Harp Geekery

Everyone’s a geek about something. The weirdo who constructs a Cylon costume out of tinfoil and pickle buckets for Bloopycon? Geek. The bizarro who strips himself down to a Speedo in sub-zero temperatures, paints his skin blue and gold, and cheers for Michigan through chapped, quivering lips? Geek. The freakazoid who wraps herself in fake fur, glues on antlers, and rides the subway to Santacon?* Geek.

Of course, some geeks have culture. Yes, we do. (Jeeves, fetch me another Mountain Dew, will you?)

A while ago, I received an invitation to a party thrown by Carol, a woman I met at a music festival last summer. Reason? She’d just bought a new folk harp and wanted to christen it. So I packed up my own harp and trooped across town to find what I could find.

I found a roomful of harp geeks. And I fit right in.

The new harp was a Dusty Strings F427 (right). Carol revealed it had been played by Kim Robertson. In concert. We all went “Squee!” (If you have no idea who Kim Robertson is, ask Jee

ves on your way out.) Carol showed it off, then the rest of us got to try it out. Other folk harps were present, too, and the conversation went variously like this:

“It’s made of bubinga wood, which is why the tone is so nice.”

“I just love the lower register. So rich.”

“The strings on this one are like butter. It’s like playing gut, even though they’re nylon.”

“Do you like Loveland or Camac sharpening levers better?”

“I keep this one tuned to B-flat and this one tuned to C-major, so double-check the strings before you play.”

“My string supplier went out of business. Thank god for the Vermont Harp Shop.”

“I have a confession to make. Sometimes I use my right hand to flick a sharpening lever. I know! I know! I’m trying not to be such a bad person, but it isn’t easy.”

“Jan’s harp broke ten–TEN–strings last summer. It was awful! She asked at the repair shop what to do about it, and they said it was just normal. Ten? That’s not normal. That’s warfare!”

We also played a variety of songs, mostly Irish folk and Christmas. One of the guests had a mandolin, which was also great fun. And the food! Lovely nibbles from Germany and Europe that involved chocolate, gingerbread, and fruit.

And all of it geekery. Can’t imagine how stripping down to my skivvies in a football stadium would compete.

And I got to spend an afternoon with people who get harp geekery.

*This really happened. Ask Laura Anne Gilman.
–Steven Harper Piziks


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Harp Geekery — 3 Comments

  1. I have a beautiful Triplett harp with sharping levers I cannot play. Which is a story in itself. (Stating with poorly made strings that exploded every time I tried to tune them. The Gremlin was in the gears….) But I have not given up on learning it.

    And Kim played it? Squee!

  2. I recently retrieved my little ballad harp from my brother after an extended loan. Been wanting to get back into playing it. Perhaps some holiday music – I used to play Greensleeves…