Inspirational Videos for Young Harpists
When I'm teaching, most of the time I'm focused on listening to a student play: seeing what's going well, having them repeat a difficult passage, experimenting with more dynamics, and so forth. As important as all of this is, I find that playing for students is also important. Sometimes simply sitting down and performing a piece that a student is working on can communicate ideas far more effectively than a stream of words can.
To take this idea one step further, I've begun posting videos of myself playing beginning and intermediate classical harp pieces. I'm not looking to provide a definitive version of a piece, nor am I hoping for students to produce a direct imitation of my playing. All I am really doing is providing one possible interpretation of each piece, which might spark some new ideas or help someone to find a new way to look at a piece of music. In many of these videos, I begin with a short spoken introduction before I play. More videos are continually being added.
Guitare by Alphonse Hasselmans
Belgian-born harpist Alphonse Hasselmans taught at the Paris Conservatory for many years, and wrote quite charming character pieces, like this one. It's an intermediate level piece for the pedal harp. Written in the key of c minor, it features a classic A B A form.
Prelude in C Major by J. S. Bach
This is from The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1, by J. S. Bach. It's written for piano, but quite popular on the harp. A pedal harp is required, and this piece is a nice chance to work on pedal changes. Some students also find placing a bit challenging in this piece, both with direction in the right hand and with resonance in the left hand.
Toccata by Susann McDonald
Toccata is from Susann McDonald and Linda Wood's Harp Solos, Graded Recital Series, Book IV. This piece is written for the pedal harp at an intermediate level. There are just a few pedal changes throughout the piece. The most challenging section is the middle section, which includes complex placing and requires good hand independence.
Angelus by Henriette Renié
This is from Feulliets d'Album by Henriette Renié and the title refers to the Catholic prayer, the Angelus. Throughout the piece a G-flat is heard continuously in the base in a steady half-note rhythm. Renié marks this as a "clock" in the score and it's easy to image church bells ringing and summoning everyone to prayer. It's an intermediate level pedal harp piece.
Pastorale by Marcel Grandjany
This is a intermediate level piece, playable on a lever harp tuned in the key of E-flat Major. Much of the piece is in 5/8 and there are many time signature changes throughout the piece, so it can be rhythmically challenging.
Two Guitars by Linda Wood
This piece is from Harp Solos, Graded Recital Pieces Volume IV by Susann McDonald and Linda Wood. It's an intermediate level piece written for pedal harp. Generally this piece is really enjoyable to play, although there are a couple of tricky spots. In the middle of the piece, during the gliss section, there are a few pedal changes and it can be challenging not to buzz while moving them.
White Gulls Flight by Betty Paret
This atmospheric piece focuses on descending three note arpeggios throughout the piece. It's playable on a lever harp, but does use a low A string which is outside of the range of some smaller lever harps. Paret includes this piece in her Second Harp Book.
Esquisse by Henriette Renié
Esquisse is the first piece from Renié's collection of three pieces called Feuillets d'Album. It's an intermediate level pedal harp piece, featuring many classic harp techniques, including rolled-chords and arpeggios. It includes a moderate number of pedal changes and it's a great chance to work on bringing out the melody against different accompaniments.
Rouet by Alphonse Hasselmans
Rouet, meaning spinning wheel, is from Hasselmans' Trois Petites Pièces Faciles (not to be confused with Grandjany's set of pieces by a similar name). It's an intermediate level piece playable only on a pedal harp, and is a really good piece for someone just starting out on the pedal harp, with a few straightforward pedal changes throughout.
Petite Berceuse by Alphonse Hasselmans
The Belgian-born French harpist Hasselmans, is known for his time in teaching at the Paris Conservatoire, where he taught many notable students, including Marcel Grandjany, Pierre Jamet, Lily Laskine, Carlos Salzedo, Henriette Renié, and Marcel Tournier. He also composed original works for the harp, and this piece is an example of a lovely beginning piece, playable on lever harp.
Aquatintes no. 4 by Bernard Andrès
Written by prolific French composer, Andrès, this is from a set of six pieces. Throughout the piece the left hand plays seventh chords in arpeggios while the right hand plays a melody. It's written at an intermediate level and is playable on a lever harp.
Little Prelude in F Major by J. S. Bach
trans. by Samuel Milligan
Samuel Milligan (b. 1932) was asked asked to arrange a collection of music for the brand new Lyon and Healy Troubadour harp in the early 1960's. Little Prelude in F Major is from his first volume of this collection, entitled Medieval to Modern. J. S. Bach wrote this piece as a part of a collection of Nine Little Preludes (BWV 924 - 930) and the harp version is very similar to the original. This is an intermediate level piece, playable on a lever harp.
Danse d'Autrefois by Henriette Renié
This is the second piece from Renié's collection of three pieces called Feuillets d'Album, and oddly enough for a middle piece, this has the quickest tempo of any of the three. There are many small expressive markings and minor tempo changes throughout, which help establish a lively character.
