Wire Strings in 1st Octave?

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    patricia-jaeger on #188171

    The 1899 ‘The Lyon and Healy Harp Book’ was reprinted in 1979 and among other fascinating pages included many testimonials from satisfied customers, including pictures of some. One, named Lady Elsa Otway , soloist in England, wrote in part to this 1899 publication:……”Many grateful thanks for the fine wire strings for the first octave, which I shall most certainly try.”… So this was a response to her letter of inquiry to the company, which might have referred to frequently breaking strings in the first octave
    of her large concert harp, pictured with her, in concert gown, beside it. Any views from harpists or harp makers? We do not see
    wire strings used in the first octave these days.

    Biagio on #188173

    I cannot imagine wire strings of any sort on the first octave of a concert harp for any acoustic reason. I suppose it would be possible to put steel up there if the original strings kept breaking but it would sound pretty strange.

    It’s conceivable that Lady Otway referred not to a concert harp but to a wire strung clarsach that she may have also possessed. The Castle Otway clarsach is now in the possession of Trinity College but the Otway family had a connection to the castle up until the 19th and 20th centuries.

    That rather begs the question of why she would have requested strings from L&H if so; possibly they were her only string source. I’d bet if you asked the sales representative he could research it. They’re very courteous about this sort of thing.


    paul-knoke on #188175

    The Erard ‘Gothic’ in the Victoria & Albert collection still had wire for the top three strings. Bear in mind that the Lyon & Healy harps at the time were designed for strings of the Erard 1829 gauge, which were about four notes-worth thinner than modern strings – very close to modern ‘Lever Gauge’ strings – so the top strings were very thin indeed. Plus, strings were usually oiled then but not varnished, so breakage was a frequent and ongoing problem. Anything to ameliorate that, like a few wire strings in the extreme treble, would probably have been welcome!

    Biagio on #188185

    I’d forgotten that Paul, thank you! I never knew about the oiled vs. varnished either. So much to learn! That must surely be the explanation.

    I’m still wondering about the clarsach, not to hijack the thread. The last known owner of that was Captain Robert Otway-Ruthven around 1900 – does anyone here know when it went to Trinity?


    Tacye on #188188

    The Otway castle harp went to TCD in 1969/70 according to http://www.wirestrungharp.com/harps/historic/otway/otway_harp.html

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