- e'en in the midst of life, we are in music
HARPS

Baroque Triple Harp, Simon Capp
Baroque Triple Harp, Simon Capp
The first time I sat behind a triple harp was at a musicological conference. I was still playing only modern harp and had no idea of doing anything else. Sitting behind such an instrument, squinting at the 3 parallel rows of strings made me feel slightly nauseous. But over the next few years I was drawn to more and more "early music" concerts, and to the repertoire of the late Renaissance/early Baroque in particular. My then-boyfriend (now husband) moved to Switzerland to study at an early music conservatoire and I moved with him, purely for the experience of living abroad. Over the course of a year however, I had to admit that all I wanted to do was enrol at the same conservatoire and spend my time messing about with crazy, multi-row harps. I love the triple harp, and I love its repertoire: dynamic, sophisticated, inventive and colourful. It's the most physically tricky harp to play, but so beautiful, it's worth every crooked finger tip and squinty-eyed mind-twist. My harp was built by Simon Capp, based on a 17th century painting by Milanese artist, Carlo Francesco Nuvolone. It was initially sold to a harpist who took it to the Netherlands and then to Italy. I bought it from her whilst living in Switzerland (she handed it over on the roadside whilst driving from Italy to Holland.) Having completed this version of its own "grand tour", I brought it back to the UK where it now lives 30 minutes from its original maker.
Renaissance Harp, Simon Capp
My "little" Renaissance harp is based on an instrument in the Germanischen Nationalmuseum in Nuremburg (again, built by Simon Capp). It fits in a backpack-style case and makes me look like an oversized beetle when carrying it around. It allows me to play wonderful counterpoint in incredibly beautiful music with some of my favourite musicians, so I love it. It is also, rather surprisingly, two harps in one: a typical feature of this type of harp is bray pins - small pins in the body of the harp that can be set to lightly touch the strings as you play, creating a striking buzzing utterly unlike the sound most people expect to hear. Whether it sounds good depends very much on how good your pins are and how well you set them up in the first place. I like them as smooth, rich and sustained as possible, and then I try my hardest to ignore my years and years of training NOT to buzz, and revel in the "zoing". Or, context depending, you can take them off and impersonate a lutenist. I've recorded a fair bit of "zoing" with Marc Lewon on a couple of his Ensemble Leones discs (see Discography), and even attacked it in numerous ways with a viola bow in a new piece by Fabrice Fitch on the Leones CD: Colours in the Dark.
Renaissance Harp, Simon Capp
Classical Pedal Harp, Salvi
Classical Pedal Harp, Salvi
My very first little harp was built in the garden shed by my Mum, and I then borrowed instruments from my teacher and the county until a wonderful benefactor in my town stepped in when I was 16, and offered to buy me my beautiful classical concert harp. It's seen me through thick and thin, experiences both wonderful, excruciating, touching and hilarious. Over the course of about 20 years, I've played much of the standard orchestral repertoire on this (Tchaikovsky, Mahler, Elgar, Britten, Shostakovich, Debussy, Brahms, Wagner, Fauré, Rutter, etc., etc.), and also less standard repertoire such as Harvey Brough's Requiem in Blue, and Harrison Birtwistle's Tragoedia. Personal highlights include performances of Britten's War Requiem and Stravinsky's rarely performed Orpheus. I still love it and now also enjoy teaching a variety of pupils in local schools and sometimes also at the wonderful Huntly Summer School, away in Aberdeenshire. I've also played for private events for many years (since I was 16, in fact) and have an extensive repertoire list for this type of work. If you're interested in having me provide live music at a personal event, please write directly to kirstywhatley@hotmail.com for a quote, and with any questions you might have. I'm always happy to bring music out of the concert hall and into people's "real" lives.










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