), I am not particularly keen, as unfortunately I don’t like the sound of Daphne (I used to practise mainly with 40 and 47S) and their professional range felt overwhelming on my shoulder.
Price wise, I think Pilgrim and Aoyama are much more affordable. My high school had a Malvern (extended) that I used for practicing as well as my Grade 5 exam. The harp felt right on my shoulder and it had the depth and resonance that I look for in a harp (though I still prefer the Style 30…). Another good thing about Pilgrim is that it’s UK-based, so maybe I can pick my harp from their workshop (?)
I visited an Aoyama showroom in Tokyo 10 years ago and their harps had a very unique sound that reminds me of oriental instruments like Koto and Guqin. As my first harp I am not sure the sound will limit my choice of music (I have heard that it doesn’t sound as good for classical repertoire). Also I tried their Princess Sakura which was SO pretty, but even as a petite harpist I found the harp too light on my shoulder which felt a bit weird, probably because I was not used to it. I have not tried either Orpheus, Vega or Amphion though so would appreciate any reviews from owners or people who have tried it!
I have read other threads on this forum and the general advice seems to be to try out as many harp as possible, as even two same model harps won’t have the same sound. I am planning to do that, but I realised there are things that I can’t figure out by just trying harps in a showroom, specifically
1) Sound projection: Which harp projects best in a tiny apartment? My living room is around 3mx4m with normal ceiling height.
2) Serving and maintenance: It won’t be a problem while I am in the UK, but I may relocate back to Asia at some point, in that case I don’t know if it will be difficult to service/repair a Pilgrim (or even a L&H if I need major repair)?
3) Value retention: Which harp(s) holds value better? I am hoping to play this harp for at least 5-10 years, but a long way down the road maybe I will sell to upgrade/relocate so value retention is a consideration too.
4) I think harp generally takes a while to resell, so to speed up the selling process I hope my harp will appeal to both students and professionals. This is not a major consideration though.
Thank you in advance for reading my post – I know it’s a very long one but pedal harp is a big purchase for me so any advice is much appreciated!