According to Jennifer Byrne, a
harpist by avocation and attorney by vocation, harping has enjoyed a
resurgence since the folk music movement of the early 1970s. Central
New York boasts its share of players of the instrument that looks like
the guts of a piano. “We probably have the largest number of harpists
in upstate New York in the Syracuse area,” Byrne notes, “and that’s
pretty cool. Once you find one of us, you find a lot of us.”
Those 30 Central New York harpists belong to one or both harp-related organizations in the area: Harmony of Harps and the local chapter of the American Harp Society.
“Harmony of Harps is a more active group because we are primarily lever
harpists,” Byrne explains. “They’re the smaller harps, they’re more
mobile and are tuned using levers and not pedals.” The American Harp
Society attracts mainly pedal harpists. And, true to stereotype, most
harpists are women.
“We do have a few token men, I’m happy
to report,” Byrne says, “but in the United States and in Europe, by and
large it’s women who play harp. You go somewhere like Paraguay, and
it’s mostly men. In the early 1900s and perhaps before, playing the
pedal harp was something that young ladies would do. Rochester’s
Eastman School of Music and Syracuse University had big harp programs
at that time.”
Hurrell worked as the harpist for tea at
the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Boston for five years and currently performs
and records with the early music groups Renaissonics and Musicians of the Old Post Road.
For more information on her work, visit www.hurrelharp.com. For
information on Saturday’s performance, or to register for a workshop,
call Byrne at 420-8037.