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Harp during Irish sessions

GUEST,jana.souflova@i.cz 03 Oct 03 - 07:44 AM
Helen 03 Oct 03 - 08:50 AM
Pied Piper 03 Oct 03 - 11:31 AM
GUEST,petr 03 Oct 03 - 07:46 PM
Brían 04 Oct 03 - 10:04 AM
GUEST,leeneia 04 Oct 03 - 02:36 PM
McGrath of Harlow 04 Oct 03 - 06:13 PM
Helen 05 Oct 03 - 01:23 AM
McGrath of Harlow 05 Oct 03 - 06:52 PM
Helen 05 Oct 03 - 06:57 PM
GUEST,Claymore 05 Oct 03 - 09:27 PM
Ella who is Sooze 06 Oct 03 - 07:20 AM
GUEST 07 Oct 03 - 09:53 AM
GUEST,Jana Maffet 07 Oct 03 - 10:19 AM
forty two 07 Oct 03 - 11:56 AM
McGrath of Harlow 07 Oct 03 - 12:06 PM
Helen 07 Oct 03 - 07:04 PM
Helen 07 Oct 03 - 07:12 PM
McGrath of Harlow 07 Oct 03 - 07:31 PM
Maffet 08 Oct 03 - 02:51 AM
GUEST,Ella Sans cookie 08 Oct 03 - 03:49 PM
McGrath of Harlow 08 Oct 03 - 04:19 PM
Ella who is Sooze 09 Oct 03 - 06:07 AM
Helen 12 Oct 03 - 08:44 PM
Peter Kasin 13 Oct 03 - 05:52 PM
Willie-O 14 Oct 03 - 04:42 PM
GUEST 15 Oct 03 - 04:15 AM
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Subject: Harp during Irish sessions
From: GUEST,jana.souflova@i.cz
Date: 03 Oct 03 - 07:44 AM

Hello,
I am advanced beginner harpist. (1,5 year, but learning fast and practising every day) I would like to ask anybody from experienced sessioners or harpist to help me with opinnion.
I love irish sessions and dance music and when my friends found that I learn playing harp they invited me to play with them during session. In my country there is no experience with harp during sessions and I have no idea how harpist should interract with other. I know, it's quiet instrument and work better in slow tunes and airs, even I am on level to learn some easy jigs and play with them. But I have diffrent problem. My harp has no sharping levers. Because I play most of irish music, my harp is still tuned to G. I can change it simply to D, but after song (only retuning quickly 3 strings) ... but not during tune, so I should have break, when musician change key during set nad I should wait for tune which is in G again.
Another thing is: I have set of Blarney Pilgrim and Merrily Kiss the Qacker's wife which I love to play. I would like to add Road to Lisdoovarna to set a lot... but it's in D. I transposed that even with chords to G and play it with joy if I play alone. But is it polite to other musician? Should I ask them if it's possible to play this last part in my key, because I cant so easily retune it. Again, friends who know me, should have not problem with that, but I am worried about people in session, who are familiar with tune in D.
As I said I have no experience, I am just discovering things which was discovered before. Please, is there any harpist who has experience with sessions. How you do it? How you interract with other musicians? I would like to be polite and don't ruin their sessions, so I search for any information how to do it, before I will go there :-) There is nobody around me personaly who has any experience with harps.


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Subject: RE: Harp during Irish sessions
From: Helen
Date: 03 Oct 03 - 08:50 AM

Hi Jana,

In the sessions I used to go with I could fake another key, for example D if I was tuned to G, by playing chords without the note which would clash in the different key to the one I was tune in.

For example, if I was playing an A major chord in the key of D major, but I was tuned to G major then I would miss out the C# (sharp) note in the chord and just play the A & the E.

If you are playing along with a melody it is harder, but what we used to do in our sessions was play all of the C major songs & tunes, then allow time for re-tuning and then play the G major songs/tunes and then re-tune for the D major songs/tunes. It slowed the session down a little bit but it allowed for the needs of a few musicians with instruments which could not easily jump from one key to another.

It is worth asking the other musicians about changing the keys of some tunes to help you to be able to play with them.

In some tunes I just didn't play if I could not play in that key.

