Harp Girls and King’s Harps
The harp is considered to be one of the oldest instruments in the world, and was probably developed from a hunting bow. Initially it could be used as a kind of mouth harp, where the oral cavity caould act as the resonating chamber. Later the mouth cavity was replaced by a gourd and an increassing number of strings were added to the bow. Egyptian grave paintings show large bow harps. Snall bow harps are still played in Africa and Asia today. In the euwopean middle ages the harp was considered to be a regal instrument and often shown in association with King David. Both the romanesque, and later gothic harps were, like the Norwegian krogharpe and the old Scottish and Irish clarsach, carved out of one massive piece of wood and closed with a cover at the back. Under English rule the old celtic harp tradition died out, but made a comeback in the mid-19th century in Scotland and Ireland. This was however not modelled on the old clarsach, whose metal strings were hard to play, but the modern pedal harp.It was probably harp builders from Bohemia who developed the lever harp as the precursor of the pedal harp in the second half of the 18th century, in order to extend the chromatic range. At the end of the 18th century the first “harp girls” from Pressnitz in the Erz Mountains appeared with their lever harps at the Leipzig Fair. Their earnings were so impressive that the craft rapidly spread through the surrounding villages in the Erz Mountains, and n to Bohemia, Hundeshagen in the Eichsfeld region of Thuringia, and Salzgitter in Lower Saxony. It was mostly women who travelled in pairs or family groups harps on backs throughout Europe and Scandinavia, and as far as africa, Asia and the Americas to earn money for themselves and their families. The 1st World War ended this tradition. Only the Hundeshagener Harpists continued to travel. They left their harps with friends in Duderstadt, sneaked across the border to earn money in West Germany, and then back again after a couple of months - until 1961.
Lecture and harp presentation Nancy Thym
Sa. 12. May 12:30 Flensburg, Musikschule