Celtic harp, folk harp and lever harp are the terms most commonly used to describe the style of harp that we make. While the first two are certainly accurate descriptions, they can imply that these harps are meant for folk music alone, when in fact we have heard everything from the traditional Celtic repertoire to music from other folk traditions, classical, jazz, pop, original compositions and therapy music played on our harps. Calling them lever harps also helps to differentiate these from the larger pedal harps that you see played in orchestras. With a lever harp, key changes are made by flipping the sharping levers that are at the top of each string, whereas with a pedal harp, key changes are actuated by foot pedals - often a necessary function in orchestral playing. Because they are larger and have a more complicated mechanism, pedal harps tend to be a good deal heavier and more expensive than lever harps.
FH34 in koa with turquoise inlay
Hawaiian koa wood has long been prized in the harp world for its smooth, buttery tone and glowing, shimmery colors. Acacia koa only grows in Hawaii, and although it is not considered an at-risk species, the population is not what it used to be and the harvesting of koa is being managed with care. Because of this, it has become quite expensive and is no longer easily available in the sizes of boards needed to build harps.
We were recently faced with making a decision about a set of koa FH34 parts that we had cut out some time ago, but repeatedly passed over because of some small blemishes scattered across the wood. Koa trees typically produce lumber with a rather high percentage of defects in the wood, caused by insect or bird damage, bark pockets, knots or decay, among other things, and these blemishes don’t always show themselves until you start milling the wood to shape and thickness. It’s hard for us to know what caused these particular small, black-ringed voids, but they needed to be filled with something before the parts could be made into a harp. We couldn’t bring ourselves to use ordinary wood filler products, which would not have met with our standards of craftsmanship and aesthetics, and neither could we bring ourselves to throw out an entire harp's-worth of otherwise stunning (and rare) koa parts.
So Ray put on his creative thinking cap and, remembering a technique sometimes utilized in turned wooden bowls and vases, came up with a rescue plan. Some years back, he had seen a beautiful walnut bowl exhibited in a fine woodworking gallery in Maui. The wood had numerous voids and blemishes that were filled with ground turquoise, and it looked like rich veins of this stunning mineral were running through the piece. He proposed transforming the blemishes in the koa harp parts into a decorative element by similarly filling them with ground turquoise, and though we'd never seen it done on a musical instrument before, the idea caught our fancy. Rather than consigning the harp parts to the woodstove or trying to hide the blemishes in a tacky way, we liked the spirit of using turquoise to enhance the natural beauty and variability of the wood… a water to wine transformation, so to speak!
And with that, this special FH34 was born. Along with the various small turquoise fills around the body and neck of the instrument, we figured out how to put a band of turquoise inlay around the soundboard to tie it all together. We've said it before and we really mean it this time - this is a one-of-a-kind harp! Rescued from oblivion and brought to life with all the stunning beauty and tonal warmth of Hawaiian koa, it may not fit the cultural stereotypes of what a harp should look like, but it's truly a gem in its own natural and unique way. All this harp needs now is a home!
Check out the video below to hear how it sounds.
34 strings, includes a full set of Camac levers and a deluxe padded case. Contact us if you're interested or have questions.
Price: $6600.00 SOLD