Helen
in Australia


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Subject: RE: Harp during Irish sessions
From: Pied Piper
Date: 03 Oct 03 - 11:31 AM

Hi Jana.
You can buy semitone lever in singles Here.
Just install 3 on your C strings.
Alternatively you could look at making sets of tunes using the different Modes of one sharp.
Modes
G Major,
E Minor
A Dorian
D Mixolidian
You should be able to find Trad tunes in the above Modes.

Good luck

PP


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Subject: RE: Harp during Irish sessions
From: GUEST,petr
Date: 03 Oct 03 - 07:46 PM

I have a friend who plays harp in sessions but mostly plays chords.
Otherwise she will solo. She does have levers for changing keys,
and I have seen one or two players change levers while playing, notably the incomparable Grainne Hambly? who plays Irish reels at full speed.
Are you from the Czech Republic? (Im just guessing from your name,
Im curious to know if there are many Irish sessions there)
s pozdravem
Petr.


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Subject: RE: Harp during Irish sessions
From: Brían
Date: 04 Oct 03 - 10:04 AM

Most of the harpers I've met stay away from sessions because of the smoke and the sheer volume. A couple of accordians and a set of bagpipes would drown out the finest harper. I have seen harpers team up with another solo instrument like a flute or a fiddle with very nice results. Of course a fiddle can play all keays and a keyed flute can play a lot of tunes in keys you won't hear in your D/G/A modal type session.

Brían


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Subject: RE: Harp during Irish sessions
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 04 Oct 03 - 02:36 PM

I have seen harpists press on the F string a certain way so that it produces an F#. Why don't you see if you can find out exactly how to do that?

Meanwhile, most people at a session will not understand your harp's limitations and may not even know you are being left out. I think that after they play a tune in D, you should say, "Can we do that in G now so that I can play?" They would be glad of the chance to play more music.

There are no standards that say a certain piece is in a certain key. The key depends on the instrument or the singer performing the piece.
Of course, different keys for the same song need to be related.


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Subject: RE: Harp during Irish sessions
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 04 Oct 03 - 06:13 PM

Mention a harp with Irish music, and the mind turns to the late Paddy Bell of the Chieftains, and to the McPeakes. I'm not sure how the managed with the, keys - I think Paddy Bell probably had a harp with sharping levers, but I don't think the McPeakes did.

You don't mention O'Carolan tunes, jana - those are the ones where anyone would love to play, with a harp leading the way. Paddy Bell did a couple of solo record of O'Carolan tunes, and you just have to get hold of them.


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Subject: RE: Harp during Irish sessions
From: Helen
Date: 05 Oct 03 - 01:23 AM

McGrath,

It was Derek Bell. A brilliant harper and from all accounts, and very nice man.

Jana, sharping levers are fairly inexpensive, even if you pay to have them installed. At an Irish session you could get away with haveing sharping levers on the F strings and the C strings, and then you would be able to join in on a lot of tunes.

In a good session where all musicians are respected you can start off a tune yourself and get others to join in. Usually the other musicians will play more softly while the harp is leading the tune. (Not all musicians are aware of this, though, and I was getting frustrated at the sessions I used to attend where one man who played an accordion would pick up the tune, play it much louder and faster than I was playing and then make it almost impossible for me to keep playing throughout the whole tune. His way of playing in sessions is unusual rather than the more common respect for other musicians.)

In our session I would have a few tunes which a dulcimer player also knew and we would do those and other musicians might quietly accompany us on whistles, accordion, guitar etc. The whistle player had a few favourites which she liked playing with the harp too.

Do you know about the e-mail based international Harplist?    Harping people from all over the world are members and we discuss a wide range of harp-related topics. They are a very nice bunch of people, too. A lot like the people here at Mudcat.

Helen


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Subject: RE: Harp during Irish sessions
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 05 Oct 03 - 06:52 PM

God, of course it was Derek Bell. My mind was drifting away. A bit like talking about Charlie Beethoven, or Basil Mozart...


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Subject: RE: Harp during Irish sessions
From: Helen
Date: 05 Oct 03 - 06:57 PM

Yeah, Basil Mozart. I knew him well. LOL


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Subject: RE: Harp during Irish sessions
From: GUEST,Claymore
Date: 05 Oct 03 - 09:27 PM

We have several harpists join us at our jam at O'Hurleys in Shepherdstown, WV and they play on almost every tune (Irish and Old Time). Both harpists have full sharping levers, so the key is not a problem, but even then they both will sometimes provide a drone by playing the bass strings with a fanning movement not unlike a sting bass pluck and slap movement, or running a kind of bass line on fast pieces like "Groweling and Grumbling", or "Morrisons".