Grand'mère Raconte une Histoire by Henriette Renié
This is one of the very few pieces Renié wrote that is playable on a lever harp (Key of E-flat), and it's really a charming piece. Many students find the last two lines the most challenging, as they require a lot of jumping between different octaves, which can be difficult to do smoothly and rhythmically.
Marelles no. 4 by Bernard Andrès
This piece comes from the first volume of Marelles by Bernard Andrès. It's an excellent beginning recital piece, written in the key of C and with many repeating sections throughout.
Barcarolle by Marcel Grandjany
This is a late beginning level piece, playable on either a lever harp or a pedal harp. It comes from Grandjany's Trois Petites Pièces or Trois Pièces Faciles depending on which edition you're using. This performance is from the Lyra edition, Trois Pièces Faciles, and includes the optional introduction.
Berceuse by Marcel Tournier
This is an intermediate level piece and can only be played on a pedal harp. Tournier, a French harpist who taught at the Paris Conservatory, is best known as a composer for his advanced pieces for harp, such as the Images Suites, Sonatine, and his Étude de Concert, Au Matin.
Le Bon Petit Roi d'Yvetôt
by Marcel Grandjany
(1891 - 1975)
Grandjany uses a French folk melody for the basis of this piece. Much simpler arrangements of it can also be found in Betty Paret's First Harp Book and the Suzuki Harp Book 1. Grandjany expands upon and develops the melody throughout this intermediate pedal harp arrangement.
The Little Fountain by Samuel Pratt
This is an intermediate level piece playable on lever harp in the Key of F. It really does sound like a fountain, and Pratt uses a classic harp technique of descending arpeggios throughout most of the piece. It can be helpful to practice the arpeggios as block chords while learning the piece.
Ribambelle no. 3 by Bernard Andrès
Andrès writes many collections of pieces for the harp, and this piece is taken from a collection of ten pieces under the name of Ribambelle. They are all for the lever harp, and at a late-beginning level. At a technical level, this piece focuses on placing in the right hand, connecting long groups of notes for a smooth and legato sound.
Reverie by Marcel Grandjany
This popular piece comes from Grandjany's Trois Petites Pièces or Trois Pièces Faciles depending on which edition you're using. This performance is from the Lyra edition, Trois Pièces Faciles. Both versions are playable on a lever harp.
Air Varié by George Frideric Handel
This piece is transcribed for harp by Samuel Milligan (b.1932) and is in Volume I of Milligan's Medieval to Modern Series. The piece is at an intermediate level, playable on a lever harp and requires some hand independence.
Pistache by Bernard Andrès
From the first volume of Andrès' Épices, this is an intermediate-level piece playable on the lever harp, requiring a B-flat, E-flat, F-sharp, and C-sharp lever setting. Like several other works by the same composer, quite a few extended techniques are included in this piece, which contribute to the dramatic style.
Aria and Rigaudon by Gottfried Kirchhoff
trans. by Marcel Grandjany
Kirchhoff is not a well-know composer, but Marcel Grandjany (1891 - 1975) transcribed many works for the harp from a variety of different sources and composers. This is an intermediate level piece for the harp, and requires a pedal harp.
Muscade by Bernard Andrès
Muscade, meaning Nutmeg, is from Épices Vol. I. It's an intermediate level piece for lever harp and Andrès wrote the piece in the key of G minor with a raised fourth and seventh scale degree, so that on a lever harp, it uses a B-flat, E-flat, F-sharp and C-sharp lever, all of which remain in place for the entire piece.
Concert Etude by Susann McDonald
Concert Etude is the last piece in Susann McDonald and Linda Wood's Harp Solos, Graded Recital Series, Book I. It focuses on arpeggios throughout the piece, with the hands crossing, and ends with a section of glisses and harmonics, all classic harp techniques.
Berceuse de Noel by Betty Paret
This is from a set of pieces called Very First Harp Pieces by Betty Paret, and it is just that. It's playable on a lever harp tuned in the Key of C. Despite being intended for students who are only just starting out, the piece is really enjoyable to listen to, especially in the way it changes back and forth between the keys of C Major and A Minor.
Aquatintes no. 3 by Bernard Andrès
This is from a book of six pieces by the French harpist and composer Andrès. It's an excellent piece for practicing rolled chords in the right hand and bringing out the melody in the left hand. It's playable on a lever harp (key of e minor) and requires one lever change.
Ribambelle no. 5 by Bernard Andrès
As with many pieces by Andrès, this one piece from an entire collection. Written in the Key of g minor, it is playable on a lever harp and around a late beginning level.
Reverie by Susann McDonald
Reverie, meaning a daydream, is a popular title for harp pieces, and it's easy to get the pieces sharing the same title confused. This one is from Volume 1 of the McDonald/Wood Graded Recital Pieces, and is a beginning level piece, playable on a lever harp.
Marelles no. 7 by Bernard Andrès
Andrès has two sets of pieces entitled Marelles. This one is from the second set, and it's a lovely beginning piece. Although quite simple, it's enjoyable to listen and a great recital choice.
I Hear a Harp by Betty Paret
This is from Betty Paret's set of Very First Harp Pieces and it works really well for beginning students. It features arpeggios with root position triads, a classic approach on the harp.