PO Box 5554
Santa Rosa, CA 95402
I have lived as a folk musician since my
early teens. My first instrument was
piano, but I gradually took up more
and more: first ukulele and guitar, then
mandolin, banjo, and ultimately fiddle
and nyckelharpa. Along the way, I
tried to play something on just about
any instrument I could get my hands
on, with greater or lesser success: I
learned to play clarinet, but failed
miserably trying to play my
grandfather's old flute and piccolo.
An instrument I had never had the
chance to learn, though, was the
harp. The fiddle dominated my music
choices, and the investment in a harp
was more than I thought practical.
A number of years ago, though, my
cousin offered me the harp she had
acquired from our Great-aunt about 10
years earlier. I promised to learn to
play it, and practiced diligently to learn
tunes and techniques, and eventually
became good enough at it to play at
events, complementing my fiddle
My harp is something very special:
neither a Celtic harp, nor a classical
harp, nor a Paraguayan harp - it is an
antique single-action pedal harp.
These harps were popular through the
19th century as parlor harps. They
were more advanced than plain harps,
in that accidentals could be played
using the pedals. Modern pedal
harps are "double-action", allowing
easy playing in any key.
It is hard to date my harp, as the
manufacturer is long out of business.
It was made by the Stahl harp
company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin,
under a patent issued approximately
1913. My guess is that it is from 1915,
making it 95 years old right now.
My repertoire is mostly old songs and
fiddle tunes. I play a number of Irish
and Scottish melodies, Swedish as
well, and 19th-century American songs.
It is large and cumbersome, but I still
have managed to get it around and
play for various occasions. When I
play at weddings or parties, the harp
can be part of my presentation, along
with appropriate music on the fiddle or
Pleasanton, California, September 2010