Also its not hard to convince the other musicians to play in your key(s) if you think ahead and provide some bridge chords (or notes) to run from the common key to yours. Then as the piece ends in one key, you bridge the transition into "your" key and let some of the softer instruments (like flutes, and the lutes, or classical guitars) follow you into the piece.

I can't tell where you are from, but I will suggest some local favorites to bridge.

"Captain Henry O'Kain" into or out of "Rights of Man".
"Arran Boat Song" into "Manx Waltzes"
"Fanny Power" into "Young Jane" into "Gentle Maiden"
And if you are into jigs, just run "Morrisons Jig" into "Swallowtail Jig" into "Road to Lisdonvarna", all in Em.

Finally, try to work out some pieces with a fiddler or flutist which allow the harp to shine, Like "Archibald MacDonald of Kepoch", "Bonnie at Morn", "Star of the County Down", "Gallacian Waltz" or "The Shearin's No For You".

An excellent series of Irish music books for harpists are the Sylvia Woods series "Irish Dance Tunes for All Harpists" and "40 O'Carolan Tunes for All Harps" by Sylvia Woods, Woods Music and Books, P.O. Box 816, Montrose, California, 91021, USA. We were introduced to them by the harpists, and they are now considered source books by all the musicans at the Thursday night jam.


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Subject: RE: Harp during Irish sessions
From: Ella who is Sooze
Date: 06 Oct 03 - 07:20 AM

I've seen lots of harp players at sessions in Ireland, and they are usually a welcome addition. Granted the sessions I have seen them have been at the smaller session - quieter ones in the middle of nowhere sort of ones. I've never seen them at a very busy session.

What usually happens is they play the chords and the melody. If they have a special tune they want to play then they play a solo - an air - or other. Most musicians stop to listen and sometimes the harp players have had a friend with them and they play a duet or so on.

I think it is nice to hear a harp in a session and usually they are helped to get a seat out of the way from harm or jostling.

Ella


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Subject: RE: Harp during Irish sessions
From: GUEST
Date: 07 Oct 03 - 09:53 AM

So many responses here :-) Thank you to all.
PP, Helen, I am just discovering many things about harps. Just year ago I felt like lonely exotic mad person, because there is simply absolutly no knowledge about folk harps. During that year I have discovered some other people who play it and they have experience, but not with sessions :-) My harp is hand made (there is no chance to buy it anywhere in a shop, so my friend built it for me.), with string from everythig - guitar, grass cutter, fishing strings ... but it has a sound :-) So I am at least happy that I have my own harp. I plan to buy sharping lever also at least for C and F, may be next year if I go to England to visit friends next year. There is a some shop in Bristol, where they have harps, so I plan to write to them first to be sure that thay could have them or if I can order them through their shop. But currently I must somehow play without that.

Oh poor Derek Bell, I was down when I hear about his death. I love his music. He played a lot of tunes from Caroline. I also hear about Grainne and have one CD with reels and jig in full spee. It's still to me mistery, how she can do it. :-) Good idea is about chords. Yeah! I had some session with friends who dont play irish music but some kind of folk/rock songs, I spent with them all evening, only siting by the harp, watching hand of leading guitarist and because I recognize only G, D, and C on guitar. I did variations for this chords ... just only time from time and it was fun. So I think it should work during irish sessions specialy if I am not fast enaugh to play melody line in full speed.

Petr ... wow! yes I am from czech republic from Prague. There is not too many sessions. But there are many irish pubs, which are very popular and living and many bands playing irish music. So you can always meet some life music.

Cl ... those Blarney Pilgrim / Merrily kis... is from Silvia Woods boo, I love her arrangements :-)

Thank you to all for wanderfull advice. I will, practise, I will learn. :-)))))


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Subject: RE: Harp during Irish sessions
From: GUEST,Jana Maffet
Date: 07 Oct 03 - 10:19 AM

Helen, oh that's great. !!! I have visited few harp related forum in Yahoo, but it seemd to me a bit unfriendly to new people. This looks really difrent :-))) Thank you again!


