Serious original pieces written for Celtic harp

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    I recently had a terribly demoralizing experience in which a fine professional harpist with an outstanding reputation made a dismissive remark about my interest in lever harps.

    After brooding about the comment for a while, I began to put together a list of the very high quality “serious” music that’s available including Barbara Brundage’s transcriptions, Laura Zaerr’s work, and the fascinating Concerto by Mark Mitchell, and several pieces by Bernard Andres, mostly in the “upper intermediate” to “advanced” category of music.

    I know there are pieces by Salzedo, Grandjany, and some of the other harpist/composers in the last hundred or so years and earlier that may not be too well known now, but may be playable, challenging and good sounding and I’d like to know about them.

    I think there was a list developed some time ago, but I was hoping that there may have been some old things unearthed or some new things created that will meet my very general criteria and give me a focus on pieces that really showcase the lever harp.

    Thanks in advance!


    Well, there are the late 18th century Sonatas for hook (lever) harp and violin by Lorenz. I believe they’re still available in excellent editions by Mike Parker, through Quite lovely, and fun to play!

    Gretchen Cover


    Hi Gretchen! Actually I’m looking for pieces that are not fun to play and are moderately to quite difficult.

    One of my harp issues is that my brain can play music about eight years ahead of my fingers, so my practice pieces are very (very) basic but my interest for study music is advanced. I have a nice collection of simple to play pieces that I can execute reasonably well, and I’ve done some original pieces and arrangements that I’m proud of but when I curl up with a piece to analyze, I’m looking for something like what Paul had mentioned.

    Sorry I wasn’t clear about that! I do dearly love Frank Voltz’s music, by the way!


    Dominig Bouchaud’s ‘Blues’ is an original piece that looks pretty difficult.


    Interesting point, Deb. I am distinguishing between printed music and Traditional music that is played without written notes.

    I love all of the musics you mentioned. I think Janet Harbison and Grainne and in fact all of the Scottish and Irish and the rest of the Celtic styles are Heavenly. But one of the wonderful things about them is that every time they are played they can and probably should be a little different in some way from every other time they’ve ever been played.

    Almost every book of arrangements of traditional music I’ve ever looked at, quite a few, will even say that the notes that are written are not exactly what the arranger plays. So the idea of the written arrangement of something that is actually meant to be played without written notes is yet another different, wonderful style of style of harp music.

    What I’m looking for is a subgroup of lever music, and you and Gretchen and Paul have described ideas that are helping me clarify in my own mind what it is that I’m thinking of.


    Hi, Sherry-nice to meet you at Somerset.

    By Salzedo: in the Art of Modulating book (by Carlos Salzedo and Lucille Lawrence, maroon cover) there are fifteen pieces based on his Suite of Eight Dances which work very well for lever harp (meaning no lever changes)-including my very favorite piece Reverie.

    The Pastorale by Grandjany is REALLY nice for lever harp.

    Any of these pieces will impress your classical pedal harp teacher. And remember that the “Old Guard” of the pedal harp world grew up in a time when the lever harp was much more limited than it is now. Don’t take it personally when they disrespect you and your lever harp, chalk it up to ignorance.

    And let me tell you, one of the finest “professional harpists with a fine reputation” is Emily Mitchell, and she plays a mean bubinga Dusty Strings.


    If she hasn’t been mentioned yet, Savourna Stevenson.


    Hi Sherry,


    I like Buxton Orr’s – 3 Diatonic Preludes and Deborah Hemson-Conant’s Natalia.
    (Surely this thread has been worked before elsewhere)


    Hi, Sherry:

    Just remember this. There’s only one person who has to approve of your interest in lever harps – YOU! No one else’s opinion on this matters in the least. As long as YOU are happy with lever harp, don’t let such small comments bother you! I play both a concert grand pedal harp, and a 34-string lever harp, and there are times when I’m SO glad to have the pedals, and times when I’m SO


    should have mentioned Sarah Mullen’s youtube videos

    Pat Eisenberger

    Sherry – that harpist is a snob. I suppose that she also looks down her nose at “pop” musicians and composers – including McCartney and Lennon. I’m sorry that she hurt you, but I’m grateful that you are not like her!

    Sarah Mullen

    Aw shucks…..Thanks so much Deb.


    E NB, You mention Ray Pool’s Gershwin arrangements: these are well done but not likely for sale anywhere, any more.

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