Magazine article American Harp Journal

Church Music from outside the Box: Part VII: Music Written for and Playable on Lever Harp

Magazine article American Harp Journal

Church Music from outside the Box: Part VII: Music Written for and Playable on Lever Harp

Article excerpt

YEARS ago, sheet music for harp was pretty easy to classify. If a piece was playable on non-pedal harp, it was for beginners; the music was easy, and the pieces were not very long. Now there is a host of wonderful selections for lever harp, many of which are longer and more challenging, and talented composers and arrangers are adding to the repertoire every day. Many pedal harpists also own lever harps and perform on both. Here are some gems for lever harp.

Harpist Margot Krimmel and singer Beth Leachman have combined forces for a book and CD of traditional songs and new compositions entitled White Birds. Most of the pieces are for harp and voice, although there are also two harp solos and two unaccompanied vocal solos in the collection. The vocal parts can also be played on any C instrument, such as recorder, flute or violin. I have used the beautiful arrangement of "Wondrous Love," which also includes a harmony vocal part, and their original setting of the W. B. Yeats "White Birds" text. Most of the pieces could also be played as harp solos.

Darhon Rees-Rohrbacher has arranged and published several very useful books that include pedal and lever harp arrangements in the same book. The Complete Ave Maria Book is a lifesaver for harpists who play a lot of weddings, as it has music for the favorite Franz Schubert song in six different keys in one book, making it easy to accommodate your soloist's vocal range. The pedal harp arrangements in the book are in the keys of E-flat, F, G, A-flat, B-flat and C, with pedal markings included. The lever harp arrangements are in the keys of F, G and B-flat, with lever changes clearly marked. The vocal part includes both verses of the traditional Latin text. In addition, Ms. Rees-Rohrbacher has included her own English translation of both verses at the front of the book. And for those times when there is no singer available, the book includes solo arrangements in C for both pedal and non-pedal harp, with fingerings, pedals and levers nicely marked. All in all, this is a very usable set of arrangements, nicely printed with no page turns, which is always appreciated. You will want to buy two copies so as to have a copy for your soloist.

Among the other books with arrangements by Rees-Rohrbacher that I own and play from often is Festival Preludes and Postludes. It has twenty-three pieces suitable for weddings and other services, with pedal and lever changes included for all. The pieces are in alphabetical order, making them easy to find, and many are printed with no page turns. Two of the Bach pieces have separate arrangements for pedal and lever harp, but the rest have a single arrangement, with pedal changes printed below the staff and lever changes marked between and within the staves. I especially like the arrangement of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, which combines the themes from the "Promenade" and "Great Gate of Kiev."

I own many of Celtic harpist Kim Robertson's CDs and perhaps my favorite is Searching for Lambs, so I was pleased to find the companion music book to the CD. Favorites in this book include "Be Thou My Vision," "My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose," and the simple but hauntingly beautiful arrangement of "Searching for Lambs." There's also a wonderful arrangement of "All Things Bright and Beautiful" that is especially nice if you can play it up to her performance tempo of quarter note = 144.

Harpist Sunita Staneslow has published a book called Great French Composers for Harp which includes excerpts of a number of favorite pieces, including Debussy's "Clair de lune," Ravel's "Pavane," and Satie's "Premiere Gymnopedie." All are playable on lever harp with lever changes well marked, and the book contains a nice selection of music, from Rameau through the twentieth century. Although the pieces are shortened and simplified, they remain elegant and musical.

Ms. Staneslow has also published two books of lovely arrangements for flute and harp called The Art of the Celtic Duo. …

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