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Subject: RE: Harp during Irish sessions
From: forty two
Date: 07 Oct 03 - 11:56 AM

We have a young harpist plays at our session - cos she is at school she tends to appear just during holidays. She came third in the 15-18 All Ireland this year. Fine harper, she uses sharping levers and manages to play with virtually everything chording when she doesn't know the tune and melody when she does. It only takes a couple of shouts to shut the bar up for her to play solo for a few sets each evening. Wonderful; I wish there were more harps in sessions.


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Subject: RE: Harp during Irish sessions
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 07 Oct 03 - 12:06 PM

When I was in a Prague on holiday a few years ago, and there was a pleasant bar near where I was staying that billed itself as an Irish pub - but essentially that just meant it sold Guinness - there was no live music, and they couldn't point me in the direction of any either. I'm glad if things have moved on.

Mind, any time I'm in Prague I'd be looking to find pubs with live Czech music, and Czech beer, which is about the only beer I'd probably rate better than Guinness (and Murphies).


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Subject: RE: Harp during Irish sessions
From: Helen
Date: 07 Oct 03 - 07:04 PM

Jana,

You can buy good harp strings and levers over the Internet. It helps if you have a credit card, but you can send an international cheque or make other arrangements.

I buy my strings from

Markwood strings and cases

They can do an analysis of your harp if you send them a full size diagram of the shape with measurements of some of the strings. Their strings are the best that I know of because they have been especially designed to suit each harp perfectly. You would be amazed at the difference in sound if you had good harp strings. It's worth the investment and the Markwood people are very friendly and helpful. Very nice people.

My first harp was built by a friend of mine who makes guitars and other string instruments, from a plan from Markwood for one of their Cambria harps. It is a lovely harp with a beautiful full sound.

You can also get Markwood levers here.

When I started going to sessions I used to watch the guitar player's chords and try to play along. When I first started I could just manage to get one finger on the C string for a C chord, etc, before they had changed to the next chord. Gradually with practice I could pluck each full chord in time with the music, and then I managed to start playing chord runs. I progressed so much with my music during that time without even realising it, because I was having so much fun.

It might be worth asking the guitar player to show you the main chords for each key used in the session. I was lucky because the guitarist I watched is known as a "three chord wonder" meaning that he can play almost any song with only 3 different chords most of the time and he makes each song interesting. I also started learning guitar when I was young so I knew the basic chords.

I am still not confident about playing solo. I don't practise enough. So I am also not fast enough to keep up with the melodies on almost all the songs. It didn't help having that accordion player hijacking my harp tunes when I would start off and then he would play them really fast and with a thumping rhythm. So I would start off a simple, quiet, beautiful tune on the harp and some of the quiet instruments would come in as well, but then the accordion player would grab hold of it and just thump it out boom-boom-boom like a marching band, very loudly and very fast. Aaarrrghh!

But, on the whole, I loved going to sessions and went there every week for ten years until I got too busy with work and other things.

Helen


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Subject: RE: Harp during Irish sessions
From: Helen
Date: 07 Oct 03 - 07:12 PM

Jana,

Here is a "gift" for you. My favourite harp tune. It's not really a harp tune because it wasn't written for harp, but it is my favourite tune to play on the harp.

Rosbif Waltz

If you don't have music notation software to print out the music then you can get a copy of Noteworthy and try it out for free. Save the midi file, and then open it in Noteworthy and then you can hear the computer play it, or print it out so that you can play it. (I don't have any association with Noteworthy - I am just a happy customer, and it is cheap, and easy to use.)

Helen


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Subject: RE: Harp during Irish sessions
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 07 Oct 03 - 07:31 PM

What struck me as the best musical instrument and accessories shop I ever saw was in Prague on my visit there. I can't remember what it was called. If it is still there I suspect it could get you anything.- it might be in this list.


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Subject: RE: Harp during Irish sessions
From: Maffet
Date: 08 Oct 03 - 02:51 AM

from Jana to all: sorry that I was under diffrent names, I just settled my membership, sho now I have regular nickname :-)

McGrath: Well, there are few clearly irish pubs as "Molly's, O'Hara or Murphy's in city centrum which has at least regular one day with life music, few pubs which are partly irish and partly czech, where Life music is only from time to time accidentaly or during events. Oh! Czech pubs. You know czechs only drink and talk, there is not too much of life "czech" music in a czech pubs. Only if there is a some party or private group of friends ... it's the time when they take a guitar and sing all together some folk or traditional songs. I know which shop you mean. It's big store with 3 floors directly in centrum of city, but they have nothing related to harps. There is only one shop when they sell items for peddal harps but it's so expensive. You know people have no idea here that exists something like folk harp :-)
I am glad you enjoyed your stay and that you like our beer.

Helen: That's good idea, specialy for harp which was handmande. I had no idea, that they are able to do that diagram, which would be nice. At least I could have it for future, if some string would break, so I can replace it easily with correct string and dont search madly for supplement. I give it to my bookmarks.
Lolll! I know what you mean about "marching band" :-)))))) and playing solo. I went just only to watch session few months ago. It had to be small session in a pub for 5 or 8 people. They told me take your harp and play something during break. I did it (I took two beers for courage). Finaly, other musicians somehow told to others about session, and there was over 25 people there including few accordeons and back-pipes :-) If they played all together it was .... houuuuu! sound like symphonical orchestra .-) There were only musicians inside of pub... After two hours of jaming they turned to me and asked to play something quiet on harp. Trust me ... if I could dig through the all earth to China to escape, I would do that!!! I was shaking like barley in the wind! :-)

Thank you! Thank you! For the tune, I have Nothworthy. It's really good and easy thing so I will print tune and try to play. I will have tomorrow planty of time to practise as I have holidays (because of wedding of my friends) so I will not be on internet to Monday :-)
I would like to repay you somehow. But I am not sure in writing music as I have started to learn reading music in the same time I recieved my harp and I discovered that I am able to do simple arrangements just month ago. I carry them all only in my head :-O. But learning fast :-)


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Subject: RE: Harp during Irish sessions
From: GUEST,Ella Sans cookie
Date: 08 Oct 03 - 03:49 PM

Guest...

I think I know the shop in Bristol that you are on about. I've seen some lovely harps in there... Bristol is over the water from me (not far) and I think the shop you are on about is Hobgoblin's chain of music shops... THey have them all over the uk - look at their web site.

Bristol hobgoblin is on Park Street, just opposite the cathedral and swallow hotel.

All the best

Ella


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Subject: RE: Harp during Irish sessions
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 08 Oct 03 - 04:19 PM

Here's a link to Hobgoblin. And here is one to another useful shop, The Music Store, and here'as Thrift Music. Hobgoblin is the one most lkely to be able to help.

"Czechs only drink and talk" - well, the truth is, most of the time that's true of the Irish and of Irish Pubs. Activities not to be disparaged!


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Subject: RE: Harp during Irish sessions
From: Ella who is Sooze
Date: 09 Oct 03 - 06:07 AM

Oooh thank you McGrath... I was in a whirl of DIY last night and not very technically minded... unless it was kitchens and doors...

Thanks for putting the link up.

Ella


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Subject: RE: Harp during Irish sessions
From: Helen
Date: 12 Oct 03 - 08:44 PM

Jana,

You might like to try the sites recommended in the

Fiddle tunes on line thread. They are virtual sessions, that is, sites which you can play along with as if you were at a session.

It's good practice for keeping up with the real sessions when you are there.

Helen


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Subject: RE: Harp during Irish sessions
From: Peter Kasin
Date: 13 Oct 03 - 05:52 PM

On the rare occasion when a very fine harper named Maureen Brennan sits in at Irish sessions in the San Fancisco bay area, her harp is a very welcome addition. She acompanies jigs, reels, etc., and is always asked to play at least one solo. Developing accompaniment skills, as on any instrument, takes lots of time and lots of listening, but the harp's beauty and sublety is a very welcome instrument in sessions, in my experience.

Chanteyranger


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Subject: RE: Harp during Irish sessions
From: Willie-O
Date: 14 Oct 03 - 04:42 PM

As you can see, Jana, you are no longer "lonely exotic mad person". We're all pretty much like that. I rather like the sound of it.

Welcome!

Willie-O


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Subject: RE: Harp during Irish sessions
From: GUEST
Date: 15 Oct 03 - 04:15 AM

:-) I must admit that I am very happy that I have discovered this place. And also (thank you Helen) Harplist. Many interesting informations here and many lovely people. :) Thank to all for their responses to my question. Now it's on me to practise, and practise and have a lot of fun!


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